Lena Khouri started her career recruiting top talent in entertainment at Creative Artists Agency. Her next move was in advertising where she worked in Account Management at Deutsch executing large-scale digital, experiential and traditional campaigns for Volkswagen, Sprint, Dr Pepper and 7UP. While at Deutsch, she co-founded their philanthropic arm, Deutsch Good, and grew it to the New York office, receiving industry recognition from Digiday, Fortune Magazine & Playa Vista Direct along the way.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I believe being a leader is having the ability to create something, get people behind it and then trusting them to do their job to make it better. Being surrounded by leaders and innovators in the companies I’ve worked at has led me to think about the type of leader I want to be. For me it’s about having the big vision, bringing it to life and finding the right people to help us get there but trusting that those people have a skill that’s better than mine. My job is to get us all there together.

 

How has your previous employment experience aided your current role? 

My past roles working at big companies in entertainment at CAA and advertising at Deutsch have taught me about two completely different industries but both have played a role in what I do today. A big part of what I do with my startup, CURIO, is build strong relationships and execute strategies to reach more people. As a two-sided marketplace, it’s crucial to do both for growth and my previous roles have helped me get there.

 

What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role? 

In my current role as the founder of CURIO, an app where you can shop local boutiques and get 2-hour delivery to your door, I’ve had many highlights and challenges. Some of the highlights are getting our first boutique partners before launching, launching publicly in our first city, building out our team and securing early investment to help us grow. But there’s a lot of challenges that come with it too like all the no’s we get from investors and wanting to grow quicker than the resources we have available at the moment. It’s all part of being a startup founder. 

 

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry? 

If you want to be a startup founder or founder of anything, you need to decide how much you actually want it, how much you’re willing to give up for it and then actually do it. Make a business plan, quit your job and hustle as hard as possible to make it a reality. If not, it will always be an idea you wish you executed 10 years from now.

 

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date? 

There’re always people who believe in you and want to help you succeed but ultimately, it’s up to you to get there. You have to ask for the promotion, you have to pitch the idea, etc. You have to be proactive about what you want.

 

How do you maintain a work/life balance? 

I think it’s really important to give your mind and body the proper breaks it needs in order to ensure success in the rest of your day. To balance it, I start my day by meditating and I try to make an effort to exercise in the mornings or evenings. Some weeks are better than others, but I know every time I work out, I feel better mentally and physically. 

 

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace? 

Equal pay and not having as many opportunities for investment as men.

 

How can we encourage more women to start their own business? 

Starting your own business is really scary so being able to offer advice and experiences on how I did it helps bring that barrier down. It’s partially inspiring other women and partially helping them get started even if it’s through introductions or sharing a deck for reference on how to create theirs. 

 

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life? 

Mentorship has been huge for me! I’ve had a couple mentors during the various stages of my career, but I had one in particular who has helped me grow in my personal and professional life. She was my first boss and has been my biggest supporter in life. 

 

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I find more admiration in female leaders who have succeed or failed despite what anyone else told them would happen. There’s a lot of chatter but the ones who cancel it out and are relentless are the ones I admire and am inspired by the most. Most especially the ones who came from nothing. 

 

What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year? 

Professionally I want to take CURIO from launching to growing into new cities and building out a bigger team. Personally, I want to make time and prioritize certain relationships in my life that I’ve put aside for my career. 

 

What are the top three tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting out?
You just have to start. Start with research then create a deck with a business plan then talk to people smarter than you who can help guide you. And fully educate yourself as much as possible. Read books, listen to podcasts, go to events, etc

 

Christine is an MIT alum and award winning product designer with a background in Smart Cities. She is best known for inventing the electric bike “The Copenhagen Wheel”, a TIME Magazine Top Invention of 2014. Prior to starting CURIO – an app where you can shop and discover local boutiques – she was Chief Product Officer at Veritas Prep and the Head of Product Design at DogVacay (sold to Rover.com in 2017). She’s always hustling to make the world a better place through technology and design.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I believe our job as leaders is to empower other people. Early in my career I worked with micro-managers and I vowed to never be like that. I’m much more interested in defining the goal or vision and then giving autonomy to my people. After all, I hire them for a reason, if I don’t trust them to do their job, what type of leader am I?

 

How has your previous employment experience aided your current role?

When you’re running a startup you need to be good at two things: painting a picture of the future, and executing in the present. I first learned this when I studied architecture. Not only did we need to think about the entire building and how it fitted into the landscape but we also had to understand the details down to the screws. It’s this ability to ‘switch scales’ that has set me up for the rest of my career.

 

What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role?

In my current role the highlight has been launching the CURIO app and getting our first purchases. It’s exhilarating to see something that you have designed be used by people and I love that we’re helping them discover and shop small stores they never knew existed. The challenges have been almost running out of money – this can be stressful, but our investments came through at the eleventh hour!

 

 

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?

It’s simple. Don’t just talk about it, do it. I’m a big believer in learning through doing.

 

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

Balance. I used to prioritize work over everything. My husband made me realize the importance of breaks, hikes, and cuddles with our dog.

 

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

See above. But honestly, it is something I’m still learning to do. I have also noticed that it’s when I take breaks that I have a breakthrough with strategy or business. So, for me, everything blends into one.

 

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

Equal pay.

 

How can we encourage more women to start their own business?

With generosity. We’re all busy, but the more we donate our time, give our advice, or make relevant introductions, the more young women will succeed.

 

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

I’ve never been formally mentored but I have a close circle of trusted advisors that I turn to both in my professional and personal life. Knowing that I have this support is crucial to my growth as a person and a leader.

 

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

My guess is that most people will answer this question with the name of someone famous. But for me, it’s much more homegrown – I admire my badass female friends. Some of them are CEO’s, some of them are mothers, some of them are running 100+ person teams, and others are building solo-businesses. They are all leading incredible lives and changing the world in their own way.

 

What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year?

This year I will be turning our business into a national phenomenon. On the personal side, I’ll be seeking more balance and spending more time with friends and family.

 

What are the top three tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting out?

Read the book “Good to Great”; Read the book “Built to Sell”; Hustle every day.

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