Alice Lewis is the founder of Alice’s Table, which empowers women to start their own flower-arranging workshop businesses. Alice’s Table was on Shark Tank and a part of the 2017 Techstars Boston class.
Harper: So can you tell us a little bit about Alice's table and what you've been doing?
Alice: Alice's Table helps women launch their businesses teaching flower arranging workshops at bars, restaurants, and people's homes. We ship a business in a box to women across the country, which has all the supplies that they need to host up to 20 person parties, and then they get access to our back office where they can do everything from book and manage their events, order supplies, market their businesses, and participate in ongoing training and development. It takes mostly stay-at-home moms and allows them to have a flexible and creative career opportunity that has a built-in community and structure around developing a career.
Harper: You founded and started Alice's table. Can you tell us a little bit about what that was like and when that happened? And just a little bit about the background of the business?
Alice: Yeah, so I started Alice's Table in September of 2015 and it was me looking at the fact that women needed flexibility. I moved to a house and I got a dog with my now husband and I thought, gosh, if I'm needing flexibility now when I don't even have kids or many responsibilities outside of work, I could only imagine how much women with more responsibilities than I had must need the flexibility to meet them where they were.
So, I started digging into that opportunity and looking at what that could mean. I did a lot of research and came to understand that that gig economy was on the rise with companies like Uber and Handy, etc. But those weren't looking at the unique and amazing skills of women who have maybe stepped out of the workforce for one reason or another. And so after a lot of thinking and searching, I came to the idea of flower arranging workshops, and I wanted to make sure that it works before I help other women launch the business. So I started teaching these classes in the Boston area. I did $100,000 in ticket sales in eight months, and I thought, okay, that works. Let's do this. And so then I started developing what we call our Event Exec program, which is the program with which we help other women across the country launch their businesses. And we now have just over 450 business owners across 46 states in the US.
Harper: I did see that you were on Shark Tank. Could you tell us a little bit about what that was like? What was it like pitching and knowing you're gonna be on TV?
Alice: So, I think it’s a lesson in really just taking a leap of faith. I had a mentor who said to me once, “have you ever considered Shark Tank?” and I said, “oh, no, like we're a real company.” And he said, “well, so you don't believe in free advertising?” Okay, point taken, I believe in free advertising.
That night, I went online and filled out the contact form and waited to see what happened. I got a call a couple months later from one of the producers, as I was running to an event–as usual, I had over-committed myself, which is my specialty, and I was in the grocery store because I offered to bring a cheese plate to this event–and the producer called me and said, “Hey, is now a good time to talk? You know, I'm the producer of Shark Tank,” like, oh, now's perfect.
So those moments happen, but I think it's just a lesson on just trying new things and seeing where that journey takes you. It certainly was a long road and an exciting road to then be pitching to the sharks. Now we have Sara Blakely, the founder and CEO of Spanx, and Mark Cuban, who is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, as two investors and advisors for the company who I've been working with for the past few years to help grow and reach all of our goals.
Harper: You've been on these big TV shows, but also you started this business from a very personal and pure place. What was one of the biggest things you learned from launching a business not only with those specific goals in mind, but just from like a small startup/owners/founders standpoint, what was something that you learned that you didn't really expect to?
Alice: This startup journey was one that is hard, right? You expect it to be hard. I think what founders don't necessarily anticipate is the length of time. But the journey is a roller coaster. So you think when you first start a company like, oh if we hit this milestone then we'll be successful. Right? But the target always moves. And before you even hit the first target, there's a new target in mind. And so I always tell new founders to remember to enjoy the successes that you have as they come along. Because oftentimes, by the time a goal is met you're already thinking about the next goal that you want to hit. Taking the time to enjoy those moments I think is important, but also knowing that the highs and lows of a business never end, as you scale and as the business grows, and it increases in size, they just change and evolve. So getting comfortable with kind of the roller coaster of entrepreneurship is important for young founders to do.
Harper: Your main concept is encircled by the theme of women and women empowerment, how has Alice's table created that relationship with shipping a business in a box to you?
Alice: So I think about so much more than a business in a box that gets delivered to your house. You know, I often joke and I said it on Shark Tank too, it's like this box of stuff, right? Like, we can reduce it down to a box of stuff. But what we're offering is all the other pieces and parts that make entrepreneurship less lonely.
As an entrepreneur when you're a sole founder, perhaps sitting in your home and you just dropped the kids off at school and now you're at home, trying to launch your business. It's the women around you, and the support that we provide, that makes you be able to accelerate and reach new heights that you never thought you could. So whether that's one more booking, selling five more tickets than you thought you could, or growing your organization and bringing on new team members to reach your financial goals. All of those are things that can't be done in isolation. So I think what we've found is that to empower women to take control of their lives, reach their financial goals, it takes the community behind them, supporting them and offering them resources that motivate you. It's really hard to stay motivated in a silo.
Harper: Yeah, I totally understand that. It's also that you're always working remotely. There's no business camaraderie. That's something that even with my internships that I've had in the city, they're usually remote, which is like a new thing. So for my summer internship, I've really been just like looking, I want an office. I want to see what it's like to work with other people.
Alice: When you have passion and circled in your business and in your work life, your work product is so much greater. And so creating that for a distributed workforce is the challenge that we put ourselves up to every day.
Harper: Definitely. I read on your website, our goal is to “be the bright spot in the modern, modern, busy woman's life,” I was wondering what your bright spot is at the end of the day when you are done with Alice's Table? Because obviously you've gotten to a point where you have an office and stuff like that. So what's kind of like your bright spot at the end of the day?
Alice: First of all, I love my business so much, and the team that we have here inspires me every day. So being able to work with people that you will really enjoy spending time with is such a gift that I don't think of it as the drudgery of going to work and I hope nobody on our team feels that way. And so culture is super important in that conversation. But for me, I have a six-month-old at home. So getting home to her - it's definitely a bright spot at the end of the day.
Harper: And then you said you guys started in 2015, So you're kind of at that five-year mark. Where do you see Alice's table going? In the next five years now that you guys have been alive for five? What do you think would be like?
Alice: What's hard is I never thought we would be here five years. By here I don't necessarily mean a scale thing. It's just the evolution and they'll be a winding road that is building the company. You know, you can't anticipate it's just like life right? Where are you going to be in five years? I don't know. I hope somewhere bigger and better, but part of the joy of running a business is evolving into time.
Harper: Holdette is, of course, surrounding clothes and stuff like that. So what kind of power women go-to work-wear do you wear? It could be a daily or it could be on like a special day when you like to feel your most powerful.
Alice: Well, I'm all about really fun sneakers. So I am always wearing you know, relatively plain clothes, but a really fun pair of sneakers. I think it always makes it always fun.
Thanks for chatting with us Alice!