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Why I Pivoted from 8 Years at a Hedge Fund to Becoming a Voice Industry Expert

4min read
Career

Being an expert in the voice space wasn't always my calling - I was previously in the finance world as Senior Vice President and Head of Corporate Strategy at a global alternative investment firm where I spent eight years.


I had been on the sidelines of emerging tech for many years because my husband is in the tech space, and I saw a huge opportunity in the voice industry. I believe it's the next frontier in tech and will be as important as web and mobile and as a way we interact with technology -- after all, speaking is the most natural way that we communicate. Voice is one of the fastest adopted technologies ever -- just 5 years after Amazon first introduced the Echo in 2014, 1 out of 4 adults in the US has a smart speaker. It's also on the cusp of a huge wave of monetization as smart displays with screens get in the hands of more consumers. Voice commerce is where mobile commerce was, not that long ago!

As a consumer, I also noticed the disconnect between, on the one hand, the fast adoption and remarkable capabilities of smart speakers with built-in voice assistants like Alexa, and on the other hand, how people were using their smart speakers. Half of smart speaker owners have never even tried a third party voice app (that's like saying half of iPhone owners have never downloaded an app from the App Store).

It was clear to me that the millions of people with Alexa in their homes are not unlocking the full potential of Alexa and other voice technologies -- and that they needed a trusted third party resource to help guide them. That's why I started VoiceBrew as the first-ever digital media company fully dedicated to helping people get the most out of Alexa. We're a one-stop shop for everything you need to know to get the most out of Alexa.

VoiceBrew offers comprehensive guides on a range of Alexa features and devices, advice for users, and a variety of simple and insightful tips & tricks for unlocking Amazon Alexa's full potential - and it's a great resource for busy female professionals.

Here are VoiceBrew's tips on 4 easy ways Alexa can help boost productivity:

#1. Alexa flash briefings provide your daily news in just a few minutes

Why?

If you find that your mornings are crunched for time, but still want to hear the latest news before starting your day, you'll love listening to your Alexa flash briefing.

Alexa flash briefings are short, 2-4 minute clips from your favorite news sources. Whether you prefer to listen to NPR, BBC or even your local TV station, there are thousands of briefings to choose from! And since the clips are so short, you can easily enjoy a few as you go through your morning routine.

How?

You can easily start listening to flash briefings with one minute or less of set-up.

To add your favorite news sources' flash briefings to your personal flash briefing list: Open your Alexa app, tap the hamburger icon in the upper left corner > tap "Settings" > (scroll down and) tap "Flash Briefing" > tap "Add Content" > search for a flash briefing by tapping the magnifying glass in the top right corner > tap "Enable to Use" > repeat for additional briefings.

To listen: Just say "Alexa, play my news" to hear your daily briefing.

#2. Linking your calendar to Alexa enables hands-free time management

Why?

Need to add a new event to your calendar? Put your phone down and give hands-free a try! Gone are the days of picking up your phone, opening the calendar app, creating a new event… you get the idea. Alexa integrates with all popular calendars, making it easier than ever to hear your daily schedule or even create an event.

How?

To link your calendar to Alexa: Open your Alexa app, tap the hamburger icon in the upper left corner > tap "Settings" > (scroll down and) tap "Calendar & Email" > tap "Add Account" > tap your calendar service name (Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc.) > toggle "Calendar" on > tap "Connect Account" button > follow simple linking instructions.

To get or add calendar info: For a birds-eye view of your schedule, ask "Alexa, what's on my schedule today?" And the next time you need to schedule an event, just say "Alexa, schedule (appointment name like lunch with Kathy) on (date) at (time)."

#3. Let Alexa guide you through a five-minute workout

Why?

Crunched for time, and finding it hard to sneak in even a short workout? Alexa can help. Whenever you're ready for a small burst of activity, use Alexa's Five Minute Workout skill for five minutes of fat-burning fun.

The best part? These exercises can be done in a small area, making it perfect for a 3pm pick-me-up at the office — or even a morning workout in your hotel room when you're traveling (you can always access Alexa via the Alexa app on your phone).

How?

To enable the skill, tap/click here > tap/click the "Enable" button.

To get started with your workout, just say "Alexa, open five-minute workout."

Pro Tip

When you're ready to step it up a notch, set an automatic Alexa reminder by saying "Alexa, remind me to exercise every day at 3 pm."

#4. Calm your mind and increase focus with a meditation led by Alexa

Why?

Exercising the mind is as important as exercising the body. Research has shown that meditation can help you make smarter choices and increase your ability to focus by 14%. Even a short meditation equal to the time it takes to grab your afternoon coffee can work wonders.

And if you're new to meditation, don't worry: the Headspace Alexa skill has everything you need to get started. The first time you use it, Alexa will walk you through a brief demo to bring you up to speed.

How?

To enable Headspace, tap/click here > tap/click the "Enable" button.

Then, just say "Alexa, open Headspace" to get started.

Pro Tip

To unlock more meditations, create a Headspace account (or connect an existing account by following Alexa's prompts).

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Business

How These Co-Founders Exited for $100M Without Any VC Funding

When their frustration with current fabric care options had fashionistas Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd worn out, the two entrepreneurs made it their mission to start a new niche and launch their very own at-home, eco-friendly laundry detergent line.


With a mission of turning an everyday domestic chore into a luxurious experience, these entrepreneurs not only conjured up an idea for an unconventional product line, but they successfully built their business while turning down the offer of every venture capitalist to knock on their door.

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd co-founded The Laundress in 2004 after dealing with their own personal frustrations with limited clothing care options. Whiting, having worked at Ralph Lauren in design and Boyd having worked at Chanel in corporate sales, soon accumulated a stylish wardrobe of designer pieces as perks of their jobs in the fashion industry. However, the duo quickly realized that the maintenance required for upkeeping these items were far from adequate. Laundry products on the market at the time did not cater to delicate textures and fabrics such as tweed blazers, cable-knit cashmere and silk blouses. Taking their clothing to the dry cleaners also proved hopeless as their clothing would often come back with stains or even be ruined despite the overload of chemicals used to clean them. With nowhere left to turn, Whiting and Boyd were determined to create their own laundry solutions designed for specific fabrics.

Not only did the entrepreneurs develop the business expertise needed to finally begin their own company, but they also shared the same educational background that equipped them to pursue their unconventional business venture. Whiting and Boyd met in college as students at Cornell University majoring in Fiber Science, Textile, and Apparel Management and Design. The pair was introduced by a mutual friend and instantly knew they would become business partners. "It was inevitable that we were going to have a business together. We are both extremely entrepreneurial by nature, and it was one of the connections that we instantly shared" said Whiting. After focusing on pursuing their own individual careers for a while, Whiting and Boyd quickly discovered a void in the fabric care marketplace when their clients would continuously inquire about the upkeep of their designer pieces.

The entrepreneurial duo was committed to researching and developing their own eco-friendly laundry products and soon launched their own at-home solutions for specific fabrics like silk, wool and denim, which ultimately eliminated the need for dry cleaning for those particular items. Despite their products filling a necessary void in the market, it quickly became challenging for the founders to persuade people to shift their focus away from traditional laundry care options in order to try their products. However, Whiting and Boyd believed in their mission for the Laundress and bootstrapped from the very beginning, refusing all venture capital funding with the goal of growing organically. In order to be successful, they had to get creative in fundraising. "In the very early days, we funded business development by hosting a 'for profit' party at a New York City restaurant and inviting friends, family, co-workers, etc. to support our new venture. That was pre-Kickstarter and an inventive way to make everyone feel a big part of our decision to be entrepreneurs," said Whiting.

While turning down VC funding as new entrepreneurs seems unimaginable, it is as equally unfathomable to consider how these women gained national traction without social media, all the while hustling to fund their business. For Whiting and Boyd, who started their business before social media existed, it was imperative that they promote their brand by leveraging the resources they had available to them. The CEO's were one of the first to sell consumer goods, let alone detergent, online with the goal of reaching a national audience. Despite having limited retail distribution, they leveraged the power of their website and became featured in publications on both a national and international scale. "Before social media platforms existed, we nurtured our own Laundress community with engaging content on our website, step-by-step tutorials on our blog, and one-on-one communication through our Ask The Laundress email," Whiting explained. With technology evolving and the birth of social media platforms, the founders expanded the conversation about their products from website, blog and email to platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

As female entrepreneurs, Whiting and Boyd faced additional hardships as misconceptions about their mission ultimately proved to disappoint more than it encouraged them. As women selling luxury detergent, there existed a preconceived notion that funding would be more easily attainable based upon their gender.

"Everyone thought it was easy to access capital as female entrepreneurs, but it was actually very challenging. We had this unique and disruptive idea within a very traditional space and it was hard to get people on board at first. It's been a continuous journey to educate people in fabric care and home cleaning," said Boyd.

Reflecting on their journey as entrepreneurs, the founders express no regrets about refusing to accept venture capital throughout the process. "Over the years, we could never quantify the cost benefit of VC funding so we continued to grow organically and remain independent by funding ourselves with credit cards and loans," explained Boyd. While their decision proved fruitful, the duo expressed their consideration towards other entrepreneurs who may not be able to fully fund their business as they grow. Because funding is a situational experience, entrepreneurs must ultimately do what is best for their business as no one path is optimal for every entrepreneur or every business.

With an increasing amount of women entering entrepreneurship with their own unique set of products or services, the CEO's offer up one piece of advice on how female entrepreneurs can be successful in their endeavors.

Whiting: "Our advice to anyone looking to build their brands: Have a strong business plan and vision. If you are not disciplined to write a business plan first then you are not disciplined to start a business. Get your ideas down so you ask yourself the right questions; it helps you get organized and plan next steps."

Boyd: "Create quality products without sacrificing the ingredients—no cutting corners. What you create should be the most important piece. Stay passionate, and trust your instincts and follow your gut—something woman are awesome at!"