About the Episode:
Lucinda is married, has 2 kids and is one of the brains of the coolest party and play space known as The Coop. The business started with the need and want to look for a kid's place where she and her now business partner, Julia Boydston, could also enjoy themselves.
Looking and finding nothing inspired her and Julia to come up with a party and play space for kids and adults.
Now, they have The Coop which continues to thrive. Another cool fact about the duo is that they made a big splash on shark tank.
Question: Okay, so Lucinda if we can just go ahead and get started and just give me a brief intro of who you are, that would be terrific in your own words.
Sure, my name is Lucinda Gould; I am a 45-year-old mother of two, married and a business owner. I own the company called The Coop which is a children's play and party space in Studio City.
Question: A lot of people question what does it mean to have it all? And is it possible? Everyone is going through the challenge of trying to get to that perfect balance but wanting to know, what does it mean in your definition to have it all?
Well, personally, I don't think it's quite possible to have it all because you can't give everything in your life 100%, which is impossible. I find it interesting, this question is always asked to women. I think men aren’t really asked that same question, so I think as a woman you have more of a challenge because you are constantly being asked the question.
So you do think about it but the reality is that you can try and balance your life as best you can and I think that you can't have it all 100% but, you can choose what you’d really care about and what’s important to you, and you can give those things 100%.
I mean you can give 100% to your children and your business but, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have a great social life or it's just natural debate.
Question: Lucinda you hit on a really good point that women get asked it all the time but men don't, I mean why do you think that is?
I don't know, as much as we advance in our society, attempted feminism and moving forward for the female voice, I think that, women are still depicted as the people who really ultimately care for the children. Who are the home, you know, we are doing the washing even if people say they don't think of it like this anymore, it's still the case. When you think of a mother, you think of the nurturer, you think of the “homecarer” so I think that's why we are asked that question.
Question: It's so funny you know, I really do hear it all the time. I am sitting in a coffee shop literally just an hour ago and I heard a conversation with a woman who had just gotten back to work and it was a guy who just said, “Oh how was it?” you know, and “how do you have it all?, you need to tell your husband to make more money so you can stay at home” and it's just really interesting, there is that gender bias for sure.
Absolutely. I mean I’ve had where I’m like, “Ugh, I was born in the wrong century”. I just want to stay home and look after my kids and bake but, I don't think I would have been happy doing that either. So you know you just have to give yourself a bit of a break but my husband is fantastically amazing as he is. You know when he is working, he is a 100% focused on his work. I don't think he has any clue who's picking up my kids from school. But when I have to go away for work, I’m still constantly worried about who is picking up my kids, you know, it’s hard for me to just focus on my business.
Question: Can you tell me the story of how you started the company and what that look like?
Yeah, I mean to me before I had children, I never would have envisioned that I would have a children's play and party space. I didn't ever think I would be a business owner at all it wasn’t what I was striving to do. And it didn't enter my consciousness but, once you have a child, you really understand the importance of your time. And I was working in film production and I understood immediately that I couldn't do both. I really couldn't because the hours were so long and it's really stressful and you really do not see your children. So I have a very dear friend who is now my business partner, Juliet, and we had children at the same time. We had two little boys and I took some time off to be with my baby and we would go to children's play and party spaces to hang out because what you do is: you go to the park, you go to the mall, or you go to play spaces. So every time we went to one, we would just talk about how depressing it was, no windows, carpets, just dirty, and it’s just really un-inspired. So we got chatting and we were like, let's find the best play space in Los Angeles. So we kind of went on a mission to do that and we were coming up empty. So then we started talking about, “We could do better than this”. I am sure Juliet feel the same way, I became so passionate about it. I mean I couldn't sleep, it’s all I thought about. I was consumed with it and the idea of opening this space - it was everything. You know, we pulled pictures from books and we had this incredible vision board and it was just one thing after the other. And now we have what we envisioned it might have been.
Question: Did you put the vision board together so you and Juliet would pull different photos and then create this one vision board together?
Yes, we created a book ultimately. We were constantly pulling from magazines, pulling from books and just anywhere that we thought something that it's fine arts and we put everything in this book. And when you look at The Coop, the original coop today, it's amazing how closely it resembles this book.
We had this coffee machine - and I can't remember what it was, an Espresso machine, can't remember the make - and after that 6 months of like, this is useless, and we got a new one. And then I went back to the book and we got the one that we put in the book. That's the one we have now. I mean right down to those kinds of details is amazing.
Question: And how did you transition from the book to the actual coop?
Well, we looked online on what you need to start a business and we looked at what we -in terms of equipment and furniture and the space, what we need so we came up with a figure that we will need to start this business and then we asked average friends to give us some money. And a very dear friend of mine who is insanely wealthy and successful said, “I am not going to give you the money, because if I give you the money, then I am going to own half of the business”. We were looking for 150,000 and he said, “It’s not a lot of money but you do not want made unhappy business”. So I said, “Oh okay”, and so we ended up getting a business loan from the VDC. A very strong advocate supporting women in business but, of course our business plan, not many people are sharking around at that point – kids’ play and party spaces, so it was challenging for the people to understand the concept, especially the men we were having to make with. So you know we put down projections what we would earn with these birthday parties we would create and they’d be like, “You are going to get someone to pay you $600 for a 2-hour party?” they couldn’t reconcile it together.
Question: How long did it take you to secure the finances from when you started to when you got this?
It was about 6 months. It was fairly quick, we were really pushing for it. So I think from inception, from when we first came up with the idea to when we’re opening, it wasn't very long. It was about a year and 3 months.
Question: Yeah, that’s really quick. I mean it could sound or feel like a long time but a year and three months to go from conception to launches, especially I’m sure with the amount of work you guys had to put in to put up that physical space.
The work at the beginning you know, when we found the space - the actual space, we did so much work to that space and that was like: we were painting, we’re sanding, and we had really no idea what we were doing. But it all just kind of, I don’t know, there's a little magic and I know it’s weird to say but, I look at many businesses on Venture Boulevard and so many of them, they open, they close, they open, they close. It’s tough. And I look at The Coop, and well we were so naive but, I think our naivety was what helped us.
Question: When did you realize that “Aha” moment where you’re like, “We have a business, oh my goodness”.
I think before we even opened our doors, we were having people trying to book birthday parties, before we even opened. So it was like “Aha, here we go” but then frankly, on our 1st day of being open business, we didn’t even have a cash register, we just weren’t even thinking about it. And we had this woman came in and asked me—I don’t know how much it looks, The Coop but it’s back then especially it was very modern and very minimal. So this woman came in and she walked into the space with her mother and her child and ten minutes later she came back out and she said “There's nothing to do here. We are going to go to...” I think she said Chuck E Cheese or somewhere.
So Julia and I looked at each other and we were like “Oh, no” and then “Oh should we get more toys?”, “We should probably bring in more drift” and then it was like “No, we’re not going to do that. We are going to stay true to what we believe is needed” and then that’s it. And that was the last time we doubted our concept.
Question: If she walks in, she walks out, she is clearly not your target market if she doesn't see that vision.
Exactly and it was that, that’s something that we didn’t understand right at the start.
We worked understanding that truth is unusual so we were going to have a specific clientele
and that's why I mean we've never advertised ever. It's all been word of mouth and they’re the customers we need. They’re the customers we want.
Question: You said before you opened, you had customers who were interested in wanting to book your space. Was that just you got the word out thru family and friends and then you had people who were interested?
Exactly, I mean it was through our schools. The first who wanted to book was actually a friend of ours and we didn’t even have padding in the ball-pit and she just didn’t mind. She did the party. And then at her party there were people, and then we got booking from that party. And then someone from Juliet's school heard about it and she booked a party and her friends then booked. I mean, it was really so organic in a way that it grew.
Question: As you tried to balance your work with your family, how do you do that? What does a typical day look like? And do you have any morning rituals that you do?
Well I have an early start to my day because my kids, one of my kids go to school that’s a long way so we have to get him to a shuttle. One's in middle school and one is still at elementary school. So I get them up early. My morning ritual for me, I would drink - I know people say this but this is true, I drink hot water and lemon first. This is the first thing I do before I even get my kids up. I check my emails at The Coop and my personal emails, and I try and return emails as soon as I wake up, so that's 6:30 in the morning, because then I find I can be focused on my kids and I'm not thinking about-- until I get to the actual physical space. Juliet and I, we split physical days at The Coop so that helps obviously, coz’ I have days where I could be 100 % around: I could go to school meetings, and I can go to sports. And then we have days where we have to be at The Coop, but you know part of the reason we started The Coop was so that we can be the masters of our own time. So if I want to leave to doctor's clinic for my kids, I can do that. You know we have staff members and I can leave. So I try to be organized and I absolutely fail at it every day, because it doesn't matter how organized I am in terms of having the school lunch’s ready, and the home work, and put their homework in their backpacks, or one of my kids can’t find his sock or can’t find a shoe, so I mean,
I think organization is the key to helping you balance your life but I'm certainly not saying that I'm any good at it.
Question: Would you say that organization and preparing ahead of time that is what helps you to get through the day to balance your work and your personal life?
Yes, absolutely but, you know I have great weeks at that and I have terrible weeks. When I'm just behind the-- you know because sometimes at The Coop on the weekend, when it’s my weekend to be there and be doing the parties - I can have 8 parties on a weekend and a lot of them involve a lot of prep-work and a lot of crafting and a lot of-- and so come Monday I'm completely prepared.
So I'm going to focus on So I can have two great weeks, two not so great weeks and I just try to be kind to myself and to just move forward.
Question: You mentioned that you guys split your days up. What would a typical week look like of how you split your time versus Juliet?
Juliet works at the coop on Mondays and Tuesdays and when she's working at The Coop she is responsible ultimately for returning all the phone calls, for talking to people about their parties and for returning the emails. Sometimes, things come up where she can’t handle it and I take care of it at home, but I'm also comfortably looking at everything so you just have to catch me up on anything. And then we have, you know we have a franchise group that we work with now. We speak to them every Monday, we have a conference call with them together and then I work Wednesdays, Thursdays and we alternate the weekend. So if it’s her weekend to work she’ll work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. If it’s my weekend to work, I'll work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Question: Do you have any strategies or struggles that you find in trying to balance both family and work and do you mind talking about those?
You know it’s kind of a constant struggle and when I first had The Coop I really tried to do 100% in both. And I also tried to still have a social life - and I still have a social life but, I definitely allow myself to say “No” to things and not have to give people excuses. I just say no because now I know what I can handle and I can't have my kids and The Coop and go out 2 or 3 times in a week to social event or to see people. My strategy is I’m trying to be super organized but, reality is I do all those things and I always put myself last. So I don’t know if my strategy is working [laughter]. It is a struggle but, my strategy is to say no to social things coz’ at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter and not feel guilty about that. And also to say no to certain-- you know you’re bombarded with emails. You’re getting emails from The Coop, you’re getting thousands of emails from 2 different schools and you take that on board and you are like “Oh, I didn’t go to that” or “I need to put into that” and now I’ll just be like “I can’t do it all”.
So I'm going to focus on what’s most important to me which is my kids, my husband obviously and The Coop. That's what's most important to me and I focus on most things and the other things if I'm lucky enough to be out to do something, I'll do it, yeah.
Question: Can you tell me when you think of what you've done in your professional life, what are you most proud of? And also what are you most proud of in your personal life today?
Well I think in my professional life,
I am so deeply proud of actually following all the way through on something. You know saying that I was going to do something and then actually doing it,
I'm really proud of that. It was probably the first time in my life professionally that I did that. I didn’t allow my fails or anything to get in the way. And I'm also super proud of the relationship I have with my business partner because it's incredibly difficult to have a business partner in a creative field. And most people I speak to, not only do they no longer have a partner, but they are not friends with that person. And Juliet and I have certainly been through our hard times together in the business where, we haven’t been getting along or we’ve had created differences and somehow we have always managed to fix it and to move forward.
And so I really learn in my personal life, because of it, to compromise and to put myself in my partner’s position whether it’s my business partner or my husband.
So I'm really proud of our relationship. She probably might have said something [laughter] but I’m very proud of it.
Question: A lot of times you will hear, “Don’t go into business with your friends unless you are willing to give up that friendship long term”. Did you guys have any hesitations at the beginning about it or reservations? Did you talk about being business partners as friends and the risk at that?
It’s so interesting that you say that, because we didn't really. I mean, Juliet and I have known each other for a long time but, it's not like we were best friends but, once we had our kid and we had that common interest, we became better friends. And we didn’t really talk about it and we probably should have because I think it’s business when you go into partnership with a friend. What ends up happening is you take things personally.
And as a woman, again, I hate to say it, you’re sensitive and you take it personally and you don’t want to be mean. You have this constant like, “I don’t’ want to be mean” or, “I don’t want to hurt anybody's feelings”, and I'm really learning now to go “Its business, it’s not personal”.
And I think as a man you don’t do that – It’s business, take it or leave it. But as a woman you’re constantly the nurturer, you constantly want people to like you and you just don’t want to hurt people's feelings. And Juliet and I, the only times we had a hard time is when we’ve been hurt by what somebody said about something we've done creatively even if they don’t, they just you know, I mean, that's what it comes from. Nothing else.
Question: On a personal side, what would you say is your biggest accomplishment?
You know obviously, raising children is a massive accomplishment but, I think in my personal life it’s the relationship I have with my husband. Again, it's about that relationship because he's enabled me to do what I have done really. Without him I wouldn't be out to do it.
And we still manage to care for each other, respect each other and love each other, and you know we’re so busy. And I probably put more effort into my children and not to wife because I’m their mom. And so he comes up second to them a lot, and he deals with it and I think the relationship I have with him – I’ve been with him for 20 years, and I love him more now than I did 20 years ago. So I'm really proud of us and him as well.
Question: Do you think there's anything that you do or something that you focus on to help keep these relationships strong?
Yeah, I do.
I mean it’s about respecting somebody's opinion even if it’s not your own. And it’s also about not being stubborn in your vision,
which I was at the beginning absolutely. I was very bull-headed about my vision and my thought. And even now it will take me a day or 2 to accept a change or something that I might not have envisioned,
but I allow myself to see it for what it is and not my own ego on it - like just taking out your ego sometimes is really helpful. Obviously you have to have your ego because it will push you forward but I-- now it’s not about me. It’s not about me as much as it was when I was younger certainly. And I can stand back and say, I respect this person. I know that they are intelligent. I know that they care about me so, why don’t I try and look at it from their perspective and put myself in their shoes.
So yeah, I think I try and do that. And even with the relationships with our staff, like, I truly respect every person that works for me. I don’t ever look at myself as their boss which is good and bad, and I try you know,
I like to get input from our staff members creatively. It makes them feel like they contributing to something because they absolutely are. I couldn't do it without them either.
Question: Were you always that way or is that something that you feel like you’ve worked on over the years?
I've always been an incredibly hard worker. I've been lucky in having bosses that treat me as an equal even when I was basically not their equal. So I have seen what works in the work force.
And you know when you respect your boss and you know that they respect you, you strive to be so much better.
Question: You talked about how you’ve had wonderful bosses. Do you have specific mentors or people that have inspired how you live? And if so, who are they?
I think ultimately my grandmother was one of my greatest inspiration. She wasn't a career woman in a sense but, she always worked and she always maintained fantastic balance. And she was a kind of person that if you were in her presence, especially the granddaughter I guess, you were the most important person. She was able to not be distracted and to actually focus and give you respect and listen to you. She had a joy today which is super important in life because otherwise what’s it all about. So I respected her I loved her and I saw how a woman could actually do it all. Don’t know whether she had it all but she always made you feel like she did. And I had a boss when I was in Sydney, and he was just so, you know he was just-- I worked in restaurants when I was younger. I was a waitress and then I was the manager and I worked in a few of his restaurants. And he had a quality about him that was very inclusive, very supportive but he, was incredibly hard worker. And he had no—when I went in to get a job, he was fantastically amazing and probably the hottest busiest restaurant in Sydney where I was living at the time. I went after the counter and I said, “Can I speak to the manager?” and he was like an older guy, older than 80's like “oh no the manager's not here right now but you can come back. You’re looking for a job?” and I said “Yes, yes”, and he’s like “You should come and see the manager”. And as I left I thought to myself, “Wow, that poor old guy is still waiting table” and I later found out that he owned the whole enterprise and it turned out to be in edge or at least it ended up franchising but, I mean, he’s just—that’s the kind of boss I wanted to be [laughter].
Question: Do you have any favorite books or books that you’d recommend other people as they go on their journey?
My books are not business books that I love. I haven’t really ever read any business book so I give a read to Barbara Corcoran’s book, a first one she had which was fantastic and funny and inspiring. She had great advice constantly. The Fountain Head by Ayn Rand is one of my favorite book.
That is about striving, having an ideal and striving to achieve it and not listening to naysayers and having a bliss to yourself.
So I get that resonates with what I do. And I also think its fantastic book. Old Man in the Sea is my all-time favorite by Ernest Hemingway. And again that's a book about
working really hard, striving to something. I mean stuff really worked out in the end but, I just love that story of just getting up. What putting one foot in front of the other on a daily basis, I mean that's success really, isn’t it?
Question: When you boil it all down; you think about running the business, you’re raising your children, is there one thing that you would say has helped you to do both?
Well I try to be kind to myself. If I mess up on any given day I just move on. Live in the present I guess which is constant, something I try and remind myself of constantly. Just striving daily for better balance and forgiving myself on a hard day so that I could focus on being better the next day.
Question: If you could give one piece of advice to women who are on the journey. Things that you've learned over the past few years, what would that be?
I think never to take no for an answer. You know if somebody says “No”, and you really believe in something then, you’d go in a different direction - you push forward. Believing in yourself. Trusting your instincts. I mean trusting your instincts is so important and everybody has an opinion, but if you are 100% clear on what yours is, then you trust it to the dying end.
Question: Any insights you want to share?
I think in business competition is really important.
And I might not have said that before we open The Coop but, every time Juliet and I’ve had a competitor we have to up our game. We had to up the ante. And it also helped us to fix our pricing if it was too low. Someday we’re like, “Hang on a second, they’re charging X amount” so I think
looking at your competition constantly is important because you learn so much from them. And not feeling like “Argh!” you know. Competition is great and really embracing it is a great thing. You know Bill Gates had a quote and I’ll paraphrase a little bit but it really stood out for me, he said “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” and I really believe that too.
If somebody has a complaint I really take it to heart. I don’t just blow it off something “Well, they didn't understand” or I mean I really listen to it. And even if I slightly don’t agree wih it, it helps you see real business from the perspective of your clients, your customers.
How to learn more about Lucinda
call: (818) 760-9613