As we celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, it is downright impossible not to consider Su-Mari Hill, co-founder of iLOLA. The epitome of a go-getter, Su-Mari is as bold as they come and a natural born leader. From falling in love with a stranger (the other half of iLOLA), to moving across the world to set out on a life together, to starting a business with five babies on her hip, to conceptualizing and developing an innovative luxury wellness brand, her life has been anything but boring.
While modern society continues the fight to support women, Su-Mari is doing her part to uplift and empower her community. Driven by creativity, adventure, and deep diving into the entrepreneurial world, Su-Mari has shared her insightful wisdom when it comes to being an absolute boss babe.
In honour of International Women’s Day, I had the pleasure of interviewing this powerhouse of a woman. Here is the inside scoop!
1. Tell us about your first entrepreneurial venture: what inspired you to start?
I was truly inspired by our kids. We opened our first store when our second daughter was three months old. From forming the idea to opening the doors of our shop was a six-week process. I look at opportunities as fleeting moments and I live life by Mel Robbins’ “5 second rule.” Counting backwards and just doing it. Oftentimes, people have great ideas but then talk themselves out of acting on them. You can’t succeed if you never begin.
2. How did the idea for iLOLA take shape?
iLOLA was born during the pandemic. We were stuck in a business that had very little scalability, and without a clear strategy we found ourselves wandering further and further down
the rabbit hole. When COVID-19 hit we realized the company was not growing and we were unhappy. Something needed to change. So, we took a minute. We picked up our five beautiful children from school and went home. We started waking up every morning at 2 am to conceptualize and develop a new strategy. We needed to know what KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) to hit to be successful. Our first plan of action was to hire a strong branding marketer to help us define our new path. We needed new vocabulary to create a brand voice that would bring our innovations to life. It was at 3 am one morning, that Tim and I decided we are not a product company. Sat around a white board, we decided that we are a company that sells memories. A company that gives people the opportunity to seize and create memorable moments.
3. How did you come up with the name iLOLA?
iLOLA pays heritage to my culture; it means “to grow strong.” My family moved to South Africa not long after South Africa was colonized in 1652. All my family is still there. With globalization and COVID-19, I believe it is more important than ever to hold on to tradition and heritage. We need to celebrate it and allow it to help drive us forward.
The name iLOLA reminds us that we are growing stronger day by day, and it inspires us to help our family, friends, and community grow strong too.
4. What is the biggest challenge for you as an entrepreneur?
This is such an interesting question because my biggest struggle isn’t being an entrepreneur, it is how to be the mom that I want to be for my kids. I have big dreams for our company, a big family, and a very big vision for my life. I think the key challenge lies in never losing sight of yourself. I am driven because I want to change the world and strengthen my family, and
therefore I am an entrepreneur. It is not a choice; it is a calling. Writers write because words take shape on a blank page and stirs their soul, actors cannot image life without the stage, accountants see the art in numbers. I am an entrepreneur.
5. What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
If I can sum up the key lessons, I wish someone had told me ten years ago when it came to starting my own business:
- Find a mentor. I have the privilege on knowing a few powerful women that pioneer their industries. Seeing their successes and failures makes starting a business feel real and achievable.
- Learn to write grants or work with a company that can show you how to tap into government money. CASH IS KING.
- Play to your strengths; you are a master of one, not a jack of all trades. If that means outsourcing cleaning, cooking, and daycare, then do it! It is so easy to take on too much, and then lose focus on your core competencies.
- Find your loves and loathes early. Understand what energizes you and what drains you. Once you understand who you are and what your capabilities are, you can direct your days to ensure that your success.
6. You started a business with five kids under the age of five. How have you balanced your professional and your family life?
This whole idea of work-life-balance took hold a few years ago. I think it caused an unnecessary amount of anxiety for moms. I studied law for a few years and I envision my life like the scales
of the law: balanced, but often overloaded. In Latin culture, Justitia, or Lady Justice, is seen holding the scales to symbolize a balanced mind and personality, and the ability to weigh both sides of any decision.
After years of struggling with this idea of living a balanced life, I now know that it is not something I am striving to achieve. Instead, I focus more on integrating all these elements to keep the scales balanced with my highest priorities. For me, that is my husband, my kids, my business, and then myself.
7. Do you follow a certain morning routine or daily schedule to maximize productivity and wellbeing?
I am naturally a lark, which means I cut my day short at 9 pm to maximize my hours awake. One of my strongest attributes is time management; I account for every minute in my day. I have found that ALL the successful women that I know have this in common...we don’t waste seconds, minutes, or hours. I have mentors who are owls, so they move their routine to the evening. At the end of the day, it does not matter whether you are a night owl or a lark, if you recognize when your productivity is at its best.
I wake up between 4 am and 5 am. I spend 30 - 40 minutes meditating and praying for the day ahead, and then I take 15 - 30 minutes to plan out my day. I write out my daily goals and what I need to do to achieve my 30-day, 90-day, and quarterly goals. I try and do most of this before I leave the house - everyone knows that 4 am emails from me are common!
After meditation and preparation, I move onto the health and wellbeing. I try and do weights and cardio – whether it’s 10 minutes or 40 minutes, I always try to squeeze some time in for exercise. It sets up my day for success. Our time in the office is set up for success by creating daily and
weekly meeting routines. It ensures we keep moving forward and we keep our finger on the pulse. Every night we light candles and have a formal dinner. I feel that so much has gotten lost in today’s rushed eating habits, which is why it’s important for me to eat with intention. Eat to feed your soul and brain. Enjoy conversation and good food.
So yes, I am all about routine. I hate the idea of routine, but it grounds myself and my family and sets our business up for success.
8. What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of female leaders?
Every industry is facing very serious challenges due to COVID-19 and the restrictions surrounding the pandemic. Mothers have been impacted disproportionally as many are the primary caregivers of children; caring for kids 24/7 in isolation is challenging and becomes harder to navigate every day. We will need to be more resilient, more adaptable, quicker to pivot, and more determined than ever before.
9. What has you most excited about the future?
When the Spanish Flu devastated the world, it ensued the economic crises and inspired the innovation of many companies to come into existence. No other decade — not even the post-World War II boom of the 1950s — can compare to the surge of wealth, innovation, and change seen in the 1920s. I do believe that we will have greater opportunities to thrive than ever before. I do think we are in for a challenging time ahead, but with challenges comes great opportunity.
iLOLA values female voices and embraces any chance to uplift and empower women thriving in the workforce, at home, and everywhere in between. As a company composed of mostly female
professionals, we hope that this inspires more women to take ownership of their brilliant ideas and put them into practice. International Women’s Day is a beautiful reminder of the strength and power women possess.
In the wise words of Su-Mari,
"You must be resilient, adaptable, determined, and ready to tackle your goals to find success In everyday."
It is never too late to make a bold splash in the world, so follow your heart and turn your dreams into a reality. The journey will not be easy, but every decision, chance, and risk you make will be worth the adventure.