DCFunemployment: So… Who Are You?
Jihan Thompson, co-founder and CEO of Swivel Beauty, a new app that makes it easy for black women to find the right hairstylists for their hair type (natural, relaxed, braids, locs, etc). Prior to starting the company (with my best friend Jenny Lambert), I was a magazine editor for nearly 10 years, working at publications including Glamour, Marie Claire, and O, The Oprah Magazine.
DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
JT: Swivel has always been a passion project of mine. I’ve always wondered why it was such a struggle to find the right stylist, whether I was new to a city, traveling, or just wanted to switch up my look. (DCF: Seriously, it’s like trying to find the holy grail). So, finally, after getting fed up, I decided to create the solution I wish existed. This is my dream business, which means every day feels like funemployment. (DCF: Thank you! Cause we were all struggling/suffering with this one!)
DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
JT: I’ve had so many great mentors. But the first was probably one of my first bosses early in my magazine career. She was a dynamic, natural leader and she saw my potential early on and encouraged me to me to take on assignments that might have appeared above my title or position. As a result, I learned to take risks really early in my career and they always paid off. (DCF: Taking risks is so important otherwise it’s very easy to get stuck and never try anything new.)
DCF: What’s your happy place?
JT: My happy place: Working on Swivel. Seriously. Sitting on my couch, brainstorming ways to grow and build this business makes me incredibly happy. (DCF: I love that you are doing what you love and also helping out black women). Starting a business is tough, but I love what I’m creating.
DCF: Where do you get your energy?
JT: Talking to our customers! Every time someone tells us about a really great hair day they had because of a stylist they found on Swivel, I’m instantly recharged. We’re doing this to fill a need we know black women have — so when we get feedback, it pushes up to keep going and growing. Also, sleep. 🙂 I try to prioritize sleep (not always successfully-see below), because I’m not the type of person who can do well on just a few hours. When I sleep well, I’m fired up the next day. (DCF: Sleep is so important, we all definitely could use more of it!)
DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
JT: Let me get back to you on that. 🙂 (DCF: Hahaha touche!) As a first-time founder, I’m honestly still learning how to find balance. There’s always more to do, even if the deadlines are self-imposed. We have big dreams for Swivel, so it means long hours are required right now. But I will say, it’s great to have a cofounder. We check in with each other and make sure we can cover when one of us needs time off to recharge. It’s important to take time for friends, family, and self-care, so I feel my best when I can work a full, productive day, but still call it quits and do something unrelated for a few hours.
DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
JT: I read somewhere, that when you’re launching a company, you can only pick three from this list: work, sleep, family, friends, and fitness. I think that’s so true, it’s impossible to give your all to every category because launching a company consumes so much of your time. Time is so precious so I really try to prioritize my family and friends, but that often means sleep and fitness take a hit. (DCF: You’ve got the right idea, balance where you can!)
DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
JT: I don’t have to tell you that women, and particularly women of color, are less likely than men to get funding for their tech startups. We’re now beginning to raise money for our company, so we have to be aware of the obstacles we might face.
DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
JT: I wish I had started my company sooner. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I can’t leave my job..I can’t do x, y, or z.” But now that I’m on the other side, I so wish I had taken the leap earlier. (DCF: We often get in our own heads with these things but I’m so proud of you for making the leap!)
DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
JT: This is a tough one! I’ll get back to you on it.
DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
JT: Swivel was profiled in The New York Times last December (DCF: see above). A total pinch-me moment. So many people have ideas, but to see it come to life and to get that level of validation is still one of my proudest moments.
DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?
JT: SWIVEL is growing in DC soon! We’re actively signing on stylists and salons. So, if you know anyone good, have them fill out this survey! Thank you!