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Women-Owned Business Spotlight with Dr. Justine Luchini, Founder of Thirdzy

As a part of our interview series on women-owned businesses, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Justine Luchini, Founder of Thirdzy.

Dr. Justine is the co-founder of Thirdzy, a company devoted to helping fitness athletes and health-conscious adults have great nights with better sleep quality and recovery from physical and mental stress. She studied Health Science at Western University and has a Doctorate in Chiropractic. Her professional journey has taken her around the world where she has worked with thousands of people on improving their health, well-being, and performance.

Thanks for joining me! Tell our readers about what you do.

I own and operate a brand called Thirdzy that helps active adults get better sleep and recovery from physical and mental stress.

What does being a woman-owned business mean to you?

Throughout my career I have worked in male dominant professions – first as a chiropractor and then in corporate technology sales. I’ve always considered being a woman in a ‘man’s world’ an advantage. You’re often underestimated and that allows you to exceed expectations. Since starting my business it has been incredible how generous other women have been with their time and wisdom. We want to see each other succeed and to open doors for each other in this space, where women haven’t traditionally been leaders.

In my day-to-day work, I rarely think about gender. I have sought to hire members on our team who are the best fit for the work that needs to be done. Despite not intentionally hiring women, I have ended up with an all-female team of incredibly hard working, talented, hard-driving people. As a woman business owner, I feel a responsibility to do work and create value in the world in a way that feels authentic to me and to allow my team to do the same. I think I naturally avoid certain biases that other business owners may have about what a woman is capable of – including juggling children and family obligations with their work.

How did you come up with the idea for your business?

When Covid started and the whole company I was working for went to working from home, it gave me and my partner a lot of time to think about what kind of work we were doing, what problems we were solving, and whether we felt the time and energy we were spending on our work was meaningful.

Without the busy sales floor, the face-to-face time with my team, the happy hour drinks with coworkers, and the vendor events – my day job was a lot less exciting and fulfilling. The real pivotal moment came when my partner’s father passed away from Covid. We decided at that point that if we were going to be working alone in our apartment, we wanted to be working to solve a problem that we thought was important and building something that was ours.

At that point, we were both stressed, anxious, and not sleeping well. I thought back through my years practicing as a chiropractor and one of the problems that nearly ALL of my patients – even the younger, healthier patients – was getting enough good quality sleep. Somehow that just kept coming up. Sleep. Nobody sleeps well anymore. We grind all day and take stimulants and nootropics and all of these things to stay ‘on’ – and then we can’t turn off.

I had been using melatonin, but it wasn’t really helpful. I would fall asleep and then wake up a few hours later and feel tired and groggy in the morning. When I started researching other supplements, pretty much everything I found had melatonin in it and was really only intended for helping you fall asleep. There was nothing to help you get better sleep or to help you wake up feeling rested. That was the inspiration for Thirdzy. We decided to create a product that could support better nights, start to finish, with a focus on quality sleep and better recovery from physical and mental stress.

Okay, coming up with a great idea and actually taking the steps to become an entrepreneur and launch your company are two very different things. How did you know it was time to start?

I touched on this quite a bit in the last answer, but will add that I probably started too soon. That old saying ‘If you wait for a perfect time, you’ll never do it’ rings true.

I took about a week to make sure that I wasn’t just momentarily infatuated with an idea that didn’t have staying power, did some research on industry and consumer trends, had discussions with some close friends, did a gut check that I had chosen a problem that I could see myself staying interested in solving for at least 5-10 years, made a plan and a budget – and then pulled the trigger.

Becoming an entrepreneur is no easy feat. What are some of the lessons you learned along the way?

Everything takes longer than you think it will. I had very optimistic timelines. I thought we would be up and running and shipping products in about 12 weeks. It took more than 12 months. Finding suppliers, getting quotes, doing R&D, getting packaging made, getting the product manufactured – it all took WAY longer than I had naively expected.

Ask lots of questions. People will assume that you know things. Vendors and suppliers who have been working in their industry for a long time won’t explain things to you unless you ask. It’s rare because they are too busy. It’s because they are used to working with people who have experience doing whatever it is that you’re doing.

I’ve had a few fires that came up specifically because I didn’t ask enough questions. We ended up having empty packaging shipped to customers because our supplier assumed that we knew that they would send the empty packages with the filled packages to our fulfillment warehouse because ‘that’s how they always do it.’

It’s hard to know what you don’t know when you’re starting out. But I also have at times not asked for enough detail, knowing I didn’t know, because I did not want people to think I didn’t know what I was doing. Those are easy mistakes to avoid if you can shelve your ego and admit to being new at something.

Don’t do everything yourself. Budget to hire people to do the jobs that you can’t or really don’t like doing. At the beginning, you feel like you have to do everything, but it slows you down and makes your life miserable. Hiring people to help you makes you accountable to them, which creates motivation and momentum. It also frees your mind and time up to do better work.

If you had to list three traits or attributes that have been pivotal for your success, what would they be?

  1. Emotional intelligence – being a good judge of people and knowing what motivates them.

  2. Resiliency – This might be cliché, but it's absolutely true. Starting a business is psychologically challenging. There have been lots of times when I wondered why I didn’t just stay at my job and wished I could go back. But I made a commitment to see this through and have stuck to that, even when I really wanted to just burn the whole thing to the ground.

  3. Creativity – A lot of people probably think that running a company is about being logical and disciplined. But the real challenge is that there is a lot of chaos when you are building something new. You need to be able to come up with creative solutions to problems and ways of doing things when there isn’t one right answer.

How is your company making a difference?

We’re helping people sleep better so that they can function better in their lives. It’s been really special having people thank me for helping them gain control over that part of their lives and to have customers excited about feeling good when they wake up in the morning.

I know you probably have many, but what’s your proudest moment as a founder?

Having our first team member tell me this is the best job she’s ever had. It’s one thing to be working on a project that I think is exciting and to be trying to do a good job of building a product and marketing it, but having someone else be so positively impacted by the company that we are building and to know that I helped create a role and a space for her to do work that she loved has been the most rewarding thing. When you’re a business ‘leader’ you’re leading people. It’s impacting their lives and their families. I have been surprised by how rewarding my business feels now that I have a team and we’re all pulling in the same direction.

What's one myth you'd like to debunk about your line of work?

Myth: “You can reverse engineer success.” There are thousands of gurus and online courses that want to teach new business owners how to copy what they did or what their client(s) did that gave them some huge level of success. There are principles that lend to a better chance of success, but every business is different. Timing and context matter and that is always unique. You can’t just copy what someone else did and expect to get the same results.

What advice would you give to burgeoning entrepreneurs?

Think about the problems that you like to solve and are okay having in your life. It’s easy to think about all the great things about starting a business and working for yourself, but it’s your tolerance for the problems that will make or break you as an entrepreneur. If you can bring on partners or team members that will help handle the things that you can’t or won’t deal with, do that as early as you can.

What does the future look like for your company?

We are going to continue to build our customer base with our flagship product and have started on R&D for a new product that solves some things that our customers have either complained about or asked for. I am also starting to put a pitch together to look for VC funding to help accelerate our growth and to potentially move to selling in retail stores in addition to our online presence.

What words do you live by?

“You only lose if you give up.” This was the starting premise I had before we started anything. I said to my partner, “The first product we put out might flop. Or it might do just okay but not enough to build a real business with. But we can change it, we can add products and iterate. We only lose this game if we stop playing.” That’s been my mantra through the whole process.

Any final words of wisdom?

I heard someone (I think Gary Vaynerchuk?) say once, “Someone’s yuck is someone else’s yum.” Even with a great product or service, there are going to be people who hate it. You have to find the people who are a ‘yum’ for the thing you’re doing and try not to dwell too much on the ‘yuck’ reviews – you can learn some things from the ‘yuck’ reviews, but you’re never going to please everyone.