“Female empowerment means gender doesn’t hold you back in anyway.”
When Katerina Schneider, CEO and founder of Ritual, was four months pregnant she couldn’t find a vitamin brand that she trusted. “So,” the former Lehman Brothers investment banker shares,” I decided to build my own.”
It was on a double date that she met founding team member and her VP of Marketing and Growth, Lauren Hayes. During that dinner the conversation turned to health. “Kat started telling me how she had recently become pregnant and how she’d started cleaning out everything in her household with questionable ingredients.” It was during the pregnancy sweep that Kat found some of the same ingredients on the back label of her cleaning detergent were some of the same ingredients in her prenatal vitamin. It was shocking.
“During one of my first conversations with Kat,” explains Lauren, “I was taking over 7 vitamins, but when she asked me to name one of them I turned red and struggled to recall one brand.”
“Like [Kat] had already, I realized the massive opportunity to turn the dinosaur vitamin industry on its head,” says Lauren. “And really build a brand that resonated with every woman.”
Both women had spent some time in the startup world. Lauren, post-USC, had joined Los Angeles’ largest startup accelerator, StartEngine, as its second employee. She then worked with Walter Driver, CEO and Co-founder of Scopely, growing the company from 15 to 200 employees. And Kat, post Lehman Brothers, had spent time as a Venture Partner at an investment fund of over 70 startups for Troy Carter. They had the experience. They had the information. And the mission of “making the highest quality ingredients accessible to all women,” was golden. It was time to take the risk.
Lauren credits her fiancé with helping her make it through challenging decisions. “I’ve been a tech and innovation fanatic since I was little,” she says. “I’ve always been surrounded by older peers and worked in jobs surrounded by men, which can be intimidating.” But when her fiancé told her to “act as if,” that tidbit helped her get over what she calls “the confidence hump.”
“He also told me age doesn’t always mean wisdom,” she shares.
Kat says her mom has been her biggest a mentor and role model. “She spoke no english when we moved to America, she got her MBA and became an Investment Banker all while raising two small kids.”
“The hardest decisions you make as a founder are the ones that shape you the most,” the mom and CEO says. And though the journey from the finance to startup world has not been without its challenges, Kat says that risk is the only way to move forward.
Today Kat says, “I am comfortable with my identity as a female business woman. I don’t try to be more masculine or more feminine, I’m comfortable with who I am. I used to think I had to be more aggressive as a female in business to get what I want to make up for being a woman. I now embrace who I am and realize that authenticity will get me where I need to go.”
With Ritual, Kat is committed to building “the most meaningful health company that has ever existed.” Lauren sees “Ritual as the perfect opportunity to fold all of my passions from creativity and tech to education and health all into one business.”
Together, they’re giving that vitamin dino a reason to run.