Gaia Giladi

Co-Founder of HILOS

Gaia Giladi is the co-founder and chief creative of HILOS, a Portland-based start-up focused on making zero waste, additive footwear. When she’s not designing shoes, Gaia loves to go on outdoor adventures, eat amazing food, and run along the bridges of Portland.

Where did the idea for HILOS come from?

My co-founder, Elias and I each had a deep intrigue of the 3D printing world before we even met. Him coming from the software world, and me coming from fashion, it was the perfect match up to start commercializing custom 3D printed shoes, an idea that stemmed from a visit to NY Fashion Tech week.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Every day is so different when you’re in a creative role and putting something new into the world. I try to keep it balanced with routine by doing 15-minutes of yoga in the morning and a home workout or run at night. In between I’m either making prototypes and testing them, following up on emails and creating our content calendar, or sketching and innovating on new construction techniques. I couldn’t be luckier to get to experience it all.

How do you bring ideas to life?

You just start. You never know where they’ll take you or how they’ll take shape, so you just have to take that first step and start.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Individuality. I have to give credit to our Gen Z-ers who I see giving power to individuality every day. They capitalize on our weird human quirks instead of shaming them, and are setting up our world to be a more loving and inclusive space.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I find I’m most productive when I take breaks, give myself stopping points, and prioritize myself and my body. Psychologically, when you know you have to stop at a certain time, you get your work done faster and give yourself deadlines. Physically, your body needs to be nurtured, fed, exercised, and rested to give yourself the energy to do it all another day.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I’ve always had a bad habit of doubting myself, so if I could say anything to my younger self, I would try to ease that anxiety by saying the same thing my dad tells me after listening to my business woes and triumphs: “you’re doing everything right, just keep doing it.”

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

If there’s a will there’s a way. As popular as this phrase is, I don’t think enough people agree with it. Some people are luckier than others and can find their way a lot more easily, that’s true, but even the unluckiest of them all can find their way when they have the will. It’s all about your energy.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Make mistakes. There is no better way to learn and grow.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Reaching outside of our own circles to get advice, consulting, connections, etc. You don’t have to start with connections, but you do have to make them if you want to get anywhere. The reason our business has grown at all is because of the connections we made to get where we wanted to go.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Failure is a strong word here, because in the end everything is a lesson. But I’d say the biggest lesson I learned is to take care of myself first. I recently pushed myself too far and felt there was no way to reset other than to just get out of town. It was an amazing journey, and I have no regrets. The mistake I made though, was not communicating my needs and letting my team down by essentially leaving them in the dust. It’s easy to drown yourself in work and forget about the rest of your needs when the pressure is on, but you can never underestimate the importance of your body’s needs no matter how pressing your deadlines are.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A universal ‘impact’ calculator. I haven’t quite gotten the name down yet, but essentially it would calculate the ‘impact’ of your garment or accessory based on hours worked and materials and processes used. This number would be a universal number everyone understood the value of, and it would be added to every price tag – similar to when calories had to be added next to food menu items. This way, even someone who doesn’t necessarily spend time looking into sustainable brands can understand the impact they make with their purchases.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I just bought the coziest puffer jacket! It feels like I’m wearing my comforter all day, so I’d say that’s the best $100 I’ve spent in a while.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Milanote. I build all of my shared strategies in there, from content calendars to photoshoots. It makes it really easy to communicate my vision to the team.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Zero to One by Peter Theil. It’s a very easy and straight forward read, and a great starting point for anyone who is thinking of starting their own business or at the beginning stages of it.

What is your favorite quote?

“Dip him in the river who loves water.” – William Black

Key Learnings:

  • Prioritize self-care.
  • Talk to everyone about your ideas and your business – you never know how they can help or who they know that can help.
  • Failures are lessons in disguise, mistakes are opportunity for growth.