Leah Smolensky

Founder of Drenchbar

Leah is a veteran advertising executive who knows how to build brands. During her 19 years in advertising Leah has worked on iconic brands like Nike, Miller Coors, Mars, Champion, 2K Sports, E!, HBO, SC Johnson, Bugaboo, Microsoft, and more. Her work has won awards and accreditations from the Effies, the FWA, and Contagious Magazine. She currently leads Integration Strategy at an international ad agency and runs her own business. Leah founded drenchbar, a new brand shaking up the lotion aisle, in 2022 and is acting CEO.

Leah started her career in product development at Paris Presents where she worked on brands such as Joe Boxer and Raz, and designed concepts for new product lines, which resulted in the national launch of 36 new product items at mass merchandisers such as Target, Kmart and Boots London

Leah lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In her spare time she enjoys time outdoors, coloring with her kids, tending for her plants and running.

Where did the idea for Drenchbar come from?

A google search. I hated putting on lotion, and so did my children. But, living in the desert, I also hated how dry and uncomfortable my skin felt when I neglected to moisturize. So, I searched online for “a lotion for people who hate lotion,” to try to find a better product. What I found was a community of people across Reddit, TikTok, and Instagram who were dissatisfied with the category. They found bottled lotion to be cold, sticky, and uncomfortable, and lotion bars to be hard to apply and not hydrating. And overall, there was a lack of products that served sensitive skin. I wanted to create a better option that had the eco benefits of a bar form, the skincare and hydrating benefits of bottled lotion, the in-shower experience of wet-skin moisturizers and designed for sensitive skin first. That is what inspired drenchbar.

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

My days are packed. I am a mother, entrepreneur, and by day I lead a large team at an international ad agency. I aim to always start my days with a glass of water and movement. While I work out, I listen to podcasts. Then I use my shower to organize and plan my day and to do list. I have a 15-minute open call with the drenchbar team to reviews goals for the day and answer any questions. I catch up on emails, knock easy tasks off my list, and then see my girls off to school. After that I head to my day job, which is typically filled with meetings, presentations, deep work, and connecting with my team. After I wrap up with the agency, I pack in some work for drenchbar– planning content and marketing initiatives, forecasting, testing our new innovations, or connecting with our formulator. I always break to recharge with my children and prepare dinner with my husband. After I put the kids to sleep, I often do more work and then close my day out. It’s hard for me not to have productive days, my focus is to build in time to recharge and be mindful.

How do you bring ideas to life?

In a word, mindset. Adopting the right mindset at every stage of the process is key to getting new ideas off the ground. First, I make space for ideas to happen. My best ideas do not come from sitting in front of a screen or in a board room. They come when I’m running, showering, painting with my children, traveling, chatting with my husband or friends. I do not look at those parts of my day, my life, as frivolous or optional. I know that they are necessary to my work. Then, when it comes time to bring the idea to life, it’s about a mindset of mental toughness. There will always be challenges along the way. I do not expect things to be easy, so I tell myself every day, “I can do hard things.” And that self-belief is what helps me cross the finish line.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The evolving definition of wellness.

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

Taking advantage of even the small moments. If I have just 10 minutes, I see that as an opportunity to start, or even finish, something. To move my body, respond to emails, start prepping dinner, start a deck. I make use of any time in my day. I do not limit myself based on minutes on the clock. And I try to never just sit and stare at a screen. I f I don’t know where to begin, I start typing or walking or anything else.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Mistakes are part of the process. They get you to where you want to be. Don’t dwell in remorse, and don’t aim to never make mistakes. Learn, grow, and pick yourself up again. If I had a redo, I would do it all the same. Because that is what got me here.

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

Being a mother makes you better at your career. The pervasive narrative is that you must sacrifice when you become a mother. That careers take a back seat, they suffer. I am not here to tell you that being a mother and a career woman is easy in our society. It’s not. However, what nobody discusses is how much better at your job motherhood makes you.\

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

Ask for input. It’s so easy to fall in love with your own ideas when you invest that much time and energy into them. But when we become too attached, we become vulnerable to blind spots. I ask for input at every turn. Every day, on even seemingly mundane decisions. I like to get a diverse perspective from customers, strangers, peers, friends, you name it. Input is my strength, and I put it to work for me relentlessly.

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

Act like a David, dream like a Goliath. As a self-funded startup, adopting a challenger brand mindset has been key to our growth. We do things differently because we have to. We spend a lot of time building our community and having 1-1 conversations with our fans. We send a lot of samples to dermatologists, editors, skincare influencers, and fans with zero expectation of coverage. We’re looking for input. It’s very important to us that only those who love the product post about it. As a result, we’ve built great relationships, learned invaluable insights, and gotten a ton of word of mouth from influential sources.

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

Our initial test production run with our co-packer was a failure. We failed to see some of the logistical challenges a larger run would create, even just at a test run, and it impacted the aesthetics of some of the bars. We overcame it with collaboration and imagination. My formulator, co-packer and I were able to pinpoint exactly where the breakdown was, and course correct for future runs. And I help on the imperfect bars and sold them at a discount during out of stock moments to drive more desire on social media.

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

A mommy and me wellness space. A multi-functional space that helps mom shut off their ongoing to-do and have mindful time with their children. Could include things like self-care services for kids and their guardians, yoga, cooking, and a play space for when the kids are done.

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

An art cart for my children. It’s a three-tiered rolling cart that stores all their art supplies. Having it out in the open has been a game changer. We now like to draw or paint together on Saturday mornings. This time together is sacred, and it’s how I practice my mindfulness.

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

I am super old school. Hand-written notes and to-do lists are the only tool I need to stay productive.

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

“How Brands Grow,” by Byron Sharp. This seminal reading in the world of marketing is backed by decades of effectiveness research. It’s a must-read if you’re trying to build and grow a brand.

What is your favorite quote?

A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at 20 has wasted thirty years of his life – Mohammad Ali

Key Learnings:

  • Adopt a mindset of relentless self-belief. Know challenges will happen but believe in yourself and your ability to grow from them and overcome them.
  • Embrace the small in-between moments to turbocharge productivity. Never underestimate how much you can get done in 10 minutes.
  • Reframe the way you look at recharge time. Prioritize time to run, shower, play, walk, etc. as that is where the best ideas happen.
  • Asking for help is a superpower, not a weakness. Learn to know when and how to ask for input and support.