Sharon Whiteley – Founder and CEO of pluggz

[quote style=”boxed”]Ideas used to be a dime a dozen; now they are probably down to a half-penny. It’s all about execution, and it takes the right people to bring a concept and business to life.[/quote]

LiSTEN Brands Inc. is an innovative enterprise created in response to the needs of today’s more health-conscious and informed customers. The company manufactures, markets, and distributes natural products that promote health, vitality, and enhance overall well-being.

Featured offerings include a distinct line of comfort wear, debuting with an exclusive line of casual, fashionable, and lifestyle footwear under the brand name pluggz, which is embedded with a proprietary “grounding” technology. This technology grounds the person wearing the footwear to the earth, which creates the powerful benefit of reducing inflammation in the body by restoring electrons to a more balanced state. “As styles have evolved throughout the centuries, the mostly synthetic materials that are used in today’s footwear break the flow of the natural energy between the earth and our bodies,” explains founder and CEO of LiSTEN Brands, Sharon Whiteley. “As soon as I understood this connection, the product created itself for me. I simply could not resist the inspiration to create a revolutionary new brand of footwear based on these natural and undeniable principles.”

Whiteley is a proven serial entrepreneur with a talent for recognizing emerging consumer trends and a penchant for aligning her business interests with her personal values of nurturing human potential and promoting positivity and wellness. She founded LiSTEN Brands Inc. in 2011 to create innovative, leading-edge products that enhance people’s overall well-being. The idea for pluggz came to her at a health and wellness conference she attended, where she learned about the effects of our separation from nature in modern society and the scientific positive findings associated with being grounded. Whiteley boasts that she and “an amazing team of the best and the brightest in their areas of domain expertise” passionately engaged together and brought the company to life in the Spring of 2012.

LiSTEN is also a company with a mission to inform, educate, and inspire others who choose to live balanced and healthy lives. Towards this end, the company is embarking on a multimedia approach to fulfilling these values by producing videos, articles, and mobile apps; by participating in innovative health and wellness forums and premiere trade events; and by donating to leading-edge, not-for-profit organizations dedicated to research and initiatives focused on promoting healthy living.

What are you working on right now?

We are working on a new spring line of pluggz (shoes that ground people and are truly good for the body). We soft-launched for Summer 2012 with flip flops for summertime and just launched our first complete collection of ballet flats and Mary Jane shoes for women for Fall 2012, all with our proprietary grounding technology. Spring/Summer 2013 is going to be really exciting, too.

Where did the idea for pluggz come from?

While attending a conference on health and wellness—an area of interest I’ve been engaged in for a number of years—I learned about the nature deficiency in modern society and its harmful effect on our bodies. More specifically, I learned about the scientific benefits of becoming grounded and connected to the earth’s powerful natural energy (electrons). I spent the next year doing research and connecting with scientists and pioneers in the field of grounding (also called “earthing”). The idea for shoes was natural and came pretty quickly in an “a-ha” moment as it was all percolating. That’s the way it happens for me. As soon as I understood about the health benefits of getting grounded, it was clear that there was no closer way to connect to this incredible source of natural energy than directly through the feet.

What does your typical day look like?

No day is what I would call typical. When in startup mode, most start around 6:00 a.m. and end around 8:00 p.m. Activities range from lots of calls with the team, spending time with customers, designing new products, putting out fires (sometimes starting them as well), and all the operational matters that go hand in hand with innovating, creating, manufacturing, marketing, and distributing consumer products.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Once I have a vision for an idea, the next thing is attracting and enrolling the right people—those who not only are experienced and very talented in their areas of domain expertise, but ones who also have shared values, are extremely customer-focused, and share the passion for the idea. Ideas used to be a dime a dozen; now they are probably down to a half-penny. It’s all about execution, and it takes the right people to bring a concept and business to life.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

A trend I see—actually a new fact of consumer life that is here to stay—is substance, quality, and authenticity. Customers have “seen it all, heard it all,” and don’t believe anything that rings of hype. Products that have substance and something of value are where we see the marketplace headed. In the shoe business specifically, women want comfort, style for sure, fit, and additional attributes. That is why we are very excited about pluggz.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

I have been an entrepreneur all my working life, so my jobs mostly were of my own creation. The worst situations I found myself in early on in my career, when I was employed by others, were ones where I had no passion for the product, or my passion waned over time, and secondly where the company’s leaders were not respectful of their employees in all ranks and were not customer-focused. What I learned early on was never engage in an enterprise unless you believe in it fully and are passionate about it—and never, ever work at a company, no matter how exciting the business, where the culture is misaligned with your core values.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I don’t have a tendency to say “if only” and look backwards. That said, there are many lessons learned that I would heed. I can sometimes get so enthusiastic about a venture that I think I can “beat the clock.” This specifically relates to creating, manufacturing, and marketing consumer products—where I have spent most of my business life. Things happen outside of one’s control (such as customs delays when importing product, strikes at factories, etc.). Doing things too “close to the cuff” sometimes doesn’t allow any room for unforeseen matters to be addressed/resolved.

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

Love what you do unequivocally. Many days that will be the ONLY fuel you have to keep going. If you don’t have passion for your venture, hang it up at the door and don’t even proceed.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

The toughest thing is not having enough capital to go as fast as the market demands or as fast as you see the opportunity. One just perseveres and either raises the funds needed or increases sales to cover growth needs—or, not happily, go a little slower.

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

I have more of a guiding principal than one idea, as there aren’t too many ideas that have not been thought of before. When starting a business, make sure that you’re solving a real problem or filling a pressing need. Anything else might be a nice “want to have,” but in this day and age, an idea needs to be compelling. The overarching area of health and wellness is an arena that is ripe. The aging of the population is also a factor that will open up opportunities here. Without one’s health, not much else matters.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources, and what do you love about them?

1.  Google – Makes it swift to research information.
2.  Facebook – As a way to stay apprised of friends’ activities without having to engage constantly.
3.  LinkedIn – Easy way to keep contacts fresh.

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

A new book that is just out and currently only available on Kindle, Brave New Worldview by David Wolfe. It has some fresh perspectives on business and leadership in general that I find very relevant today.

Who is your hero?

I don’t have one hero, but rather many for different reasons. Most are unknowns, so to speak. They’re people who have overcome challenges and flourished in the face of adversity—and remained kind in the process.


Sharon Whiteley on LinkedIn: 
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