Meghan Asha, CEO of FounderMade, a super-connector clearinghouse that hooks up innovative beauty brands with retailers, investors and customers, shares how she finally got past feeling unattractive, her go-to makeup brand and the surprising 90-year-old she always talks to.
“I felt like a duck in a swan pond,” says Meghan Asha, reminiscing about her angsty youth—when she was the only Indian and biracial student in an all-Caucasian school in San Jose, CA.
Although she dabbled in some professional modeling with brands like Marie Claire, Macy’s and Tommy Hilfiger, she never felt particularly attractive, but invariably felt different.
At 12 years old, “different” led her to the Weight Watchers diet plan. In college, “different” led to an eating disorder.
“I remember I would look in the mirror and I would say ‘fat Indian girl.’ I would say nasty things, and now I’m like, oh my god, how could I have ever said that to myself? There were so many things that were telling me in the world that I was attractive, but I didn’t believe it myself. And I discounted my difference for a really long time and didn’t use it as an asset.”
Asha is still “different.” Actually, she’s anything but ordinary.
She arranges dance classes for her employees (the next one will be Britney Spears themed), completed a marathon even though she’s not a huge fan of running, frequently talks to her 90-year-old self to keep herself in check and oh, established one of the most innovative start-ups in the beauty industry, FounderMade (more on that in a second).
Meghan Asha began her career mirroring the footsteps of her immigrant father.
Her father voyaged from India to the U.S. with only a backpack and started a technology company that went public in the 90s. Asha, too, stepped into corporate world as an analyst at a venture capital firm after graduating from Columbia Business School.
Both father and daughter faced conformity in their own, yet similar, ways.
“My dad basically got rid of his accent. He had to be on Wall Street with all the bankers in suits,” says Asha, noting he did what he had to do to support a family of four.
While Asha didn’t have an Indian accent, she also wore suits (of the Ann Taylor variety), earning plenty of dough and clicking her power-status heels into the boardroom.
After four years of climbing the ladder and not quite feeling like she was on the right path, Asha made a choice.
Perhaps it was her intuition, or perhaps it was 90-year-old Meghan, the elderly version of herself who she regularly seeks out for advice and often debates with.
“I think about my 90-year-old self all the time and how she’s the hottest, she’s the coolest lady in the world,” says Asha. “And when I was younger I was scared to get older, and now I’m so excited to get older, because why not? This is awesome. I love coming into my own and I get to see how this 90-year-old self develops, because she’s real cray.”
During a three-hour meeting, 90-year-old Meghan “sent” her a message: “You’re not supposed to be at this table.’”
And that was it. She decided it was her time to leave. This decision ultimately became FounderMade.
FounderMade is a platform and conference series that connects consumer brands in beauty, wellness and food to retailers, distributors and investors.
Asha now works with founders of pioneering beauty brands from all over, including Le Prunier, Rodial and Saje Natural Wellness. She works with other trailblazing women, who she absolutely loves mentoring (while knocking down their insecurities; in a way, talking to her younger self).
For all these reasons, she was deemed “The Empowerer” by Alive magazine in their feature, “The Most Powerful Women in Wellness.”
Looking back, Asha has zero regrets about all those years working the corporate grind and not feeling good enough.
“You play different roles in different ways in life, and it’s not a bad thing. The growth mentality is the best thing you could ever ask for as a human.”
If it weren’t for everything—from feeling out of place when her blonde-haired mother came to school in a sari during ‘multicultural day’ to proving herself at one of the country’s most competitive business schools—she would not have developed her solidly self-defined view of beauty.
“I didn’t find beauty within myself for a very long time. I was an entrepreneur, I kept failing on things, I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I would raise money, I had bad partnerships, I had to go to business school to prove I was smart. All these things I was trying to prove, prove, prove. I would be working in finance to please my dad, my Indian father, and then basically not feel smart or good in that environment because that was not what aligned with my purpose.”
Now, at 37 years old, she’s feeling the most gorgeous she’s ever felt.
“Beauty, as you get older and as you emerge into yourself, it gets redefined, and you redefine it in different ways. I found beauty in myself when I started living and taking action towards the thing that resonated most for me to do in the world.”
Does this mean Asha doesn’t think physical appearances are important? Hell no!
“Enjoy the makeup, enjoy the clothing, enjoy everything! That’s part of the colorful, awesome experience called life, you know?”
90-year-old Meghan would totally agree.