Boss Babes: Stephanie Zheng, founder of Mount Lai

As a company created by two women, we know how important it is to celebrate female founders. That’s why we’ve started our Boss Babes series. Each month we’ll highlight one woman who’s leading a cool company and is absolutely crushing it, in business and in life. Here, they’ll answer questions on everything from how they started out and advice they think every woman should know, plus their beauty routines and how they take care of themselves. This month: Stephanie Zheng of Mount Lai.

At just 22-years old, Stephanie Zheng is a bit of a prodigy. She started her own jewelry line when she was 15, created a beloved beauty blog (Collection of Vials) when she was 20, and now has a very successful line of jade rollers and face tools, called Mount Lai, available at Sephora. Oh, and she’s also a trained Chinese medicine herbologist and just finished a degree for marketing and finance at NYU Stern School of Business. In other words, this overachieving whiz kid is the epitome of a Boss Babe.

We managed to pry Stephanie away from her packed schedule for a few minutes to share with us how she got her start, what it meant to build a business at such a young age, and some of the coolest things she’s learned about beauty over the years. Keep reading to learn how she hustled her way to the top and where she plans to go from here.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you start your business? Why did you choose this as your passion?

Hi! I’m Stephanie Zheng, the founder of Mount Lai as well as a beauty blogger over at @collectionofvials. Mount Lai is a beauty brand based around Traditional Chinese Medicine that I started a little under two years ago when I was 21. It was all inspired by my grandmother, who has been using jade rollers and gua sha tools for over 50 years. I’ve always been passionate about beauty and entrepreneurship and loved the idea of sharing these everyday rituals from my grandmother with others. The name Mount Lai plays homage to Mount Penglai from Chinese mythology, a place of healing with magical fruits that grant eternal youth. I wanted to build Mount Lai as a place of wellness that helps people create self-care rituals for glowing skin and peace of mind.

What were some of the challenges you faced as a female founder? How did you overcome them?

As a young female founder, there are times when people don’t take you seriously.  A common misconception is that I’m only the face of the brand when in reality I also run the day to day business and strategy. I think it’s about showing that you actually know your stuff from numbers to operations to logistics and more.

Are there any particular moments that stand out as a defining moment for you personally/professionally?

There are definitely a few moments that stand out for sure! I started my first business when I was 15 and a sophomore in high school. It was a small e-commerce jewelry store and how I first became interested in entrepreneurship. I marketed the business through social media and we ended up shipping orders to over 25 countries around the world! When I graduated from high school, I received a generous scholarship from NYU Stern School of Business and used the money I made from my jewelry store to cover all the rest of the expenses. It was great to be able to graduate from college without any debt.

Another defining moment would be leaving my job to pursue Mount Lai full-time. It was my first job out of college and I’m grateful for the experience but it was exciting to be able to focus on Mount Lai and its growth.

What was your biggest achievement, the one you are most proud of?

I think one of the achievements I am most proud of so far has been launching at Sephora at the age of 22. Sephora has been one of my favorite stores since I was in high school so to be carried by the retailer has been a total dream come true. 

What do you do to unwind?

I truly believe that skincare can be a form of self-care. I love to jade roll with a sheet mask and do my entire skincare routine. It’s so relaxing for me. I also read every night before bed and it’s the perfect way to unwind and decompress before you sleep.

Any beauty secrets you want to share?

Chrysanthemum tea! It’s amazing for the body and the skin. I remember that my relatives would always make it for me when I was younger and would spend my summers in China. My mom actually just gifted me a jar of the tea flowers for my office! I pretty much have it every single day.

Best skincare advice you’ve ever received?

The best skincare advice I’ve ever received has been from my grandmother: drink lots of water, wear sunscreen and jade roll/gua sha at least once a day!

Who is your biggest personal/professional inspiration and why?

My biggest personal inspiration is my mom. I’m constantly inspired by her ability to juggle a million things in stride and remain calm and level-headed even when challenges arise or when things go wrong. She helps give me perspective when dealing with negative situations.

Professionally, my inspiration is any female entrepreneur out there that is killing it! I consider Christine and Sarah to be two of my professional inspirations. They’ve built a completely bootstrapped company with amazing products and live a well-rounded life, which I think is very important. 

What is something surprising people might not know about you?

I have two Insta-famous hedgehogs named Atticus and Acorn! They are so cute and sassy and I love them very much. (You can find them at @atticusthehedgie on Instagram.)

What are your goals for the next year, both for yourself and your business?

For myself, finding more balance. I’d like to focus more on my health and well-being. For the business, expanding our current offerings and continuing to sustainably grow. Overall, my goal is to stress less and enjoy the process.

P.S. Want more from Stephanie? Watch her show us how to perform a de-puffing eye massage on our YouTube channel!

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