Spotlight on Haley Hoffman Smith
Meet Haley Hoffman Smith: Next Gen’s former Director of Community, a Community Council member, who is now a full time professional speaker and the founder of Her Big Lash.
How did you become a professional speaker?
When my book, Her Big Idea, came out in June, I had never considered speaking. I was approached by an entrepreneurship program director and asked to come speak out of the blue, and that simple ask felt like permission and encouragement from the universe to pursue something that had always been on my heart. Speaking was always so scary to me - I was that girl in high school who would shake when raising her hand in class. But, I feel like all writers are natural speakers - we have something to say, and it’s just a different way of sharing our message.
My dear mentor and book coach Eric Koester (whom I met through Next Gen!) encouraged me to start a speaking tour based on my book to inspire 1,000 new ideas in the 2018-2019 school year, which I thought was genius. But I took it one step further: I wanted to inspire action on ideas. I believe we all have ideas and visions, we just need that push to bring them to life. I believe my purpose on this Earth is helping more people (especially young people, and especially women) realize that their ideas and visions are not mere accidents, they’re divinely given. You are never given an idea that you can’t bring to life. That idea came to you because it’s YOURS to bring to life!
My tour has been the greatest adventure. Starting in October 2018, I’ve spoken at colleges such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, CU Boulder, Penn, Bryn Mawr, Northeastern, the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, and more. Every single talk has been so exhilarating, and just so right. I’m excited about all of it, and can’t wait to continue the tour through the rest of this year. I’m already booking for next fall, too! Check out my upcoming engagements here.
Tell us about Her Big Lash.
I have worn false lashes everyday since I was 15 years old! Two years ago, I actually had a whole journal devoted to wanting to start a lash line. I had drawn mock-ups for the packaging, imagined what I’d name them… but there was one small hiccup in the plan: I could not figure out how I was going to make the lashes. It remained a ‘pipe dream’ until a personal branding talk I gave at SoGal Ventures in December.
In the talk, I mentioned how false lashes are part of my personal brand, because I wear them everyday. After the talk, a UCLA professor approached me and told me that he had been sitting next to two women who had their own lash company and wanted to meet me. I was, naturally, ultra-excited to meet them because I love ANY female founder! They showed me their lashes and I was blown away by the quality - they were exactly like the ones that I spend $30/pop on! They asked me to have my own line of lashes with them, and said that I could design the packaging and everything - and that moment will always go down as one of the highlights of my life.
Just a few months later (we work quickly!), Her Big Lash has LAUNCHED! We launched on Valentine’s Day, which is my favorite holiday. What’s special about these lashes is the quality of the band, which has a thickness that permits up to 15 wears. I also retail them for only $17.99 so that the #glam can be affordable for all (in contrast to the $30 ones I used to buy!). We have two styles in our debut collection: Her Big Lash and Her Bigger Lash!
What was the best part about your time working for Next Gen?
Ah, where to start! I stumbled upon Next Gen in my junior year at Brown when I was feeling so lost. My first startup had just failed and I lacked any sense of direction in my life. The only thing I knew I wanted to do was create - whether it be a book, another company, a podcast, you name it - that ‘entrepreneurship bug’ was in my blood! Timing is everything, and I met the amazing Noa Mintz when she came to visit the Brown campus. What was initially a conversation about the university became a conversation about all things entrepreneurship, and she told me I needed to join this community called Next Gen. She sent a message to the amazing duo Justin Lafazan & Dylan Gambardella on my behalf, and the rest is history.
Within two weeks in the community, I got my first ever paid speaking gig, which happened to be IN PROVIDENCE (for those of you who don’t know Providence, Rhode Island, it’s a tiny provincial town). I was on a panel with other Next Gen members and met people who changed the course of my life. The whole thing was serendipitous…or simply #MyMomentum. Flash forward to when they were looking for a Community Manager that summer, I knew I was called to the position. And I’m so glad that they agreed.
The past two years as the Director of Community have been my most special years to date. I have no words to express my gratitude for everyone I’ve met, everything I’ve learned.. and, simply, the mere fact that I got to have such an amazing job. I was genuinely excited everyday to be connecting with the world’s most talented entrepreneurs, and as daunting as it is to be venturing off on my own into ‘solopreneurship,’ I know that sense of community isn’t lost. Community remains community, and I’ve made so many dear friends who have changed my life forever. I especially want to thank Justin and Dylan for being so supportive of me from the very start. To meet and work with individuals as talented, driven, and visionary as they are is a true gift, but they have also gone above and beyond to be there for me and support my growth. They are my family, as all of you are, forever.
To doing what matters… and I’m still always an email or Facebook message away!
Forever part of the Next Gen family,