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How the Women on Boards Project is shaping early-stage consumer companies

September 13, 2022, 7:00 PM UTC
The nonprofit was founded to promote and increase the number of executive women serving on the boards of early-stage consumer companies.
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A nonprofit linking executive women with startup firms in need of new board members has announced its latest appointment. Megha Tolia, chief operating officer and president of Shondaland, is now a new member of the board of directors for The Good Patch, a wearable wellness brand. Tolia’s appointment was made possible through a group called the Women on Boards Project.

Tolia talks with Fortune about how her career led her to be uniquely qualified for the role. Currently in entertainment, she got her start at Johnson & Johnson and spent several years at Method when it was a startup. 

You were recently added to the board of directors at The Good Patch, a wearable wellness brand that’s doing some interesting things. What are you excited about?

Well, when I was introduced to The Good Patch, what I got really excited about is they’re meeting consumers’ needs in a very unique and innovative form. I love that they’re focusing on wellness, which is something that’s core to my personal beliefs. So I was excited to join a team to help expand the way in which we bring wellness to consumers and an innovative way to fold into consumers’ lives.

It sounds like The Good Patch has a blend for everything from relaxation to recovery after a night out, all delivered through these stick-on patches. 

They actually use the form of a patch to deliver benefits that consumers are looking for. They tie this functional benefit to the emotional needs of the consumer, which I think is a beautiful combination when you get that all in one product and then layer on the ease of it. So real easy application through a patch format. We focus on sleep; we focus on all aspects of wellness.

What’s your favorite patch? 

I love the nighttime sleep one. That’s the one I use the most. For me, it fits really nicely into the end of the day routine. Kids are asleep, I put it on, and I’ve been sleeping well. So maybe that’s part of being a tired mother of three and working full-time, but I do feel it’s a great addition to the routine at the end of the night as I wash my face and wind down for the day. 

I know your addition to the board was done in support of the Women on Boards Project. Can you tell me about that? 

I was introduced to Women on Boards through a former colleague of mine. That intro was great, and the approach we took, which I very much appreciated, was getting to know each other. Their approach is very intentional: It’s not just about placing women on boards, it’s also about finding the right fit, and they do a great job of being thorough. They also work with strategic partners—leading venture capital firms and private equity firms—to place us in their portfolio companies. 

That approach just increases the rate of success, so that at an early stage, we women can be part of their strategy and formulating it.

What has your career path looked like to lead you to this point? 

I started my career at a big CPG [consumer packaged goods] company, Johnson & Johnson, working at Neutrogena, so the start of my career was focused on the beauty space. Beauty is the perfect combination of high emotional need as well as functional need. And it’s a fast-paced industry that calls for hyper-innovation because consumers’ needs are changing at all times, and they are never satiated. 

And so I learned the fundamentals, and all facets of the business, from innovation to consumer insights to commercialization. And then general management skills around finance operations, sales management, etc. So that was really the set of my foundation. 

I was at Neutrogena for about nine years or so; then I did a short stint away when I got my master’s from Harvard Business School, and then returned. Next, I joined a company called Method Products. It was a team of about 70 people at the time, focused on sustainable green cleaning products and trying to take out the toxic giants. It was a problem solution category versus something emotional, but it brought emotion to a commoditized category. I spent seven years at Method and helped them grow, scale, and integrate when they were purchased by SC Johnson, so I was sitting at the management-team level there. 

I’m also currently the COO and president of Shondaland. It’s actually a huge departure in my career in the spirit of personal growth, but interestingly enough, this notion of branding and consumer awareness and consumer insights and general management is very applicable to any company. I’ve seen it all, and I think that will hopefully create a lot of added value on the board. I’m really looking forward to partnering with the team and helping them scale.

Has sitting on a board been a goal of yours?

Yes, I have always been interested in serving on boards. Admittedly at the height and peak of my career, I was a full-time operator, and I wanted to make sure that I could add value and balance that while raising a young family and having a full-time job. 

But it will continue to be a focus of mine because women’s representation is incredibly important, especially at that early stage when companies are setting strategies and expectations. It sets a lot of standards and sets up the company for growth, and I really believe the diversity of thought is super important.

It’s a real privilege for me to show women this can be the path for them. I have three young boys and a husband, so men all around me, and I’m showing them this is the way the world is. 

What advice do you have for women considering similar moves in their own careers?

Find a great partner like Women on Boards that can open some doors. And just say yes. Don’t overanalyze opportunities. Don’t think about the downsides or whether you’re the right fit. Just say yes and give it a try. If it’s not a good fit, there will be other opportunities.  

What advice do you have for boards looking to fill positions in the 21st century? 

Women’s representation at any stage is incredibly important. Women still account for 80% of all purchasing decisions; if you’re in products and services that input is invaluable. It would be remiss for a company not to include women. 

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