Michelle Arnau is the CEO & Co-Founder of Rowan, the first of its kind clean beauty brand for dogs. Disrupting a category that was previously uninspired and desperately seeking change, Michelle went from launching with just 5 products to getting features in Sunset and goop and raising a seed round just a few months in.
Learn how 11 years at method shaped Michelle’s career journey and honed her leadership skills and style, and the importance of having trusted mentors early on.
Michelle described what it was like to raise capital for the first time and shares so many helpful tips about pitch decks, tapping into the investor community, and how to find the right investor. Listen to Episode 40 of The Career Memos Podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher.
Find a mentor early on in your career that can see what you can’t see
One of Michelle’s best pieces of career advice is to find an amazing mentor that can help you do things better in your current role. Sometimes when we start out, we take a more linear approach to mapping out our career. We imagine working our way up the ladder in our current company and eventually taking our boss’s job. But what if you’re searching for something wildly different?
In Michelle’s early days working at Wells Fargo, she longed for more autonomy and creativity in her career. And it turned out to be a mentor who introduced her to the world of brand marketing, introducing her to a friend who had built a successful career at Kraft and loved their work. It inspired Michelle to shape her career differently.
A great mentor is an excellent coach; someone you can trust who will offer sound advice. They may even have a similar mindset as you. But they’ll open your world and expose you to new opportunities or help you expand on new skills.
The first mentor Michelle had fell into her lap, and it was a boss of hers at Wells Fargo. There was so much synergy in their conversations, that she just knew he would be a mentor even beyond the walls of her banking career.
Michelle’s 11 years working at method
Working at method was an absolute gamechanger in Michelle’s career journey. When she reflects back on 11 years there, watching the company grow and transform, she highlights how much it helped her refine her leadership skills and better understand herself as a person and a leader.
It had always been important to her to seek out roles and companies where she felt deeply aligned with the culture, and felt like her collaborative and empathetic leadership approach would be celebrated. method was making cleaning sexy.
Starting out, Michelle entered the company on a mission to run one particular business unit, but it wasn’t profitable and didn’t make sense for method to be in. She worked herself out of that role altogether, eventually leading marketing and the North America business units as a whole.
From 2008 to 2019, she saw it all: the early stages of the business, ultra-fast growth, acquisitions, new capital, scaling, a sizable investment in their own self-manufacturing plant, and becoming platinum LEED certified.
Being on the inside of both the “building” and the “scaling” phases of the company is so unique.
The dance of growing Rowan and navigating their first fundraise
Launching Rowan was a mix of combining a personal passion with a clear opportunity. The pet grooming category itself was uninspired and desperately seeking change. There were products out there using cheap ingredients that were doing little to benefit a dog’s coat. Merging human beauty trends and premium pet care with a partner, Sally Clarke, was a winning combination.
Timing was everything when Rowan launched with five products in December of 2020. Over the holidays, they secured press spots in Sunset and goop, building positive momentum and buzz around their products.
While the company was initially self-funded, Michelle and Sally were eager to invest in innovation and marketing and building a larger team. She admits that the fundraising process has been one of their biggest learning curves.
For a month and a half, she got in the trenches and met with other entrepreneurs who had successfully raised money, learning from their successes and mistakes.
Rowan raised a seed round in March with amazing partners who also love dogs and share the same values, and Michelle walked away from fundraising with a positive, memorable experience.
If you’re seeking to raise capital in your startup, reflect on why you want to raise money. What will it be for? And how fast do you want to grow? Lastly, the pitch deck really matters. Investors are pitched hundreds of times a day. How will yours stand out if that’s all you have?
“When you look in the mirror and go, ‘How badly do I want this? How much do I believe in this?’ and it goes back to that passion, that clear opportunity, and the team you’re doing it with, and for both of us, the answer was absolutely, we’ll find a way.”