- What path did your career take after graduating from LSU?
I graduated from LSU in 2012 with bachelor’s degrees in Petroleum Engineering and International Trade and Finance and a minor in Chinese Culture and Commerce. I interned three summers during college with Chevron in Bakersfield and Houston, then went to work full-time as a Production Engineer for Chevron’s Carthage field in East Texas. I held multiple other Petroleum Engineering positions in Chevron’s Mid-Continent Business Unit during my 4 years with the company. Then in August 2016, I moved to Austin, Texas to pursue a Budget and Planning position with Permian-focused E&P company Parsley Energy. It was then that I really began to make strides in the development of Hot Stuff Safetywear and ultimately launch the company. I left Parsley in October 2017 to focus full-time on growing Hot Stuff Safetywear.
- How did Hot Stuff Safetywear come to fruition?
The idea for Hot Stuff was born in 2010 during my second internship with Chevron. That spring, OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] established the requirement that all personnel involved in oil and gas well drilling, servicing, and production-related operations wear flame-resistant clothing [FRC] during the jobs. I was issued my first pair of FRCs at the beginning of that summer, as I would be working 1-week on/1-week off of a land drilling rig as a drilling engineering intern. I vividly remember telling my mother about the baggy coveralls I had to wear and how I wanted to change that. “You could call it Hot Stuff!” As soon as the idea had a name, I knew I would make it happen one day.
- What has been the biggest challenge and the biggest reward as a young entrepreneur?
I felt strongly connected to this idea from the beginning because of my background and interests. I knew that no matter what, I would be learning something new from pursuing this dream and that excited me. The biggest challenge for the development of this brand has been finding a trusted manufacturer to make the final sales garments. For instance, I went far down the process with one manufacturer, only to have them claim insufficient capacity and pull the plug. Others wanted to take the idea for themselves. I have learned that business is business and even if you start a project to have fun and grow, most people you deal with are only concerned about making money. Understanding this allows you to find those genuine people/partnerships that will make your venture a success.
On a more rewarding note, I have learned about myself, what I want, and what I value. I have grown as a person and am proud of what I have accomplished. There is a certain confidence that you gain in coming up with an idea, working toward its development, and finding the resources to see it through.
- How did LSU help pave the way for you to take on this challenge?
Definitely the most important aspect of life that I learned at LSU is that you don’t have to fit into one particular mold or stereotype. At LSU, I was encouraged to explore all of my interests. I took a variety of courses from fashion history to differential equations to Mandarin language. I think that I would have felt pressure to pursue one particular career path had I gone to some of the other universities that were on my list. The diversity of thought and people in general at LSU coupled with a laid-back atmosphere allows you to feel comfortable trying new things and maybe failing. But I’ve learned that life is a journey, and there is something you can learn from every experience. People tell me all the time that they can’t believe I found a way to marry two completely different interests into a business that actually makes sense. I see this in itself as one of my biggest accomplishments, and I owe this stroke of serendipity to LSU.
- We heard you auditioned for Shark Tank. Can you tell us about that experience and what you hope to gain from it?
Over the years, many people have encouraged me to apply for the show. I always knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to, but I was waiting for the perfect timing. One morning this January, I thought about the show and looked up the open casting calls. There was one in Dallas 2 weeks later and it felt like that was a sign. A few friends (also female engineers) drove there with me, and I gave a 1 minute long pitch in front of a casting director. There were nearly 700 other entrepreneurs auditioning that day in Dallas. It was an incredible experience to meet so many people that have similar stories about leaving lucrative jobs to follow their dreams. I have not taken any outside investment in Hot Stuff at this point, so this is really the first time I am considering it. I think that the experience and connections that the sharks have would be invaluable to the growth of Hot Stuff Safetywear.