Interview with Lisa Will - Stonz Founder and CEO
Posted on June 28 2019
The Stonz Story
Stonz was launched in 2004 by Lisa Will after she discovered a need for simple yet functional outdoor gear designed specifically for kids. As a lover of the outdoors, Lisa would frequently take her infant son on hikes using a backpack carrier. Lisa found that her son was managing to kick off every type of footwear she tried, leaving his feet exposed to the cold. Knowing others would find the same challenge, a solution was required.
Over the years, Lisa made thoughtful additions to the product line based on customer feedback and her own experience and needs while raising two children.
As a mom of two and our CEO, Lisa (as any other mom) works on a tight schedule and opened up to talk with our team and answer some of the questions that our Instagram followers sent.
Hi Lisa, thank you for having some time to sit and talk with us. We have a couple of super interesting questions that came via Instagram and some of our staff in the head office. We hope you like it.
What's one of your favourite childhood memories?
Definitely anything that involved creativity. I grew up in a time where we played outdoors, as soon as we woke up until we were made to come home for dinner. I needed to be busy and made sure I always was!
My favourite memories were building elastic shooting guns out of wood and clothes pegs (probably outlawed now!) and selling them, running disco lessons Tuesday nights (I had no business doing this!), my garage sales on weekends and my short-term success Kleenex colouring venture. I dyed the Kleenex with coloured markers and water. They looked great until my customers used them. They left ink all over their faces. Lack of product testing was a good learning!
What were you doing before you started Stonz?
I was an Electricity Trader & Marketer. Loved my job, the energy of the trade floor was amazing, and I loved the brilliant people I worked with. They allowed me to be very entrepreneurial with developing regions of trade while supporting my growth I was pursuing on my own.
After 3 years our first Stonz product the Bootie had won an award and it was gaining momentum in the market. I had always wanted my own business, and this seemed like the right opportunity at a good time. Given I had 2 young kids (1 and 3 years) when I left my full-time job it did enable me to be with them more because I could work any 16 hours a day I wanted! A hard decision when I enjoyed pursuing both but simply ran out of time in a day.
"I’ve noticed with my own kids how walks, talks, and sports outdoors affects them. They always had a peacefulness to them once they came in versus when we stayed indoors for most of a day."
How do you manage juggling running a successful company and raising a family?This is the number one question I g
et asked. I think of my life or anything I do in terms of a ratio; one that may or may not be out of balance at any one time. And I would never attempt at deciding on a number for another person.
There are so many factors and situations to consider; business stage, timelines, plans, family, financial, work, etc. What may be ideal to one person (40% fun and 60% work) may not work for another. Their expectations are likely very different as their personal situation may be, no matter how temporary. That is the other factor for me; everything is a phase. As one goes up one comes down.
I accept this as part of life and it’s how you deal with the ups and downs, not if I have ups and downs. Everyone most certainly does. I accept imperfect and then re-jig or tweak to do better, differently or move in an all-together different direction. When that happens, my ratio is normally off. That is my leading indicator.
Why do you think it's important that kids spend time in nature?
I believe it provides grounding, room to think, space to get clarity and allows for creativity. This could be for playing games, learning, problem-solving, energy renewal, calming or just enjoyment. It’s been scientifically proven to have a positive effect on our brain.
I’ve noticed with my own kids how walks, talks, and sports outdoors affects them. They always had a peacefulness to them once they came in versus when we stayed indoors for most of a day.
When my Gr 5 son was asked about his favourite memory from the past year, he said it was when we “hiked down a hill with our rain suits on, to go for dinner at a chicken restaurant”. I remember clearly – I was scrambling to find something for dinner, couldn’t but instead chose to put all our rain gear on a cold November rainy night to walk (instead of drive) to dinner “hiking” through trails to a restaurant with just me and an 8 and 10-year-old. They loved it!
It was important to remember both kids were completely unaffected by the weather. We had the gear for it and they loved to talk, walk and head out on what was to them, an adventure. It was also important to note that year we had been to both Disneyland and Hawaii on family trips. The “hike” in the rain took the prize as most notable for his annual reflection essay of best events.
What are your favourite activities with your kids?
This keeps changing as they age. We often spent time in the mountains Skiing, it was fun (and nerve-wracking) to watch them fearlessly bomb down runs that I seemed to approach with caution.
Our Après always included playing board games. We play a lot of card games and always have. Crib can be learned by an 8-year-old and helps with their math skills. Playing family soccer with them has always been a blast. Now I love playing tennis with them.
Part of this is most definitely ego because I can still beat them, but this could change at any point. We are teaching them to windsurf this summer holiday, which has always been a passion of mine, that I'm also really excited to share with them.
What motivates you nowadays?
What motivates me is watching my kids and my team and figuring out how to elevate them. I like to watch for strengths’ or superpowers as I call them. Everyone has them – it’s spending the time and someone watching to help you find them. That is my true passion at the end of the day. It’s along the same lines as to why I love business; it’s the act of growing something. Watching people, a business or a product line/collection grow is very motivating for me.
With the goal in mind of keeping kids outside longer, comfortable and protected, Stonz now offers a variety of footwear, accessories, and apparel sold in over 16 countries lead by Lisa Will and the passion that she has for the brand and product.
Images: Stonz Wear / Women of Influence