In 2005, Lisa Sugar was bored with her job in advertising. Channelling her obsession with all things pop culture, Lisa launched a blog called PopSugar - now a global media empire. Today PopSugar reaches 300 million people across its channels every month seeking positive, purposeful, and playful content across entertainment, fashion, beauty, fitness, food, parenting, news and more. We recently sat down with the media mogul turned author turned total #AOBOSSBABE and can’t wait to share that conversation with you.
Who inspires you?
I am inspired by my goal crushing team, the women running for president in 2020, young actors like Yara Shahidi who give me hope for the younger generation, and my three daughters who are more open minded than I ever was at their age. And really, Oprah, who motivated me to build something new with POPSUGAR.
What does work hard, play nice mean to you?
My parents taught me if you can figure out how to do what you love, then you can do anything - though it may not come easy. You have to work hard and give it your all. As for being nice — I believe in karma. There are a ton of games to play in this media space and playing nice to me means being a good boss, good partner, running a legit company, and good person.
How do you power your happy?
Finding time every day for the little happies and hopefully building on them. Whether it’s walking my girls to school, walking to work with my husband Brian, taking an exercise class, or larger ventures like launching a beauty line or writing my book, Power Your Happy. Of course, something sweet like chocolate or my favorite sugary cereal is a quick hit, and knowing I have a sunny vacation destination booked also helps :)
How can people champion positive change at work? Are there ever limits?
We ask our employees throughout the year to tell us as much as they can about what they love and don’t. Over the years, we’ve realized we need to give days off to volunteer because everyone said they wanted to but never had time. Most recently, we rolled out PSFlex, which allows employees to work a few days a week from home. At first, the concept scared the sh*t out of me, but it’s been such a win. As for limits — if it’s something selfish and elitist or too exclusive then it’s a no go. The entire company should benefit from any change, which is not always easy as you get larger. We do our best to explain why some asks are just not doable, no matter how hard we’d want them to change.
How do you balance life and work when you are married to your business partner?
Brian and I have done an excellent job of figuring out how to divide and conquer everything that needs to get done at home and at the office. We started POPSUGAR when I was pregnant with our first daughter, so we were able to build the company that worked for us. I consider us lucky to be able to spend SO much time together. We are big on family dinners, and I love putting the girls to bed at night so we try not to travel for work at the same time, alternating weeks we are away from the kids. If travel is slow, we make time for Friday date nights where seeing friends and/or a movie to just chill together are a must.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned from running POPSUGAR?
I’ve learned that you can never be too grateful and thankful for the team working hard to bring our POPSUGAR voice and vision to life. At the same time, you have to constantly change and adapt while remaining the same in your core values. As much as we can get stuck in our ways or routine, we have to keep evolving to stay ahead of the rest. This can be a challenge, but it is a must.
How do you gauge what gets published on POPSUGAR?
We have an intense recruiting and training process. We look for people who are experts in their beat with a writing style that is unique. Then we work with them to execute to the standards we have in place and the POPSUGAR POV in each story they write.
Have you ever received criticism over published content?
Of course. We’ve made mistakes. We’ve learned from them and continue to evolve as today’s world changes. We’ve created safe spaces for editors to talk to each other to make sure they are approaching sensitive topics with awareness. Sometimes, we’ve even made tougher choices to part ways with employees who didn’t understand or made multiple mistakes.
What’s your stance on reading the comments?
Comments are great for instant focus-group feedback, but it’s not the only thing you can use, count on, or get emotional about. We foster a fun, playful, supportive community, so reading comments can be very fun and entertaining. We’ve also told the team not to take anything too personally. If it ever elevates to a negative place, we aim to get in there before it gets out of hand.
What are your greatest strengths?
Being an optimist and a generally happy person, I believe in the best of people. I am great at listening to others, helping solve problems, and brainstorming new creative through a positive, playful lens.
I cut people off, which I hate! I get so excited in conversations and don’t want to forget a thought or want to add on to an existing idea and I catch myself realizing I should patiently wait. Also, I am fiercely loyal — for good or bad, I will fight for someone or something that sometimes I should learn to look past.
What is your favorite outfit for the workplace?
We’re super casual in SF, so I tend to wear jeans and sneakers most of the time. Whenever I travel to LA or NYC for work, I do my best to wear cute dresses since it’s too cold in SF and I do love to wear a short mini. I love color (obsessed with blue!) which is one of the many reasons why I love alice + olivia. For a long time, my work uniform was jeans and a classic white silk blouse with a peter pan collar from A + O – I bought it multiple times over and over.
What role does beauty and fashion play in your life?
I’m pretty obsessed with beauty – my bathroom is a mess. I’m always testing new products (thought loyal to skincare favorites like Barbara Sturm, Augustinus Bader, and Dr. Jart and beauty brands like Charlotte Tilbury and PTY beauty). One of my favorite work projects was launching Beauty by POPSUGAR in March 2018. Being able to create a beauty line with industry veterans including research from our audience allowed us to develop something special with healthy ingredients and buildable colors. It was an excellent learning experience for me. As for fashion, I love following trends (nothing too trendy) but try not to fuss over what I am wearing. Being a mom to three girls, I want them to see fashion as something that is fun to play with, but not obsess over.