Behind Her Empire: Divya Gugnani's 'On-The-Go' Clean Beauty Empire

Yasmin Nouri

Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

On this week's episode of Behind Her Empire, I sat down with Divya Gugnani, the CEO and co-founder of Wander Beauty. Her latest company is a cruelty-free, clean beauty brand, designed to be the ultimate on-the-go beauty essentials.


Gugnani began her work in finance at Goldman Sachs, where she says she learned the important of being a team player.

"I believe that investing in people and investing in relationships would always be the best thing for me, both personally and professionally," she said. "And I learned that in finance you work hard, you work a lot of hours and you work on teams."

After dabbling in personal equity and then getting her MBA, she worked on weekends to create an auto parts company with her boyfriend, which she says gave her quality hands-on experience.

Reflecting on the venture, she said, "I think it's great to have very strong relationships, but I do believe they should be based on skillset. They shouldn't be based on your personal chemistry. I think that the biggest mistake is getting involved in business with someone that you're emotionally involved with, because the emotions come at work, the work comes at home and plays into the emotional relationship. That for me was the biggest mistake I made."

After launching two other businesses and becoming a mother, Gugnani started Wander Beauty. Her experience as an entrepreneur and as a mother inspired the company. She said she wanted to look done-up, despite the limited time she had in her day. Wander's first product was a double-sided makeup stick that works as a blush, highlighter, lipstick and eyeshadow.

Since then, the startup has won over 30 beauty awards in five years, including an Allure '"best of beauty" award. Wander has become a favorite of reviewers, influencers and customers alike, and has won its share of celebrity devotees, including Heidi Klum, Emma Roberts, Sarah Jessica Parker and Molly Sims, among others.

Listen to the episode to hear firsthand advice from Gugnani on starting a business, what she's learned about building her teams and how to enter the industry at the right time.

"I've been in four different industries with four different startups and I've learned them all along the way. You learn it all. Be a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all." —Divya Gugnani

Divya Gugnani is the CEO and co-founder of Wander Beauty.

Want to hear more of the Behind Her Empire podcast? Subscribe on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radioor wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA Engagement Intern Colleen Tufts contributed to this post.

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Weekly Recap: The State of Venture Capitalism in Southern California

Luis Gomez

Luis Gomez is dot.LA's Engagement Editor. Prior to joining the dot.LA team, he served as the audience growth consultant for Capital & Main. He has also previously worked as a digital producer for The San Diego Union-Tribune, NPR affiliate KPCC in Los Angeles and Yahoo. Follow him on Twitter at @RunGomez.

Top L.A. venture capitalists are benefitting from a white hot market.

This week, dot.LA published the first of several findings out of its quarterly poll of top Los Angeles venture capitalists. In short, those surveyed remain optimistic about the economic recovery and more than half say their companies saw valuations jump in the second quarter.

Among other findings:

  • All of the 33 investors who took the survey saw employee headcounts increase at their portfolio companies last quarter
  • Most VCs surveyed expect more hiring on the horizon
  • Some (36%) said they're having trouble retaining workers.

LA Startups To Watch 👀

MedTech Innovator has launched BioTools Innovator, a new virtual accelerator for genomics, personal medicine, targeted drug therapy and other life science startups.

Culver City-based startup Modern Animal is looking to grow by appealing to both overtaxed vets and the new rush of pet owners with its hybrid telemedicine subscription service. On Friday, it announced a $75.5 million investment to help do it.

Adway promises to pay drivers $50-$350 a month in what they call "passive" income by projecting ads on the side of their cars. This week, the nearly three-year-old company clinched a $6 million seed round led by Upfront Ventures.

Spinn, the maker of a coffee brewing machine that uses a unique "centrifuge process," has raised $20 million in a round of funding announced Monday. The startup says its focus on sustainability sets it apart from other at-home brewing machines.

#TechLA's Movers & Shakers This Week 📢

Rocket Lab this week successfully launched a satellite for the U.S. Space Force after a failed mission in May. MIT-trained engineer and serial tech entrepreneur Krisztina "Z" Holly writes that Rocket Lab's quiet launch represents the real reason to have faith in space exploration, rather than space tourism.

Rental services are finally coming to the masses. Los Angeles-based Arrive Outdoors is making the technology behind its camping gear renting success available to brands that want to add a "rent" button on a product detail page. The company also announced it has raised $4 million in Seed II funding led by Amino Ventures.

LA Tech and Venture Capital News 🗞

El Segundo-based Dibbs, which brands itself as "the only real-time fractional sports card marketplace," this week secured a $13 million Series A round led by Foundry Group, with star athletes like Chris Paul and Skylar Diggins-Smith also investing.

Meta Data Software, a company that organizes the massive content libraries at some of the biggest streaming services, is calling Los Angeles its new home.

New data from PledgeLA's survey of Los Angeles tech companies and venture firms shows there is still a big disparity in pay among women, Black and Latinx tech workers.

Even as sports events scaled down during the pandemic, Elysian Park Ventures saw an opportunity in the digital realm. Co-founder Cole Van Nice says COVID ultimately advanced the timelines for the sports industry.

Listen Up 🎙

Need a podcast recommendation this weekend? Here are some new pods we have for you:

Hear from Alex Friedman, the co-founder of LOLA, a feminine care brand created to address the need for more transparency in women's health, in the latest episode of the Behind Her Empire podcast. Listen on Stitcher | Apple Podcasts | Spotify | iHeart Radio

On this episode of the L.A. Venture podcast, veteran media investor Daniel Leff spills the truth about streaming services: everyone's chasing Netflix. Listen on Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify

🚨 ​EXTRA EXTRA 🚨

Hundreds of Activision Blizzard employees in Irvine and many more remotely walked off the job on Wednesday to protest a workplace culture they call misogynistic and toxic. The walkout came after workers decried the company's response to a lawsuit brought forward by a California agency that accuses Activision Blizzard of fostering a pervasive "frat boy" culture. At their protest, they called on the company to be more transparent in its hiring practices.

Olympics viewership on NBC is taking a dive. New data shows a 36% decline from the 2016 Games across all NBC's platforms, which include its linear TV channel, Peacock and NBC Sports digital.

LA Tech and Venture Capital Events 💬

Immersive gaming experiences took a hit during the pandemic as venues shut down, but industry leaders expect them to come roaring back as people seek greater connections and the industry grows. This week, dot.LA hosted an intimate gathering at the immersive Two Bit Circus in downtown Los Angeles. Watch the video and sort through photos of the event.

Other upcoming Southern California events in the tech and startup scene in August:

Is your organization having an event? Let us feature it in our newsletter! Email luis@dot.la.

Am I doing this right? 🤔

Throw me feedback, compliments or questions on this newsletter at luis@dot.la or on Twitter at @rungomez.

'No Matter What I’m Doing, It's Always Controversial': Cloud9's All-Women Esports Team Talks Sexism in Gaming

Leigh Giangreco
Leigh Giangreco is a reporter covering culture, politics and news. Her work has appeared in outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and Washington City Paper.

The belief that female players aren't tokens in esports is still a radical one. Just as dominant women's teams in traditional sports like the U.S. women's national soccer team struggle with discrimination, women in esports face online harassment and sexism.

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Disney, Walmart Join Local Governments in Requiring Worker Vaccinations

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

Entertainment giant Disney and retailer Walmart on Friday became the latest companies to require employees to be vaccinated. They followed Facebook and Google earlier this week.

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