Behind Her Empire: Entrepreneur and Investor Neha Kumar On How To Successfully Launch A Startup

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.

Neha Kumar in black tank top
image courtesy of Behind Her Empire

There’s not a lot Neha Kumar hasn’t done. From her stint in banking, to being COO and CFO of Create Cultivate, to co-founding single serve wine company Maie Wines, to co-founding New Money Ventures, Kumar has learned a lot about what it takes to successfully launch and run startups.

On this episode of Behind Her Empire, Kumar discusses how important resiliency is to the startup world and life lessons she wished she’d known before launching her own companies.


Kumar started her career in banking after attending a USC Bank of America career event. It was raining and she said she only walked up to B of A’s booth because she heard they were giving out free umbrellas. But after looking over their leadership program, she decided to apply.

“I like sharing that story because a lot of people think in life that we have everything planned out,” she said. “My whole career went on a certain trajectory because I wanted an umbrella.”

Years later, now a co-founder of two companies, Kumar said it was observing successful businesses at her work in banking that allowed her to understand how to run a successful startup.

“I could have two companies that are selling the same product and one company is going under and one company is making it through,” she explained. “Because the one company that was making it through had the right foundation and infrastructure in place.”

But there’s more to launching a startup than foundation and infrastructure. One of the biggest things Kumar said she wished she’d learned before starting her business was how to listen.

“We think we're listening to other people, but we're listening with a framework that's already built in,” she said. “But you need to come from a place of listening where you don't already think you have the right answer.”

Her other big piece of learned advice: “tune out the noise.”

“You have so many people around you that are naysayers,” she said. “And you need to be able to be focused on what you know you're looking to accomplish.”

Part of “tuning out the noise” means allowing yourself the space to adjust your business vision. So many times throughout her career, Kumar said she felt disappointed at first when things didn’t go exactly according to plan. She had to remind herself that dreams can change.

Now, she teaches this lesson to her students at UCLA by having them write down what they want to do in pencil. They can erase their answer and change it, or throw away the paper entirely. It doesn’t matter, because her point is to show them that nothing has to be “set in stone.”

“For some reason, a lot of us think—myself included—that if I'm doing something, it's concrete, or it's set in stone. But in reality, it's not,” she said.

This lesson has been an important one for Kumar’s career, in addition to understanding that it’s not wise to launch a business around your passion.

“You really need to be able to look at what you're trying to create or starting and ask, ‘Is this a hobby for me? Or is this a business idea?’”

Kumar points out this distinction is important so that you can focus your energy into starting a business that will actually generate income. But it’s not to say you can’t and shouldn’t also be passionate about your business.

“You can be passionate about both,” she said. “But a hobby is something that's not necessarily going to generate an income, a business needs to generate an income.”

dot.la Social and Engagement Editor Andria Moore contributed to this post.

This podcast is produced by Behind Her Empire. The views and opinions expressed in the show are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of dot.LA or its newsroom.

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

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