Co-founder and CEO of EOSERA, Inc. Elyse Dickerson pays it forward by helping other women succeed
Elyse Stoltz Dickerson is CEO and Co-Founder of Eosera, Inc., a female-led biotech company committed to developing innovative products that address underserved healthcare needs. This start-up CEO and entrepreneur pays it forward by helping other women succeed. Elyse actively mentors women who pursue careers in healthcare and technology. She is a strong advocate for gender equality as well as women in business. Her workplace is a purposefully built culture of patient care, taking care of employees, and a healthy work environment, where Dickerson and her team follow “conscious capitalism” to put employees over the bottom line.
With her Fortune 500 experience, she helps small to mid-sized companies accelerate growth and build profitable businesses.
Can you start by introducing yourself and telling us about your inspiring story?
My name is Elyse Dickerson and I am CEO of Eosera, Inc., a biotech company focused on targeting under-addressed healthcare needs in the ear care space. I got my start at Alcon in eye care, where I came to know the category, the industry, and how to commercialize a healthcare product. After leaving Alcon, I decided to start my own business with my business partner, Joe Griffin, who also worked at Alcon with me for nearly 15 years. I noticed that ear care was a sleepy category on the shelf and that there had been no innovations in ear care in decades. With Joe’s background in toxicology and R&D, we formulated a product that was clinically proven to break down and dissolve earwax in as quick as 15 minutes. We landed first on CVS shelves, and now, 7 years later, we are in 28K retail stores nationwide and on Amazon. And we didn’t just stop at earwax. Our products change the ear care game as we address problems like ear pain, ear itch, ear irrigation, and ear hygiene. Eosera, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, manufactures its products in-house and employs nearly 30 people.
How did you market your business when it was brand new?
When our business was new, and in our category specifically, just being there as an option for consumers was the first step. You see, ear care was such a sleepy category, that there were not many options to choose from when you had a problem. Getting on the shelf was more than half the battle. Next, we had to educate the consumer on why our product was more efficacious than the leading earwax removal brand. We had completely different ingredients, and a different mechanism of action in our product. Reaching consumers and knowing your audience is the first step, so we started with some market research to understand who we were talking to. After combing through the research, we were better able to target that consumer through shopping and social media advertisements. Awareness when you’re first starting out is key.
We all face challenges, but looking back, what have been some of the biggest challenges and pitfalls you’ve had to navigate?
A challenge we’ve faced as a small company is securing the right hire. Each hire you make is integral to the culture of your company, especially when you’re small. Each time you bring on a new team member, the culture shifts– it’s inevitable. Whether that shift is good or bad is telling. Some of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make as a CEO is hiring and firing– and ultimately protecting the carefully crafted culture we’ve painstakingly built. Keeping the culture healthy is not just one person’s job, and it’s important for your employees to know that.
Can you share some of the most important lessons you’ve learned from your successes and failures in business?
One lesson that I learned over and over again is that you can’t do it alone. Having a business partner there for you when you inevitably fail or slip up makes it all bearable. Sharing the highs and celebrating with someone when you make a successful pitch to a buyer or ship your first shipment is like nothing else. Navigating owning a business is hard enough– don’t do it alone.
What is a typical day like for you?
I wake up early every day, around 5 o’clock, and work out. It’s important for me to work out first thing and start my day on the right foot. My kids are in high school now, so they’re pretty independent and drive themselves to school. I come in the office around 8 o’clock and do a variety of things– whether it’s pitching to a buyer, taking calls, or popping into meetings with my team, the mornings usually go by quickly. Lunch is either a working lunch or I sometimes meet colleagues or mentors for a quick bite to catch up. I wrap up my work day around 5 o’clock or so and am serious about my family time. I enjoy putting my phone away and spending quality time with my family. I always go to bed early to wake up early, and I have always valued getting enough sleep to make sure I have the energy to give the next day my all.
What initiatives or actions do you believe are crucial for fostering a more supportive and inclusive business environment for women?
I got my start by winning a pitch competition, which paid for our clinical trial for our flagship product. With all of our successes, I was thinking of how I could pay it forward years later to other female entrepreneurs. As a company, we decided to host our own pitch competition, where Texas-based, female-led businesses could apply to win money sponsored by Simmons Bank. Last year was the inaugural year, and it went off without a hitch! It was amazing to see these female-led businesses shine onstage and be able to give them seed money to achieve their dreams. This year, the prizes are even bigger, as we are giving away a total of $25,000 sponsored by Simmons Bank and Higginbotham. One of my personal missions is to support female entrepreneurs, and this is one small way I feel like I can make a community in the space and a difference in their businesses.
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Melissa Stewart is the founder of SheOwnsIt.com. She is a Purveyor of Possibility, Entrepreneur Advocate and Coffee Addict. She believes that behind every successful woman is her story. What’s your story?