Editor’s note: Sohuis has since been renamed to Her Brand & Co.
As the co-founder and CEO of Sohuis, Jessica Korthuis champions female entrepreneurs by providing them with marketing education. Korthuis leads Sohuis, a marketing education platform, and its accelerator, The Lucy Lab. She helps women find their stories, develop a brand identity and stake out their place in the market.
But this wasn’t always her plan. After an unexpected layoff, she and her partner launched a branding consulting business – with no prior experience in entrepreneurship.
Starting a business was never part of Korthuis’ upbringing and education. She was raised by a single mom and followed a traditional path to a corporate role. She worked in public relations for a global fashion brand, but when the company suddenly eliminated all the positions across the United States, she was left without many options.
“That weekend, my boyfriend – now husband – and I decided to start our own branding agency. He had the tech creative background, I had the sales, marketing and PR background. It couldn’t be that hard, right? Famous last words,” Korthuis said. “We started the agency that weekend. We built our crappy first landing page and printed our business cards off Vistaprint. By Monday morning, we were in business, and I’ve been an entrepreneur ever since.”
It was a perfect fit. She’d always been seen as a “troublemaker” at work, exploring countless solutions to every problem and asking lots of probing questions. These things got her in trouble when she worked in someone else’s office but helped her thrive as an entrepreneur.
“I had the drive to just build something of my own, something that I could have ownership over and that I could participate in,” she said.
Creating boundaries between work and family
Building a business sounds overwhelming but doing it with a co-founder can help with the workload. When that co-founder is also your life partner, you might need to identify some boundaries. Korthuis said that her own process of doing so was a matter of trial and error. What helped most was identifying their individual strengths and distributing jobs accordingly.
“We both had a fundamental understanding and respect for one another, and our professional aptitude to handle our tasks,” she explained. “The other thing is that we established boundaries very early on. When working in our home office, we literally made office hours for ourselves. It was a team effort to make sure that we honored those boundaries. It was kind of a physical separation between being co-founders and being a married couple.”
What is Sohuis?
Sohuis is a membership program with workshops, fireside chats, mentors and other perks. It offers a sense of community for women in the early stages of their businesses.
Then there’s the company’s eight-week virtual accelerator: The Lucy Lab. The program walks participants through the most important stages of launching a business. What’s the value proposition? Is there a market fit? Does a customer base exist? What is the right price? That intelligence is crucial. Many founders jump right to building a website without seeing how the market will respond to their idea. The accelerator finishes with a pitch competition and the participants walk away from The Lucy Lab with research in hand and branding needed to launch.
So… who’s Lucy?
“Lucy is the elephant on our logo,” Korthuis explained. After becoming a mother in 2016, she pivoted away from her consulting business and turned her attention to education. The elephant represents the brand’s identity. “Elephants live in matriarchal societies, and they pass down generational knowledge through their herd.
“I felt that this was something that was missing in the marketplace. Marketing is such an abstract idea that’s hard to contextualize, especially for early-stage female founders,” she said. “I never went to school for marketing. I learned all of this on my own over the course of 10 years. If we can pass down that knowledge to other founders, we can help them create wealth and live their lives by their own rules. We help them do things in their lives that they never thought that they could do.”
Sohuis success stories
Korthuis was excited to share the successes of Sohuis members like Shannon Leon. Leon is the founder of V-Pack for Women, a subscription box focusing on urinary and vaginal health. She won The Lucy Lab pitch competition in 2020 and the American Express “100 for 100” grant program with IFundWomen. The business was based on her own experience with incontinence and UTIs and her struggles to find a supportive community. The first time that she publicly shared her story was during a Lucy Lab meeting – something that inspired other women to come forward with their own struggles, too.
Crucial insight for other entrepreneurs
Korthuis acknowledged how much pressure women face to make their company seem perfectly “Instagram-able.” Any business is going to require hard work and faces failure.
“Something that we teach in Lucy Lab is that you don’t have to build the whole solution all at once. That’s a big fallacy for many women. Trying to have the whole thing figured out before you even get started is the number one way to kill the business. If you’re not sure how to get started, the answer is to just start. It’s not going to be perfect. That’s part of the process. Learning is a major part of entrepreneurship that often gets overlooked. Learning is where you find little gems that make your company unique. You can build from there.”
To learn more about how entrepreneurship and marketing are deeply connected, be sure to watch the full video!