E166 Lili Montes: Co-Founder & CEO @ Limon

Episode 166 June 23, 2022 00:28:29
E166 Lili Montes: Co-Founder & CEO @ Limon
NoCode Wealth
E166 Lili Montes: Co-Founder & CEO @ Limon
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Show Notes

Lili Montes is the Co-Founder and CEO of Limon, which makes finding day trips easy. A Gen Z, Half-Latina Serial Entrepreneur, a founder in the Wayfinder Incubator program at UC Irvine, and a First-Generation UC Santa Barbara Alum.

Twitter: @lili_montes_ @limondaytrips

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Episode Transcript

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 0:16 Once upon a time, there were 10s of 1000s of makers struggling every day they build for hours and hours, but they didn't chip and didn't earn enough income. One day, the no code wealth podcast came to help them find a way because of this, makers became founders and live the lives they deserve. Because of that, founders live lives of abundance, freedom, and creativity. That's what I'm really all about. Hello, my name is Aziz and from being a poor boy born to a single mother in North Africa, with no opportunities, just cheer hard work to failing multiple startups, yet learning a whole lot to barely escaping alive the war in Ukraine, even living as an illegal immigrant. I've lost everything twice. And now, I'm rebuilding my life one more time. 1% a day sharing the wisdom of luminaries have interviewed on this podcast from Google executives, Goldman Sachs, the Financial Times Forex Technology Council, the World Economic Forum, Harvard University, and even a priest from the Vatican church. Everyone is welcome, here. So let's begin. My guest today is Lili Montes. Lili is the co founder and CEO of lemon, which makes finding daytrips easy. She is a Gen Z, half Latina serial entrepreneur, founder in the way finder incubator program at UC Irvine. And the first generation UC Santa Monica, alum, Lili, how are you today? Lili Montes 2:00 Hi, I'm doing great, how are you? Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 2:03 I'm feeling optimistic, blessed, happy, and really, really ready to discover more about you. So I'll begin with this. What has been on your mind lately? What something in business or life maybe subproblem insight you're trying to add more to your life for anything that was has been demanding your attention again and again. And again. Lili Montes 2:28 lately? I'd have to say that's definitely our first funding round for our startup. So right now we're going through what's called the friends and family round of funding. So you're pitching to investors within your own network. And let me tell you ever since we started at pitching that's been spending all of my time, but in the best way possible to Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 2:46 please tell me more there, I'm sure there are a lot of listeners who are founders who have not gone through the funding rounds, maybe they're a bit nervous about it, or don't know what to imagine. So you before this happened, and now, what did you discover about it? Was it the same as you thought what's different or similar to your expectations. Lili Montes 3:11 So going into it, I knew that you have to do your typical pitch deck and get your idea out there to people within your network. But there's a lot that goes behind the scenes with pitching to it's not just about getting out there and pitching to people, it's a lot about the research that goes behind it. And every single slide on that deck takes hours and hours to figure out the right way that how you want to say it and research that goes behind it. And then on top of that, you also need to be setting up data rooms so that way investors can see all the information that backs up the investment terms. And it's quite a longer process than you'd expect on the surface. Because as a founder, if you're doing a great job, it seems like things are going easily or that things are simple on the surface. But much more below, there's so much going on behind the scenes. So it's been a pretty exciting process for us right now to be going through that first funding round. And especially since we do get pitched to friends and family for this round makes it even more exciting. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 4:08 Thank you, and how is the process of preparing a pitch deck and working on it similar or different to build in the marketing for your venture? Lili Montes 4:19 So it's different in a couple of different ways. I would say that the marketing aspect is one element of the pitch deck. So you definitely do include that in part of your strategy. But the difference is you need to show for the pitch deck, all the different categories that you have. So we have your financial your problem solution, and it is more about the business as a whole rather than just how you market it. So in terms of us right now, we are a pre launch startup. We're aiming to get our product out there this August, but in the meantime, what we're doing in the on the marketing side of things is really starting to build up our community. So basically, we're starting with day trips on the California coast. And with that At we've been expanding our presence on social media, hosting some events here and there. And then once we close this funding round really pumping up the marketing to target day trippers. So our launch market specifically is 18 to 29 year olds on the California coast that enjoy going on day trips. And then as we grow our startup, we really want to expand based on communities of people, because Limone is a social app for day trips. So we really want to hone in on communities and how we can best serve them. So through that we're marketing to different communities at a time. And then that's how we're going to expand and scale. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 5:37 Thank you. And can you share with me the story behind Lehman? How did the idea come to be the first time you pitched it maybe to get into the incubator or to share it with your co founder? What was exciting about it, and why the name Lehman? Lili Montes 5:55 Suddenly li mon is actually a blend of iPass passions and projects that has evolved over time. It actually, it would actually make a little bit more sense. If I jump back to when I was 12 years old, actually, I embedded my first product called catchy Cahoots, it was a cellphone charm to clip on and off your keys. And that was my first intro to entrepreneurship. What happened with that was my family we lost our home during the great recession when I was young. And I really wanted to play my two favorite sports, soccer and volleyball. But my parents couldn't afford for me to do that. And being 12 years old, I thought, what if I make the money myself. So I was already a math tutor and a babysitter and thought, You know what, I had created this little product because I couldn't keep my keys and my phone together. When I was a math tutor, and babysitter with all the newfound responsibility when I was 12. I thought, what if I make this little gadget to clip on, on and off your keys, it's like a cell phone charm, in a way, so I sold that around town. And within a few months, I was able to pay my parents the money to play for both sports. So it was a super exciting process. And after doing it locally, for a few years, I sold out different boutiques, and booths all around my suburban hometown of Livermore, California. And it was starting to gain traction locally. So much to the point that shark tank had asked me to audition. But this was a really pivotal point for me as an entrepreneur, because I realized that there was so much more I need to learn about entrepreneurship, I didn't get on to the show. But it did give me a lot of help to figure out what I could learn about and improve on in the future. So I decided, I'm a first generation college graduate now, but at the time, I thought it'd be a good idea to put this business on hold, go to college to learn about entrepreneurship, and then either pick up that again, or something else later down the road. So in this in between period in high school, this is where I planted the very first seed for the idea that Lima and eventually evolved into. So in that in between time period, I got really into studio broadcasting for my school's new show. So I was the anchor for the school's new show. And I had a segment on there called hotspot. And it would show people the best places to explore around my hometown in Livermore, California, because people would always, always complain. There's nothing to do in Livermore, but I really wanted to show them that there's so much to do if they just looked around them. So with that hotspot series, I was creating videos about all of the best places to explore. And by the time I graduated high school, I thought this was really fun, I don't think it's going to come back into my life at some point, because now I'm going to go into college for entrepreneurship. But that's where it was wrong. So I did go into college for entrepreneurship. The second that I got to UC Santa Barbara, I decided I decided to join a code entrepreneurship fraternity called sigma ADA pi. And this was a really interesting experience for me because the order was very new to our school. So I got to help launch and scale the organization. Similarly to how you launch and scale a startup, we started with about 10 members or so when I joined. And then throughout my time there, I got to help bring it up to be a very large presence on campus. So when I was in this entrepreneurship attorney, I was realizing I was starting to miss creating all of these videos that I used to make with the hotspot series. So just for fun, I decided to make the hotspot series around Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara is definitely a much more exciting place to be than my hometown ever was. It was really fun to create those videos around there. And that's actually when I looped in my brother, who's now my co founder to create those videos with me. So my passions ended up combining together because while I was creating these videos, I was also in the entrepreneurship fraternity. And by that time, I had learned that if there's one thing about startups is that your first idea is never your last idea. You're gonna have a problem that you want to solve. And then after you get out there and talk to more people, your ideas gonna evolve over time. So that's exactly what I did. My brother and I took that video series into UC Santa Barbara is New Venture competition, which is this eight month long startup competition that goes just from your idea and then I After months, creating the business model and creating a pitch deck, you end up pitching at the end of the conference at the end of the competition. So with that hotspot idea, we kept going out and talking to people about it. And the problem always was true that people wanted to find more places to explore. And it was difficult to do so on the current platforms out there. But the way that we solved the problem ended up pivoting a few times. So we started with that video series, then we pivoted over to a California Travel subscription box. So each month, you would get different items based on the places that you could explore around California. But then we decided to pivot that idea into a travel itinerary software, we also did Startup Weekend through TechStars. And that was a really great crash course entrepreneurship too. But that's where we got the idea for that. And then we pivoted even more later on, which is what we continue through in the competition, which was a road trip app. So we did that. And then we did this competition when I was in my senior year at college. So I had graduated in 2020, the craziest year to be graduating. So we realized that the way that people were travelling was changing due to the pandemic. So instead of going on these longer road trips, people were traveling much closer to home than they had before. And people were rediscovering what's in their own backyard. So seeing how people had traveled, seeing how traveling had changed, made us make that shift from road trips to instead day trips. And this is a trend that we see continuing even now that the lines between work life and travel are already beginning to blur. And people are moving into places for maybe a month or so at a time now. But what do they do when they're in the new area, they take a lot of smaller day trips when they're there. So we see this as not just something that arise from pandemic, but that's going to be a lasting change in the way that people are traveling. And it's super exciting to be going towards that. Now, that's what's really been sticking with people more to and especially since we are a social travel app, people go on day trips much more frequently than they go on road trips. So it makes day trips, much more social form of travel than it would if you're going on just a road trip from one place to the next. Not really going by anyone else that you know, but day trips really stick within your community. So that's how we got to there. And then also, once we decided on day trips shortly after, we had to join the Wayfinder incubator at UC Irvine. And that program has been super valuable for us to build the foundation of a scalable startup and get ready for that next step with Li Mon. And then you're also asking about the namely mountain how it came to be right? Yeah, so the name li mon is actually a combination of my name and my co founder and brother's name. So my name is Lily. His name is Ramon. So we combine that together to create to create li Mon. And also li Mona means lemon or lime in Spanish. And since we're both half Hispanic co founders, we thought that'd be a great nod do I have Hispanic heritage, because in the startup world, only 2% of venture capital funding goes to Hispanic own startups. But we want to shatter the glass ceiling and make it possible and help spread the word to other young entrepreneurs to that they can make a difference. So it was a great nod to our Hispanic heritage. And then also, there's a lot of gamification that we want to have within the Limone app. So you'll be seeing a lot of lemons and limes as you take trips, just collectibles as you go. And I think it'll be a really exciting way to gamify day trips. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 13:45 Thank you. And since you graduated, and entrepreneurship, how is what you studied similar or different to the real experience of being an entrepreneur? In real life? Lili Montes 14:00 Yeah, it's really interesting, because so at UC Santa Barbara, they don't actually have a degree specifically for entrepreneurship, but they have a lot of different courses that you can take together to essentially build your own business degree. So what I did, I was a communication. I was a communication major. So I took a lot of marketing and advertising courses. And then I paired that with a Technology Management certificate, which that was a program that was catered specifically toward managing ITT Tech startups. So I pair those two together, along with the entrepreneurship fraternity. And I basically built my own business degree in a way. So what was really helpful about taking that taking that route in college is that it builds a great foundation of knowledge as you're going into entrepreneurship. So you understand a lot of these concepts like I was familiar with how to put together a pitch deck and what you might want to present to others and the basics of starting the business. But what's different in reality is that this entrepreneurial Journey can look so different for everybody. And I would say, especially getting to the funding rounds, that's something that's been really new for me, where, as before, it's all about, let's prepare for that pitch, make that pitch ready to go. But now, I would say in reality, it's taking that pitch into actually closing rounds and getting that funding. And there's so much networking that happens within the startup world, too. So it's been great to have that hands on experience. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 15:26 Thank you. And it seems you're proud of being a Gen Z? How do you feel that Gen Z founders are different from founders from other generations? Lili Montes 15:39 So Gen Z is actually known to be the most entrepreneurial generation. And a lot of that stems from the fact of that we grew up around the time of the Great Recession, and we saw our parents really struggling exactly how it was mentioning with what happened with me and my story earlier. So I would say there's a lot more of an entrepreneurial mindset that can help us pursue our ideas. And I think also the fact that we're digital natives, we've grown up on the internet, since we were born. And that's what we're very familiar with. So it's really easy for us to create a lot of content that can promote our business, I think that kind of keeps it in the loop of being more entrepreneurial. And another thing about Gen Z is that we love social media, and more than any other age group so far, and that definitely is helping you with Limone, to that we're targeting Gen Z in that category. But I think that I'm really excited to see as Gen Z goes into the workforce, because also, a lot of us have gone into a remote workforce since day one. So I think that years from now, we're going to be seeing how the workforce has changed as a result of Gen Z founders rising up and changing the landscape. So I think remote work and hybrid work is definitely here to stay. And I'm excited, excited to see how everybody is at the forefront of that. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 16:58 Thank you. Some founders and entrepreneurs say do not mix family with business and your co founding with your brother. What do you think they meant by by that? What could be dangers of mixing business and family? And do you see it as a big positive point or something neutral, or just, it's good that you have your brother with you, but it's not adding or subtracting anything from the experience? Lili Montes 17:27 Yeah, I think that there definitely could be risks that happened. And I could see how people could think that, but it's actually been totally positive for us. So I think one of the big factors about that is having open communication, and also the fact that my brother and I are actually very different people. So there's not really much overlap of who covers what. So for example, I've been the one going towards entrepreneurship for a long time. And I have the vision and my strengths lie in execution, driving things forward and getting things done. Whereas my brother and co founder, his strengths lie in more of the really deep thinking and getting getting into a good flow state to get things done and diving deep on a concept where as I'm more focused on the vision execution, getting it done, so having that balance is really is really nice for us, then also, the areas of business that we like, are also very different. So there's not much overlap of Who Wants to cover what because I'm more of the marketing, sales, community building, funding all of those categories. And then my brother works on the tech, finance and operational side. So we think very differently. And that really helps to our skill sets. So it really depends, I would say more on the individuals than it does the fact that we're siblings, because for us, we're so different that it works. And also we have what we call the sibling mentality. It's something that we want to infuse into the culture of Lemo, too. But it's honesty and constructive criticism, mixed with kindness and gratitude for each other. So it's, it's all about, hey, maybe this doesn't work, let's try something new. And also being siblings, we always poke fun at each other and we can tell each other like it is. So if one of us doesn't like an idea that another has, it's super easy to let them know without without anyone's feelings, getting hurt or anything. But that's also something that we want to do that we want to invite others to do is to always be helping each other out and giving constructive feedback, all in helping me mon out. So having that positive attitude around it too can be super helpful. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 19:31 Thank you. And since you're half Latina, yet you're living in a very multicultural place. Do you feel that Latina culture is a big part of your identity or we are literally a melting pot of the cultures of the world? They can everything interesting and a piece of everything and therefore you're more cosmopolitan and how did that affect your the way you approach entrepreneurship and hope Fully one Limon is lunged the way you will position it marketed create the message for it. Lili Montes 20:06 Yeah. So I would say, with my upbringing, I grew up in the Bay Area, which is basically the melting pot of the world. So I would say more than anything, I'm driven by that Bay Area culture, which has been amazing, because I think something that, you know, I could easily take for granted is the fact that I've been exposed to so many different cultures and so many different ways of living throughout my entire life. And I think it's beautiful to see all the different cultures come together, I think that it's really interesting to learn about the different ways that different cultures go about things. Because I think you can bring elements of every culture into your own life, and that'll create your own reality, you know, it's not having to stick to one way or the other, but constantly learning and constantly growing from different perspectives, different cultures that will keep you strong in that way. And that's something that I want to keep an open mind with throughout my startup to is that there's always going to be new ways of doing things, always fresh perspectives, and being able to integrate a diverse workplace and an inclusive workplace, having all ideas, welcome to the table, I think is something that's going to be driving the culture of my company as well. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 21:12 Thank you. And you mentioned that there is a lot of networking in you going to VCs and going through the rounds that you're gonna go through. Many founders who are bootstrapping their ventures, actually say, Look, I'm already overwhelmed. I'm working on the product, I don't have time to be meeting people at cetera, I don't know what is going to happen. I don't want to be sleazy with it, or whatever. What, what is your approach to networking? What beliefs do you have that makes you see it as positive? And how do you feel relationships in when it comes to business or build. Lili Montes 21:53 So I think that the best way to build relationships in business and to network is to just be authentic and and to get to know people as a person not as the next step, or what opportunities you can get out of them. It's really about getting to know them, and brainstorming ways of how you can collaborate and work together, I think one of the important things with networking is just to start putting yourself out there and going to different events. So right now I'm going, I have a goal for my brother and I each to be going to just one networking event per week, you know, sometimes more, sometimes less frequent, depending on what we have going on. But if you can try to have that consistency, you will see over time that, you know, maybe your connection starts to know each other this person that you met a few months ago, because you foster that relationship, and not in a way where you're thinking, oh, I want to get something from them, it was just genuinely wanting to get to know that person and their journey, their experience, few months down the road, they might have an opportunity, and they think of you because you've been keeping in touch with them and, and maintaining those different relationships. So I think, to always have a goal and an open mind to go to networking events. But then once you're at those events to being open with the possibilities and being excited to see what others bring to the table to so I also recommend going to a variety of different networking events. So for us If Li Mo and we've been to, so ones that have investors at it for not this round, per se, since we're doing a friends and family round, but that have angel investors or venture capitalists so that way, we can start to build those relationships right now. So by the time that we get to our funding round, we're not some stranger that's going up to them. But we've already been in conversations with these investors, then we've also been to some events around Orange County with small business owners, because one of our revenue models is going to be a sponsorship model where we partner with local businesses to have features on our app. So we also want to partner with those potential customers, like those small business owners and hear what their companies are. And then another one that I started recently actually is a young founders in Orange County group because I really enjoyed being an entrepreneurship fraternity in college. But since graduating, there aren't as many ways to meet other like minded young people like myself. So I've been doing it meetup groups, and we kind of want to make this a little likely mode in a way where we make it fun, and we go out and do activities. So last time we did the happy hour at a rooftop bar. Next time, we're going to be doing a founder's bonfire. But it's a great way to break through the stiffness of networking, if you meet people in more fun and exciting setting because I really want to create a group of friends that are also founders because then that's when the magic happens. And it's not about just networking to get something out of them. But it's about creating those relationships. So any aspect of networking, it comes down to relationship building and authenticity. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 24:48 Thank you and it's interesting that you mentioned consistency over time. You as a Gen Z are exposed to a lot of the hustle culture the massive action where You should go to 10 networking events per day and never sleep maybe 30 minutes a day, and all that stuff. So what makes you believe in consistency over time? Do you believe in a longer term perspective? Or is this just a midway and you're looking also for that unicorn, big jump that happens fast and almost overnight, Lili Montes 25:24 A little bit of both in the sense where that I think your daily habits create your reality. So it's all about what you prioritize and make your top points that'll eventually guide you over time. So your daily habits can compound and eventually that will get you to be that big unicorn, but you can't imagine overnight success. It's definitely a long journey when it comes to entrepreneurship. But also, I think, in the sense of networking events, for example, I know that right now, what's really important is the funding round lately, we've had so many different documents and paperwork to get through that that has been our priority. Now there's gonna be other times in the future, like when maybe we're going to our towards our seed round that the bulk of our time needs to be on networking, but I think it what is important is creating that habit of consistently going to networking events, even at your busiest on the computer time and doing paperwork time because you might think, oh, that's the only one to do right now. But it's also important to get out there and network. But the way that you structure your days can really guide your success. So having prioritization over what your specific goals are, for the time can really help to guide where you have your business go. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 26:36 Thank you. This is so fantastic. So currently, Lehman is not yet launched. And you spoke about how at first it will begin in a small scale, and you'll focus later on communities. Well, what can any listener right now do to discover more about you? And about Limon? Where should they go? Where should they discover more about your content, etc. And I'll make sure to write a link to some of your social media in the episode description. Lili Montes 27:10 Great. Yeah. So foreign li mon they can find us on li mon daytrips on Insta or on Tik Tok, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook really mon daytrips with an S at the end. But of course, there's always one platform where you don't get the right domain name. So I was only able to get Lima on day trip on Instagram. So Limon day trips for all the other platforms leave on day trip on Instagram. And I would say Instagrams where we're building our community the most for that. And then if people wanted to follow me on my journey, my Instagram is Lily, underscore mon Tez. Except on Twitter, that's Lily underscore Montez underscore, but I'm also on all the different social platforms and I have some links I can send you for the description too. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 27:57 Thank you so much, Lily. This was my privilege. It was such an interesting conversation, and I wish you to keep going and all the success in your funding rounds. Lili Montes 28:09 Thank you so much for having me on the podcast. This was a great experience.

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