World Reimagined

Desiree Almodovar Is Building Brands, Growing Businesses, and Shaking Up Industries—Here’s How

Desiree Almodovar

Desiree Almodovar, Founder and CEO of The Inlay, is operating at the intersection of art and technology to inspire and engage companies on a global scale. 

After an impressive career working with brands such as Google, Soho House, and Viacom, Desiree decided to apply the experience she garnered to support bold founders in creating future-shaping companies. Thus, The Inlay was born, in hopes of building expressive brands that connect with consumers on an emotional level. From defining their audience to crafting strategic brand systems and creating tailored user experiences, Desiree and The Inlay have become a reputable solution for brands looking to shake up their industries. 

We asked Desiree about the problem The Inlay solves, how feeling “different” has contributed to her entrepreneurial journey, and what’s next for her and her company.  

Q: Tell us the story behind your company’s founding. How and why did you start working on The Inlay?

A: Through my work with Google, Soho House, and Viacom, I had acquired a great amount of experience helping large ventures leverage technology and business strategy to build unforgettable experiences. At the same time, I knew some bold founders of consumer brands who could really benefit from this knowledge in their quest to build future-shaping companies. So I put everything I had into starting The Inlay—my time, energy, and a large portion of my savings. I was aware that there were loads of creative studios out there, but I knew that building one that worked at the intersection of strategy, marketing, and technology, with empathy at the core, would set us apart from the rest. 

Q: What problem does The Inlay solve? 

A: Big companies have a lot of agency and consulting partners, and each fills a specific role for them—brand, marketing, digital experience, media. But startups and other fast-growing companies don’t have the luxury of a deep agency bench. So they need a partner that can get them off the ground fast and work at the intersection of positioning strategy, identity, crafting a go-to-market strategy, and helping shape their VC/fundraising narrative. That’s what the Inlay is.

Q: Have you ever felt like you’re “different”? If yes, in what ways has this contributed to your journey as an entrepreneur?

A: Definitely. Being a woman, being hispanic, not having a Harvard MBA—these all make me an unusual entrepreneur in the U.S. When you’re starting a business, people make assumptions about you based on these qualities—that you’re not trying to build something big, or that creativity is about making things pretty rather than making large-scale, strategic business decisions. But my outside perspective has become my secret weapon. I’ve faced skepticism head-on and found ways to overcome it and build something I’m very proud of. In a world where female-founded startups are still only raising about 2 percent of VC funds, it’s clear that there’s still a lot of work to do to overcome these biases about who makes a good entrepreneur. I hope to not only challenge those assumptions, but help other women do the same. 

Q: What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made?

A: Mistakes happen regularly, because if you’re doing things well and growing, you’re always encountering new challenges that require completely new solutions. It’s one of the most challenging parts of building a business. For example, I started The Inlay solo, but as we grew I needed to prioritize the tasks where I could make the most impact while effectively delegating others. There was definitely a huge learning curve in understanding what truly needed my attention versus where to lean into the strengths of the experts I hired in order to best serve my team and clients. I’ve also learned to choose my team wisely. At first, I often hired people based on passion and, while being aligned on vision and passions is key, it’s not enough if your day-to-day collaboration style is radically different. 

Q: We dare you to brag: What achievements are you most proud of?

A: When you build a business for a particular moment of the company life cycle—especially the early phase—true success comes when your clients outgrow you. When they get that huge valuation or make an acquisition they could have never dreamed of a few years ago—that’s when you know you’ve succeeded. And we’ve had a lot of that kind of success over the years with companies who came to us either pre-launch or at a significant pivot moment and have gone on to build brands and products that exceeded even their wildest dreams. 

Q: What resources or people have contributed the most to your successes?

A: At any major milestone or decision point, I love gathering advice from a plethora of trusted sources in my network—everyone from friends, colleagues, family, and clients. By listening to a mix of people both similar and vastly different from myself with different backgrounds, skill sets, and personalities, it widens my understanding of what decisions are possible. Ultimately, it helps me create my own directional recipe and see what makes the most sense for me and my business at this particular moment. 

Q: Have you discovered any underappreciated leadership traits or misconceptions around leadership?

A: I find that caring about the long-term careers of your team, and not just their current role as your employee, is wildly undervalued. Empowering them with speaking and networking opportunities helps them grow, and that helps the business grow. If team members feel that you truly care about their success, and that you see them as valuable partners and not just employees, the work is elevated. I also think caring about inclusivity, and taking action to really live it, has been transformative for our business. Talking about DEI has become a bit of a trend, but companies and executives truly caring about diversity still seem to be rare. The companies that are really doing it well—baking it into the culture, living those values, and taking peoples’ concerns seriously—are thriving. 

Q: What’s next for you and The Inlay?

A: I want to keep building out our business consulting practice by creating a branch of the business that connects bold founders to the funding they need to build groundbreaking consumer brands. 

Desiree is a member of Dreamers & Doers, an award-winning community that amplifies extraordinary women entrepreneurs and leaders by raising their profile through PR, forging authentic connections, and curating high-impact resources. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and get involved here.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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Gesche Haas

Gesche Haas is the Founder/CEO of Dreamers & Doers, a private collective that amplifies the entrepreneurial pursuits of extraordinary women through visibility opportunities, resource exchange, and collective support.

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