Alumnae/i Feature

Ande Lyons ’89MBA Champions Startups as a Live Stream Host

Ande Lyons ’89MBA is the host of StartUp Life LIVE Show, a weekly live stream show offering business advice to entrepreneurs. “I get some great stories from the people I interview from the trenches,” says Lyons. “I want to hear the real struggles! Those missteps are what my show is all about: what has been difficult, what hasn’t worked, where you had to pivot.”

Lyons knows those struggles, personally. An entrepreneur for over 30 years, she has started four of her own businesses in that time. “Being an entrepreneur is the best personal development program you can undertake,” says Lyons. “The self-awareness you gain from launching a business will be with you forever. You’ll be changed for life.”

Her ability to lead was cultivated at Simmons. “The professors really understood the female psyche, understood that we were raised to be individual performers. So our professors inundated us with homework that we couldn’t do alone — we had to rely on our team. We had to accept that some team members wouldn’t do the work perfectly, and others would do it better than we could,” says Lyons. “Business is a game created by men, and Simmons taught us how it worked, told us of the obstacles we would face and how to resolve them or work with them. We were prepared for leadership roles.”

Those missteps are what my show is all about: what has been difficult, what hasn’t worked, where you had to pivot.

After graduation and a brief stint in financial analysis, Lyons and her husband launched their first business, College Broadcast, in 1998. “It was an early YouTube, where people could submit their own content,” Lyons says of the broadband media portal, which provided online entertainment for the college market.

College Broadcast reached 250 campuses across the country, with 50,000 views per day. Then, in August 2000, the dotcom market collapsed. “Millions of dollars were lost. Many people investing in dotcoms weren’t diversifying their funds, and they lost everything.”

After closing College Broadcast, Lyons and her family (including two young children) returned to Massachusetts. Spending more time in the kitchen, Lyons came up with a granola recipe. “We were in the wake of 9/11, and no one was hiring, so I launched it as a product. It took off, and we could barely keep up with demand.”

Once her new venture, Goddess Granola, was certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), Lyons worked with a commercial bakery to scale the recipe. “It was scaled nationally in under 24 months,” she says. “You could find it in hospital cafeterias, corporate offices, and college campuses. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute bought it for chemotherapy patients because it was high in the nutrients they needed.”

Halfway through year five of the business, another unexpected blow upended her plans in the midst of developing midwest distribution. “First, two key ingredients were completely wiped out, agriculturally — almonds and maple syrup. Next, the manufacturing plant I was using was hit by lightning and burned down.” Lyons was forced to close the business. “I cried for months — it broke my heart.”

But that didn’t stop the wheels from turning. “In 2008, I had an idea to help couples to stay tuned-in and turned-on in long-term relationships, in spite of the demands of careers and children.” Lyons formulated a business plan for Bring Back Desire, a website with resources for couples seeking more love and intimacy in their relationships.

Business is a game created by men, and Simmons taught us how it worked, told us of the obstacles we would face and how to resolve them or work with them. We were prepared for leadership roles.

In 2008, Lyons entered the Silverman Business Plan Competition held at Simmons and made it to the final round. “I presented my idea for Bring Back Desire at the pitch event in the old School of Management building, and I could feel the bones of that old Victorian saying ‘hell no.’ This wasn’t LA — this was Boston. What was I thinking? When I was done speaking, there was silence. No one knew what to ask. I was horrified! I thought I would never recover.”

Ande Lyons and Oprah Winfrey
Ande Lyons and Oprah Winfrey at the Simmons Leadership Conference, 1998. Lyons was part of a group of School of Business alums who transformed the annual event in the 1990s, inviting high-profile speakers, including Cokie Roberts, Maya Angelou, and Winfrey.

Lyons shelved the idea but ran into a Simmons alum a few years later who had seen that pitch. “She loved my idea and had thought about it in the years since. It became clear that I needed to do it, and I launched it at the end of 2010.”

A few years into maintaining her online business, Lyons was noticing a shift. “By 2014, it seemed like marketing had taken over the online world,” she says. “People were being given awful advice about business, with all the focus on online marketing. Everyone wanted to create a new meme, but they didn’t understand the numbers they needed to grow their business. They didn’t understand metrics.”

To provide some answers, Lyons shifted to coaching startup founders, teaching them the business fundamentals they needed to succeed. “Many founders were coming from an employee mindset and needed to shift from a rewards system to being self-directed. They need to clarify their vision for their team, for their investors, for their vendors and clients.”

While she thrived at coaching, the life of a “coach” was not the right fit for Lyons. “I’ve learned that I need to be a part of the process, not just on the sidelines giving advice.” Her current venture is the Startup Life Live Show, which she hosts, produces, and directs. Lyons stopped individual coaching in January and has since made the show a full-time endeavor, with new episodes at noon (ET) on Tuesdays and Fridays.

“I have a lot of roles, and I’m firmly in the trenches with this show. I’m leading again, and I coach people through the show.” She’s also dedicated to amplifying diverse founder voices and is seeking partners to reach more underrepresented communities around the world.

“There are a ton of white males getting attention on podcasts and receiving funding — that’s how pattern-matching goes,” says Lyons. “I want to amplify businesses owned by women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other-abled founders, so people can see what they can be.”

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