What Advice Would Indie Beauty Entrepreneurs Have Given Themselves At Their Brands’ Launch?

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 14 founders and executives: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you have given yourself at the start of your brand?

Sara Rampersaud Owner, Nadi

If I could go back to day one, I would tell myself that failures are inevitable and to choose to be fearless anyways. Of all the lessons I’ve learned from the school of entrepreneurial hard knocks, two always stay with me. The first is that there are no straight paths to success. You’ll wind through setbacks, blunders, messes and darkness, but you’ll also find deep wells of joy, excitement, pride and achievement, too. Learn to navigate both, preferably with loads of self-compassion. 

The second is that fear, just like any other habit, is strengthened and weakened through practice. Every time I choose to push past that little voice that whispers, "But what if you fail?," I’m weakening the habit of fear and training in fearlessness. Obviously, risking rejection and looking struggle square in the face can be scary, but nothing great has ever come from the times I chose to stay home. So, I sacrifice some comfort for the dream, try to accept setbacks as a source of essential data and practice radical kindness toward myself. Then, I take a deep breath and another step, then another and another.

Erin Mastopietro Co-Founder, Dope Dog

It's OK to know nothing. As an entrepreneur just starting off, you may often find yourself in uncharted territory. There can be times when you feel overwhelmed with the amount of things you don't know, but my advice would be that sometimes it's best not to have all the answers. Staying curious and inquisitive allows you to navigate your business in a special way. With this approach, it's easier to stay open to new possibilities, and you may just find yourself with even more opportunities at your fingertips.

Atousa Ahmadzadi Founder and CEO, Lavaa Lashes

Business is a learning experience that comes with many lessons learned. If we were to jump in a time machine and go back to day one, I would consider the following self-advice based on hurdles I experienced throughout my career: The power of the internet has allowed companies like mine to compete not only in the U.S., but in other markets as well. 

I strongly encourage startups to properly research the regulations with respect to the sale of their product in specific geographical areas. Every country has its own laws pertaining to the ingredients and language required on the packaging that is sold within its jurisdiction. Research and planning of these regulations will help companies reduce their risk of being rejected, equating [to] higher profits and reduced turnaround times. 

Paayal Mahajan Founder, Essential Body

Rely on your own resources, and don’t listen to people who make lofty promises. I made a few expensive mistakes along the way because I didn’t listen to my gut. I hired an agency to build my website who charged me way too much money and gave me garbage that didn’t work. I had to scrap it, and turn to my own developers in my office and rebuild the website from scratch. Lesson there? Even if my guys took time, in the end, the website I built with them makes me happy. I’m not agonizing over losing money and time to low-quality work with horrific deliverables. 

I also had to fire someone who was working with me because they were not performing, costing me a lot of money and, as I discovered, they were grossly misusing company equipment. Lesson there? You have to be willing to make the difficult call and cauterize the wound before it bleeds you to death.  The point is, you can allocate X dollars for your business and stay on budget for the most part, but you will never be completely prepared for the sudden twists and turns that come your way. You have to be willing to be patient, make the tough calls, adapt and improvise.

Lynette Lovelace Founder and CEO, Lifetherapy

This will be a lot harder than you could ever imagine, but far more rewarding that you could ever dream. I tear up even writing this down as the passion of an entrepreneur is often unexplainable. People often ask me, “If you knew now what you didn't know then would you do this again?” I unquestionably say yes. 

I have grown so much as a person through this process. So many days and nights of tears and frustration as you build on the power of the possible in ways that you never thought possible, if that makes sense.

Melissa Arredondo Founder and CEO, Beautenotions

Set aside more money than you initially plan for marketing and advertising efforts. You can create a great product and a great brand, but, if no one knows it exists, you won’t sell anything. I budgeted for PR, which gave me my big break into the industry, securing earned media placements on NBC’s Today Show, Telemundo’s Un Nuevo Día, Hallmark’s Home & Family, Allure.com, Elle Magazine, PopSugar and many more. 

Even with the recognition of all these respected beauty authorities, I believe more dollars set aside for social media and online advertising would have been a smart investment for the business.

Maria Burwood Founder and CEO, MyTime Minerals

I had been formulating products for myself, family and friends for a while before I decided to brand and launch them. Looking back, I feel that it would have been a smoother and less stressful ride if I had my marketing and sales strategy nailed down prior to launching. I didn’t anticipate how quickly my brand would take off and that, within a couple of months, I was going to be asked for product brochures, media kits and line sheets. Essentially, I was flying a plane while still building its fuselage. 

At the start of a business, when you’re trying to launch and establish your brand, you don’t walk away from opportunities. I dove in head first into the deep end and chose to learn to swim against the tide. This is not always possible because it is both time consuming and costly. At that time of my life, I was extremely lucky to have both time and money, but I want to really emphasize that this is rare. If I had spent more time solidifying my brand strategy and developing a marketing plan, my time and costs would have been far less and better managed. 

I am also in the fortunate position to have a wonderful husband, who helped me physically (I lost count of the number of nights he stayed up with me packaging and labeling product) and is himself a veteran CEO having built up a few brands. He has taught me a lot in a short space of time. So, if there was just one thing that I could tell my former self, it is to plan, plan and plan and, then, market test that plan with people who have experience in that area. If I had planned better, I would have had all my packaging and marketing material created and ready to go as opposed to risk losing some customers and media opportunities for lack of preparation.

Jane Goldrup Founder, Purana Skincare

Starting a new business is definitely exciting along with all sorts of other emotions, but it’s very easy to feel frustrated and overwhelmed, especially when you’re the one person wearing all the hats. If I can give myself some advice on my first day, I would say that it’s OK to not know everything, and it’s definitely OK to make mistakes, actually it is necessary. Always learn every day, give your best and try not to make critical mistakes. Every difficulty will have its solutions, and you will be better for it.

Your association is your net worth. Starting a new business is overwhelming enough, you don’t need anyone to bring you down so cut out all the toxic people who disturb your peace and those who don’t believe in you. Focus on cultivating those relationships with people who have been through what you’re going through, who genuinely want to help you move forward every day, both personally and professionally, and make them your advisory board. If you don’t have these people yet, keep looking for them and start networking as much as you can.

When it comes to the products and/or services you’re offering, always be 110% honest and transparent. Do not cut any corners, take your time to reinvent until you have the best product. Your customers well-being always comes first, and that is how you build on your reputation as the best in the industry.

Set your goal and have a road map, but be very flexible on the details in achieving it. There is more than one way to reach your goal. Last and, most importantly, never ever give up when the process seems impossible to manage. Success is 1% talent, 1% luck and 98% grit.

Annie Tevelin Founder, SkinOwl

Create a brand that speaks to your strengths and vision. Do not worry about following in the footsteps of others. Resist linear thinking. Follow your vision and it will all work out. I think I spent a lot of time micro-focused on the fact that SkinOwl had to just be a skincare brand. 

In following my strengths and overall vision, I have been able to see SkinOwl as an influence, not just a product line. I often ask myself, "Who can SkinOwl be and how can we inspire?" as well as "If SkinOwl wasn't allowed to be a skincare line, what would it be?" From that train of thought came a podcast and dinner collective. Let the business resemble you, even if it shocks people.

Milou Happé Owner and Founder, MILU Cosmetics

I launched almost two years ago, and it’s been a real roller coaster so far with many ups and downs.  I certainly think that the most important thing at the first stage of building a brand is to be patient, keep focus and follow your strategy. 

Competing in a very crowded beauty market retailers have much to choose from, so don’t be disappointed with no response from buyers or don’t get too excited when big retailers show interest because it’s only the start of a negotiation and so much can happen on the way. 

It seems nowadays that retailers are very interested in new indie brands with a good story, price and overall product appearance, so be prepared to travel to retailers and pitch yourself and your brand in front of a team of buyers and make them fall in love with your brand. After all, persistence pays off.

Laure Bouguen CEO, Ho Karan

Build the brand on strong personal convictions and what you truly believe in and not on pseudo-experts' opinions on the market and customers. If you don't buy and use the product yourself, you won't be able to sell it.

Heather Lux Founder, True North Beauty

If I could go back to day one and give myself advice, I would have a few things to say.

Trust the Journey: It won’t always go as planned or how you envisioned, but that’s OK. It will work out as it is supposed to. I believe everything happens for a reason, but that doesn’t mean you sit back and let life happen. You still need to take action and risk to move forward, but stop second guessing yourself and trust your instincts more.

Fail Often, Pivot Fast: It’s OK to fail, and it is actually good for you to fail often when you start up. Failing allows you to work out the bugs and lets you learn from your mistakes. Just remember if you do fail, pivot fast. Don’t be afraid to admit something didn’t work and don’t wallow in it. Instead, learn from it and pivot into a direction that moves you forward. 

Hire Talent Before You Need It: At the start, you try to do everything on your own to save money and because you believe no one knows your business like you do. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and play to them. Hire great people early on to help you in areas that aren’t a strength and you can’t give 100% to. Know where your time is the most valuable spent and focus on that, and leave the rest to team members you trust. 

Supadra Geronimo Founder, Siam SEAS

Get every aspect of your business organized and stay on top of it.  It may take more time than you would like and you may not see things moving forward as quickly as you would like, but it creates the right foundation for the future.  A foundation that will allow for better operation, better decisions, whether they be daily, financial or critical.  This investment of time is vital.

Solange Astudillo SHE-E-O and Founder, Millennial Beauté

I would tell myself: Girl, prepare yourself to have a lot of patience. The development process of natural beauty products can be lengthy and sometimes feel stuck, but once you get to hold a finished idea that is brought to life it’s totally worth it!

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs, please send it to editor@beautyindependent.com.