Beauty Entrepreneurs Share Lessons They Learned In The First Year Of Their Businesses

Ask beauty entrepreneurs to divulge the biggest lessons they learned in their initial year of business, and they’ll undoubtedly respond that they can’t possibly choose just one. “That time is a humbling whirlwind of transformation,” says Sarah Biggers, founder of clean cosmetics brand Clove + Hallow. “So much has happened that it’s hard to pinpoint a single key takeaway.” From work-life balance worries to manufacturing woes, challenges and learnings resulting from those challenges abound when trying to get a company off the ground. Beauty Independent grilled founders of brands that recently celebrated first birthdays on what they know now that they wish they knew at the start.


Focus on diversifying revenue streams sooner rather than later. Biggers: “We discovered that our lowest season in one channel was a strong season for another channel and investing in both paid off with a financial flexibility that we didn’t initially have. Developing new channels takes risk off the table and ensures that you aren’t putting all your eggs in one basket.”

Price products right. Dana Jackson, founder of Beneath Your Mask: Factor in all costs when setting your price point, especially if you plan to go into retail. You will find your margins slashed so far down.”

Read every contract 10 times and then another 10 times. Lewis Gross, founder of Alka-White: “Getting stuck in a bad partnership can burn months off the early days of a new business. Just because someone says a service is provided or that you can exit a contract when you like, don’t take it for granted. Get references, speak with their previous clients and make sure everything is in writing.”

All investors are not created equal. Tina Hedges, founder and CEO Loli Beauty: Luckily, I was able to surround myself with truly committed, supportive and visionary investors from strategically aligned family funds and successful direct-to-consumer entrepreneurs. Even so, it takes an enormous amount to manage investors’ expectations and requests. If I had taken money from less-aligned investors with little or no understanding of our category or channel, this would be a burdensome task. Vet your investors carefully and choose wisely.”

first year lessons
In its first year of business, Beneath Your Mask was picked up by Clean Beauty Mart and Neiman Marcus online.


It’s fine to start small. Jackson: “You don’t have to launch with a full line of products or multiple SKUs. Including myself, I know of many brands that are on their third run of boxes, trying to get them just perfect. It’s much easier and less expensive to make adjustments on one SKU and build your line from there versus having to redesign and remanufacture packaging for multiple SKUs.”

Keep only one ear open to ingredient fads. Josh Wadinski, CEO and founder Plantioxidants: “While formulating, I heard about the new ‘it’ ingredient every week. While it is helpful to understand up-and-coming consumer demands for future product development, don’t let it derail you from your products. I learned and firmly believe in always doing what’s best for the customers rather than just feeding into a trend.”

Stay true to yourself and your brand. Michelle Ranavat, founder of Ranavat Botanics: “There is a lot of buzz around indie beauty, and that is a great thing. It can also mean, however, that there are many more companies looking to capitalize on that growth. In these situations, it is very important to lean into your authenticity as a founder. Dig deeper into why you started this company and how your personality will shine through it. For me, at my core, I’m an engineer. I love visiting far-off places in search of my next magical ingredient and am passionate about sharing my rituals and elevating self-care. My product is for someone who wants an elevated experience and cares about the quality of each ingredient. I’ve had to say no to a number of good opportunities that just didn’t serve that mission.”

Achieve more by mastering less. Ric Kostick, co-founder and CEO of Puristry: “At some point during your first year, you might feel like things are not moving fast enough, or your mind might be spinning and you start to expand your business into other markets or other product lines, perhaps even into other industries. You might think this will grow your business faster, but it will do the opposite, and it will distract you. Our first year, we had some time, so instead of being solely focused on our core business, we thought about adding new categories to our line. Now, those categories don’t exist because we couldn’t give them the time once our core business took off.”

Become a brand ambassador. Amira Ahmed, founder of Sugar Dynamite: “Try getting into pop-ups, farmers’ markets, festivals or even host something of your own until you get the ball rolling. In my three months after launch, I was invited to sell my scrubs at a housewarming party for a big TV executive. Because she was a big supporter of women-owned businesses, she invited a few of us to come in and sell our products to her closest friends. I set up my shop in her kitchen and created a tester bar on the island with my entire line for everyone to sample. I pampered everyone with my scrubs, giving hand massages with them, and I offered special pricing for that day. I sold through most of my inventory and now have repeat customers.”

Don’t lose touch with your customers. Stephanie Kim, co-founder of Moonlit Skincare: “We offer our Moonlit Event Series where we get to meet our customers in real life and allow them to play with new product or learn about sleep wellness. We’ve hosted yoga sessions, retreats, pop-up shops and industry chats. Personally, I’m relieved that we do these events because it strategically keeps us grounded, and it’s always wonderful to meet the women and men who use our products, especially when it’s so easy to get caught up in margins and R&D and customs delays.”

first year lessons
Powered by a single SKU, 8 Faces has entered stores the likes of Credo, Goop, Shen Beauty, CAP Beauty, Take Care and Gee Beauty.


A startup is not a pastime. Hedges: “Do not embark on a founder’s journey unless you are 100% committed to making your startup your life for the next several years. From thinking time to working time, this will be your life. Make sure you’re up for it and won’t have any regrets.”

It’s acceptable to take time for yourself. Angelica Caporuscio, founder of Veíse: “When we have big dreams and goals, and we’re the ones pushing ourselves to do them, a lot of times we don’t take the necessary time to recharge. Especially as women entrepreneurs, we have this unnecessary guilt that we place on ourselves that, if we’re not constantly making moves and furthering our business, then we’re failing. Or we think that we’re not worthy of taking time for ourselves, which is total BS. The thing we need to remember is that we are the visionaries behind our businesses. Our businesses don’t function at their best, when we’re not at our best.”

But it’s also acceptable to not have work-life balance. Beth Shuman, founder of 8 Faces: Right at the beginning, [my business] was all I would talk about with anyone. I was working alone building the foundation of the business, which meant my interactions with people were on the phone or via email. So, when I would see family and friends, I was just so happy to be around people that I couldn’t stop talking about everything that was going on at work. My passion for 8 Faces means that it doesn’t feel like work. I love thinking about new creative ideas and problem solving, and this usually doesn’t happen during work hours.”

first year lessons
Veise has an expansive retail strategy bridging Lord & Taylor and T.J. Maxx.


Make business decisions on limited information and optimize them over time. Biggers: “I was always decisive in my personal life, but found myself over-thinking and delaying business decisions because the stakes were higher. The reality is there will always be unknown variables, especially in the beginning. The concept of failing fast applies here. I don’t believe in rushing for rushing’s sake, but committing to an imperfect decision is better than not committing to any decision at all.”

Don’t be afraid to say no, but don’t be afraid to say yes either. Caporuscio: “As a new company, you want to say yes to everything, but, as a solo entrepreneur who handmade all our products up until a few months ago, there were times when I definitely took on too much. Now, after our first year, we are taking a different approach and not attempting to tackle everything at once. Say yes to the opportunities that feel right for you, your brand and your customers. As a new brand, it’s OK to tell people, ‘Hey, we don’t have the capacity to take on this opportunity right now. Let’s stay connected and work together in the future.’ Obviously be strategic about it, but it’s better than promising to make something happen and not being able to deliver.”

Look sideways, listen and learn, but don’t stop. Hedges: “It’s super helpful to hear how other founders moved through similar challenges or reimagined obstacles into successes. It’s also great to keep an eye on competition to learn how they are approaching the category. Just don’t get founder paralysis, where the learnings and thinking keep you from doing.”

first year lessons
Puristry, a brand specializing in USDA organic-certified skincare, has made Anthropologie its home.


Start advertising slow and small. Kim: “With GoogleAds, we started with $8 a day, figured out what worked – and, more importantly, what didn’t work – and then added more dollars a day based on our findings. Whether it be Instagram or Facebook or anything else, there’s no need to throw $1,000 on an un-tested campaign. Also, find good specialists who know what they’re doing. It’s incredibly time-consuming to try to master the platform from scratch.”

Really vet influencers you’re looking to partner with. Jackson: “I’ve been scammed by a few so-called influencers. For a small business like mine, sending out free product is really expensive, and it’s heartbreaking when you realize it was all a scam. [Watch out for everything] from buying fake followers, likes and comments to this new thing where they form groups that all comment on each other’s photos to make the engagement look real.”

Don’t sign over your rights on social media. Gross: “More and more, our social presence is our core brand identity. The first thing you should do when launching a new company is to make sure you seek to control your name on every platform imaginable, even if you are not active at first. Secondly, as you look to bring on more team members both internally and externally [to manage those accounts], make sure you always retain the top access levels for yourself. You’ll need to let people in for them to work with you, but having a breakup when they control your page can be a death sentence.”

Sugar Dynamite
Body scrub is Sugar Dynamite’s signature product.


Utilize the people resources around you. Ahmed: “I needed a lot of help my first year in business, and I had the hardest time asking for it. I didn’t want to feel bothersome to people with already busy schedules. Plus, I didn’t have the budget to pay anyone, so I was embarrassed to ask for basically free help. I worked tirelessly in the trenches, getting nowhere, and there were just some things that even with my extensive business retail background, I simply could not do. That was the reality check I needed to think differently about the people resources I had around me—my friends and family. I compiled a list with everyone’s name on it and, next to each one, I wrote down what he or she could contribute. When you create a call to action, you’ll be surprised at how many people are willing to rise to the occasion.”

Don’t be afraid to adjust. Ranavat: “The biggest lesson I have learned is that you start somewhere and, then, you continue to refine and refine again. Don’t expect to launch something perfect the first time. While I loved my packaging design, I quickly realized it didn’t hold up the way I wanted it to. It hurt when I had to toss over a thousand labels and boxes – I’m actually glad it wasn’t 10,000 – but I had to admit that something wasn’t working right, and I had to adjust it. Similarly, I thought my website was gorgeous until I realized it wasn’t sending a clear message to my customer about what my product was. I quickly started making tweaks.”

Know your strengths and weaknesses. Jackson: “I’m guilty of trying to figure out and execute everything on my own, but my time is valuable. Trying to save money and do everything yourself ends up costing you more money and time in the long run. Figure out where your time is best spent in your business, and find the right people to handle the areas you aren’t an expert in.” 

Welcome consumer feedback. Ahmed: “Your brand and business are ever-evolving, so be agile, fearless and flexible. For example, body scrubs were something I had been making and refining over so many years, so it was important that every time I changed the formula, I got it into the hands of many different people to try. I created a survey that asked for all kinds of feedback. Take the feedback, gather all data and make smart decisions based on facts, not emotion. Don’t let fear get overcome you when you get unsavory feedback.”

Don’t sweat the small (or big) stuff. Kostick: “Examples of these can include losing a customer within your core demographic, receiving a lawsuit or an FDA letter, having a misprint on the packaging for your new launch, having a factory steal your deposit or not deliver what they promised, etc. The list goes on and on. Having been the founder and CEO of two other brands before Puristry, I’ve been through it all and can tell you that there are proper ways to handle all of these. Effectively managing any situation, while remaining cool and collected, will help you grow and give you the strength to build a big business.”

first year lessons
Moonlit Skincare, an authority in products for sleep, has entered Ricky’s NYC, Hush, Riley Rose and more retailers.


Expect things to take twice as long as they’re supposed to. Shuman: “I’ve learned a lot about suppliers and managing my expectations when they give a time frame for shipping. Our jars are custom made in Europe, and we had just placed a large order and were told they would ship in six to eight weeks. Almost 12 weeks later, they were finally ready to be shipped. Every part of production hinged on this delivery, so I had to express air ship glass jars. It all worked out as I had budgeted for the air freight just in case, but the timing was weeks longer than I had thought. I’ve had this happen twice now, so I better have learned the lesson this time.”

Keep hiccups in perspective. Ranavat: “My first year, I had supply issues (getting honey out of New Zealand during a major snowstorm in time for launch, certification delays working with Ayurvedic herbs that are not as well-known can be a long process), and countless other situations where things did not go perfectly. What I have realized is that, while it may not seem obvious at first, there is always something you can do to fix the situation and, most importantly, grow and learn from the situation.”

Remember your failures to move on from them. Wadinski: “Our first year was filled with constant formula, packaging and design mistakes and revisions. For example, I tested dozens of colors on our bottles before finally landing on the memorable green shade of Plantioxidants. I wanted it to reflect the color of kale on the cusp of becoming ripe. I kept all of the odd-colored bottles with random writing on them, and continue to look at them as a reminder of the hard work and thinking that went into the first year.”

first year lessons
Plantioxidants is centered around antioxidant-rich formulas produced in the U.S. and encased in environmentally-friendly packaging.