This Recovering Alcoholic Is Motivated By Her Personal Struggles To Build A Big Beauty Brand
Some people have success handed to them, and others have to snatch success for themselves. From Molly With Love founder Molly Beane is a prime example of the latter. She overcame disadvantages in her youth and personal demons in her adulthood with enough grit to grind Mack Trucks to a halt. Out of sheer will, Beane’s brand From Molly With Love has become a budding entrant in the natural skincare segment. “It’s gotten really hard sometimes, and it might be hard in the future, but you have to keep going when it’s tough,” she says. “When I first started, I told people that this is going to be a multimillion-dollar brand. They saw my little Etsy shop and laughed at me, but now, they’re like, ‘You were right. How did you do it?’ I made the radical decision that this was what I was going to do, and I really believed I could do it.” Beauty Independent had a heart-to-heart with Beane about addiction, recovery, inclusivity, Amazon and seeking money to achieve her ambitions.
Tell me about your background and career path.
I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio in a working class environment. I was the first person in my family to go to college and get a professional degree. There were times of extreme poverty and times when I didn’t have enough food to eat. That’s a big part of my journey and that helped me to be successful. I went to school in Ohio at a state university because it was affordable and close to home. I majored in communications and thought I wanted to be a journalist, but it was in the mid-2000s, and we were starting to see the demise of traditional journalism. I got advice from many people who told me not to do it. I ended up going into public relations and had a decade-long career in public relations before starting this business. I was very good at PR, but I remember feeling all the time, is this all there is? I had so much potential that was untapped, but I could never access it until now.
How did your upbringing motivate you?
From an early age, I could look around and see this is not how I wanted to live. I saw a lot of struggle around me, and I was unhappy as a child. I felt motivated to achieve and get myself out of that situation. My mother was a bus driver, and my father was a welder. My parents split when I was 2, so I don’t even remember them being married. I moved in with my mother when I was 9, and she raised me from then on. She was able to go from being a bus driver to working in an office position at the bus company. By the time I graduated high school, we were lower middle class, but I saw what my mother had to do, and it put me in touch with what real people go through. When I went to college, I saw people flunking out and binge drinking, but I worked really hard as a result of having lived in poverty.
Why did you want to start your own skincare brand?
Skincare was a hobby of mine. Around 2013, I started learning about the chemicals in products we use everyday, not only in skincare, but in our couches, beds and cleaning products, and how they can be harmful. I cleaned up my beauty and household cleaning routine, and began researching ingredients and making my own skincare products. I was doing it for fun, and giving the products I made to friends. They said, ‘Wow, these products are better than the products I buy.’ In early 2016, I started to confront my substance abuse problems. I was in a lot of denial about my substance abuse problems and trauma early in my life. I was trying not to feel my feelings. I sought treatment for alcoholism and, during the course of getting treatment for alcoholism, I was fired from my job. PR was not something I was passionate about, and I realized I wanted to do something that mattered and pursue my dreams. It was a little naïve looking back now that I know what I know, but I’m glad I made that decision. The brand started in August 2016 on Etsy with $300 and a crappy logo I designed myself.
So, you changed the label?
I’m a firm believer in never letting the perfect get in the way of the good. I feel like a lot of entrepreneurs want to get all the pieces perfect before they move forward. If I had done that, the brand probably still wouldn’t be out. I used a free software called Canvas to create the logo. I put together a rough sketch of the product lineup based on the products I made and used. I didn’t even have labels at first. I did that for a few weeks. People bought my products to support me, but then they liked what was in the bottle. I realized I needed labels, and I designed my own rinky-dink labels. I was only on Etsy, so I really invested in learning Etsy SEO. I was getting quite a bit of sales. In November of last year, I had enough sales and five-star feedback that I decided I had proof of concept, and it was time to really invest in the brand. I hired a branding agency for $20,000 to create the product packaging and labeling, and work on a website. I edited my initial product lineup based on sales data and what made sense for it to be cohesive. I started wholesaling before I even had all my packaging redesigned. My website wasn’t ready until March 2017. Now, we are in 45 retailers and growing. We have grown 3,000% year-over-year.
Which agency did you hire?
I worked with an agency called Loki Loki on the look and feel, and then I worked with a marketing consultant named Kelly Diels. She really helped me refine the brand narrative. Our look and feel is minimalistic. We incorporate the natural elements into our brand because our formulas are made from plant-based materials. Also, I have a spiritual side. I’m a certified yoga instructor, I meditate and read tarot cards. Those things really helped me heal when I was going through my recovery from alcoholism. I wanted to infuse a little bit of that into the look and feel. In terms of our positioning, we come from an intersectional and inclusive place. We show women of color. We show fat women. We show older women. We show women who wear hijabs. I believe everyone should have access to green skincare. It’s rooted in justice, and that’s how we are different from other companies in this industry. In a post-Trump society, a lot of people are paying attention to that a lot more.
Are you still on Etsy?
It’s not something we devote much time and attention to, but we are still getting thousands of dollars a month in Etsy orders. We sell more on our website, Amazon and wholesale, but I don’t think it detracts from our brand to be there. It hasn’t gotten to the point where it’s not worth it. When we reach that point, we won’t be on Etsy. Maybe in another year, it will be time for us to leave. We have seen brands that started on Etsy in like 2010 and 2011 that became multimillion-dollar brands. They paved the way for young brands like mine to show that you can start on Etsy and be successful.
Why is the brand called From Molly With Love?
When I was making skincare products for fun, I would gift them to my friends and family. They were a little something special from Molly with love. The products today are the same. They are still a gift from me to you.
How much money did it take to launch the brand?
I invested more than $50,000 of my own money in the first year, and we have made well more than that. We did six figures in our first year, but we there have been expenses that have come up. We think we are going to be profitable next year. I am pleased with the growth and financial performance of the company.
What’s the brand’s distribution strategy?
Right now, we are in gift shops, clothing and jewelry stores, and yoga studios. We have one product that’s being sold by The Detox Market. We are also in the Asian clean beauty store A Piece Of Organic. We reach out to stores and spas where we think our products could be a complementary fit. We pitch 25 stores a day, five days a week. I hired my mother, who lives in Ohio, to help me do it. She knows our brand really well. I don’t believe in waiting for things to happen.
You mentioned Amazon. What’s your approach to it?
We are on Handmade at Amazon That’s Amazon’s answer to Etsy. We just started doing FBA [Fulfillment by Amazon]. I have a small team: myself and two part-time employees, and we’re selling a high volume of products now. I looked at fulfillment options and decided on FBA as an experiment. I notice that our products sell a lot faster when they’re available for prime shipping. So, it makes sense for us to be there now, and I think there’s room for us to grow on Amazon.
Do you have a dream retailer?
I have a huge crush on CVS. They are remerchandising their beauty products in smart way and making a great place for people to shop, and CVS is in every neighborhood. It’s a retailer aligned with what we believe, and we want to get our products to as many people as possible. I think our pricing is perfect for them. Our target is younger women, and a lot of younger women go to CVS to buy their beauty products. They don’t have quite the range of indie beauty brands as Target, Sephora or Nordstrom does yet, so I think there’s opportunity for them as well.
What is From Molly With Love’s hero product?
Our hero product is the Beauty Oil. It’s a facial moisturizing oil. It was the first product I ever perfected when I was a hobbyist, and it was a product my family and friends raved about. It’s good for all skin types, and it smells like a dream. When you use it, you feel really special.
What have you found most challenging about growing From Molly With Love?
When I started, I didn’t know how to manage cash flow. There were periods of time that got really scary in terms of cash flow, and I wasn’t sure whether I could cover my payroll. It’s really important to know how you are spending your money and when you spend money. You need to create a budget, and budget for different types of expenses, so you know, for example, this is my budget for marketing and raw materials in the fourth quarter.
Are you fundraising for From Molly With Love?
I knew from the very beginning we were going to need to fundraise and, in order to do that, I knew we would have to grow fast. That means I have to put money toward doing that. I wanted to wait until I had good numbers to put in front of investors because I know they are everything. Now, I have proof that this is something worth investing in. I just had a designer finish polishing up our pitch deck, and I have started reaching out to investors. My ideal figure would be a million for 15%. I’m very ambitious. I’m not in this to have a cute Etsy shop. I’m in this to change people’s lives through our message and products. In order to do that, I need money to get my products in the hands of as many people as possible.
Why have you chosen to be open about your addiction?
I’m not the poster child for addiction. A lot of people think about a smelly guy on the park bench drinking out of a paper bag. That’s not me. I had a nice apartment, a Lexus and a successful career, but I’m an alcoholic, and I struggled with a significant problem. I was drinking myself to death and taking drugs. When I started going to treatment, I was shocked that there was a doctor, pharmacist, yoga teacher, mechanic, bus driver, all walks of life were represented. That opened my eyes. Alcoholism doesn’t discriminate. I feel strongly that we should be talking about that publicly, and I have an opportunity to do so. Also, if other people have been through significant changes in their lives, I want to show them that they can start a business.
How are you today?
I have been sober since May 21, 2016. I’m thriving and have never been happier. I work long hours, but now I’m doing something that I love. I cry almost every single day out of gratitude for my life and starting this business is a big reason for that.