Juggling Act: Founders Discuss The Challenges Of Heading Brands While Working Elsewhere

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask nine founders: How do you balance running a beauty brand with your day job?


Umesh Shelat Co-Founder of Lexington Soaps

Operating a small business where both partners are working full-time jobs is an extraordinary challenge. My wife, Radha, is an engineering manager at a large software company, and I manage a private fund of investment assets. My wife designs, crafts and produces all of our bath products, and I manage all of our business operations. The synergistic relationship of our professional roles and our respective roles at Lexington Soaps are how we balance our company with our full-time jobs. Radha works in a 9-to-5 role, more or less, so most of her productivity is in the evenings and weekends. The nature of her work experience as a software engineer enables her to work efficiently, often under time constraints. Mine is rarely 9-to-5, which has its plusses and minuses. I do, however, follow the same model. I apply the same operational practices in Lexington Soaps that I would like to see in the companies I invest in. 

Joe and Hannah Hosemann Co-Founders of Element Candles

We are a husband and wife team that both have day jobs in the IT industry. You might think that would translate well to our brand, but the truth is the last thing we want to do when we come home is look at another computer. Before we got help, it was a bit insane. Some nights we were up until 3 a.m. pouring candles, only to get up a few hours later before our day jobs to prep them for labeling. Then, after getting home from work, we'd be up again until the wee hours labeling between 100 to 200 candles. When we weren't making them, we were selling them. The market hours are 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., not including setup and breakdown. A schedule like this eventually takes its toll. The moment we were able to hire people we were all over that, which helped the work/life balance tremendously. Finding the right people who are invested in your mission, willing to grow with you, especially in the beginning when you're not in a position to pay them much, is crucially important. This assurance helps us focus on our day jobs with a sense of security and confidence.

Tracy Atkinson Founder of Mythologie Skincare

In the spring of 2017, Mythologie Skincare become a reality. Up to this point, I had been nurturing a full-time Vedic astrology and coaching practice. With the addition of Mythologie, like the birth of a second child, the question that kept begging to be answered was, “How am I going to continue my astrology/coaching business and build a brand?" The answer: "You are going to have to work longer and harder, and yes, your day job may take a back seat sometimes." This also extends to your personal life, too. Everything gets shifted, and you need to be flexible. Sometimes you'll feel like a pretzel twisted and pulled in a dozen different directors. Other times your to-do list will feel never-ending. Time management is key, being organized is essential, as is knowing when to ask for help. It's crazy and I'm literally working seven days a week at all hours, but it feels great.

Inna Los Founder of SopranoLabs

I made my professional opera debut in 2004 at the Vienna State Opera. Since then, I have appeared at opera houses all over the world. One thing I didn't fully realize at the beginning was how much my two worlds would influence one another. My artistic skills allowed me to use the creative process in building SopranoLabs. Conversely, my business side influenced my artistic self, adding more structure I consider neither singing nor SopranoLabs a day job. Both seem like a life job. Balance? The advantage of running my own business is that I get to make all the decisions, including when I work and when I don't. On the other hand, when I’m under contract for an opera, my time is not all my own, but fortunately that typically lasts for only a few weeks. But, add to that family and the commitments of everyday life, things can seem to get overwhelming. Organization, setting priorities, and fully using the speed and advantages of modern technology become mandatory. I do work harder and longer hours than ever before, but I also find the rewards of both endeavors to be complementary and more satisfying.

Tiffany Herrmann Founder of Sheree Cosmetics

I am an employment manager for [resort and casino] Ameristar St. Charles. I have been doing recruitment and employment for seven years now. I’m the face of the property. They are very supportive of me and have cheered me on the entire way, and I’m blessed that they are excited for me. The person I report to is also an entrepreneur. She gets it. But it can be so crazy when you are dealing with overseas, and you are working a 9-to-6 job, and they are 11 or 12 hours ahead of you. You are up in the middle of the night talking to them to make sure they are delivering quality products. I was getting very little sleep for a long time.

Shilpi Chhotray Founder of Samudra Skin & Sea

I work for The Story of Stuff Project. I’m the senior communications officer for Break Free From Plastic. When I was recruited for the job, they were well aware of Samudra. One of the main challenges of this position is it is a full-time global role. I travel a lot. I recently went to Indonesia, and I’m going to Thailand at the end of August for an activist meeting in Bangkok. How am I going to scale my brand while doing that? We hired a woman who is a vegan chef and has a lot of experience in sales. If she can do sales better than me, I’m all about bringing in a new voice and perspective. I can focus on my job and be very strategic about my time on Samudra, but it is really tough. I basically have no social life.

Tangie Griffin Founder of Vow Beauty

My background is regulatory compliance. I have spent 13 years as a compliance officer or in-house counsel in various banks, and I have worked in the federal government. I’m in a very sterile environment at work, and no one wants to hear about a skincare brand or they don’t get it. As far as getting work done on my brand, it’s challenging. I work on it when I come home from work and on weekends. I work very late nights, and my weekends aren’t my own. I do what I can do during the day responding to emails from manufacturers and designers. It’s a haphazard, all-hands-on-deck experience.

Leila Janah Founder and CEO of LXMI

Balance is really about building a company that is in line with your ethics and values. Running multiple companies at once can be tough, and I can't be everywhere at once, that's why it's so important to find people who are just as passionate as you about what you're building so they can drive the mission forward when you're not there.

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