Indie Beauty Brand Founders Give Hat Tips To Valued Mentors

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 14 founders and executives: Where did you find your business mentor, and how has the mentor helped you?

Becky Blüh Founder, Blüh Alchemy

Being a solo entrepreneur can feel rather isolating and overwhelming at times. There are so many facets of running a new business that are, frankly, not in my wheelhouse. When I started my business, I was encouraged by a friend to check out the workshops and seminars offered by our Small Business Administration.

It was there that I learned about SCORE, a network of volunteer business mentors that offer their expertise to entrepreneurs. I found having access to these supportive resources incredibly helpful. I was able meet with a mentor from our local chapter on a weekly basis to develop a business plan.

Amy Regan CEO, SkinFix 

I have an amazing business mentor. He is an extremely successful Canadian entrepreneur named John Risley, [chairman of Futurpreneur Canada], who has built many businesses in a variety of industries. When I originally found the SkinFix heritage formula and was considering buying the brand and expanding it, he offered to help. He later became our lead investor in addition to a business mentor.  

It is invaluable to have someone in your corner who has been through it before. He pushes me hard to drive the growth of the business, but he also stays calm in the face of challenges. He has seen it all and weathered the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. He lives it every day with over 14 businesses in his current portfolio. He has the iron stomach required for the ride, and his strength, experience and tutelage have been critically important every step of the way.

Caroline Johnson Founder, O'lina Natural Beauty

My mentor was the spark that inspired me to create my own brand. Years ago, I was privileged to work for Denise Diamond, renowned herbalist and aromatherapist, author of The Complete Book of Flowers, and owner and founder of one of Hawaii’s number-one bath and body manufacturers. I had no idea that this was a life-changing moment.

Over a decade, I got to experience every level of the business from production to shipping, inventory to management. My heart was always in the lab, where I was given the opportunity to create. Early on, Denise recognized my natural affinity for formulating.

Along this journey, I discovered my passion for creating products. I watched Denise in her creative process and was blessed to be introduced to everything in her field of flowers, herbs and essences. I absorbed it all.

Dana Roberts Founder, Malie

This sounds cliche, but my mentor was my mother. I began my entrepreneurship at age 25, and there were few people in my world that were in leadership positions and able to share valuable experience. Watching my mother move from being a receptionist to attending college in her 30s, graduating from Berkeley with a master's degree and, then, becoming vice president of a large bank was what inspired me.  

She was never afraid of change, never backed down from a challenge, and always spoke her peace. At the end of the day, these behaviors are the foundation of entrepreneurship, and I was lucky to have her show me traits I would need for entrepreneurship success.

Shiva Tavakoli Co-Founder, Joon

I have two business mentors. The first I met a few years ago at a business conference. He mentors a lot of companies and individuals and, after I spoke to him about what I wished to do, he volunteered to help me. Anytime I have a question, whether it be distribution or sales, he puts it in perspective for me.

My second mentor works in my industry. We actually first spoke because we asked IBE for a reference on someone who had participated in their show. We hadn't done IBE yet, and we wanted to know if it was worth it for us. This mentor continued advising us on many things, including go-to market strategy. He gave us many references to other people that could help us with various parts of our business.

Laurie Blumstein Co-Founder, L & L Hair Products Inc.

It is someone who isn't even in the beauty industry. It's just a great businessman and friend who guided me and my co-founder, Lori Kelleher, from the very beginning. We thought it was so important to get guidance from someone who has walked the walk. Being able to speak to a professional, regardless of what you sell, is like getting free advice anytime you need it.

We watched our friend go through ups and downs throughout the years of running his business, but he never swayed from making his client the most important thing. He spent endless hours working, talking, helping and traveling to get his product out there and be able to stand behind it. This was so important to see and not give up when the going gets tough, and it does.

You really have to keep your goal in reach at all times and just keep the positivity of what you are doing going strong. It's an amazing thing to start your own company. It's even harder to keep it growing. Having a mentor, was a blessing for us, and it also made us feel it's okay to fail sometimes, just make sure you pick yourself back up.

Mona Dan Founder, Vie Healing

I don’t necessarily have a business mentor, but I did go through a business training and self-mastery course about five years ago that completely changed the way I thought about how to position myself, my expectations, and my reality around what’s possible. From that point, my understanding of what’s possible has truly shifted.

I learned the big meaning of responsibility and created my vision right there. Understanding how far I was willing to go and how much I was willing to give allowed me to set the proper boundaries to build what I dreamed. To this day, I still go back and listen to podcasts of my coaches and similar coaches to encourage what is now such a staple in my belief system.  

A perfect example of what I’ve been living by is a quote said to me by one of my favorite coaches. He said, “Mona, wake up everyday with your vision instead of your emotions.” That right there is the way my morning starts every single day.

Sonia Chhinji Co-Founder, Woodlot

I have a few individuals that I consider to be mentors and check in with them regularly. One of my mentors is a previous employer and entrepreneur herself, Maura Rodgers, and has been a great resource for myself personally and professionally.  She’s helped me in many ways.  She acts as a sounding board, helps me work through some of my challenges, but also reminds me to keep on going. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely yet rewarding journey, so surrounding yourself with a supportive network keeps you going.

Victoria Arakelian Co-founder, Biainili Brands

Biainili was founded by three partners all holding MBA degrees from the same business school. That’s the reason why we are really acting as business mentors for each other.  Each co-founder has a special super-power, which is helping us keep the right balance in business decisions.

I am a product-obsessed idealist, who strives for constant improvement and perfection in performance. Pankaj is the creative mind, perfect in marketing, tactical and strategic business solutions. Aaron knows the best and shortest ways to get finances and partnerships work like clock.  We change and exchange our hats quite frequently, but three tenets are unchangeable: the power of design thinking and creativity, the power of friendship, and satisfaction in the process over goals achievement.

Gabriel De Santino Founder and CEO, Gabriel Cosmetics Inc.

While there are many inspiring people who I have met throughout my career, my business mentors are those I see in action every day and are a part of my business foundation. The chief executives of our partnered manufacturers aren’t just that. They are managers, businessmen, businesswomen, proprietors, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, friends and mentors.

Like us, many of them have been in business long before the natural beauty industry was booming. They have provided guidance and an alternative perspective on how to successfully navigate our industry in order to provide consumers with the highest quality products. It’s important to be surrounded by a strong team that grows alongside me as my company expands and grows. I am fortunate to have fostered these fruitful relationships and grateful to be able to work with such extraordinary partners.

Sylwia Wiesenberg Founder, DOPE Naturally

I am the visionary behind DOPE Naturally, however, every visionary needs a mentor or mentors, other voices and opinions, and people who will advise you to make the right decisions and limit mistakes. Mistakes are expensive, however, some we must make in order to learn and become better business women and men. I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by friends and family with expertise in beauty, wellness, and business. Find a friend that is a lawyer.

However, most mentors come from networking and meeting the right people at the right time who are willing to give you a few mins. Don’t be shy, smile and talk to people. You can help them and they might be able to help you. You have to open your mind and ears, listen and absorb as much information as you can, digest it and make the final decision based on knowledge and what your gut says.  

Paul Colgin Owner and CEO, Source Vitál Apothecary

What drives our team began with our founder and my uncle Jerry Pope. Though he is no longer with us, his vision and innovative spirit are at the heart of our company. He was an advocate for high quality, natural ingredients long before it was en vogue. That passion for holistic wellness and ability to push boundaries still guides us today.

Lisa LeBlanc Co-Founder, KlenSkin

My mentor is my business partner, CEO and co-founder of CoLabs Intl. Corp., doctor Laura Cohen, my mother.  From an early age, I watched my mother balance her professional life as a dermatologist and responsibilities as a wife and mother of five. She was never afraid to take business risks and learn about new cutting edge technology and procedures. As a mother, she always put me and my four siblings first without sacrificing her own goals.  

Beginning a startup is never easy, especially with new technology that is ground breaking. Having her as a mentor with all her scientific and business knowledge has inspired me with life-long skills that can be applied to my future goals. As a leader of our biotech company she has taught me to be strong when faced with adversity, and to be open and honest when communicating goals and fears.  

She’s encouraged me to motivate the team through an efficient and positive work environment. She has also instilled the importance of philanthropy. We work hand-in-hand with the St. Jude team of Southern California, supplying our sunscreen for all their events. Most importantly, being a mother myself, I have learned to balance my life from her example.  

Cynthia Besteman Founder, Violets are Blue

The first woman I met, was my bath and body product teacher named Marla Bosworth with Back Porch Soap. I would not be where I am today without her. She was so open and giving and so enthusiastic about helping new brands that it inspired me to help others as well, something I constantly encounter within the green beauty world.

She helped me with not only education and formulation, but with business aspects such as lawyers and insurance, etc. I can call her for literally any question, skincare or business related, and she will point me in the right direction. She has helped countless of other brands and teaches amazing classes in NYC.

I also feel the Indie Beauty Expo was in a way a mentor and has helped take my brand to places I never dreamed of. I feel like Nader, Jillian and the rest of the team really want to see each brand succeed. I know I can reach out and get their support at any time.

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