Is It More Stressful Than Ever To Be An Indie Beauty Brand Founder?

The onset of the pandemic was undoubtedly a stressful period for everybody, including indie beauty brand founders, but the stress hasn’t faded since. As we check in with founders, we hear time and time again just how stressful it is right now for them to navigate the beauty industry and broader macro conditions.

To gauge how they’re feeling, in the latest edition of our ongoing series posing questions relevant to indie beauty, we asked 26 founders the following: Is it especially stressful to be a beauty or wellness brand founder right now? What in particular is stressing you out? How are you addressing it or plan to address it?

Phoebe Song Founder, Snow Fox Skin Care

Yes, it definitely is, but in some ways it's also built a lot of resilience. The market is incredibly saturated, with the addition of lots of celebrity-owned brands backed by powerful investors. For the indie players, it's harder than ever to be noticed, even if you have genuinely amazing products.

Currently my biggest issue is the rising cost and delays of logistics. Snow Fox is globally distributed, so you can imagine our logistics and supply chain problems when there's rapidly growing shipping expenses or long waiting times, or shipment delays. Components like lids, jars or boxes end up being shipped late, which then affect our production and launch periods. So many of our new launches had to be pushed back because of this.

We have become very agile in our sourcing methods. Thankfully, our team speaks multiple languages, which definitely helps the communication flow smoothly across regional offices so that everyone can actively do their best to find solutions. It's also important to have people dedicated to sourcing and quality control. I can't do much about global shipping lines, but I can definitely take a more conservative approach when it comes to planning launch timelines.

Vera Oh Founder, Glowoasis and Voesh New York

Even though we have had growth in revenue this year, these days I feel like I'm walking in a dim tunnel. It’s hard to know what we will face in a month or in a quarter or even in a year. Uncertainty is the most stressful topic for us and for any brand founder.

We have different stages of the business for both our brands. Glowoasis as a clean skincare startup and Voesh New York as a 10-year-old professional beauty brand, which will expand to retail. Even though they are in their different brand life stages, the uncertainties are shared by both.

After the pandemic rollercoaster, we are currently seeing a potential slowdown due to a few reasons: interest rates going up, consumers cut back on spending, inflation from supplies. However, as a leader of the business, I still believe tough economic times can make us stronger if we keep innovating, staying with our key brand values without compromise, and finally balancing and fine-tuning our inventory and cash flow.

We will stay cautious about all the signs of economic challenges, but not too cautious to lose the momentum to grow and innovate further.

Aston LaFon Co-Founder and President, 18.21 Man Made

There are additional layers of challenges right now due to economic conditions, but stress and challenges should be an expected part of any founder's journey. It’s really easy to get stressed out when faced with seemingly impossible obstacles, so I tend to rally behind the team and focus on the positive while encouraging teammates to have fun, communicate, keep their eyes on the prize, and rely on each other to push through the challenges. The feeling of accomplishment is a great stress reliever.

Inflation and ongoing supply chain disruptions are impacting COGS, which typically drives the need for price increases at the retail level. We exist for our customers, and price increases run the risk of pricing our products out of reach, as customers prioritize essentials versus luxuries. And our international distribution customers are far more sensitive to price increases, which has led to delaying the realization of some opportunities.

Economic conditions vary per country, and these customers are often heavily impacted by currency exchange, shipping, importing fees and VAT. So, we are finding that some prospects are keen to launch the brand, but are paused as they wait for improvements in economy, currency and transport costs.

We are negotiating with suppliers or sourcing new suppliers to manufacture items within budget to avoid price increases whenever possible. Adding layers of reward for international customers that will help build their margins.

Every Friday, we have a standing culture call with our internal team, and it usually gets a bit silly, but that light-hearted, personal time together is a great way to end the week and leaves everyone with a positive vibe heading into the weekend.

Sharanjit Deol Co-Founder, Joban Beauty

There are always stresses when you are a founder. At this particular time period, we are suffering from a lack of manpower (creatives, social media, operations, business development), finances (as we are a self-funded startup bootstrapping), selling out of inventory (a great/terrible problem/stress to have), and meeting customer demand given operational and financial obstacles.

What’s stressing me out is financial demands to continue innovating as we have many products and ideas in the pipeline, and letting consumers and retailers know we exist. We are continuing to have conversations with potential investors not only to provide financial assistance, but also able to be hands on with wherever their expertise is required.

We just hired a PR agency to help educate consumers on our brand since we have pioneered the underarm concealer/deodorant category. Up until now a major stress was letting people know we exist and have a solution for their problem.

Ildi Pekar Founder, I. Pekar Skincare

Owning a business, regardless of the field, is always a stressful endeavor. It is to be expected as there are many factors to consider and an ever-changing market. In wellness, we focus mainly on client satisfaction in ensuring services and products of quality. For that, a lot of time and energy is spent on finding out the perfect formulations for our products, which can take months if not years, while making sure that we stay on top of new technologies and trending services.

Influencers and their pocket knowledge are hard to compete with. Nowadays, it is less about accurate education on brands, products and services, and more about which influencer/celebrity advertises a brand, product or service. While there are a lot of amazing brands out there, it can be sometimes stressful knowing that some inaccurate knowledge might have more weight than recommendations provided by certified experts.

At this time, we focus a lot on engagement with our community through campaigns, consistent social media posting and educational content in order to build upon our client retention and reach to people that might not have heard of us. We also plan to continue offering efficient, results-oriented and innovative new products and customizable services that are still fairly new in the U.S.

Samantha Denis Founder, Allyoos

It's definitely stressful. Founders don't have a job, they have every job, especially if you're still bootstrapped and have a small team or no team. I think one of the most stressful things is deciding where to put your time and energy. We have to try everything, participate in everything— social, getting our own press, gifting, pitching, building email lists, fine-tuning formulas and packaging, managing cash flow, the list goes on.

And everything has a ramp-up period, so how long do we wait until we decide if something will stick or not? It's extremely tricky to stay consistent when you are constantly feeling like you have to try and be a part of everything in order to get your brand on the map. If something isn't working quick enough, it's costing you time, money, and you have to jump to the next thing. It's weird, it feels like there is more opportunity than ever for emerging beauty and wellness brands, but a lot of it feels out of reach.

Showing up on social media is a challenge for me right now. Something really has to feel like it's worth my time in order for me to invest in it. There is so much I'm working on right now to build the future of Allyoos, and creating videos of myself mimicking a trending audio just doesn't feel like a priority to me.

It's also an investment to work with creators on social media and, again, an example of so much opportunity that just seems out of reach. A free platform to market your products, you spend time and money creating content with people, and now...the algorithm? It is definitely discouraging.

I plan on showing up more as myself on social media. My truth is that it just hasn't felt comfortable for me until recently. I think it's a wonderful thing that people are embracing the shift from "produced" to real. I always felt out of place because, if we're being honest, there is really nothing glamorous about being a bootstrapped founder in the early years. Yes, there are wins and I'm so grateful for all of them, but it's not all headlines, fundraising, your brand in the press—and that's how it seems sometimes.

Social media definitely felt like a place that was reserved for more high-profile, glamorous founders, but I'm happy to see the shift in interest. The reality is that it's more like sacrifice, crying to your founder friends, asking people on coffee dates, screaming at your laptop, and sometimes, celebrating!

I've worked on the hair category for 20-plus years now. I grew up in the salon, worked in product development for a hair care brand, and my experience led me to launch Allyoos. I am excited to continue to help women find the beauty and the best in their natural hair, and as soon as I have baby number two (in 3 weeks!), I will...cringe...try to talk on IG stories?

Krysta Lewis Founder, Aisling Organics

Out of my six years owning a beauty brand, I haven't experienced a more stressful time as a founder. Brands are still recouping from the pandemic, advertising costs are at an all-time high, DTC brands are struggling to enter retail as stores have over-ordered inventory they can't move, and the economy is unstable leading to the fundraising environment being more challenging than ever.

I used to feel very disconnected to the concept of mental health, primarily because life had never been too challenging. But since starting my business, I have a new respect for those who choose this career and, more importantly, those who share publicly about the burden being a CEO carries. I don't think our brains are meant for the extreme highs and lows this job entails, and hustle culture makes it even more impossible to find a balance.

With all that being said, I've tried to step off the rollercoaster and live by the motto, "If it won't matter in five years, don't spend more than five minutes upset by it." I know that sounds much easier than it is to apply but the concept has merit. If we, as entrepreneurs, cannot feel so closely tied to the ups and downs of business, we can make better decisions and attempt to find a more mentally balanced way of living. Finally, creating a gameplan is often the best solution to pull you through a hard period of time.

My game plan for the business stressors is profitability and mentorship. Profitability: I think the days of being a highly unprofitable, but large-scale DTC brand is over. If you're going to survive today's hardships, proper business fundamentals are a must, which include being profitable or a path to profitability, strong margins, consistent work on pricing, AOV and LTV, and, finally, channel diversification.

Mentorship: You don't need to suffer in silence. Find a network of people who can guide you. I happen to like the tool MentorPass as it's an easy way to book a meeting with an expert.

My gameplan for my mental health is exercise, therapy and healthy eating. I hit 10,000 steps a day and often will walk without listening to a podcast or music, taking the time to allow yourself to think and move can make a huge difference. I speak to a therapist biweekly to discuss what's on my mind personally and professionally. It can really help having a non-bias opinion from someone who isn't so close to the issues at hand.

I don't always have time to cook or even the desire to cook after a long day, so I found a local meal prep company called NutreMeals, who provides me with five meals a week for a decent price to make sure I eat something healthy and nutritious every day. Lunch time tends to be when I'll skip a meal or grab something unhealthy, so this is where that really helps keep me on track.

Tiina Orasmäe-Meder Founder and CEO, Meder Beauty

It is stressful to be a brand founder anytime probably, but to be a global wellness brand founder in 2022 is a new level of stress indeed. The last two years weren't easy because of COVID’s restrictions implemented in the global beauty industry. We are operating in 30 countries over the world offering professional skincare solutions, so lockdowns and closures of spa, beauty salons and clinics made us think out of box and create new sales channels.

Amazingly, our partners' skin therapists adapted to the situation well, consulting online and offering their customers professional support via Zoom and social media. The silver lining is a rising attention to skin health, skincare science and ingredients, so we change our communication's education style, and I came to the idea of the "virtual aspect" of skincare products explaining all details online.

Wellness brands should stay positive and inspire optimism, so we do our best to keep calm and carry on despite energy crises, political changes, recession and wars. My personal source of inspiration is a new understanding of the necessity of skincare for people. Skincare is vital self-care. It brings not only health, but comfort and happiness in people's lives, even in a war time, so I feel renewed thinking about it and feel good about making the world a slightly better place (hopefully).

Connie Lo Co-Founder, Three Ships

Along with the stresses of supply chain, inflation and cash flow management, another additional stressor facing beauty brands in particular is the plethora of celebrity brands popping up. I love celebrity brands when it's clear that the founder genuinely loves the category and believes in the products they are making. What's frustrating is the number of brands that seem to just be a celeb's cash cow.

I really appreciated Deciem's recent post, "skincare is not merch," calling out this issue, and I actually believe that consumers are going to start wising up to this trend and voting with their dollars. Along with that, I believe that by continuing to focus on being the most effective natural beauty brand and drowning out the distractions/noise, we will be the long-term leader in natural beauty and wellness.

Consumers are smart and can sniff inauthentic brands easily, so we're going to continue doing what we do best—make truly natural, science-backed and accessible products that customers love!

Laura Burget Co-Founder, Three Ships

I wouldn't say that it's any more stressful right now than it's always been. Starting any business is stressful and challenging. Starting a business in the middle of COVID is even harder.

For us, since we launched in July 2020, a world of change and upheaval is all that we've ever known so in some ways you get used to the challenges. That said though, I am very much looking forward to when the world stabilizes just a bit more.

[What’s stress me out is] the usual for any small business owner, namely cash flow. Cash flow is always the name of the game, and it's especially hard to balance when you are growing quickly at the same time that supply chain challenges are rampant.

It means that we have to carry higher levels of inventory than what might be "normal" in order to ensure that we meet growing demand—we're up 50% versus last year—while also ensuring that we don't go out of stock if inventory is delayed. This is definitely what keeps me up at night

Doing careful inventory planning and putting systems into place has been a huge focus for me and our team over the last six months in particular. We got set up with a new IMS (inventory management system) recently which has streamlined our fulfillment/PO tracking processes and also given us more accurate insight into our COGS.

We have also begun placing blanket POs so that we are able to ensure that we have raw materials available when we need them while not going too heavy on our inventory on hand.

Rosie Jane Johnston Founder, By/Rosie Jane

It is hard to be a founder-run business right now because you are competing with brands that give the idea that they are a "startup," but have tens of millions of dollars of investment behind them. So, the trend and the idea of growth is unrealistic. The pressure to keep bringing out newness and run massive marketing campaigns is there, and if you don’t do it, you risk being seen as not relevant.

For me, I'm not trying to create products for a certain demographic. I choose to bring out products that matter to me and am focused on sustaining a brand that evolves with our customers. I lean into the things I can do and that I know our loyal customers will love—meaningful products, incredible formulas and products that make a difference to people and the planet.

Robbie Salter Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Jupiter

The ubiquity of celebrity and/or pseudo influencer-led brands stress me out. It's hard to deny their power of reaching a large audience quickly and inexpensively, but more often than not I don't see as much attention given to product quality.

I think the short-term result is that unsophisticated investors have unrealistic CAC expectations, though, in the long run, I feel confident that the products that deliver on their quality and/or efficacy promise will win the day.

Daniel Ward Founder, FormRX Skincare

Being a brand founder is always stress! There are always challenges that we must try to overcome. However, we have found that so many of the obstacles we face are actually the opportunities that allow us to grow. These problems end up becoming our stepping stones that help us grow and get better.

I think the biggest challenge that is being faced now is the uncertainty. Nobody knows if there is an upcoming recession or what will happen with interest rates, inflation and consumer sentiment. I’m convinced that the beauty and wellness industry is established and is here to stay. I’m just not sure what sort of changes in trajectory we will experience over the next three to five years.

We are working to address these concerns by simply being the best that we can be. We are focusing on our core values and continuing to emphasize those to our clients as well as our team members. This is the forecast that helped us get through the COVID crisis successfully, and I would argue that we actually got through it even stronger. We learned a lot and improved ourselves through these challenges.

Christine Mason Founder, Rosebud Woman

In business, the things that create stress are primarily from structural economics. Our team, our suppliers and our customers are all amazing and easy to work with. In our direct-to-consumer business, the biggest stress used to be cost effectively reaching customers in our category because, until last month, we were heavily censored, but that's since changed.

There's some degree of stress and customer confusion generated by copycat brands and large companies greenwashing their offers, but we keep innovating and communicating around that. The biggest stress is working with large retailers, who often don't pay their bills, or pay their bills late.

It's been enlightening for us to learn that the business model, by design, of the large retailers, and often their very profitability depends on not paying suppliers the agreed-on amounts in a timely manner. As much as we love having been selected by elite buyers for our product quality, it just doesn't make sense to sell through companies.

On top of that, there have been three big bankruptcies in our customer base post-COVID, and a lot of little retailers went under also. Sometimes channel sales seem more like a branding exercise, with no sight line to earnings.

But, overall, work is play for me. Despite many headlines to the contrary, as a friend of mine told me once, there are no beauty emergencies. Climate is an emergency, women's medical rights are an emergency, war is an emergency.

The things that matter to me in life and work are cultivating presence to what's arising now, living in full health, having deep and mutual relationships, and contributing something of value in the world. That's what the Rosebud team lives and breathes every day.

Osmaan Shah Founder, Formulate

The cycle of new misinformation, greenwashing tactics and questionable marketing messaging used by brands today really makes it stressful to be a founder in this space. There is a stronger pull than ever from the market to get sucked into using these tactics because speaking the scientific truth isn’t in vogue.

For us, as a custom manufacturing platform, we have built a “go slow to go long” culture that puts real science and educating our customers first. Instead of being pulled into the next viral gimmick, we trust that our process will build a market-leading company in the long-term.

Stephanie Wang Founder, KA! Empathogenics

I think it's a stressful time right now for everyone, whether it's because of geopolitical tension, economic woes and increasing societal division or seeing the real impact of climate change. It's a felt sense that many of us are experiencing.

The life of a founder-entrepreneur is quite demanding in general, and right now investors are more risk-averse, making it harder to raise money. What's ironic is that founders of wellness companies often find it difficult to practice what they preach. I can certainly say that for myself.  Maintaining balance and wellbeing is difficult due to the pressures of being an entrepreneur and especially in a challenging economic environment.

However, therein lies the treasure. I think to be an integrous wellness brand, you have to understand and embody what wellbeing truly means. Stress is the root cause of so many diseases and ailments that are physical, mental and emotional—and wellbeing has to address all of these aspects. This is one of the reasons I launched my brand KA! Empathogenics, to help people navigate everyday anxiety and stress so they can feel more alive and connected.

There is also a spiritual and soul dimension to dealing with stress. I look at stressful times as an opportunity for transformation. It's actually calling out to us to be more aware, to listen and slow down. When we take time to pause and center in our heart, we can alchemize this stress into something more positive.

But first you must be aware and not treat it as a requisite of daily life by getting addicted to how being stressed out can give you a false sense of being productive. Breathing and grounding yourself is key and finding what works best for you.  I do my best to embody the above and integrate what I've learned over the years.

This includes meditation, journaling, movement, contemplation (holding space for feelings and thoughts in an effortless way) and also having amazing plant allies such as kanna, the featured ingredient in our KA! Kanna Chews. They really help me stay heart-mind connected so I don't get overwhelmed by stress.

Stephanie Eyison Founder, Atarah

I try not to complain because I believe everything I say will happen. However, the last couple of months have not been an easy ride. It's not only beauty founders, but most entrepreneurs in general due to the current economic climate.

Prices of raw materials are at an all-time high, logistic delays amongst others are elevating stress levels through the roof. You have to be strategic to ensure your market truly understands any changes/challenges and can ride it out with you.

Being a founder means taking up the responsibility of every single failure, issue or misstep, and that can be draining. These times have shown me how much I love what I do and why I do it.

The price hike for raw materials has really taken a toll on me. For a brand that posits on using only plant-based, certified organic ingredients, our costs are astronomical now. But I have decided not to pass it down to my wonderful customers. I believe we can ride this out—and we will.

Jacqueline Oak Co-Founder, Cardon

I think it’s a stressful time to be any consumer brand right now. Consumers are concerned about their discretionary spending becoming more limited as the prices of daily purchases increase.

Funding is also harder to come by as investors become more apprehensive with a potential recession around the corner. This has made us focus more on our bottom line, and we recently became first-order profitable to help with our burn rate and runway.

As a brand, we've always focused on providing customers with the best value for money with our products, but we're also finding ways to help them save like offering a better discount with a subscription service and rewarding customers through our loyalty program so they save more as they shop more with us.

As a men’s personal care brand, we’re a part of a new fast-growing category. Skincare, in particular, has historically been catered to women, who grew up around mothers, sisters and female friends who taught them about products like toner or an acne patch does and how to use them. Men haven’t had that experience, and they’re typically not discussing moisturizers with each other in the locker room (yet). As a result, they’re looking for a different discovery process.

However, it doesn’t seem retailers have kept pace with consumer demand in the space, and we don’t see them investing in a tailored experience that allows for more exploration and guidance as male customers explore this new category.

There's a huge white space in the men’s offline experience, and retailers who are investing and innovating in that space have the opportunity to significantly expand their customer base in men’s personal care as the category continues to grow. As a digital-first brand, this challenges us to be more creative with how we serve customers who are looking for convenience through offline channels.

Thus far at Cardon, we’ve been focused on how to make the online experience as frictionless and stress-free as possible by leveraging data. We’ve built out a proprietary internal database that aggregates customer data ranging from how they discovered us, how they interact with our brand, what their top skincare concerns are, and what products they’ve tried and repurchased.

This data helps us provide better recommendations for our online routine builder tool and provide different customer journeys based on where the customer is in their skincare journey.

As we look to expand our distribution beyond e-commerce, we are currently exploring non-traditional offline channels at places we know our consumer is already at like barbershops and can leverage our quiz and database to still provide a stress-free discovery experience.

This way we're still able to make finding the right products easy for the consumer and create a faster learning curve for barbers or sales associates since they won't have the burden of needing extensive product knowledge in the skincare space.

Cary Lin Co-Founder, Common Heir

I think Q4 is always a busy time of year for folks who work in the beauty or wellness industry! That said, it does feel like there is a lot of market uncertainty, and consumer sentiment feels less bullish than last year, which coupled with supply chain and inflation challenges is a perfect storm for a challenging holiday season.

This year does feel different for me personally though, as I’ll be heading out on maternity leave in early December. It’s my first pregnancy and I can already see how being a founder with a newborn will be extremely challenging (as if it wasn’t already challenging before)! It’s also really opened my eyes to the incredible community of female founders who have been so generous with their time and support.

I’m also very lucky to have an incredible co-founder and team, and working through a solid maternity leave plan to make sure the team and brand continue to run smoothly has been a huge priority on top of everything else in a typical Q4 season.

I’ve been able to lean on my team and other founders for support, wisdom, courage and advice. I also have heard more than once that motherhood makes one a better leader in so many respects, and so I fully embrace the changes that it will bring to me and Common Heir.

Xin Ma Founder, Filterbaby

The stress has been a collective global issue. COVID has caused seismic shifts in consumer values and behaviors towards a more lifestyle-centric and transparent approach to beauty.

At Filterbaby, our pandemic proof strategy has been to focus on building impactful products that go hand-in-hand with sustainability and a more mindful approach to consumption and that has resonated profoundly with our audiences.

The beauty niche is very competitive and saturated with products. Anyone can come out with their own skincare line, and most aren’t that innovative enough to make generational impact. As a founder, it was stressful to break through the noise.

I didn’t want to just start another skincare brand, mainly focusing on creams, serums, having five- to 10-step processes. My background is a third-generation traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) provider, and our lifestyles have always been deeply rooted in nature, authentic consciousness, and regeneration. Simplicity is key and less is more. Filterbaby…[reduces] contaminants in tap water, creating a whole new category of skincare focused on water.

Antonio Amaral Founder, pH plex

It is not necessarily more stressful today to do business than it was, for example, two years ago in the middle of the COVID period. Back then, we were not able to engage with potential new customers, hair salons were closed, and our main focus was the online business.

The period just after COVID was complex as well due to the issues with domestic and global transportation and the increase in costs. The Russia/ Ukraine war also contributed to it.

The supply/ demand situation has improved since then. We still see some delays with some supply chains and costs are higher than it was prior to COVID in several areas, but customers are back to business and little by little the business scenario is improving.

Today, the key issue I see is the increased risk of an extended global economic crisis with the persistence of higher inflation, higher interest rates and consequently higher unemployment rates that can affect consumption and small businesses.

There is a multi-use benefit to buying pH Plex. It’s affordable to salons when compared to the leading brand, not only in terms of price per usage, but also out of pocket to salons as there is no need to buy a full set. For home users, we are offering single unit dose sachets for less than $5, making pH Plex very affordable to DIY home consumers that are looking for salon results.

Last but not least, we believe breakthrough and cost innovation are an essential component of our business, and we are constantly exploring innovative solutions to bring more value to consumers, whether or not this comes from product or packaging redesign, new to the market products, supply chain optimizations or creative commercial incentives. We therefore expect to get out of this economic crisis period stronger than we entered it.

Gina Rivera Founder, Phenix Salon Suites and ByGina

Leading a company can be challenging at times, and it’s not for the faint at heart. However, I believe when you have a deep passion for something and it’s your vision, then you stay true to your mission. You develop a strength and a willingness to fight for what you have a passion for and face the challenges head on.

There are times when things can take longer than expected, and it can become very frustrating. You may even have to divert from what you originally had planned and be willing to go another route. In other words, you need to be focused yet flexible.

A good team can navigate you through situations that you may not know how to handle, and they can assist you with developing solutions as well. Even though you might be a founder, it doesn’t mean you have to know everything. That was hard for me to accept at first, I felt pressure to know everything. I had to learn to humble myself and bring people in that were strong in areas where I wasn’t.  With my team, collectively we work together for the greater good.

When I get stressed out, it’s usually self-inflicted. I am constantly in competition with myself to become better each day. Some days I take 10 steps forward, and some days I take 20 steps back. However, I know this for a fact, during setbacks and when things seem out of my control is when I find I am growing the most. It’s preparing me for what’s to come.

My devotions get me through the day. I do not start my day off until I dive into them. I pray continuously for strength and guidance for what is in front of me.

I also had to learn to take a step back and prioritize. Everything doesn’t have to get completed in one day. My biggest piece of advice is pace yourself. Everything in life takes time.

Lulu Ge Founder and CEO, Elix

There is a ton of macro uncertainty right now and "doom and gloom" views upon the future of consumer behavior given rising inflation and economic instability. All of this is impacting investor sentiment towards discretionary categories, creating additional stress for founders to navigate. While I believe there will be market corrections, I'm a natural optimist at heart and feel consumers will still prioritize spending on brands and services that are enabling them to live better lives.

Given that our community members rely on Elix's herbal formulas to support them with chronic health conditions, they expect their shipments to arrive on time every month. Recently there has been an influx in unexpected carrier delays. While we try our best to avoid these situations and eat the cost of resends to our community, there is a real impact when our packages are delayed.

We have been over-communicating the need to shop early this holiday season as carriers have earlier cutoff times for holiday shipments and we want to make sure our community receives their healing formulas when they need them, either for themselves or as a gift. It's always stressful to experience an influx of situations that are outside of our control such as carrier delays.

While it's natural to feel stressed about situations that are outside of our control (i.e., macro conditions, carrier delays, etc.), I always encourage my team to pivot our focus to what is within our control.

How can we continue to serve our community as a "must-have" in their life and inspire more people to heal holistically with traditional Chinese medicine? How can we continue to educate on our differentiated product offering, e.g., organic sourcing, clean herbal decoction, online personalization and clinical trial-backed efficacy? How can we continue to evolve our products and services to better serve our community?

By leaning into what we do control and continuing to proactively communicate when unexpected issues do arise, we continue to build trust with our community members and can weather any storm together.

Wonny Lee Co-Founder and CEO, Elorea

It is incredibly stressful to be any founder right now. Tough economic climates do not discriminate between size of company, industry, or experience. However, the executives or founders that will be hit the hardest are those who are not focusing on the sustainability of their business: low margins, low profitability and poor cash flow. I believe, in this environment, your biggest enemy is time (runway). If you're running out of it, you need to make some very dramatic changes to extend it.

I try to keep things simple so that I can focus the stress into three key areas: Extend and maintain a healthy runway. The length depends on a variety of factors, but ideally we're looking at 12 months. The average recession lasts about 10 months.

Focus on our core customers. What do they want? How do I make them even happier? Can we release something that will solve their current problems?

Invest long. Those who keep their eyes on the bigger plan will come out of this ahead of their competitors.

Even though we just closed a round, I've continued to take as many meetings as possible with investors, banks and debt facilitators. I have to keep all options and lines of communication open as possible. People told us how we got through our previous raise in record time. The truth is we started conversations long before we officially opened the round. The worst time to be raising capital is when your back is against the wall.

We would love to continue to invest in growth and new customers, but that's not our priority at this time. Our main priority is to focus the product roadmap on the customers who already love us and have purchased from us in the past.

Real estate is taking a beating right now, so we're actually looking to build and open our first retail store. It will most likely take around six months to open due to negotiations, construction, and renovations By then, the market sentiment might be turning a corner. If so, we've just put ourselves in a great position to take advantage of that momentum.

Sung Hyun Kim Co-Founder and CEO, Schwanen Garten

The lyrics from Abba's song "Money, Money, Money" immediately came to mind when I read this question: "I work all night, I work all day to pay the bills I have to pay. Ain't it sad?" Schwanen Garten is rapidly growing, and it's been challenging to scale up in the current financial landscape, from acquiring new talent to sourcing ingredients to production.

As a newer brand, we're continuing to learn just how unique and sophisticated the beauty industry is, especially in a country like South Korea which has become synonymous with skincare innovation, and in the U.S., the world's biggest and most competitive market.

You have to find the right balance between product quality and aesthetics as well as capture the right audience through compelling marketing. We are still fine-tuning and working to find the best combination for Schwanen Garten.

I am sure this is the case with many founders and businesses at the moment, but the state of the global economy has been the most difficult. We are currently looking for investors to secure capital for the business, but, more importantly, we want to find the right partners that understand Schwanen Garten and will be our allies to push us forward.

Andrea Lisbona Founder and CEO, Touchland

Being a founder is always generally stressful. Being an entrepreneur and having to grow a business is filled with lots of ups and downs, with many moving parts and lots of fires to extinguish.

I try to focus on the big picture and handle one issue at a time. With the current macroeconomic situation, I find now more than ever I need to be more mindful than ever of funding and ensuring profitability given the market circumstances.

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