How The Pandemic Has Permanently Changed Work For Beauty Entrepreneurs And Execs
In this edition of our ongoing series posing questions relevant to indie beauty, we ask 28 beauty entrepreneurs and executives: What ways have your work life and practices changed since the pandemic that you think won’t change back? What do you think can or would you like to change back?
- Gwen Jimmere Founder and CEO, Naturalicious
I work from home 95% of the time now, and so does the majority of our team. I don't see that changing. The good thing is that I'm home when my son arrives home from school every day, and I can allot a lot more time with him in the morning before school. I really love that. I never wanted to be the parent that was able to provide everything my child needs and wants, but worked so much away from home that he felt like I never had time for him.
A lot of our team members opted to move out of state or back home with family during the pandemic. They are still employed with us, but they are not physically here. I miss having in-person team outings and in-office events. Now that most of our team is working remotely and out of state, that makes it very difficult. Yes, we can (and do) some of those things remotely, but nothing beats the energy that is created when everyone is together.
- Diane Cook Founder, BeeSpa
Before COVID, I was marketing BeeSpa to spas and salons nationally. That came to an abrupt halt when the shutdowns began. At that point, we concentrated selling online and beefed up our social media. Now that COVID is under control and spas are reopening, I notice budgets are more limited for purchasing retail products. I think that will take time to improve.
With the onset of the pandemic and the extended shutdown, there were numerous personnel changes in spas and salons, making it necessary to establish new contacts. I'd like to change back to our previous relationships.
- Shel Pink Founder, SpaRitual
Hybrid work practices are now the norm, working part of the week from home and part of the week from the office. I think this will remain the norm moving forward. Before the pandemic, we were already meeting less in person and meetings and communications were conducted in shorter bursts and through platforms like Slack. We continue to communicate in this way and have added Zoom since the pandemic.
Although these modes of connection are more efficient we are often missing the human part of the connection. I am grateful that we are at least back in the office and see each other in person most days. I know of many companies that have made the decision to be remote indefinitely. I imagine for some this would be quite lonely after a while. I love seeing people and being with them in real life.
- Olowo-n'djo Tchala Founder and CEO, Alaffia
We've experienced an uptick in remote employment, workforce empowerment and flexibility, which safeguards Alaffia's ability to hire talent around the globe as well as maintaining our long-standing West African and Olympia, Wash., employee base. To me, this paradigm shift represents global possibilities and worldwide trade. The idea of making our West African heritage and formulas accessible to anyone, anywhere brings me immense amounts of joy!
I couldn't have anticipated a global pandemic would facilitate such big blessings and lessons. I look forward to the day that we can all gather again and celebrate our collective victories in one room. Until then, Zoom will have to do!
- Samia Gore Founder, Body Complete Rx
For many people, business and professional, we have all been affected in some way by the coronavirus pandemic. For many years, personal and professional lives were kept separate. However, with the rise of Zoom and remote working and closing schools, we’ve got a glimpse on seeing employees children’s and pets on screen.
While it may appear as a distraction, it’s actually a window into the personal lives of our employees, vendors and contractors, thus improving workplace relationships. This allows teams to connect and get to know each other in a brand-new way.
I hope that there will come a time again where we can meet and gather comfortably for meetings in conferences. The close, intimate interactions are missed.
- Donagh Quigley Founder, The Handmade Soap Company
My personal work life balance hasn’t changed much at all. I had a solid work-life balance before the pandemic and still do. Within the factory, it depends on the jobs people are doing. But, on the factory floor, there hasn’t really changed at all, but the people in the office are working a lot more remotely. That will probably continue, and we were heading that way before the pandemic. It has just accelerated it for a lot of people.
I am still in the factory every day. I run a few times a week, just back from a yoga class, and my kids kind of know who I am. I try to spend a bit of time with them, too. It hasn’t actually changed that much for me. I have always thought it was about making the life you want, pandemic or no pandemic.
- Britta Cox Founder, Aquis
Before COVID, we were primarily a San Francisco Bay Area-based team about to sign a lease for twice as much space and recruiting more locally. COVID required everyone to fundamentally rethink how we work. We have quadrupled our team and doubled the business while working remotely with a distributed team, seeking the best talent regardless of location. We will continue to embrace a hybrid remote working model, hone-in on ways to collaborate and come together as needed.
We do miss some of that magic sauce that happens by being together in the office and are being more intentional to create opportunities for us to come together, collaborate, strategize and socialize so we can do our best work individually and collectively. Entrepreneurs are used to being agile, so we will continue to be flexible, listen to the team, and find the best path forward in our ever-evolving world.
- Julia McClure Co-Founder and Creative Director, Navinka Skincare
Since the pandemic, I’ve had to figure out a way to work and be with my 6-year-old son and now 9-month-old baby. They love being outside (as do I!), so I found a trick of combining play with work: I just took my calls and Zoom meetings while out in nature with them.
I much prefer being surrounded by trees rather than plugged into all my devices inside of a room! Soon, we found a couple of other families that were out doing the same thing, so we became a little pod of working parents and wild kids! Even now that my oldest son is in school, we still meet with our pod to play outside.
What I’d like to bring back is meeting people face to face more and feeling their energy. Being out and about also creates more opportunities for running into someone and a sweet unpredictability of life that just isn’t the same with Zoom.
- Marie Arlet Co-Founder and COO, Sheabrand
Like many, we didn't renew the lease on our office space during the pandemic. This was a difficult choice because, for us, obtaining an office had been a big milestone and giving it up felt a little like a step back. Working from home has given us and our employees more flexibility in our daily lives and has also allowed us to add people on our team we may have overlooked in the past because they didn't live in New York, where our office was located.
I don't think we will ever go back to a formal office setting, but I would like to have a centralized space where employees can come and go as they please, and we can hold in-person meetings once in a while. I miss seeing my team in person.
- Lisa Brill Founder and CEO, Qēt Botanicals
Since the pandemic, both work and life routines are getting a real-time practice in patience. Whether it's at home or at work, many routines have been tweaked, and it causes us to be flexible, stay fluid, and even find better ways than perhaps what we're used to. As the old saying goes, “The only thing constant is change.”
Clearly, the number of online ordering has increased. The majority of our business is online, but we do have retail locations where we formulate, fulfill and share our treatments. We don't want to change something back as much as we want to keep the trust and camaraderie that we receive as a personal brand from both online and in-person experiences.
We're in a personal industry, and skincare is intimate. Being able to work with our online friends closely, while continuing our in-person relationships with our customers is a wonderful pairing. We hope in-person business doesn't go away, we hope local businesses aren't forced out, and we hope that other small businesses can continue to also thrive and adjust as necessary.
- Polly Roderick Global Brand Manager, INIKA Organic
COVID has undoubtedly changed how we all work and how we foresee our workplaces in the future. I think it has made many people reevaluate their work-life balance in many ways, and perhaps pay closer attention to their overall health (mental and physical) and where work sits for them.
Workplaces need to reinvent collaboration to restore a sense of community and belonging, not just for employees, but also for customers. Overcoming social isolation is also a big consideration, for some personalities more than others. Managers will need to work hard to develop team cohesion, team identity and ensure employees do not feel alone.
I think workplaces that accommodate individual flexibility will be important to account for employees’ individual needs, values, strengths and aspirations. Businesses that can effectively provide employee flexibility whilst ensuring optimal team performance will no doubt attract and retain the best staff as we navigate our new normal work environment post the pandemic.
- Billy Gallagher Founder, RealSleep
Like a lot of people, I've definitely found myself working more since the pandemic. But I've also been prioritizing my sleep more. With no commute and limited after-work activities, my time has been dedicated more to the basics: work, sleep, making dinner, etc.
I'm looking forward to getting out of my routine more, changing up where I work each day, and getting back into my pre-pandemic hobbies outside the house. I want to find new ways to tire myself out, stick to my sleep routine, and exit the pandemic with a well-balanced lifestyle.
- Puneet Nanda Founder, GuruNanda
I think lack of qualified people has created a huge void to where growing business owners like myself are working 50% more than ever before.
I am not going out as much. I used to go out for business meetings trade shows to different cities and countries. That’s all behind me, and I am glued to Zoom. I have become like a robot working and eating and sleeping, literally no real life.
I would want to see all travels national and international open back up, the disease to go away and me to be able to visit twice a year.
- Melanie Hurley Founder, Piggy Paint
Before the pandemic, I frequently attended trade shows and meetings across the U.S. COVID immediately shut down trade shows and all business travel, so our interactions with buyers have transitioned to virtual. Though trades shows are slow returning in smaller formats, increased virtual meetings are the new norm and a business practice that won’t be changing.
It does save a lot of time and money to meet virtually, but I really miss connecting with buyers and other entrepreneurs in person. here’s something special and more personal when you meet face to face. Plus, having the opportunity for buyers to see and touch products in person makes selling easier. I tend to be awkward in video, and it’s a bit chaotic when everyone talks at the same time on a Zoom call, so I’m definitely ready to meet in person again!
- Bianca Rush Founder and CEO, Sassy Hair Cap
I value relationship building with my work life and, since the pandemic has started, I noticed a lot more people desiring conversations online rather than in-person connections. I mean, I totally get it! However, I don't think the in-person experiences will change back as we adapt and become more accustomed to virtual meetings and virtual experiences.
I've modified the work that I do by being very flexible for online meetings, expanding my schedule availability, and downloading all meeting tools on my personal devices so that I am more accessible and my businesses can operate as normally as they can. However, I would love to change back, but, given the times that we live in right now, I understand that is not possible.
- Valérie Beauregard Director of Business Development North America, Canus
When the pandemic started, we were all a little lost and struggling to balance our new work life, which was only remote, and family life. Children at home, improvising an office area, it was all new. Then, this new way of working became normality. We changed our practice to reflect our new way of working, weekly virtual meetings with everyone and new communication tools.
I always thought that “alone we go faster, but together we go further,” but now it makes even more sense for me. Today, working remotely is part of our daily life at Canus, even though we like to come together once in a while to catch up.
I miss being in contact with our customers. We used to be part of events where we came together and really connected. In 2021, unfortunately, we didn’t have the possibility to do so due to the pandemic, but I am looking forward to 2022 as I am sure everyone is really eager to reconnect.
Also, as the holidays are approaching, I miss our yearly company holiday party. We used to get together, wear silly sweaters and just have fun. This year, it will be remote, but I am convinced that it will change back to normal next year, and we will all be able to celebrate the end of the year together.
- Julia Faller Founder, Benedetta
I had plans for opening a flagship store with services and elixir bar. Not only did this get put on hold, my existing shop in the San Francisco Ferry Building was downsized to more than one third the size, with limited days and hours. This forced us into a digital marketplace only, one that is greatly saturated and competitive.
As a manufacturer, I have a vast supply chain I thankfully have acquired for decades. From organic and biodynamic botanicals to packaging components, I have seen a rise in costs and delays across the board. It has been an adjustment for sure, but I’m grateful for my longevity, celebrating 25 years in business this year.
Additionally, I started my business with customer service and care for an individual's skincare needs. I want that human contact and level of attention to come back. Introducing the line to people in our store through a mask is challenging, and it’s hard to hear their needs, too. Most of our aestheticians are back at work, but clients have diminished greatly as fear of variants is on the rise.
Regarding remote working, we here at Benedetta never closed our doors and have worked at our production, offices, warehouse and store, with the exception of a few days here and there. We masked as necessary and, at the beginning, sanitized doorknobs and counters as per regulations to be safe.
All in all, I am happy to be working and continue to go from small-batch efficacy to micro-batch. I am hopeful that we will return to better times, where communities can flourish and eye-to-eye contact is back.
- Randall Williams CMO, Dr. Tusk
The pandemic reaffirmed my believe in the importance of the work-life balance. Society independent of race, religion or orientation has come to realize that the live-work balance is key to true success. We work to live, not live to work! That's why we persisted on launching our brand, Dr. Tusk, offering a way to focus on wellbeing and self-care, while giving back and helping the environment and nature.
Return to a sense of calm! Life has always had its challenges, and we all must truly be diligent to address those challenges to stay healthy and happy. The pandemic created a level of uncertainty that has fundamentally damaged our sense of calm. Take a look at humanity and the many things we faced over our existence—wars, plagues, famine, environmental impacts that threaten the future of life on earth. By calmly addressing issues, finding solutions and continuing along our path of life, we will survive!
- Joelle Flynn Co-Founder and CEO, FunkkOFF! Inc.
I live in California and my co-founder Sonia [Hounsell] lives in New York, so we have been working on opposite coasts for years before the pandemic. We were very comfortable with remote meetings and video calls. Now, we love it because everyone else is as well. They have become super comfortable with Zoom and Google Meet, which makes our work super-efficient and effective.
We wish international travel wasn’t so difficult, and we can’t wait for it to be easier again. We have suppliers and potential vendors overseas that we would like to be able to meet with as a way to create better working relationships. We hope we can travel more freely internationally.
- Vivian Fellman Founder, Kota Botanics
Our business Kota Botanics was started right before the global pandemic hit. We were nervous, of course, when the lockdown first happened, but we kept our calm and really hit hard on our e-commerce platform. We switched our business model from only brick-and-mortar to online, and we added free shipping and free delivery in-town services. That strategy paid off, and it helped us to survive and thrive during the pandemic.
However, our customers are still longing for human connections. That's why they came back to our brick-and-mortar right away to shop rather than buy online when the restrictions loosened. There's really nothing I'd want to change back. As a small business, we aim to pivot, and we are good at pivoting. I'm glad that we made such changes.
- Nakea S. Murray Founder, V-tox Intimate Health & Wellness
There were lots of adjustments at the start of the pandemic. The blessing is that this practice requires sanitation, cleaning and disinfecting, so that was already in play but having to stop all appointments for four months while our spa was closed was both financially and emotionally hard.
The clients kept us afloat big time. They asked if we would be able to reopen and survive this and I reassured them that if they continued to place website orders and spread the word we would be able to. Initially it was advised that businesses would have to close for two weeks then bam!
We were unable to host our highly sought-after spa parties and social distance, so business had to be turned away for groups. If was frustrating because others in this category were going against the mandates and going rouge.
Since reopening, we were able to acquire the office suite next door to us because of another business not being able to keep two locations. So, we’ve turned that into the Vhive, which is an intimate event space that can accommodate small groups and events. That additional space will allow us to resume safe activities and group session along with practitioner trainings.
There was a shortage of rose petals, oregano and other herbs that used to be plentiful. That was a scary scary time because we hand mix our herb blends fresh and the thought of not being able to provide at-home treatment options for women on a steam schedule was horrible. I literally cried when I got to the last pound of oregano, sounds dramatic, but that was my breaking point.
People were seeking out holistic methods to stay healthy. Also, there was a influx in people making products, so packaging was in high demand, and bottle and jars became scarce for a while and prices rose.
I also had to offer virtual VSteam assistance to help those who were steaming for the first time or those that had to stay on a schedule because of the reason they were steaming. So, imagine women who were used to coming in to the office having to learn how to administer the treatment at home. Some were afraid, others caught on quick, but I was there every step of the way. Now that we’ve reopened, they’re back in the office even though they can do it at home. They just love our atmosphere and vibe.
- Anna Lahey Founder, Vida Glow
There are many challenges that come with navigating a pandemic as a fast-evolving global brand—logistics, adapting to virtual operations and growing a team remotely. But as a business, we’ve always remained agile and innovative. Our biggest concern during this time was employee well-being. We implemented new initiatives to encourage movement, mental health and bring everyone together digitally. We took part in a September challenge, held weekly virtual trivia nights and virtual Pilates classes and had meal kits delivered to homes.
During lockdown, I personally felt a positive improvement through these initiatives. They kept me active, boosted my mentality and most importantly allowed me to connect with everyone across the business outside of a meeting setting. Now that we’re back in office, these initiatives have continued, and everyone is so thrilled to be able to do it all in person, myself included!
We had so many new employees start in lockdown, exciting product launches and partnerships. So, it was certainly a challenge to navigate that remotely. There’s nothing like being in a room together—reengaging, connecting and feeding off the energy and passion of those around you. I am so happy to be back safely in the office with everyone.
Needless to say, I’m amazed at what my teams were able to accomplish during the lockdown period. I’m so excited about global travel again and the opportunity to personally connect with our partners and consumers around the world.
- Elsie Rutterford Co-Founder, BYBI
Pre-pandemic, our core team was 100% U.K.-based and in our London office Monday to Friday. Learning how to work remotely was definitely a challenge at first, and even coming back to the office recently three days a week was slightly strange! But it’s proven how adaptable we are as humans and as a team. It’s great to see the team together again, bouncing ideas off of one another, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever go back to Monday to Friday.
During the pandemic, we not only expanded into the U.S., but into Target, which would have happened regardless. However, this meant that, by summer 2020, when we needed to onboard U.S. agencies and consultants, we were able to work seamlessly via zoom. This also led us to employ two full-time members of the team based out of the U.S.
Typically, we would have visited key regions such as the U.S., Singapore, Finland or Australia. It’s still really important to us to have those face-to-face meetings, if possible. However, it’s definitely proven that we can still move the business forward without regular visits. Reducing international travel also aligns with our mission of becoming the world’s first carbon-negative beauty brand by 2025.
During the summer of 2020 we completed a $7 million series A fundraise, again proving that we don’t necessarily have to get in front of people, especially those abroad, to successfully engage with potential investors.
You just don’t come across the same opportunities to meet and engage with new people over Zoom as at real life events. We’ve found it incredibly important to build and facilitate a sense of community within the team whilst working remotely. This is something that is likely to happen organically when working in an office environment.
- P. Daniel Ward Founder, FormRX Skincare
There have been so many changes with COVID. There has been so much pain and heartache with the pandemic that it is hard to state that there is anything good, but the truth is that there have been some changes that have been good. I always like to say that every obstacle is actually an opportunity, and I love the quote from Tony Robbins that what happens is going to happen, but the suffering is optional. That has definitely been true for my practice and me.
One of the changes that I have noticed personally as well as with my patients is an increased focus on wellness. I suspect that our shared experience has been that COVID has either literally or figuratively brought us closer to our own mortality. This closeness to mortality has allowed us the opportunity to better focus on our health and wellness. I think that this is one of the major reasons for the increase in plastic surgery and aesthetic services during the pandemic.
On a more specific note, I think that the use of technology is here to stay. Patients and providers alike both love the opportunity to be able to conduct their visits over video teleconference. It has made me rethink whether I really need to have a patient come back to see me or not and has illustrated the fact that I often have patients come back not for themselves, but for me. Sometimes, I just want to see how they're doing for my own benefit and not necessarily because I am doing something to help their treatment or recovery.
Within our company, we used the opportunity to spend more time on training and team building, which has been a really cool way for us to grow stronger. I have learned so much and have gained so many valuable skills as a leader, and I'm so grateful that we had this opportunity to focus on our culture and reset.
- Brianna Arps Founder and CEO, Moodeaux
It goes without saying that most, if not all, of the issues companies are facing re: global supply chain can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although new onto the scene, we're no exception.
Moodeaux launched on pre-order, which was an intentional decision primarily aimed at curbing the costs of producing too much without a solid understanding of our demand. Yet, right now, producing too little has proven to be even riskier given it's a more difficult issue to fix with global shortages of raw materials, labor and unprecedented shipping delays.
Thus, in a lot of ways, I'm extra proactive in anticipating issues. From ordering surplus supplies to stockpiling merchandise, I'm much more willing to err on the side of caution, because who knows what else can happen. The old adage "what can go wrong, will go wrong" so plan accordingly rings in my mind constantly these days as we plan to scale into 2022.
As far as what I think can change back, I have hope that the broken global supply chain will be "fixed" over time. It's going to take months, maybe even years, to be fully functional again in a way that we're used to, but I do have hope.
- Paul Schulick Founder, For The Biome
Our work life since the pandemic changed when we saw a need for a solution to a problem that hasn’t been seen before, at least in my lifetime. A novel problem needs a novel solution. So, we pivoted from skincare to daily immune support and dove deep into the research to find out how we could more fully support immune wellness on a daily basis.
The pandemic essentially changed the course of the company in many ways. We developed products that deliver foundational support for the intersecting systems of the mind, body and microbiome, fostering a stronger, more balanced immune system, what we call “a wiser immune system.”
I think it’s important to be adaptable, and global issues are a learning opportunity to grow. For me, turning to the wisdom of nature has always been the solution when there’s uncertainty. These challenging times have given us even more determination and passion to give back to the biome and bring natural healing to the world in every way that we can.
- Romain Gaillard Founder and CEO, The Detox Market
The one thing that changed drastically for me is traveling. I used to be all around the place, and I have to say that I don't miss it. I hope it won't change back. Less travel is better for the planet, your family and you!
What I am missing is in-person meetings in particular when we have multiple people in the room. I miss the creative energy you get from a group of people brainstorming together. Zoom is great for one on one, but terrible for groups.
- Beatrice Dixon Founder and CEO, The Honey Pot Company
Being able to blend work, personal, speaking and everything together has been beautiful. Because now the world and I are aware that we can do everything remotely. I enjoy my life this way. It gives me freedom and allows me to do everything I want with my time.
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