Indie Beauty Brand Founders On The Challenges Of Going It Alone
In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 13 brand founders and executives: How do you stay motivated as a solo entrepreneur?
- LaKeisha A Entsuah Founder, Elements of Aliel
Being a one-woman show means there is no backup, and there are no sick days. More importantly, there is no one else standing by your side to keep you going when you have run out of marketing ideas, or you have more deadlines than you have days to meet them.
Staying motivated is a daily challenge, especially on the days when things don’t go as planned. Running Elements of Aliel on my own has taught me to celebrate the small victories. As most entrepreneurs know, we can be our own worst critic, but, to keep from quitting, we must also learn to be our own cheerleader.
Celebrating the small victories helps me to keep things in perspective. It reminds me that, while I may not be where I want to be, I am further along than I was before. I also like to remind myself the reason I started this company. Deciding to go into business for yourself, by yourself is not for the faint of heart. Most of us were motivated by something deeper than the potential profit. That motivation, my why, is what keeps me going. It reminds me that all the hard work is for a reason, and, if I stick with it long enough, eventually that hard work will pay off.
- Elaine Li Founder, Iremia Skincare Inc.
It’s difficult to keep motivated and not compare yourself to others as an entrepreneur. With so many things to manage, it’s easy to mentally drown yourself in the mountain of to-dos. What I have learned is to write everything down.
I usually try to take a moment in the morning on Mondays or Fridays to just recalibrate and write down my list of things I need to accomplish. It helps me lessen the burden of keeping it in my mind. Then, I break it down into the easiest and highest priority tasks. What can I do that would take the least amount of energy? I just work down the list, and it doesn’t seem that bad.
Social media can be a huge energy drain. It’s easy to compare yourself and how well you are doing to others. Although you need to be involved, I try to disengage when I can and turn off. It helps me manage my mental capacity, so I can also balance the time spent with my family. Not comparing is hard, I’m still working on it, as it can also suck the energy out of you. But this is my own ship, and I have to remember that I set the tone and the expectations. I want to produce beautiful products that will please people, but I have to remind myself that I am only human and that I’m just doing my best.
- Carlia Ashton Founder, ONNE
My main way of keeping motivated is loving what I do and believing in the products I have developed. It is true that not every day is easy and smooth sailing, but that’s all part of the challenge of building something great.
By having hard days, it really makes me appreciate the smaller milestones that ONNE achieves, not just the big ones. The customers are my greatest motivation, getting a review or email saying how the products have helped someone through their skin issues and changed their lives is so amazing. This is why I do what I do and the reason I developed the brand.
I try to network as much as possible and surround myself with like-minded people who I am inspired by. This gives me the push I need to stay motivated and think big. I also make sure I take some rest time at least once a week to spend the day in nature with my husband. Doing this always helps me come back into the office with renewed energy.
- Sara Phillips Owner, District Perfumery
As a solo entrepreneur, daily self-care is of the utmost importance. To me, this means taking time to meditate, walk or hike in nature and ensuring I'm well-rested and eating nutritious foods.
Connecting with those who share my passion for niche perfume helps keep my creative juices flowing and motivates me to experiment with new ingredients. Additionally, it's vital that I meet regularly with my business mentors who provide guidance so that I stay focused and grounded.
In Washington, D.C., we have a very supportive community of small business owners, creatives, and makers who are always willing to share best practices, exchange ideas and give advice when needed. It's encouraging to live in a city that fosters entrepreneurship by promoting goods made in D.C. and also by providing opportunities and services to those who are beginning their journey into small business ownership. This sense of community pride is the spirit that keeps me going.
- Emily Bolf Founder, KELIA Skincare
Like many other budding entrepreneurs, I built and launched KELIA Skincare on the side while working a full-time job in the music industry, which I still have. I pretty much did everything myself. Not only did I create the product line, with help from a chemist, but I also art directed the packaging and branding, shot the product photography, wrote the copy and built the website.
It was fun doing all of those things and I loved it, but I'm also the mother to a 2-year-old daughter, so trying to fulfill these various roles is not easy. I am often frustrated by my seemingly never-ending to-do list. I try to breathe through it and know that I am doing the best I can with the time that I have and, no matter how much I do, I will always feel like I should be doing more.
My belief in KELIA is what keeps me going. I am incredibly motivated by the results and reviews that I'm hearing from our customers, and it makes me want to get the word out to more people. I want to make my family and friends proud. They have been amazingly supportive throughout this process. I've also stayed motivated by reading books and listening to podcasts by and about successful entrepreneurs. How I Built This on NPR is my favorite. Hearing how other people and businesses struggled, but ultimately succeeded has been so encouraging. Whenever I'm feeling discouraged, I listen to an episode or two, and it always turns me around.
- Zandra Arvidsson Holgersson Founder and CEO, The Beauty Archive
Running a company single-handedly is a mixture of excitement, exhaustion, passion and fear. On days I struggle, I sit down and ask myself why I am doing what I do and the answer is, nine times out of 10, meaningfulness.
To keep the ship going, I try to surround myself with creative, kind and inspiring people. Come to think of it, I have always used the term team since the start, even though I have been running the ship solo. My team is my family, supporters, friends [and] a couple of amazing consultants who have become a trusted part of visualizing my ideas.
Running a company by myself is empowering in one way, and I learn a lot from it. To all solo entrepreneurs out there, I would strongly recommend to find your support team. It has and does truly help me steer the ship forward.
- Aly Korchemniy Founder, ANFISA
Self-discipline is everything, simply put. However, reading motivational quotes on Pinterest never hurts either.
- Amanda Javier Founder, Witch in the Wild
The real honest answer is I don't, at least not alone. There's some organizational things I practice like inspiration boards and monthly goal setting, but what really keeps me going is the community I've built around my company, more specifically, the community I've found in the Wild Collective, a monthly meeting of female entrepreneurs.
The Wild Collective community is incredible because it's a support network of other female business owners that understand the challenges of running a business. Sometimes you just need to talk to someone who gets it, and that's exactly what the group does. I'm incredibly grateful to have that, and I strongly recommend any other solo entrepreneur find a similar community to grow with.
- Angelica Caporuscio CEO, Veíse Beauty
What has really worked for me is to set a goal for myself and work my way backwards. No matter how big your goal or your dream is, you can accomplish it if you have a plan. Once you know what the end result is that you're trying to accomplish, you're able to break down the steps it takes to get there. This way, when you're having rough days, you can look at the end goal, track your progress towards that goal, and help get yourself back on track to accomplish it.
You're going to have your ups and downs, that's life. Not every day is going to be the dream life of a CEO, and every day will bring its own set of challenges, whether that's professional or personal. When you know what your end goal is, though, it helps make sure that you don't get discouraged and keep moving forward, even if it's just baby steps somedays. It's all about progress. Every little step you take helps get you towards that end goal.
And be kind to yourself. One-woman ships can be overwhelming when you have a million things on your to-do list. Realize that not all of them are going to be done today. It's OK to break them down into categories, and focus on the tasks that are going to bring you the biggest returns and make the biggest impact. It's easy to come up with a lot of different ideas, it's much harder to only focus on the ideas that not only make sense to grow your brand, but for your customer base as well. That's where setting the end goal really comes in handy. It helps to keep you focused and aligned with the bigger picture.
- Julia Teren Founder, Thesis Beauty
For several years, it was just me and occasionally my husband, and it was unbelievably hard. Being super organized and putting in long hours was vital. Investing in automation tools from sales, marketing, PR and e-commerce is like having people on your staff. The freelance scene wasn't as big and structured five to seven years ago, so outsourcing seemed more work than help sometimes. But, nowadays, having a crew of freelancers is going to make your life a lot easier.
Avoid burnout, eat well, sleep well and exercise. You may feel guilty at first that you could be doing your never-ending projects during that time, but you will notice that when you are well, your efficiency perks up tremendously and you simply work smarter instead of just harder. Your business is you. So, by nurturing yourself, you are helping your business thrive.
- Minu Menon Founder, Entyze
The hardest part of being a solo entrepreneur is staying motivated. One of the things that keeps me going is the passion I have for what I do. Creating skincare is my passion and, when you do something you love, it helps you stay motivated. Of course, everyone has those days where they feel that nothing is moving in the right direction, but channeling your energy and not losing focus is the most important part.
From creating products at Entyze to solely designing my website, taking product shots, managing social media accounts, working on SEO, setting up pop-ups, fulfilling orders for customers and wholesalers, I feel I could do with more than 24 hours a day. I use a planner every morning to figure out what I would like to get accomplished on that day and set reminders so I don’t miss tasks. I also allow myself a day’s break to help recharge and start afresh after a week of toiling and that really helps me stay on track.
- Kate Lee Founder, VELVET
Doing anything alone is really challenging, and running a business is no different. As the sole founder, the most important thing I have to keep remembering is that it's OK for me to not do it all, all at once, all the time. Managing expectations and being as organized as possible has helped me tremendously.
I set monthly and quarterly goals for the company, and align these with our social media and marketing strategies. It's kind of like setting New Year's resolutions, but, instead, mapping them out with specific timelines so I stay accountable. To avoid spreading myself too thin, I try to be realistic with what I can do and what I will need help with from others.
I'm lucky that I have help with the company's marketing efforts and social media monitoring, so that I can organize and plan while another individual can execute. It's been a humbling experience to know that there are often always people around you who are willing to give you advice and much-needed assistance along the way if you just reach out.
I was the owner and only employee of my company through my pregnancy and maternity leave, and I am proud to say I kept it going. I have a couple of suggestions. Communication is key. As the only employee, there's bound to be issues like shipping delays, backorders, etc. As long as you preemptively communicate with the client, you can get away with a good deal of speed bumps and still have the client feel taken care of.
I also make sure my clients know that I am not Sephora. When my customers see me as a person in addition to a brand, it gives them empathy and loyalty, and they are more understanding and patient when the hiccups happen. I do look to lighten the load however possible, even though giving up control is really hard for me.
To make it work, being organized and having systems helps. I have a manufacturing schedule, a blogging schedule, a marketing schedule. Efficiency and prioritizing go a long way, really. When I started my company, I ran a really tight ship with budget. I've since loosened up, but the same discipline applies to what you put your energy towards. Your energy is a resource just like money and also needs to be budgeted wisely.
For a long time, I expected my husband to help me. I thought how fun it would be to do it together. I expected employees to care about the business as much as me. That's not realistic. It was helpful to let those expectations go, and surrender to the fact that I am the heart and soul and the burden is mine alone. As entrepreneurs know, the responsibility of creating a business and creating a life is both very empowering, but also a lot to carry at times. Oddly, surrendering to the truth of that made everything lighter.
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