A brand that combines mental health & beauty. Lessons learned from SELFMADE Founder Stephanie LEE
This episode is with Stephanie Lee from SELFMADE.
SELFMADE is a culmination of Stephanie’s lived experiences and spurred from healing from her own mental health crisis. She began her journey as a field organizer on the Obama presidential campaign, and quickly moved to the White House where she worked for the First Lady Michelle Obama. She then changed direction from politics into the prestige of the beauty industry as a product developer at MAC Cosmetics in New York City.
While dealing with depression and anxiety, she left the corporate world to travel the globe solo and hear from women about their experiences about their own self-worth and emotional wellbeing. That’s when SELFMADE was born.
If you love Stephanie’s story and you’re building an ecommerce brand in the beauty space, you might be interested in checking out our private network where you can access modern mentorship from women on the show, like minded women in the ecommerce / cpg space and experts. You can pop your name on the waitlist at femalestartupclub.com/waitlist and you’ll be the first to know when we open our doors for founding members.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Stephanie, Hi, welcome to the Female Startup Club Podcast. Hi, I'm so excited to be here chatting with you. Me too. I'm so excited. I've just been browsing your beautiful website. I love everything from the videos, the language, the imagery. It is. So my vibe for one. But could you, in your own words, tell us what your business is and who it's for. Yeah. So self made is an emotional wellbeing brand. We're primarily targeting gen Z and more specifically black indigenous people of color and non binary.
00:04:38 So I know that's really specific. But when you target them, you target all. And what we do is we create personal care and digital products that actually institute rituals of mental health, which I think is one of the most important things for our generation and the next generation to date, especially given Covid and what we've just gone through. And so yet we launched last end of last year, Born from the pandemic. My whole team is completely remote which has its own challenges. But it's been really incredible to, you know, have this during the pandemic and have a mission that's really oriented around how do we bring therapeutic lessons that happened within, you know, maybe a scary doctor's office or a therapist office but bring them into a lifestyle where you can reach for a product on your vanity or your shower or your nightstand and be reminded about that intention of credible mental health. Mm so beautiful and so so needed and so important. Those those some of those conversations can be so scary just quickly with the with the remote thing.
00:05:42 Does that mean you've not met all your team Like in person. Very funny. I let's see uh we all met for the first time maybe Gosh april or may so very recently. So for the first time I got actually like a house out in like the countryside in new york and people flew in but it was very like, you know, my two co founders, one co founder had only met one person in myself and we have a team about 10 folks. And so it's pretty interesting trying to create relationships through zoom. Um They only go so far. But that's I think the testament to how incredible these folks are. Um and how vulnerable showing up to build a business from nothing into something so totally. This week I just hired the most brilliant woman to join my team shoutout to pauline if she hears this, I'm sure she will. And you know, we haven't met obviously and I don't think we will mean until at least the end of the year, which is so crazy to me before.
00:06:44 Like it wouldn't be like this. But obviously now the world has changed so much. It's really interesting. It is so interesting. I actually did my first, I started fundraising uh as in March when the pandemic was happening. And so it made things so difficult. But you know, I went from pitching in person. I flew from new york to L. A. To san Francisco to London and then took a short vacation and then the pandemic started crashing down. So I got home and then I had been pitching people via zoom, which is a totally different muscle to flex. And then last week I was in L. A. And pitched 100 of like 100 women for the first time in person and it was like, you forget right how much of the chemistry and stimulation that is. So by the, and I'm still recovering basically after that week of just chatting with people. But it's definitely a muscle that we're all going to have to get back into using now that the part of the world at least is opening up again. Yeah, totally. That's so weird. Gosh, well, congratulations by the way for pitching 100 people. That sounds really cool.
00:07:47 Thank you. It was fun slash one of those things that it's like, you forget like that people can only now see your whole body versus like the square. You have to have shoes, you have to have pants. Oh my God, I was like, what are people wearing now? What do people, what you founders where I mean? Like that's a totally hypothetical question, but I was kind of like, oh crap. Like I have to spend an hour getting ready versus like 10 minutes right to jump on a zoom calls a totally different world. Do I need to shave my legs exactly. I don't remember deodorant. What was that? Oh my God. Low. You have had a really cool sounding impressive looking career. You've worked in politics, you worked at the White House for Michelle Obama, you then went into product development roles at places like Mac cosmetics and then you've also done some consulting work for other small brands in bringing their visions to life. Where does your entrepreneurial story start and what actually led you to self made?
00:08: That's a very good question. But that means we have to go very far back in time, I think, honestly, let's go there. Okay, let's do it. You know, going through what was a lot of therapy when I went through a mental health crisis, you have to look back to know where you, who you are in order to look forward. And so I think, you know, I drove into that for three years, so being able to actually look back and honestly without, without self judgment, it comes from my mother, my parents are both immigrants. Um, they came from Vietnam and they were like boat people that went to refugee camps and all that good, you know, not great stuff actually. And I think that entrepreneurial spirit comes from survival mode, how do you define success and how do you get there for my parents? It was just living, I internalized it as like money stable job. I tried the corporate route, but really, I think the entrepreneurial self comes from my mother, she's a, you know, went to trade school hairdresser, you know, and she got the hustle, did the hustle, that woman hustles and so I've always had hustle like side hustles in high school.
00:09:58 I like designed little like tote bags for like school, like girls at school and like did like all the class shirts and all that stuff. And it was funny because like my mom was like when you grow up, you need to be a doctor or a lawyer, which is very asian and I was like, I pick neither. I've heard it before. Yeah, the answer is no, my middle brother is actually accomplishing all my mother's dreams, so that's, that's great but takes the spotlight off you. Yes, exactly. Although that never, never ends. I think we're always looking for a parent's approval, but I think in particular it sparked from there and then, you know, as I was growing up, it kind of probably sparked from my like why is there no innovation? I worked for corporations, I worked for one of the oldest institutions in the US and there's so much good that can be done within government and politics, but it's big, it can be slow, there's so much good that can be done in the corporate world. When I was working at Mac and Estee lauder companies, but so much of that is consumer buying power.
00:11:03 So how do you actually put those two things together and create impact? Social impact, but also make money. And so I think that was in part for me and then I left to go travel around the world in, went to Australia, I went to London all all things Southeast Asia and I think I carried a question with me, you know, how do I turn everything that I learned within therapy but into a lifestyle. And I think that question, once you have the question that you cannot get out of your head right, It just haunts you. I think that's where it kind of, that spark happens and it's a matter of whether you choose to lean into that spark and add some fuel or if you want to put it out and I think for me at a time in my life, I was like, I want to do everything I can to see if I can like this on fire. So that's kind of how it started. And do you remember the moment where it kind of clicked into place that you were like, this is what it's going to be? I've got it like I've got the idea. Yeah, it's interesting. I mean they're probably micro moments that all add up into this. But I was in Thailand when I was traveling and I went to a, it's called Wonderland Healing Center.
00:12:09 It had five star reviews on its yoga and vegan buffet. So I was like, might as well go. Um it was an island coping yang. And so when I went, you know, my expectation was to do just really great yoga. But I think what ended up happening is I met a lot of people like me, millennials who had quit their corporate jobs and we're searching and they had gone to a wellness place in order to search for themselves. And when I was sitting there and I was surrounded by folks, I realized the immense amount of privilege it takes in order to be well or the pursuit of wellness, right? And then I also realized as I was sitting there that I was surrounded by people who were not like me, like the people who looked like me were the people serving the food and I was surrounded by people who had immense privilege including myself and so I think for me when I realized it was sitting there listening to kind of what the guru is saying, I realized so much about our wellness has to do with our ability to self trust and turn into our self worth rather than look outside of ourselves, but the whole world in society tells us to look outside of ourselves.
00:13:15 So when I dug deeper into like pseudo spirituality and pop therapy, I realized there's so much that I would love to correct, like there's so much about how do you gain that self worth and trust. And so I think my idea came from the fact that beauty is hugely something where women already spend so much money so much time and are taking care of themselves, so why not use that to inject credible mental health. So we develop all of our products with mental health experts and also each product is linked to a very specific psychological concept. So I think like once that kind of clicked into my head because part of my journey was just awareness emotional vocabulary like I don't only know like sadness, happiness and excitement, there's like four general emotions that people on a day to day basis understand, but once I started understanding how to learn self awareness and then how to act upon it, I was like these could be steps, let's turn that into a routine. So rather than like your three step, you know, face wash, face spray face moisturizer, you know, let's turn this into a steps of like emotional vocabulary through these products.
00:14:23 So for instance, we launched with secure attachment comfort serum. It's a beautiful serum that actually securely attaches to your face to hydrate over 100 and 7% instantly, which mathematically doesn't make sense. But that's what the third party clinical testing said. It also has an active ingredient in it that lowers your stress hormone in your skin. It's clinically proven. And so looking at a person as a whole human being rather than like, oh you have a zip, let's cover that up. Right? And then it securely attach is make up to your face as a primer. Secure attachment is a psychological concept for healthy relationships. How do you actually securely attached to yourself and create that relationship? Because that is the template for every relationship. Therefore your romantic relationships, your friendships. How do you create emotional boundaries? All of those things. We launched trigger rhett in the spring, which is called trigger it, resilience scrub. It's a scalp and body scrub. And it's really about, you know, resilience being not this like grin and barrett like man up and get through it.
00:15:27 But how do you fall down? Be vulnerable? Ask for what you need to get up again and try again, which is very different. And then in the fall will be creating an intimacy serum that's not about sexual intimacy but emotional intimacy as the first step. How do you be honest with yourself and reckon with the most private parts of yourself and share with yourself and others before you even get to touching another person? Because that is the key foundational part to creating closeness and so by being able to do this, it's really bringing intention. Um, so again, it was like micro moments of like, you know, you kind of like, I don't know if you've seen a beautiful mind of the movie. Um, but it's like the guys sitting there and like all these numbers kind of come in shapes and numbers kind of coming in front of their face and start making a connection And I think, you know, it's not one moment because I think that's a little bit false and probably like a movie. Like, but it's A series of moments of conversations, even like this one um, that helped, helped me get to a point where I'm like, I might have an answer to this. Got it, wow. It all sounds so interesting and unlike anything I've heard of before.
00:16:32 So that's, that's so cool. I love that. What year are we talking that you started this thinking process and kind of like starting to shape the idea Mid 2018 when I left my job in corporate beauty, I realized I had worked with the venture arm at Estee lauder and I had met a bunch of founders of businesses that were doing really well, like lamb glow and Frederick Mall and when I met some of these founders, I realized like, oh, if they can do it, I can do it right, and it's just about seeing people do it and I think you can, then I kind of realized like, you know, it just takes effort right in that moment of wanting to do it to even get started. And so when I left my job, I realized like a, I was burnt out. I had gone from the white house straight to working at Estee lauder. Um I was also burnt out because I was still recovering from my mental health crisis and like still, you know, getting to know who I was and I spoke to an advisor and I was like, I really want to travel the world, but I'm nervous right?
00:17:39 Like what if investors think I'm spending money frivolously or I'm not serious about it or whatever. He was like, Stephanie, there's something to be said about taking off the filter of every day in order to be just incredibly creative. So I think that was the start of like me taking what was basically two years to develop an idea in my head and I will say that he was absolutely right when you take off the responsibility of like, oh I need to pay. I mean this is a privilege, right? Oh, I need to pay this bill or I need to speak to this boss, I need to be on this meeting, I need to be on this and you go and experience the world and you get to know people like through this and you chat with people and you do new things and you get vulnerable. All those pieces are building blocks to becoming an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur is like diving off of a cliff without a safety net. And it's scary but it's also just so freaking exciting you're laughing because I'm like, you know, you know that like, Oh my God, yeah, you've, you've nailed it.
00:18:45 It's 100% like that. That's so true. I want to talk about the beginning phases of how much money you needed to invest and how you were financing in the beginning and what those early steps were in terms of like what's the blueprint to starting this brand? Yeah, good question First was getting it out of my head and onto a piece of paper. I think that's the most critical thing because once you have an idea, the next part of it is how do you communicate that idea to other people and depending who your target audience at that point, it was just myself and I was like, I think as women, you know, we're so much told we need to prove ourselves, you need to have it absolutely 100% perfect before you do anything that's false, right? I was so scared that even sharing it with my partner, I was like crying because I was like, is this a dumb idea? You know? And I think number one was supporting myself with people who are my coach, my cheerleader, you know what I mean? Like there there to be like, you can do this no matter what and even if something happens or something is wrong, you will figure it out.
00:19:51 So I think that's number one was putting it on paper and sharing sharing it because I think you once you have idea it's about shaping and molding it and really taking it to folks that you trust in order to understand how can you take this into reality At that point I had $0. I mean I had my own savings but to actually get started, the first point that it was like, oh shit, this is real. Was when I started paying a lawyer, which I think is pretty much real for everyone across the board because it's so expensive. But then you're really putting that intention out there in a very real legal way for me, it was trademarking, which is a bear. So that was one part of it. And then also part of figuring it out is I also realized the beginning like, oh crap, like I have to learn how to do social media graphics blah blah blah blah blah all this stuff and it's paralyzing. So I had to take a moment like what am I actually really good at and what am I actually really shit at what I'm shit at. I need to find people who are really good at and smarter than me because being an entrepreneur is not a solo game at all.
00:20:55 So I started hunting with people that may be felt compelled by our mission and what I wanted to do in a very different way. I found two co founders, one is my best friend who has done change behavior and organizational development with like the use of the world like T. V. Tech talent agencies all the above and then my other co founder has been in venture capital for about 10 years and somehow I convinced them to leave their very lucrative jobs after a year of working on this the beginning of this year to come on. This really crazy ride. Found wonderful creatives and technologists who you know and I think with women in particular sometimes we get so overlooked in our day to day jobs that I was looking for people who honestly hated their jobs but had a spark of like passion for whatever their expertise was. So pulling folks together. It was like I mentioned before we started fundraising unfortunately when the pandemic happened so largely for the first couple of months it was bootstrapped because we wanted to start our product development and start working with labs and formulating, luckily with relationships and a really incredible consultant.
00:22:02 We were able to do that work with formulate and manufacturer for very, very little money. But ultimately by uh, November 2020, when we actually launched, we only launched With having raised $300,000, which I think is pretty little compared to the fact that it is a capital intensive business. But that's a testament to folks who are working to different jobs or for free or for, you know, really reduced freelance rates to make this happen. So it's a huge shout out for this incredible team. That's that's back to this. Yeah, wow, that's awesome. When you say you like your first step was the legal side of things, like, how much does it cost to do the trademarking stuff like that side of it, That beginning step, like, what are people looking at their Yes. So I think personally, I think that the legal world is built to be really difficult so that it kind of weeds out. Like if you're actually willing to really put the hard work in when trademarking, I had an original name that I had like kept close to myself for such a long time because I was really unsure like, do I want to do this or not.
00:23:16 But when I felt that spark of like, okay, let's do this. By the time I went to go trademark there's a database that you look at. Someone had put in the trademark a month before it was november. I remember because I was devastated a month before I actually started the application. And so I think the first step is like the naming part is really critical. Looking up the trademark database for us. It's the U. S. Patent trademark and patent office. There's a huge database to see if anyone's used it because if anyone's used it in the particular area you want to you're screwed. No like no go. So that's what happened to me. And so self made is actually the third name that I came up with. And the I think the second patent or not patent trademark application I put in. So it costs about $250 if you want to do it yourself. I had tried it and I had no freaking clue what I was doing and so I didn't get my second name by the time that I found a name that I could actually work with, I had already started working with a lawyer who was just kind of helping to answer questions you know very relationship based.
00:24:26 And so I think when I found the name, what ended up happening is that that lawyer started doing all the work right? So looking at the database but also looking not just at like I. P in terms of the database but who else is using self made? Do we want to be associated or potentially mistaken for another brand who's using self made and maybe they're doing something that's like gross or not even close to what we're doing. So looking at that and so being able to have all the information and around us to actually make a decision and then put it in. The investment was really critical I think for her is probably maybe $1800. And then on top of that the trademark application and then when you actually file you have to pay a certain amount of money for every class that you want to do. So for instance. Yeah so we're like Class three is cosmetics. Class 41 might be like educational stuff because we have education piece or something like that.
00:25:33 And so for every class you have to pay an extra. I forget how much money but its additional on top incremental on top of that. And so by the end of it you've paid all this money and then it's a journey right? So you put the application in, the officer has to take a look at it and actually confirm that you're not infringing on anyone else's copyright. So that takes a length of time. And then they have to open up for public dispute or something like that. So if somebody else has something they could say no no no we had this first we you know whatever and to actually dispute it, luckily no issues there, thank God. And then you can actually, once you have the product in hand, file that for file and use so sometimes could take over, I mean it's been over a year and that, that I think was really great investment on our part to go to work with someone who actually knew what they're doing because while it does seem easy, you're also building a business. So the last thing you want to do is worry about if your trademark is going through or not, and having someone who's paid to oversee that, essentially babysit, that was really key because that was the first part like that and getting a domain name, you know, like figuring out what your real estate is.
00:26:47 And I also feel like that step in particular is actually a really important step to truly committing yourself because a domain, maybe you can buy a domain for 9 99 right? You can get like any kind of, you know, whip it up so there's a little bit of money there, but like its, you know, you're happy to lose it. Whereas if you're going to go down this path of trademarking something and actually investing thousands of dollars, which especially if you're bootstrapping and using your own personal savings, it's a lot of money. And so it really cement the project and the brand and gets you like on board kind of thing. So I think it's a really interesting step that is kind of key in that beginning to be like, I'm committing to this, I am going to do this, this has got to work. Absolutely. And I think also it's signals. So then we ended up taking an angel investors and we've been speaking to for our seed round later, we've been speaking to more institutional venture capital. And part of the questions is around trademarking and what's your iP, like, what do you actually own?
00:27:50 So it's really incredible, really important for small businesses to not overlook that piece because so much of it is brand recognition and how much brand equity you're building. If you build brand equity and you don't trademark and someone else potentially has built a brand maybe four or five years beforehand, but hasn't built necessarily the same or the momentum, they could easily say we've been doing this for five years. Here's all the proof their infringe, like we have, I don't like this domain. So I think it's really important from a sense of security to move forward for yourself as a business owner to have that, um, in your belt. And also be able to speak to, it is really important for, you know, future investors and all that good stuff. This is the saying caveat, you should speak to a lawyer and all I'm saying is from my own experience, of course, of course, yeah, I totally get it. It's interesting because I'm about to go through the same process, both with female startup club and the new e commerce venture that we were talking about before.
00:28:55 And it's like female startup club. The problem that I've got is I do have public recognition. You know, the podcast is a popular podcast. We own the U. R. L. And all this kind of stuff. But um, it is vague, right? It's like not, it's a, it's a really, what's the word they use, It's not distinctive like anyone can be using these terms together. So I had to go down the route. There's no chance I could do it myself basically when we were looking at the different classes that we could do. And so it is this hurdle that I'm about to embark on, which is, You know, it's a big one. I really hope we get it, but we'll see. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Yes, thank you. Do you? Hey, it's doing here. I'm just popping in to bring you a quick message in every episode of the FSC show. You'll hear women who were just like you trying to figure it all out and hustled to grow their business and I would know a lot of you might be sitting there asking yourself, but how do I actually scale my revenue and get to that next level from where I am now.
00:30:10 You also know that so many of the entrepreneurs I speak to have mentioned facebook and instagram ads as a crucial part of their marketing mix from today onwards. I'm really excited to be able to offer our fsc small business owners and entrepreneurs and no strings attached, our long chat with leading performance marketing agency amplifier, Who you might also remember from our D. I. Y. course, full disclosure amplifier is my husband's business. And what's really important to know is that I've been able to witness first hand the transformation of so many businesses going from as low as $10,000 a month. All the way to $300,000 a month and in some cases upwards to seven figures. So if you're listening in and you feel like you're ready to take your business to the next level, jump on a no strings attached call with amplifier where you can ask all the questions you have about performance, marketing and whether it's the right time for you and your business to get started. Go to female startup club dot com forward slash ads.
00:31:14 That's female startup club dot com forward slash A. D. S. And booking a call today. Something I always think about when I'm talking to founders who are further along in the journey than I am, no matter what the industry is, is like, what's absolutely critical in the beginning that you only know now with the beauty of hindsight. So trademark aside, what are those kind of things for the beauty industry that founders need to know consumer. I think well the question, I think the question, what are you answering for the consumer is really, really critical depending what business it is. The question is completely different. And that question is the foundation for how you develop, how you market, how you message and how you connect with your consumer. For instance, when I was at Mac cosmetics, the question was yes for the consumer, but how do we, it's either like filling a portfolio gap. What are the trends and innovations that we need to create product for that? Our makeup artists and consumers are using poor self made it is what are the emotional needs of our consumer?
00:32:24 How do we create a product to fit that emotional need? Very different questions. So, knowing that and then also we have done an incredible amount of research and data. We have a junior advisory board of eight women. We started with eight women in our target audience. And instead of doing a survey to 300 women, we wanted to have really intimate relationships with these folks and know who they are so that we understand how the context of how they're influencing the brand. So we've run messaging packaging. We've even developed product with them. We've done data with them around these very particular emotional pieces which is like attachment styles, resilience and emotional intimacy or just physical intimacy as well. So that was really, really critical to know your consumer and come up with this personas of who your consumer is, nowhere, they're shopping, how they think about it, Their behaviors. There's a psychology to all of it. I think that was a part that I was like, I intuitively know my consumer based on conversations, but to see data is really, really, really important to influence your decisions.
00:33:36 I will also copy it and say that it's a science and an art, right? So being able to really be able to make that those That mix known and act upon that is really critical. But we've done surveys, we now have a junior advisory board of 20 for women in our target demographic. And then we've done round tables with them including mental health professionals and it's been really interesting to see the data that comes back like how people see brands, how people, you know, habitual eyes product even down to the fact that we're like I said, we're coming out the intimacy product and we did a survey about like what, what do you want this product to accomplish? What key benefits or issues folks in our demographic want to help with achieving an orgasm but are less want less help achieving pleasure, which is so interesting because from a physiological and psychological standpoint, those two things an orgasm and pleasure are completely connected.
00:34:40 But what we were able to do by looking at the data and speaking with our mental health experts about this data is understand that we are such an achievement and accomplishment based society, an orgasm is the ultimate accomplishment. Also as women, we are not taught to enjoy pleasure. Pleasure is something that is you know even is for your partner and so for us it's about how do we talk to women about owning our own pleasure, being in control of that and that orgasm is not the only thing, right? And so it has complete, you know, it completely influences how we talk to our consumer because each consumer subset is so different. And I think that data portion is something I kind of overlooked again because I'm an intuition based person, but luckily we brought on a UX researcher who is like data, data data and so being able to really have all the points in front of you to make decisions especially early on is really critical Because at the beginning you could take 50 steps in any direction.
00:35:45 But part of it is narrowing down which steps and what direction you're going to and having all that information helps you take those first couple steps totally. And I think as well, like even if you are like you probably like me to more of an intuition lead kind of thing. Having the data actually proves out your theories and proves that your assumptions, so you're not trying to convince someone that you just know because you just know you know someone because you knew it and then you proved it with that data and I think that's really important, especially if you're going to be going out and pitching to, you know, friends, family or to institutional funding, like to get any of those things like you do need to have the data to back it up. What about on the flip side of that question, what about the pitfalls now that you have the hindsight to look back on, what are the kinds of things that you shouldn't waste time or money on or what are the kind of things that you could tell other founders in the beauty industry, you know, watch out for this because I've experienced it and now I know that's a really great question because I don't even know if I've had the time to really reflect on those pieces, but I do think as women and then as if you were planning on being a entrepreneur, there's part of you that's probably very type a right perfectionist, I think some of the pitfalls that I've encountered, not just with myself but with my team is this idea of perfectionism, it has to be absolutely perfect before it goes out actually, no, it has to go out and you can iterate along the way.
00:37:19 I think so much of our paralysis comes from like, like spinning in circles around 11 or two things and talking ourselves around in circles when part of it is like put it out and see how people react and then quickly change it. You know, perfectionism is a way to like psychologically uh stave off rejection or failure, but really perfectionism is your worst enemy. It keeps you from moving forward and it for me kept me from moving forward for a long time for even just doing my own business and the moment that I realized I'm doing this for myself and everyone who needs this, I'm not doing this for approval, I'm not doing this for you know accolade, I'm doing this because I want to solve a problem that was number one, but perfectionism pops up in many different ways. For instance are creatives you were mentioning about the branding and all that stuff. I think it's incredible are creatives can sit there literally for hours moving a little tiny icon left or right trying to figure out where to put it and I'm like time's of the essence just put it, just put it somewhere, you know what I mean, just put it somewhere, We can always move it later.
00:38:33 And I think that's been one incredible lesson for us as a team is that there is no end, this is a journey, right, This is not to a static place and we are smart enough that we can always pivot no matter what comes our way. So I think that's the pitfall is the moment that you are paralyzed if it's perfectionism, you really have to have a pep talk with yourself or ask someone to give yourself a pep talk because it's incredibly, incredibly important to move past that obstacle or you will not get anywhere totally. I think like I operate under done is better than perfect and I think that is just so key in building a business. It's like just do it. Let's just move quickly and like use this time to keep doing other stuff and keep that ball moving. Yes. All right. I want to move on to marketing. I want to talk about the launch. How did the launch go? What were you doing to generate that early buzz and awareness? I remember before we started recording you were saying that you've got some really cool retailers and some really cool stockers.
00:39:37 So obviously to get to that point of being interesting to those buyers and those retailers, there must have been some really cool stuff going on as I imagine your brain is obviously amazing. But yeah, I would love to talk about the launch plan and how you were generating buzz in the beginning. Yes, complicated question. Always. I think when we started because of the pandemic, we weren't able to raise all the money up front so that I could bring on people so largely it was me By myself and a bunch of part time people. So the way you know we use like traditional digital ads, Facebook Instagram, all that stuff and actually did a wait list. We've got over 3000 people in our wait list. It's so incredibly important to own your list. If you on Instagram your followers, those are not your followers. Those are people on instagram that are following you. But if you own your mailing list that is your own property and those are your people. So a gaining those folks I think is really important is that public can people see no, but those are the people that you can engage with and that that have actually reached out to you and want to follow that.
00:40:44 So I think that's really important opted in, they've opted in as much as you know, they have the choice to opt out. That's the next part. How do you continue to keep them engaged? I think is a question that we're continually trying to figure out for a consumer. So the next part is we actually use an outside media agency to help us with our ads and we realized, you know, after paying attention, what that did help us do is understand who's buying, you know, for us, we are largely pointed at young millennials and gen z. But what we saw were actually millennials buying stuff. So that was really interesting data point for us. We also realize we are not getting the return that we want because consumers now just flick past ads on their social media. So we didn't stop those ads until probably end of March and we totally redirected all of our efforts back to affiliate influencers gifting and now moving into more of like paid influencers because there's a whole societal thing happening in the US, which is you have to pay brown and black folks, you can no longer take people's work and clean up for free when you're making a profit off of that, which is done.
00:41:56 But at the same time, a very interesting way that the social media influencer world was already working and doing so for us, once we did that were actually able to increase our monthly revenue run rate by three times. So again, it's really understanding. Yeah, I mean we're talking small numbers at, at this moment because it's like a soft launch and like we've done product after product rather than like here's a whole suite of products, right? That was largely because we know we need to educate the consumer on the way that we're doing this very differently. What's cool is because we're doing it in a different way and it's also so inherent to how we use product, emotions already are inherent to how we go about our day that gen z gets it off the bat, which is really cool. So from that marketing aspect we've completely, we may do ads again in the future, but we know that building our community, which you know, because you're doing it is so critically important. The other thing in terms of retailers and distribution, we did. I mean it's painfully expensive to do creative. I saw that you did a rebrand on your website for us, you know, production creative, we have all in house, we could have easily gone to a creative agency and just say do this.
00:43:09 But so much of this is from the heart and bringing people's vision of how they want to bring emotional well being and mental health to folks is really critical. So finding those wonderful people like our creative, we have co creative directors, one is from the music label industry and saw how it was just so mail run that she was like, screw this shit, I'm going to go do my own thing. And she did a female run female label. I scooped her up because her eyes incredible. Has she done beauty before? New Pope, but she was incredible. Or other other co creative director is a micro influencer who we actually brought on his talent for her first photo shoot. She loved the brand so much. She was like, how can I help? And I was like, oh, well, we need a lot of help that come on by. And so I think investing in people who really understand and get the heart of this comes through in the creative and so that creative and the branding and I think the value proposition we're bringing to the table is what made this attractive so that we actually haven't had to do any outbound retailers searching or anything like that folks have come to us.
00:44:15 What that does is gives us a choice on who we want to partner with and when we want to partner with. So that has been really exciting for us about how we think about expanding our online footprint. How do we talk to people that we want to talk to, which is that gen z folks and doing that in a way that doesn't come out of feeling like, oh my gosh, we have to do x. We have to do why because in those moments of like frenetic nous, like I have to do this to be like that other brand, that's where mistakes happen. Right? So keeping the eye on the prize, I think of like how you want to grow this brand or your brand and having that plan stick to your plan. You know, I mean there's always going to be other things, other brands coming up, you know, down the path that make you like look the other way and shaking shiny things in front of your face. But I think staying intentional to how you plan that your brand is really, really important and then figure out that data in order to pivot for instance, the digital adds to the influencer piece And for you, what is the prize? Like where's where's your eyes set for, save the next 12 months or what, what are some of the exciting things that are upcoming for you that you can shout about.
00:45:22 Yeah, so we've started our instagram, live in peace where we're really a microphone for other folks stories, I think that's a pillar to this is that, you know, part of being a community isn't just listen to me talk at people. In fact this brand isn't even about me, it's about all of us and so really using it as a microphone for other folks to share their own stories and lived experiences with their own emotional wellbeing and beauty is really critical, the digital tool. We have a beta community that I'm starting to invite everybody to join as much as possible because another part of this brain is that we're building it with you, not for you, hence having a junior advisory board, this beta community around our digital tool. Right now, we have the programming curriculum which were piloting kind of like a book club around, which has been incredible to see people's Reaction to it and going through the practices of getting to know yourself whether it's like understanding your own attachment styles, understanding how to tap into your own resilience, it's been really incredible. So I think that's like the major piece for the next 6 to 12 months is growing that community building this out of beta for the common room, so that really the ecosystem is your physical product, your digital products because no one lives just in the physical world and no one lives just in the digital world and those two things together with the community actually really empower healing and that's the ultimate, right?
00:46:45 So that sounds so awesome, Sign me up, I'm keen to be involved however I can be, it sounds amazing what is your go to piece of advice for women who are on the entrepreneurial journey but a bit earlier on the news, So there's like the stat out there that you're an average of your five closest friends. When I decided, oh I think I want to be an entrepreneur, creative entrepreneur, I basically decided I need to get to know as many creatives and as many entrepreneurs as possible and have conversations like these and see you know what makes them tick like where do they get their inspiration? Because part of it is yes, like kind of like taking in what they're saying in terms of advice, but the other part of it is putting yourself in those shoes, seeing yourself as an entrepreneur or as a creative that is important to visualize, visualizing is the number one key step in creating a goal and moving towards that goal. If you can visualize it, you can start moving So I think my piece of advice is whatever you want to be, surround yourself with people who are doing it and that is a great line for me to be able to insert everyone, come and join our network for women in e commerce and surround yourself with people like you and people like me.
00:48:02 Exactly, Exactly. It's powerful when you're not alone. It is, it is, and I think like on a serious note, you know, we were talking about this before as well, it's like entrepreneurship can be lonely, it can be really sucky if you don't have that network inherently built into the people around you, you need to go out there and find people who are going to support you and cheerlead for you and give you advice and be there when things are tough and it is one of the most important things that we hear it come up. I would say almost every episode the importance of network and the community of entrepreneurs you surround yourself with, so thanks for sharing that. Okay, so we are up to the six quick questions part of the episode I asked them at the end of the show to everyone that I speak to, some of which we might have covered and some of which we might not have, but I ask you all the same. So question number one is what's your, why, why do you do what you do impact? I want to be able to make this world a better place and part of that is impact and that could be conversations like this. It could be in the work that I'm doing, it could be in the actions that I have every day, but I think it's impact.
00:49:11 I love that Question. Number two is what do you think has been the number one marketing moment that made the business pop, just launching so much of it continues being an idea at the moment. You turn it outside is the moment that you have to say let go control. But really wonderful things start to happen when you just go love that. Cool Question # three, and I'm super excited to hear this answer from you is where do you hang out to get smarter? What are you reading right now or listening to in podcasts or subscribing to on the Internet that others could benefit from knowing about? That's a really good question. What am I reading? What am I subscribing to? Gosh, honestly, what has helped me the most are conversations, I've had multiple conversations just about vulnerability and hearing people's stories. So I think tapping into vulnerability is actually what inspires me, other people's vulnerability, including myself. And also I think some of the books that have helped me along the way, Bernet Brown's daring greatly have you read it by chance?
00:50:19 I haven't read it, but it's on my list. I love her, great, great, I mean she's America's therapist, but it sounds like she's all over the place now, but great book in a sense that vulnerability is true bravery and when you're becoming an entrepreneur, that's what you're doing, you're being your most vulnerable self and having to let go of the shame and really step into that whole self is really critical. So I think that and then Hidden Brain is a podcast that I listen to a lot. I did it on my road trip across America with my dog for two months. I felt like I was like a ton smarter. It explores every facet of human behavior. They invite behavioral economists to it. Why we buy why we do this. Something that for some reason I've taken away is that most people regret in action more than they do taking action. So if you ever have a moment where you're like, should I do this or should I step back most of time, you'll regret not doing something than actually doing something. So that's something that I definitely carry with me.
00:51:21 I haven't heard that one before. I'm going to download a couple of episodes and check it out and I'll link it in the show notes for anyone who wants to have a listen as well. Question number four is how do you win the day? What are your AM or PM rituals that keep you feeling happy and successful and motivated. Uh, something that I always do every single morning is similar in bed. So much of life is like alarm clock goes off, you race out of bed, you get ready really quickly and you go. But the first moments of the day is the tone that you set for the rest of the day. So simmering in bed, getting into my body. How do I feel visualizing my day is really incredibly important to part of myself care in order to do what is a lot of work as an entrepreneur and a lot of talking to people and convincing them to hopefully invest in the business. So I think that's one of been one of the most critical things and then also taking my dog on a walk, there's so much to be said about leaving the screen, getting into nature, looking at birds, trees, the sky, all of the above.
00:52:26 So I'm with you. I'm so with you on both of those things, question number five is if you were given $1000 of no strings attached money, where would you spend it in the business? Probably a paying someone who's been working for free for a long time over a year, it's, you know, nominal. But I think again, understanding what drives and motivates the people that I work with is really key. We did like a round robin icebreaker of like what do you consider a reward? What would be a nice reward? Cash. It's like the number one thing that came up and so knowing and like recognizing someone's value that they're bringing to the table doesn't always have to look like cash. Obviously it's really nice, but I think in the ways that you can recognize the value that people bring to the table, especially as they're bringing your idea to fruition is really, really critical. I just know now that people love cash ever since then Lawson dollars lives in Dallas And question # six, last question is how do you deal with failure?
00:53:29 What's your mindset and approach when things don't go to plan, which they inevitably won't? Oh my gosh so much. It's interesting at points. Yes. That points for sure. It's interesting the word failure in itself. Something that we talk about with some more mental health experts is instead of using failure. Reframing it as falling because following you can always get back from, from and so I think that's really important to know that this journey is full of stumbles. It's full of ups and downs and recognizing and accepting that is really critical to actually moving forward. So that, and then I also think number two is that you have a choice, you have a choice of getting back up and pivoting and choosing that is part of being an entrepreneur and ceo failure isn't an option at this point. And if it were, that means you manifest it and that's not something I want to manifest. Amazing. Thank you so much for taking the time to come on female startup club and share all your incredible insights and valuable learnings and lessons. I'm so grateful to have met you and I love this.
00:54:33 This is really fun. Yeah, your questions are so amazing And obviously it's because you're doing it right. You are yourself a founder and entrepreneur. I think it's really critical to have these conversations and dig super deep because there is no one way to do anything and as women, I felt like there wasn't a path laid out before me. So even figure out what the next steps were was all trial and error and so conversations like these are so, so, so helpful. Oh, thank you so much. Yeah, thank you.