Before I became a skincare expert and launched my brand, StackedSkincare, I started my career in Silicon Valley where I worked as a sales and marketing executive for companies like Microsoft and DoubleClick. Working for those tech firms, I feel like I got my MBA in real world knowledge; it taught me so many business skills that I would have never learned without that experience.
In Silicon Valley, my daily work couldn’t have been farther from the world of facials and serums, but in 2009, I followed my passion and left the tech world to start my own skincare business. The transition from working for multinational corporations to nurturing my own small business wasn’t always easy, but my 15 years of experience in tech marketing prepared me well for what was ahead. Here’s some simple advice for others looking to make the switch to consumer goods.
Learn the Trade
By the time I started my business, I’d spent years in a personal battle with eczema, but my actual skincare education was nil. I knew if I wanted to build a brand, it couldn’t just be based on my marketing experience—it had to be built on expertise that I didn’t yet have. So, I signed up for aesthetician school. This was an incredibly important step, and one that I don’t think should be missed if you’re making a switch to a new industry. You have to understand what you don’t know, and start by making efforts to fill that knowledge gap. Once I had the knowledge I needed, I was able to leverage that to create a brand that empowers customers to learn about their skin. You can read more about how my company encourages customers to become their own experts here [link to This Skincare Founder Is Empowering Customers to Be Their Own Experts].
Finished is Better Than Perfect
When you’re used to working for a big tech company where you’re an expert in your field, it can be hard to teach yourself to let go of perfectionism. A big lesson for me was that getting something done is better than spending loads of time making it perfect. Every day I did something to move the business forward. Whether it was working on the website or studying skincare, I would try to push something forward and not get too overwhelmed by my inclination towards perfectionism.
Ignore the “Shoulds” and Focus on Progress
Procrastinators don’t make good entrepreneurs, and a lot of the “must-have” advice for starting a small business is candy for procrastinators. For example, I never wrote a business plan. Gasp, I know! But I knew I wasn’t going to solicit money from investors, so I didn’t waste the time. I just started doing. I did every job—copywriter, advertiser, product developer, website engineer, accountant—until I couldn’t do it anymore. Then I did it a little bit more. When I had really reached a wall, I finally hired someone. This bootstrapping method meant that I was constantly making progress and moving forward. Case in point: I only decided to get a warehouse once I was shipping about 800-1000 orders out of my home every month and my husband put his foot down. This DIY approach may mean it takes longer for you to see meaningful growth, but you’re in total control the entire time. Interested in doing it yourself? Check out some of my advice for self-funding your business [link to How I Self-Funded My Beauty Business].
Learn to Pivot
Being too rigid early on robs you of the ability to pivot. As you start your brand, things will become clearer. Customers will provide you with new insights, your industry might change, or you may stumble across a new opportunity. If you come from a big company, pivoting might not be in your wheelhouse, but it’s one of the big edges that small businesses have over larger companies and is vital to entrepreneurial success.
Leverage Your Tech Instincts
I knew right away that I wanted to create a direct-to-consumer model because I understood the value of building your own user base from my days in tech. At the time of my launch, this was still a pretty rare business model in beauty—most successful companies were partnering with large retailers that take an immense cut of your margin and build their own brand on the back of your product. Now, years later, direct-to-consumer beauty companies are garnering enormous interest from investors because the model is more profitable, more valuable, and less volatile. Working in tech gives you an interest and an instinct for what’s next. Bringing that spirit to consumer products gives you an edge in the marketplace.
Build Your Own Team
Working at a large tech firm, you have the benefit of huge marketing budgets and the attention of some of the best agencies in the world. When I first started my business and was looking for help, I thought partnering with agencies was the logical next step. But as I grew, I found that I actually saw amazing results from partnering with individual consultants and freelancers who are experts in their field. Because I invested in one-on-one relationships, my partners became loyal to me and my brand. The best part about building this kind of symbiotic relationship is that when your contractors lift you up, they lift themselves up too.
Even as the going sometimes got tough as I was building my business, I knew I could rely on myself as a self-driven and motivated person. Trust your instincts, admit your deficits, and seek help when you need it. By moving forward each day, you can slowly build something with lasting influence.