December 2

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Creating a Teenage Skincare Line with Stephanie Capuano

By Mimi MacLean

December 2, 2021


Stephanie Capuano, Founder of 31st State

Stephanie Capuano, Founder of 31st State

Stephanie Capuano saw a gap in the skincare market for products that resonate with teenage boys. She searched on and offline and couldn’t find options let alone ones that weren’t filled with unnecessary and harsh chemicals so she created 31st State. The skincare line is named after her home state and tailored for Gen Z teenage boys in an international company catering to the teen male community. Her hope is to pave a path for young men to be educated and empowered by self-care and skin health.⁠

“When you have that naivete in a new sector and a new role, your mindset is so open and you have no shame if it fails.” – Stephanie

Find Stephanie and 31st State:

LISTEN TO THE FULL EPISODE HERE

Episode Contents

There’s No Teenage Skincare Line for Boys – Why?

teenage boy using teenage skincare line

Mimi:
Welcome back to the badass CEO. This is Mimi MacLean, and today we have on Stephanie Capoano, and she is the founder of 31st State, which is a teen skincare line. To get your top 10 tips every entrepreneur should know, go to the badass ceo.com/tips. Stephanie, thank you so much for coming on today. I really appreciate it. Thank you for calling in from London. So, we have the time change, but I appreciate it. And I would love to start off by talking about 31st State, your men’s careline and boys’ careline. And how you decided to name it 31st State.

Stephanie:
Sure thing. Well, first of all, thank you. I am American, but I live in London. So, that’s where I’m calling in from. Thank you for having me, Mimi. I launched 31st State about three and a half years ago, and it’s a range of natural vegan skin care and body care for teenage boys and young men. I thought of it because I have teenage boys myself, and they were just entering those sort of early stages of adolescents, where they started breaking out and started having that sort of odor that only a 13 year old boy can have. And coming from California, where clean living has always been a way of life and a more natural way of doing things. It’s always been a way of life. I was searching for natural options for them, and I couldn’t find anything on the market, in the clean beauty space that was really well made with premium natural ingredients.

Stephanie:
But also super importantly, for teenage boys and members of gen Z, that’s very stylish and aspirational, and designed in a way that looked really cool with all their stuff, and didn’t look like their moms or their dads or their little sisters’ stuff. So, that was sort of the Genesis of the idea, but the name really came from my upbringing in California. And I worked with a design agency and a naming agency in London, because that’s where we were living at the time when I launched the brand. And we worked really hard to come up with a name that sort of embodied what I was trying to bottle. And ultimately that was this sort of effortless California clean vibe that I grew up with in California, where nutrition, and health, and more natural products, and environmental consciousness, and technology was sort of always at the forefront, and always on the cutting edge. And so, we wanted to bottle that. And we’re thrilled because we think we’ve outdone that. I’ll have to send you some products so you can smell it. Smells like California.

Mimi:
Oh, it does. I mean, it’s amazing because you’re right. I mean, there was safe beauty products, but not many for teen boys or even men for that matter. And so, seeing that, but your background was not in beauty, right? You said it was in design and branding. So, how did you just say, ” Okay, I’m going to start this brand.” Where did you even start?

Stephanie:
You are right. I had absolutely no idea how the beauty industry worked. But so, my background was that I did work for 15 years in the pharmaceutical industry on the more marketing and PR side of it, launching new drugs, bringing things to market, a breast cancer drug, an AIDS drug. And it was very technical, medical writing and medical launches. And I really loved that, but it was not sustainable with raising three kids. So, I kind of evolved in, I took some time off and then ultimately started working for a fashion designer, and then launched a luxury travel company, and got to this because it came from a real need. As I mentioned, my boys needed it. And there was really nothing in the “clean beauty space” that was developed just for teenage boys. As you know, there were things for babies, lots for women, lots for toddlers, certainly for girls, but nothing that really was made specifically for guys.

Stephanie:
I had no idea how to make it. So, I went to Walgreens, I went to CVS, in London I went to Boots, and I went and bought every single product that was marketed to a teenage boy. And I tried everything on my boys, and the things that they would maybe use were filled with chemicals. The things that I wanted them to use that were more natural, they would not use because it smelled like lavender or grass, or was designed in a way that just did not look cool. They don’t want something with pictures of lavender fields next to all their cool sneakers, and their Nike, and their Adidas, and their beats headphones. And this generation really cares about their image. They really craft their image online and in person. So, I was really struck by that.

Stephanie:
So, I went to a high-end pharmacy called Space NK, which we have in the UK and the US now, and asked the woman helping me if she could see adjust some stuff for my 14 year old son. And she put in front of me, pots of lotions and potions that were £250, so $300 worth of creams that she suggested for a 14 year old. So, I bought them and we tried them, and they worked on his skin and they were amazing. And within a couple of weeks, his skin looked amazing, and we were using it more in moderation because they were formulated for women. So, he didn’t need that strength, but I just started looking at labels, and where things were made, and who were the manufacturers. And I kept coming back to this cosmetic scientist basically. A lot of these brands were using this one particular cosmetic scientist.

Stephanie:
And so, I reached out to her, and talked to her about this. And she thought it was a great idea, and she’d love to work on it. And so, we formulated a really tight edit of at the time seven products that we thought was the most any boy would use. Now, we’ve sort of whittled it down to five basics that we know they will use. They don’t need a complicated morning lineup. They won’t use it. We know that. So, our strategy has been to make really great basics, super well, that are replenishable, rather than a very extensive product lineup that they won’t use. So anyway, a long story short to say, I really did a lot of research to find this chemist. And through her, we found a manufacturer that specializes in premium natural products. And, yeah, we developed it here in the UK because I happened to be based here at the time.

Stephanie:
And now we import around the world. So.

Filling the Gap In the Natural Skincare Market

skincare swab
Photographer: Jocelyn Morales | Source: Unsplash

Mimi:
So, you started selling out of the UK or did you start selling at a US first or both?

Stephanie:
Yes. So, I wanted to launch everywhere immediately. I was like, “Let’s just go for this. I’m from California, anything’s possible.” So, my strategy in my head was, I’m going to launch everywhere and we’re going to nail this, and there are millions of teenagers around the world with parents who are starting to make healthier choices for their families, from their cleaning products, for the kitchen and the bathroom, to their laundry care, to their lawn care, to their own beauty. People making the purchases in the households are starting to make healthier purchases. I know you know this from your various ventures. So, I thought everyone in the world would buy it. But a strategist that was help me said, “Absolutely not. We are starting with one market, and we’re going to nail it. And then you can grow.”

Stephanie:
If we know there’s a viable product and it’s a viable company. So, we launched in the UK and we had this whole idea that, or I did rather, that this was going to be like the Dollar Shave Club of teenage skin care, because Dollar Shave Club had just sold Unilever for a billion dollars cash. So, I had this idea that I was going to get all these boys on subscription, and grow like crazy, and sell it in 10 years to Unilever. And anyway, we quickly realized that getting those customers is really hard.

Mimi:
So hard. It’s so much harder than you think.

Stephanie:
Oh my God. Nobody prepares you for that. You think I have this brilliant idea, but your word of mouth only goes so far. And so, we were sort of trucking along for a few months, and literally growing it through word of mouth, and slowly starting our digital ads and doing some events, some live events, selling products directly, or just marketing to people. And we got a call about four months in, from ASOS, which is a global fashion online retailer. And they had discovered us because their customer base is primarily gen Z now. And it’s a customer base that is really focused on veganism, sustainability, company and responsibility. And so, they came across us, which is a great compliment and said they wanted to carry us, because they can’t find a lot of vegan products for this general. So, we went on shelf with them, not planning to go into retail so soon, but that just sort of snowballed, and other retailers started discovering us. So, here I thought we’d have this direct consumer business.

Stephanie:
And within a year, half of our business was wholesale, and half was DTC.

Mimi:
And were your margins okay for that? Did you have prepared that?

Stephanie:
It was. Thank God because here’s one thing I did that I really recommend throwing money at. From the get go, I knew I did not know what I was doing. And I spoke with a friend of mine who is a big marketeer in the food and drink industry. And she said, ” Before you do one thing, please, do some market research. Spend some money of your own, and do some focus groups with moms and sons and find out if this is a good idea in your mind, and amongst your friends or a broader consumer base.” So, we spent some money there and it did fortunately prove what we were hoping, which was that women who are generally the purchasers for their house hold, are in fact looking for healthier options and that they would pay a certain amount more, if it was sort of natural or environmentally friendly or, all these terms that we’re now accustomed to.

Stephanie:
So, that was the first thing I spent my own money on, just to make sure anything further I spent made sense. And then the second thing she said was to hire a strategist who has experience in the beauty sector. So, we work with an advisor on our pricing, very diligently. And he wisely said to us, ” You have these dreams of being this really successful DTC brand. But the reality is, it’s the hard work, it’s slow going. People think in this digital world, it’s a fast buck, but it’s not, and your customer acquisition cost is going to be so high. You really should price yourself for the potentiality that you’ll be in retail.”

Stephanie:
So, we were really well advised there. And looking back at the time, I remember paying him thinking, “Oh my God, this is so much money to pay this guy on retainer.” And it was all our own money at the time. And it was very stressful. But I look back and those are some of these nuggets that were really, really important to us and built a really good foundation for the brand. So, that’s a long way of saying that our pricing structure was such that we could go into retail and still be okay.

Why Teenage Skincare is Important

teenage skincare products

Mimi:
So, you started selling out of the UK or did you start selling at a US first or both?

Stephanie:
Yes. So, I wanted to launch everywhere immediately. I was like, “Let’s just go for this. I’m from California, anything’s possible.” So, my strategy in my head was, I’m going to launch everywhere and we’re going to nail this, and there are millions of teenagers around the world with parents who are starting to make healthier choices for their families, from their cleaning products, for the kitchen and the bathroom, to their laundry care, to their lawn care, to their own beauty. People making the purchases in the households are starting to make healthier purchases. I know you know this from your various ventures. So, I thought everyone in the world would buy it. But a strategist that was help me said, “Absolutely not. We are starting with one market, and we’re going to nail it. And then you can grow.”

Stephanie:
If we know there’s a viable product and it’s a viable company. So, we launched in the UK and we had this whole idea that, or I did rather, that this was going to be like the Dollar Shave Club of teenage skin care, because Dollar Shave Club had just sold Unilever for a billion dollars cash. So, I had this idea that I was going to get all these boys on subscription, and grow like crazy, and sell it in 10 years to Unilever. And anyway, we quickly realized that getting those customers is really hard.

Mimi:
So hard. It’s so much harder than you think.

Stephanie:
Oh my God. Nobody prepares you for that. You think I have this brilliant idea, but your word of mouth only goes so far. And so, we were sort of trucking along for a few months, and literally growing it through word of mouth, and slowly starting our digital ads and doing some events, some live events, selling products directly, or just marketing to people. And we got a call about four months in, from ASOS, which is a global fashion online retailer. And they had discovered us because their customer base is primarily gen Z now. And it’s a customer base that is really focused on veganism, sustainability, company and responsibility. And so, they came across us, which is a great compliment and said they wanted to carry us, because they can’t find a lot of vegan products for this general. So, we went on shelf with them, not planning to go into retail so soon, but that just sort of snowballed, and other retailers started discovering us. So, here I thought we’d have this direct consumer business.

Stephanie:
And within a year, half of our business was wholesale, and half was DTC.

Mimi:
And were your margins okay for that? Did you have prepared that?

Stephanie:
It was. Thank God because here’s one thing I did that I really recommend throwing money at. From the get go, I knew I did not know what I was doing. And I spoke with a friend of mine who is a big marketeer in the food and drink industry. And she said, ” Before you do one thing, please, do some market research. Spend some money of your own, and do some focus groups with moms and sons and find out if this is a good idea in your mind, and amongst your friends or a broader consumer base.” So, we spent some money there and it did fortunately prove what we were hoping, which was that women who are generally the purchasers for their house hold, are in fact looking for healthier options and that they would pay a certain amount more, if it was sort of natural or environmentally friendly or, all these terms that we’re now accustomed to.

Stephanie:
So, that was the first thing I spent my own money on, just to make sure anything further I spent made sense. And then the second thing she said was to hire a strategist who has experience in the beauty sector. So, we work with an advisor on our pricing, very diligently. And he wisely said to us, ” You have these dreams of being this really successful DTC brand. But the reality is, it’s the hard work, it’s slow going. People think in this digital world, it’s a fast buck, but it’s not, and your customer acquisition cost is going to be so high. You really should price yourself for the potentiality that you’ll be in retail.”

Stephanie:
So, we were really well advised there. And looking back at the time, I remember paying him thinking, “Oh my God, this is so much money to pay this guy on retainer.” And it was all our own money at the time. And it was very stressful. But I look back and those are some of these nuggets that were really, really important to us and built a really good foundation for the brand. So, that’s a long way of saying that our pricing structure was such that we could go into retail and still be okay.

Reaching Teenage Boys And Educating About Skincare and Self Care

Mimi:
That’s great. So, ultimately you do have a pretty good platform online now, and you’ve created a community among gen Zs. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Stephanie:
Sure thing. So, well, it’s an interesting thing because one of the things this gentleman told me, this strategist that we’d hired is, he said, ” Listen, it’s a brilliant idea. And there’s definitely a white space there, but you’re going to have a really hard time with marketing because you have this dual audience. You have a boy who’s going to be your end user or a young man. And then you have his mother that’s probably going to be the purchaser. And those are very different messages. Those are very different images. It’s very different way of communicating.” And he’s right. It has been our greatest challenge. In our first year, we really tried hard to be super relevant for the gen Z guy, and the agency I was using for all our content really spoke that language. But it wasn’t converting to sales.

Stephanie:
And so, what we recognized is we really have to talk to moms. They are our purchaser. So, we’ve always tried to keep this image that we’re a super relevant brand, that these guys can identify with. But ultimately because his mother is usually our purchaser, the messages really need to be to her. That’s sort of where we have spent the bulk of our marketing time and energy, was focused on the mom. Was that your original question?

Mimi:
Yeah. But you were telling me one time before this, about how you created this great community where people were giving you contents.

Stephanie:
Oh, yes, yes, yes. Sorry. Yeah. Just stay focused here.

Mimi:
I know there’s so much to cover.

Stephanie:
I know, it’s so exciting. It’s so fun to share. Thank you. So, what has been really interesting to us is that, like I mentioned, marketing to gen Z, they are a community that really shares their life on social media, and they really curate their life to a degree. We learned very quickly that they didn’t want to talk about their grooming habits online. Everyone’s like, “Oh, you got to get an influencer. It’ll go gangbuster for someone to talk about using this deodorant or whatever and.” We don’t have the money to pay Justin Bieber or whoever, but we do have money for microinfluencers, and they just really don’t want to talk about those things. “We’re not selling sneakers, we’re selling acne cream, we’re selling deodorant, we’re selling hair gel.”

Stephanie:
And so, from the get go, this was a brand for gen Z by gen Z. As I said, I did it for my boys. So, from the start, my boys and their friends, they were all a part of the whole development process, from the naming to the formulations, the fragrance, the marketing. These kids have been my interns throughout the years. We probably had a hundred interns in four years. And what was very interesting to us was that when we kind of realized they didn’t want to be outwardly promoting the products, so using the products, is they did want to talk about other things. And we started reaching out to them in a more concrete way during COVID. All the companies were communicating with their customers about, “How are you doing? And we wanted to let you know we’re thinking of you.”

Stephanie:
And the reality is, we had nothing to really say to our customers, but we wanted to know how they felt. So, we reached out to probably 300 customers that we had, or people who had been interns for us, and asked them, “In 400 words, can you share with us how you’re doing?” And the response was amazing. We had about 180 people write in within a week. And we started creating this anthology of gen Z, the Corona diaries. And it’s been really amazing to see how much they shared about their inner life, and what’s going on in their minds, and their bodies, and not so much what they want to share on social media about their grooming habits. And to us, it’s been much more impactful, and it’s this really profound community we’ve created. And now whenever we have projects that we want people to write for, we have ongoing blog projects. When current events pop up, Black Lives Matter, or presidential races, or women’s rights, whatever it is, we reach out to this group and ask them to write for us.

Stephanie:
So, our blog is very rich in content, and it’s allowed us to really be able to say authentically that we are a brand that really cares about and champions our ultimate users. And we’re really proud of that. And it’s been interesting because during COVID, a lot of people put the breaks on digital ads or PR because they were trying to cut costs. And we actually put money into PR in that time, because we had this beautiful anthology of words that these kids from all around the world wrote. And we reached out to some journalists, and we’re able to generate some great press and some cool collaborations with some research companies, who want to tap into our community.

Stephanie:
So, now they’ll call us when they want to do a research project. And media calls us when they want to interview some kids that are members of gen Z. So, it’s been a very rewarding rich project. And as you know, we were just talking about content before we started. All of that content takes so much time. And it doesn’t really always compute to our bottom line in revenues, but I feel very strongly that it’s important that we are true to our word, that we’re championing this generation, that we care very deeply about their wellbeing. So, it’s been a very rewarding part of the business for us.

Mimi:
It creates authenticity and community, right?

Stephanie:
Yeah.

Mimi:
Which helps your brand in the long run. Yep. Is there anything that you look back on for the past three and a half years, you’re like, “Well, I wish I did know this.” I know you gave us some tidbits at the beginning of like, “I’m so glad I did know this.” But is there anything you look back and you’re like, ” Wow. If I’d known now what I knew then, I would’ve done something differently.”

Stephanie:
Yeah. Well, there are a couple things. I mean, one of the big sort of “mistakes” I made, I guess in a very short answer, I will say, listen to your intuition. If you have a about something, it’s probably true, and follow it. Because there were a points where things didn’t feel right. One was with design, and one was with a collaborator. And our first designs we did, and I was about to go to market with them, and pull the trigger on manufacturing. It wasn’t right. And I had this great mentor who was the president of Victoria’s Secret for a long time, big retail person. And I had shared with her about the brand, what we were doing. And when I ultimately showed her the finished product, she said to me, literally the Friday night before I was going to pull the trigger on manufacturing on a Monday, she’s like, ” Steph, this is not what you shared. This was not the vision.”

Stephanie:
She was looking at my packaging, the bottle, the prototype. And she said, “I’m so confused. We talked about this, you talked about like, this was going to be channeling California and in your upbringing there, and this sort of effortless California cool vibe, and I’m not feeling this, looking at this packaging.” So, the next morning I woke up, and I was sick to my stomach because I knew she was right. And I had to call the whole thing off. I knew for months, it just didn’t feel good.

Mimi:
And you just wanted to get done.

Stephanie:
I wanted to get it done. And a lot of people say, ” Just get it out there and fix it later.” But I was about to spend $250,000 on manufacturing products, and I couldn’t make… That was an expensive mistake to make. So, instead I made a $16,000 mistake, and had it all rebranded and redesigned. So, I guess there, my big learning was to follow my intuition. And I think that intuition has also been something that I haven’t always listened to in choosing sort of agency partners or freelancers, where just didn’t feel like the exact right fit, but I kind of kept plugging along. And looking back, I wish I would’ve just been more decisive about those relationships, and followed my intuition.

Why We Need to Stop Perpetuating the Myth of Women Experiencing Imposter Syndrome

Mimi:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). No, it’s true. I don’t know if you know this, but the percentage is 1.7% of women who start out on ventures actually make a million dollars in sales. What would your gut instinct be as to why. What makes somebody reach that and someone doesn’t, as a woman?

Stephanie:
Well, I would say for women of my age, so I’m 50 and I have a lot of female founder friends who are sort of in my demographic, people who have had kids, had big careers, had kids and launched at a slightly later date. I would say it’s time. I think we are so busy that we can’t devote the amount of time it usually takes to have a super successful business. I also think over time your confidence wanes. I think a lot of it is confidence, Mimi. And I was listening to one of your other podcasts where somebody was talking about imposter syndrome. And I had just read this or listened to a podcast with Brene Brown, where she was talking about imposter syndrome, and the girls she was interviewing had written a article called, Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome. It’s one of the most 100 downloaded articles ever on Harvard Business Review.

Stephanie:
Haven’t actually read the article, but I did listen to the podcast. And they were just basically saying that it’s so problematic that this myth is perpetuated, and how it really works against women. And so many women my age, who are entrepreneurs say that they have imposter syndrome. And I do think it’s this self-fulfilling prophecy that might be part of it. Our confidence that wanes over time. That is the only thing I can say, because I think the funding is out there. I mean, you know this better than anyone I know, you’re an angel investor, that there are funds out there. I think a lot of women aren’t asking for it.

Stephanie:
I think that they sort of plot along because their business sort of fits into their lifestyle, but it could probably be taken to another level with access to funding. And I see this in my female founders group. I mean, here in London, that it’s some really cool dynamic women. And we were on a talk the other day with a VC company that was giving us a talk about raising money. And some of these women have been 10 years in the business, and have never raised money because they haven’t known how, or haven’t known how to access it. And so, I’m wondering if maybe there’s this lack of recognition that there is money out there for female founders, and people just aren’t getting their hands on it.

Mimi:
Right. Yeah. I definitely, I think it is harder in general to get money as a female founder. I mean, that’s what the stat show, but now I feel like people are much more aware, and want to do it, but I do agree with you. I mean, I’ve talked to some people on my podcast where I’ll say like, ” Well, why is it taking you 10 years to get to where you are?” And like, “Why didn’t you raise money?” And she’s like, ” Oh, I didn’t know I could. I just kind of kept…” They wanted to kind of keep 100% of their company without going outside. And to that, you did raise money. You didn’t just do it completely on your own funding, correct? I know you said originally, you said you started doing it on your own, but then you did go for funding.

Stephanie:
I did. So, when I launched it, we were spending our own money and it’s pretty expensive to bring a beauty range or grooming range to market. Because you’re not selling a service, you’re selling products, and it’s expensive to formulate, it’s expensive to manufacture, it’s expensive to package and it’s expensive to store, the whole logistics side of it. The storage and distribution is very expensive. So, I spent about two years working on the formulations, and getting it to market. And at that point was when I started realizing to really be able to launch this properly, I’m going to have to raise some money. We have school fees to pay, and a family to run. The kids had to keep going to school. So, we raised a small round of friends and family, $500,000. And there are five investors in all of that. And overall, that’s been a very positive experience. We did have product to show them. So, I know that some people don’t even have proof of concept when they go to raise money. And so, that’s been a really-

Mimi:
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:23:52], we didn’t even see anything. There was nothing.

Stephanie:
Yeah. So, for you was that you were investing in the founder probably.

Mimi:
The founder and the concept, the idea.

Stephanie:
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And that’s what I hear or over and over again. And I’m sure many of the women that listen, or people who listen to this would agree that, the founder is so important in all of that. And I think for me, the people that we approached and some that approached us believed in me, but they also believed in the concept. Fortunately, I actually did have a product to show people so they could really feel it. And some of them who have kids used it with their kids, and were on board very quickly, which is great. So, that was about three and a half years ago. And we haven’t raised money since, but I definitely, as I mentioned, I was on a call with a VC from the other day. Because we’re now at this pivotal point where we want to be a million-dollar brand.

Stephanie:
And so, we really need to, we’re ready to scale, and need to raise money, and starting to look at that and the best options for that. So, what’s nice is, I feel like most of our metrics are there, that we’ve got a really high repeat customer rate. Our new customer acquisition rate is, it’s a little challenging right now in the digital landscape, but it’s still pretty good. And our average order value is high. And so, we feel very confident in where the brand is, but to really scale it properly, we’re going to need to raise some money. And that’s intimidating as a woman. So, I know it’s out there. Just it’s not my background.

It’s All About Networking

Mimi:
I Think it’s, like a hundred to one, or one to 50, the number type people you have to talk to in order to get a yes. And that’s a lot of hours, if you think about it, that you’re not focusing on your business and growing it.

Stephanie:
Yeah. No, absolutely. Right. Absolutely. Right. Which is why I appreciate all this content that’s out there. And specifically on your podcast. The websites is because it’s so great to hear other people’s journeys, and really get an idea. It’s so isolating when you run a business. You’re not surrounded by people that are versed in this every day. So, it’s great to be able to find that content to guide you.

Mimi:
Yeah. You have to also keep, I think as a female entrepreneur, as you’re growing, you kind of also have to keep your cards close to your chest. You can’t show everything, because you’re kind of, not saying fake it till you make it, but you really want to portray something that maybe not, you can’t portray if you’re having a bad day, and the inventory came in wrong, or it’s delayed, or there’s always problems every day, right? So, you can’t kind of show that to the world because it makes it, you don’t want to send a bad signal.

Stephanie:
Oh, completely. Absolutely. And it’s funny because I agree with that whole heartedly, but then part of me also feels like there is humanity out there too. Like I do find, especially amongst female founders that there’s this sort of spirit of generosity and humanity that people get it, that you’re doing your best. And I do feel like there is a degree where you have to fake it till you make it. But at the same time, I’m a human, and I’m very happy to say, “I don’t know how to do X, Y, and Z. And so, I’ve hired people that can do it.” Sometimes you need to throw money at things you don’t know how to do yourself. And I have no problem admitting what I don’t know how to do. So, I think that’s very important, is having the humility to know that you don’t have the answers, and that you can’t do it all, so.

Mimi:
Right. No, it’s true. Now your hiring is, you make it sound so easy because you sounds like you found some fabulous people, but I think that’s one of the hardest part for people is, hiring, deciding if it’s part-time, full-time, outsourcing part of it. But then also finding those people is really hard. Is there a resource, is it just friends and kind of word of mouth that you found your good people?

Stephanie:
Yes. It’s been mainly word of mouth. And I can’t believe I’ve made it sound easy because to me, when people ask me what has been the hardest part of the journey, I would say that is, let’s call it the human resources. Because I laugh, because I always think like, “Okay, I’m a people person. I get along with everybody, and I have great friendships, and I’m outgoing.” But it doesn’t make you a great decision maker about people, and it doesn’t make you a great manager to those people. And to me, that’s where, I mentioned this friend I have, who’s an executive coach. I’m constantly calling her. She’s so busy running her own businesses, but I need to find one for myself, because I do think just because you’re the founder of a business doesn’t mean you know how to lead it in all these different areas.

Stephanie:
And I think the human resources part is probably our biggest challenge. I have found my team by word of mouth, and overall it’s been fantastic. We have met great people. Sometimes I would say that my vetting of agencies hasn’t been as good. And again, this kind of goes back to this decision making, and following your intuition, and really trusting your gut. And sometimes I think like, okay, if I were a man, would I be giving these people and agencies second chances, and third chances, and fourth chances? Probably not. I think about the way a lot of my male friends make decisions. It’s just so decisive. It’s like, ” No, not working. We’re done with it.”

Mimi:
There’s no emotional component to it. No second guessing.

Stephanie:
No. Exactly. So, what we’ve done with our team is, everybody at the moment are technically consultants, but we have given them equity in the company. So, we with many of them do sort of a cash equity split. And we’ve been lucky that we have some people that are on board to do that. What it has meant is, several of them are mothers themselves that are back in the workforce, and wanting careers that need to balance it with their kids. So, that has worked really well for us. But as we grow, my access to sort of, let’s call them, the A team is not there. And well, I’ll be calling you about that, Mimi.

Mimi:
Now, how are you keeping in charge of everybody? Do you have like a sauna? Do you have weekly meetings, with everyone kind of virtual?

Stephanie:
Yes, we are all over the place. By the way, someone’s in Chicago, someone’s in Milan, couple of us in London, it is sort of bananas. And then of course, in summer holidays, people work from everywhere, because they have kids, and one girl’s in LA, and I’m on the East Coast. And so, it is pretty crazy, but we’re very, very rigid with our weekly. We have a Wednesday meeting, all teams meeting, and that’s every part of the business, from our digital marketers to operations, and our social media girl, and our sales people. So, that is every Wednesday. And then every Friday morning, I have four hours with our CFO, otherwise known as my husband and, but he carves out of his week. So, that’s the structure we keep. And we tried Slack, it started getting, so time consuming, and we use WhatsApp, and it’s worked totally fine.

Stephanie:
As we go, we might need something more formal than WhatsApp, but between our weekly meetings and variety of channels on WhatsApp, we’ve been able to stay pretty organized, which is good. But I hope we start being able to spend more time together. At the moment, people are still living pretty flexible lives, and living where they need to live and want to live. But you do, I think miss out on the spontaneity and the creativity and all those great things that come from just sitting in a room together, and cranking out the work together. So, hopefully we can arrive at that soon.

Mimi:
So, do you have any last minute advice or tips for anyone who’s listening, who is thinking about starting a company, or they are in the rows of it, and feeling alone?

Stephanie:
Sure. I know it’s so lonely. The first thing that comes to mind, I always think about this, is just to get the demons out of your head. Like I’ve mentioned, I don’t believe in imposter syndrome, I don’t think we should keep perpetuating that. And I always think of, I remember this article that I read with Michelle Obama, years and years and years ago. And she said, “I’ve sat at the table of corporations, law firms, nonprofits, the G-7, the UN, and they’re not that smart.” And I loved it because it’s such a reminder that just because people are in power or are around that board table, it doesn’t mean they’re smarter than you. So, get that demon out of your head. I think network, network, network. Every single thing I have found, every milestone we have passed, every accomplishment we have made has been through just networking.

Stephanie:
And I think people are really happy to help. I think there’s generosity there, especially amongst women. And I don’t think people should be afraid to tap into their network. And then my last thing that I was thinking about is, that sometimes I think naivete can be your superpower. And when I went into this, I thought like, ” Oh, I don’t work at Unilever. I don’t work at Procter & Gamble, I’ve never worked for a packaged good, or a food product, or a beauty product.” And I felt like I needed a Unilever background on it. And I think sometimes when you have that naivete in a new sector and a new role, your mindset is so open and you’re so free to try things, and you have no shame as it fails. You’re just trying everything, and you realize there’s no set way to do something.

Mimi:
Right. And you don’t know how big that mountain is that you’re climbing.

Stephanie:
Well, that’s totally true.

Mimi:
You think it’s just a little hump and then you realize,” Oh my God, if I knew it was Mount Everest, I wouldn’t have done it.”

Stephanie:
Seriously. So, it’s probably good we had no idea.

Mimi:
Totally. It’s so true.

Stephanie:
Anyway. Well, this has been amazing. So, anybody who’s listening I’ll be in the show notes as well, but it’s 31st-State.com, to get to your website.

Mimi:
Yes, that’s right. Thank you.

Stephanie:
Thank you so much. I wish you the best of luck. And as you continue growing, especially for the holiday season, it’s a good stocking stuffers for anybody.

Mimi:
Oh my God. It is such a good stocking stuffer. It’s amazing.

Stephanie:
There’s never anything to buy for boys, right? Like teenage boys, and what do you buy them?

Mimi:
And they’re so picky. I’ve bought them stuff, and then I come home, and they went back out and bought everything from CVS. And I’m like, ” You guys, don’t you listen.”

Stephanie:
Exactly. Well, listen, one of the girls that works for me has five sons. She lives in Chicago. And she said, ” People will say, well, I’m not sure my son will use it.” And she said, ” Don’t give him a choice, put it at every shower, every sink, and they’re going to use it. If it’s there, they use it.” And it’s true. You just put it everywhere and it gets used, and they’ll have glowy skin and smell amazing.

Mimi:
All right. Awesome. Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time.

Stephanie:
I appreciate it too. Thanks, Mimi.

Mimi:
Thank you for joining us on the Badass CEO. To get your copy of the top 10 tips every entrepreneur should know, go to the badass ceo.com/tips. Also, please leave a review as it helps others find us. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them. So, email me at Mimi@thebadassceo.com. See you next week and thank you for listening.

Where To Find Stephanie and More About Her Businesses

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Top 10 Tips For Every Entrepreneur

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