There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.
Meet: Keisha Wright, the founder and CEO of Swoon Beauty, a line of innovative cosmetics tools designed to help women make the most of their cosmetics products. Swoon’s mission (“Beauty Made Better”) is to eliminate common beauty frustrations by providing multitasking tools and products.
Keisha came up with the concept for Swoon in 2012 when, while on vacation, she came to the end of her tube of lip gloss, only to see there was a lot of gloss left in the tube she couldn’t reach. After unsuccessfully trying to retrieve the remaining gloss with a bobby pin, Keisha vowed to return home and develop a way to put an end to this and all other “glam girl gripes” that came her way.
Tackling Beauty Bother #1, lost gloss, Swoon created its namesake first product, a universal lip-gloss applicator that helps lip gloss lovers reach the gloss at the bottom of the tube. Swoon Beauty launched in July 2013 at Cosmoprof, the largest beauty trade show in North America. Today Swoon Beauty products can be found at Sephora stores across the country.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Keisha Wright: I wanted to be a lot of things growing up; most of them involved performing. I wanted to be a singer or dancer. I enjoy performing, for sure, and I think the opportunity to pitch my business and products to consumers and retailers taps into this love of performing in a way. I definitely have always had an entrepreneurial streak. In elementary school, I had a lemonade stand, a hair salon and ran a summer Olympics in which I charged an entry fee. In high school, I wanted to be a doctor, specifically a pediatrician who would revive the art of making house calls. But when I got to college, I was reminded about how much I hated science (and I wasn’t too fond of blood either).
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Wright: I started my own business because I wanted to create better work/life balance. I have a young son (8 years old) and a husband, and I didn’t want someone dictating when I got to see them or how much time I’d be able to spend with them. So, the entire time I was working, in the back of my mind, I was planning my escape from corporate America, and thinking about how I could turn something I’m passionate about into a business venture.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Wright: I experienced several. The first moment was a chance meeting with another successful startup founder who encouraged me to pursue my idea for Swoon’s first product and helped me find an industrial designer, patent attorney and a graphic designer to help develop Swoon’s initial brand identity.
The second was the moment I pitched my idea to my brother and convinced him to become my first investor. My third moment was finding my COO, a high school friend who also attended Stanford with me. He brought much needed operational expertise to our supply chain management (as well as capital) and helped evolve our business from a one product to a company with the mission of “Beauty Made Better”—creating tools and products that solve common “beauty bothers.”
A successful Indiegogo campaign was our first proof of concept, and securing two distribution deals following our exhibition at Cosmoprof 2013 (with HauteLook and Sephora) provided us with another validation point.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Wright: The best advice I ever received is also the advice I give, which is to build your brand and community of brand enthusiasts (or “tribe” as some marketers call them) even before launching your product. By doing so, you’ll have a built-in audience for your products that could potentially help you get distribution (e.g., when thousands of people are calling Sephora asking if they carry your product, Sephora will then be calling you). I cannot stress enough the importance of brand building from the very beginning and using every opportunity (such as an Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaign) to introduce the brand and build your tribe. Also, I recommend that all entrepreneurs read The Lean Start Up, by Eric Ries.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Wright: I think all entrepreneurs should embrace the “build-measure-learn” feedback loop. That is, building a minimum viable product, getting it into the hands of consumers, getting feedback and finally, learning and adjusting from that feedback. Embracing this process saves time and money.
For example, during the development of Swoon, we noticed that because of the grooved design of the handle, users had a tendency to try to unscrew the top, but the top was actually a snap-fit top. We considered redesigning the top to screw on, but this would require an entirely new mold. So we decided that although customers naturally wanted to screw the cap open, once they were informed about the pull open/snap shut construction, there were no complaints. We decided consumer education, rather than product redesign, was what was required. This knowledge saved us months of manufacturing time and thousands of dollars.
Lesonsky: Do you have a 2015 small business prediction?
Wright: Swoon will introduce another beauty bother solving tool that will eliminate “glam girl gripes” across America!
Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?
Wright: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Wright: “When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that ‘s just the place and time that the tide’ll turn.”—Harriet Beecher Stowe
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.