I hate to “go dark” for such a long time, but it was a necessary – albeit tortuous – exercise that allowed me to get through the first few weeks of launching my cosmetics line CLOVE + HALLOW relatively undistracted.
Most of you know that I didn’t get here overnight, but for those of you who are new or don’t know much about me or my business, here’s the Sparknote version:
After the conception of CLOVE + HALLOW years ago, I incorporated into legitimacy in February 2016. In July I took my last official client as a makeup artist and eagerly dove headfirst into the full-time commitment of building out my dream. It’s been a challenging and complex passage; since going live on March 29, I’ve slept at my office a handful of times, pulled more all-nighters than in college, spent entire days switching gears from meeting to meeting to meeting, and made decisions attached to dollar amounts that made me want to vomit. There have been many oh shit moments and a lot of tears (because I am clearly an unevolved human being who craves stress even though I handle it poorly) which were thankfully counterbalanced by a TON of fist-pumping wins.
Having never been on the manufacturing/production/R&D side of the beauty industry, the process of developing and launching a cosmetic line was prohibitively opaque; it took me months to figure out what to even google just to figure out what Step 1 should be. Having made it to this point in which we are a very real and operational business, I’ve been fielding a lot of the same questions from people regarding CLOVE + HALLOW, how I built it, and what I’ve learned.
So let’s dive in and address them all at once, shall we?
First off – and I think this is important for context – CLOVE + HALLOW is *not* a private label line. (For those of you wondering what private label means, it’s basically when a third party develops and produces a catalogue of cosmetics that any person can purchase and then slap their brand name on. It is a low-barrier option that many smaller lines and spas choose to pursue, but you’d also be surprised by how many large name brands are private labeled.) Every single item we sell was produced specifically for us based on targets, ingredients, and benchmarks of my choosing. From the time I send in a brief of what I’m looking for to the time we’re ready to go into production – which takes about a year, I’ve found – I tweak a product upwards of 30 times based on performance, texture, shade, etc., until I am satisfied.
Now, moving on to the good stuff – the actual lessons. Here’s what I know to be true so far:
You have to make peace with not knowing what you can’t know.
Coming from an analytical background, it was beaten into my head to rely on data for every decision. That is a great strategy when you have data work with, but in the beginning decisions are based on estimates, forecasts, and intuition. This makes it incredibly easy to fall into the trap of waiting for more clarity when it’s more important to just make a decision that keeps the momentum going. Some of the resulting decisions you make will be wrong. You have to make peace with that, too.
Just make the call.
I’m fairly certain that 90% of the reason I’ve gotten this far is because I’m not afraid to pick up the phone or shoot an email to someone I don’t know. When choosing a manufacturer (after, like I mentioned, months of googling to determine that was Step 1), I cold-called facilities one-by-one. After my first call – which was super short and embarrassing – I learned that I needed to ask manufacturers about MOQs, timelines, lab fees vs production fees, and how the intellectual property worked – none of which I had read about despite all my research. Armed with a better idea of what I was looking for and the help of a few people who gave me advice despite not being the right fit for their business, I found the right manufacturer for the job. It was so effective that I continued the approach when selecting my packaging suppliers, PR partners, etc., and I routinely benefited from demonstrating some chutzpah.
Develop a blind confidence.
I can’t say this enough: you have to believe in yourself. Launching and running a business is ultimately a bunch of creative processes and the early/middle stages of any creative process is basically one big “oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck” moment. (I remember how much I hated to do makeup on people while they had a mirror because, while the end result is beautiful, I hated seeing them get panicky during the middle stage which is objectively hideous.) There will be *so* many points of friction and reasons why you want to quit, and perhaps a number of reasons why you SHOULD quit; when you get to that point, rest easy knowing that is the tipping point – the point at which most people do quit. You have to keep pushing, and the pushing part takes more than a little bit of blind faith. (Disclaimer: sometimes you really should quit, and there’s no shame in that.)
It will take over your life.
True entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, but if you’re cut out for it, you’ll know because you’ll become addicted. I’m not exaggerating – it will consume your life. And anything that powerful also has its drawbacks. For example: I don’t know how to relax anymore. I check my phone every hour in the middle of the night when I wake up mid-panic over the things I need to do. I feel guilty coming home at 7pm knowing I could squeeze out a couple more hours, even though I’ve been working since 5am. The few trips and periods of time off that I do take really just compound my guilt and stress. It sucks but I love it. That being said…
Make self-care a priority.
If you can’t function properly or at your max capacity, you’re not doing yourself or your business any favors. YOU are your biggest asset, so act accordingly by investing in yourself. Although right now I am kind of loving the sacrificial intensity of my business, I know I can’t keep this pace up forever. In the meantime, I exercise; I eat relatively healthy; I try (*try*) to sleep 7 hours each night. And when those things don’t work out or aren’t enough, I recognize the warning signs and take some “me” time – usually a half-day off with a massage or facial – so I can come back swinging harder, faster, and stronger.
So there you have it guys.
It’s been fun.
It’s been challenging beyond belief.
It has fucking sucked at times.
But holy smokes I would do it 10x over if I needed to just to experience the wins along the way. I may not sleep much, but I sleep content. And that, to me, is worth everything.