Monday Motivation from Tina Hedges, Founder & CEO at LOLI Beauty
Mondays can be rough and, sometimes, we can all use some motivation. Our #MondayMotivation blog series brings you tips and life hacks from industry leaders and some of the most creative entrepreneurs out there.
We sat down with Tina Hedges, Founder & CEO at LOLI Beauty, a modern, luxurious and accessible approach to a natural beauty kitchen offering the purest organic ingredients blended by you at home, or for you at pop-up blending bars. Tina discusses the personal journey that led her to launch LOLI, landing that first investor, and creating a brand that’s resonating with so many.
What inspired you to start your business?
The genesis of LOLI began years ago, and for me LOLI is equal parts personal journey and zeitgeist-capturing.
On the personal journey front, after spending years traveling the globe frenetically for work, I frankly didn’t feel like I was at my best—physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. After a lot of “personal detective” work, I started to connect the dots between all the chemicals I’d been slathering on my skin for decades and less-than-optimal health. I’d spent the first big chunk of my career developing products for the world’s biggest beauty companies—and of course testing them on myself—and it took its toll. I needed and wanted pure, “living organic” options. I was juicing, cupping and detoxing ages before they were a popular phenomenon and going back to my Cuban-Jamaican roots to whip up natural beauty recipes at home
As for the zeitgeist-capturing: my work as a consultant for emerging brands in the beauty + wellness spaces requires me to know what’s going on in the market as a whole. And there’s no question that green + clean products, with ethically-sourced, fully-traceable ingredients, are what the consumer is looking for and demanding.
One day, circa 2013, while I was walking through Sephora and scanning row after row of argan oils – and sipping a $15 green juice at the same time – I had a classic “aha” moment. I asked myself: “Why can’t women shop for beauty in the same way we shop for food?” In the Whole Foods era, ingredient traceability, pipeline-transparency, freshness and personalization / customization are the norm. It just made perfect sense that that same “shopping ease” should be readily available in beauty.
So combining all those elements—my Cuban-Jamaican heritage, my personal journey out of and back into wellness, the shifts in the market around consumer demand for holistic choices—with my background as a beauty marketer for LVMH, Lauder and L’Oreal, I started tinkering with the early kitchen beauty recipes that would come to define LOLI.
I’d already begun cobbling together my own personal formulas from oils, soaks, tinctures and salves gathered from foraging everywhere from Mott Street and Saint Marks Place in New York to as far afield as India. Now it was time to “next-level” those formulas for LOLI. I knew I could translate that “healthy ingredients as pillar” ethos, and launch a BIY beauty kitchen that makes it easy to discover, enjoy and share beauty ingredients, recipes and rituals at home and online with our community of beauty-blenders.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far is transitioning from a “great idea” to a financed business venture. Sometimes it’s easier to get funding for a “back of napkin” concept than one that has already demonstrated proof of concept with customer traction but is still in the early stage in terms of revenue.
During the former stage, all you have to do is sell the dream. At the latter stage, you fall into the trap of having a handful of metrics, but not enough to check all the boxes with financial investors. One of my advisors calls this stage “the valley of death.” And sadly, very few start-ups are able to crawl out of this valley.
For LOLI, the pivotal moment—the moment we climbed out of the quicksand of being more than a concept but not yet a self-sustaining business—was when we got our first and lead investor. Then everything became so much easier and other investors followed.
Landing this lead investor had its own travails. I had to get myself from New York to Geneva for the final approval meeting, and when I landed I got very sick. I had to dig deep and find the strength to show up and sell the LOLI dream. I wasn’t sure I was physically able to do it, but then realized that that precise moment is what start-ups are all about: finding the willpower to keep going when you’re completely depleted, and believing in yourself and the business so wholeheartedly that no obstacle in your path seems insurmountable. So I literally picked myself off the bathroom floor, splashed ice-cold water on my face and summoned the teensy bit of energy I had left to put my game face on and seal the deal.
What’s been the greatest reward?
I love making a difference in our customers’ lives, helping them to find a moment of what we call “beauty happiness” via organic beauty, custom-blended. Pure, potent, personalized beauty has struck a chord. Especially for the younger market, which is clamoring for options and newness in this category. While 60% of total U.S. Millennials purchase food-grade ingredients to make beauty products at home because they’re more natural, 73% of total US. Millennial women seek out cleaner, all-natural products. That’s huge.
So when I receive an email from a customer that says a LOLI product has changed their skin, or I get to whip up a beauty potion at our blending bars with a customer and experience together that perfect BIY moment of self-empowerment, that makes all the struggles worthwhile.
I’ve also really loved seeing the brand resonate with customers, influencers, investors and even retail partners—like with our pop-up bending bar at Urban Outfitters. The global growth in organic and natural personal care shows us that pure, potent, personalized beauty is a movement, not a trend. It has deep roots and genuine staying power. And LOLI has the ability to be a leader in the global conversation around self-care and wellness.
What is the biggest thing you’d like to see changed in your industry, and how are you working toward making that change happen?
Clearly, there is growing interest in DIY—or what we call BIY (Blend It Yourself) beauty. According to Google Beauty Trends 2017, “searches that specifically include the term ‘DIY’ are growing by 38%.
And sometimes, that level of interest in DIY beauty can generate some really wacky and unsafe ideas—from Pepto Bismol and gelatin face masks to Elmer’s Glue blackhead-removal. I call this extreme pocket of DIY “the wild west of beauty.” It’s uncharted territory with no horizon in sight. And with LOLI, we want to give our customers the ability to experiment and customize their own fresh, food-grade skin, body, hair and bath products efficiently and purposefully with peace of mind.
We also are on the front lines of making beauty more than earth friendly; we’re people-free, too. We’re the first beauty company to be a member of MADE IN A FREE WORLD and are committed to helping stop people trafficking. It’s our priority give-back, and we donate $1 per box to the prevention of people trafficking.
Lastly, we want to shift the greenwashing conversation from “here’s the list of 1,000 ingredients we don’t use” to “here is what’s in our products, this and nothing else.” For every ingredient that a company says they don’t use, there is a substitute ingredient that can be equally as dangerous. We are 100% transparent about what’s in our products and even tell you where the ingredients come from and their purity level.
Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?
WOW. Where do I start? It takes a village, physically and spiritually. There have been so many former professional colleagues, advisors, and mentors who’ve picked me up, dusted me off and set me straight when I’ve collapsed from exhaustion, fear or even just uncertainty.
I also have an incredible posse of friends who’ve been my biggest cheerleaders since I took the leap into the start-up world a decade ago. They’ve believed in me when I told them I would be on reality TV (which I did to launch my first brand, Jonathan Product, on BRAVO TV’s “Blowout”). My inner circle supported me when I dabbled in beverage and biotech. And they urged me on when I said I had a new idea—that I wanted to make beauty, custom-blended with raw, food-grade, “living, organic, loving ingredients.”
And then there are my spiritual guides, teachers, and angels. I get signs all the time from them—hearts will magically appear in a body butter I just blended or on the street under my feet, just when I needed a reminder that I’m following my destiny.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to another entrepreneur just starting out?
Being an entrepreneur isn’t about the glamor or the golden opportunity that may or may not happen. It’s a vocation, not a job. You have to want to will your idea into being as if your life depended upon it, and you have to enjoy every moment. Well maybe you won’t enjoy the scary, unforeseen challenges and plot twists, but you have to be able to at least see the value in them. If that’s not your jam, don’t even think about it.
Secondly, you need your tribe. Who’s rooting for you? Who can you call for a quick pep chat? Who’s going to “Rolodex dive” for you? Don’t wait to start gathering your posse. There’s a reason professional athletic teams have professional cheerleaders—we all need support and 100% loyalty. A friend of mine calls it “your get out of jail call.” Who can you call at 2 AM when you need help? And there will absolutely be those moments.
Lastly, do not succumb to what I call “founder-itis.” That’s when you start believing that you are the star, that you did everything, that any success is yours and yours alone. From Facebook to Glossier, there’s the founder and then there are the other key influencers who helped build the brand. In the former case it was Sean Parker and in the latter, it is the co-creating “Into the Gloss” community.
What do you do every Monday morning to prepare and motivate yourself for the coming week?
I wish I could say I had a steadfast routine, but we’re still in a very nascent stage which means every week brings a fresh set of challenges. I do start every day with a friend who calls at 7:15 AM and we meditate and pray for 20 minutes each morning to ground ourselves. I’ll pick a few cards from one of my angel or spirit guide decks and off we go. This practice helps me to stay in the flow and begin knowing that the universe is supporting me and LOLI. The messages are always so on point.