I’ve said it before, and I hope to say it an infinite amount of times again – the internet and the digital space we inhabit is a WONDERFUL place, not least for the ability it has to connect us with people all over the world.
Case in point – Brittny Robins, founder of Flawless By Friday, an amazing skincare and beauty brand I stumbled upon after Brittny’s liked one of my Instagram posts.
One like, one click-through and bam – relationship initiated. Isn’t it crazy how things work out like that?
In the weeks since we struck up an Instagram friendship, I’ve gotten to know an amazing entrepreneurial woman in Brittny, who at the age of 28 I totally connected with on a business, life and style level. Following a background in the beauty and skincare industry, Brittny applied the market research her 20-something friends provided her with, to developing her signature product – a five day sheet mask system – followed by an expanding beauty and skincare product line. Taking the leap of faith to leave her corporate job, and follow her entrepreneurial instincts, Flawless By Friday is now stocked in over thirty major retailers across the US and Canada, and is expanding day on day. (I’m just waiting on the Europe drop soon! For now you can purchase via Lord & Taylor – yay!)
I am thrilled to say that after exchanging a few appreciative emails (sent initially on impulse by me – a lesson in trusting your gut! *send the email*) Brittny so kindly sat down with me over Skype, and we talked all things business, beauty and of course, Flawless By Friday.
Brittny is such an inspiring person, not only is her business know-how, but in her approach to life. I hope that you will enjoy learning from Brittny, and love exploring her entrepreneurial journey thus far, as much as I did. This is a long interview guys, so come prepared with coffee – and maybe a notebook! I found myself scribbling down so many of Brittny’s tomes of advice – you may just find you do the same too.
You can leave me a comment at the bottom of this post with your thoughts, or tweet me your favourite words of wisdom!
An Interview With Brittny Robins, Founder of Flawless By Friday
Four sisters, makeup and turning it into a career
When I was little I was the in-house makeup artist and hairdresser to all my sisters and friends. I would see the difference in their confidence when they felt they looked good, and that showed me that an outer beauty can shape an inner confidence.
I notice in myself too, that when I feel confident, I make eye contact more and say thank you properly to the bus driver or the coffee guy. As I’ve gotten older, I have been a bridesmaid a whole bunch of times, and it was the bridesmaid process which inspired Flawless By Friday. I found that there was never a quick fix for your skin. That realisation is when I started to develop the five day system which Flawless By Friday is based on.
Concept then product
I developed the brand conceptually first, then I made a relationship with a chemist in Korea.
It was a slow process. I had the chemist send me samples, I had them sent back, I had them send me something else, I changed the colours, I changed the type, I changed a lot of things about it.
I didn’t have a buyer when I was creating the product, so I wasn’t in a hurry. It took me a year and a half to agree the first product. Once I got the hang of it, I created three more in four months!
I had to move in to my grandparents’ house for about six months because I wasn’t making money. That’s just what I had to do! I was lucky that I had that support and I know not everyone does. It’s not easy to live with two eighty year olds in your twenties, but they’re amazing.
“an outer beauty can shape an inner confidence”
Meeting Leonard Lauder
I was lucky enough to meet Leonard Lauder about six months ago, who ran Estée Lauder for 30 or 40 years.
Leonard is Estée Lauder’s son, he’s 84 years old and he’s my hero basically. When I was thirteen I gave a speech on who I looked up to, and it was on the Estée Lauder brand. When I had the opportunity to meet Leonard Lauder I was a hysterical mess and I couldn’t pull it together! He said to me “don’t do too much too soon, if you are expanding in a way that you can’t individually get to every single store yourself, then it’s too much for you right now”.
That was good advice for me, because being young you want to get everything done right now.
Being the face of your brand and cold-calling the CEO
Putting my face on the packaging was terrifying! My parents made me do it because when I originally asked for a small investment, to start the company, that was there rule: “We’ll give you the money if you put your face on the box.”
The investment came after I had been working on the brand for about 6-8 months on my own. That decision (to put my face on the box) was really hard for me, and then I just thought “screw it, if I don’t go into this fearlessly, nobody else is going to believe in it and I won’t believe in it”.
One day I just decided that I wasn’t going to be scared of anything anymore. That has changed everything for me.
Fear really stops everyone doing what they want. I got out of a couple of relationships in the last year and I’m in a great one now. I realised that in relationships and in so many things I was so fearful – it was either keeping me somewhere or stopping me from going somewhere else.
I have a blog called the Fear of Flawless.
In practice, for instance, the other day I wanted to reach out to Sephora, and instead of just trying to call reception, I dialled the CEO directly. I thought “I’m going to just hit the top”.
A sort of willingness to embarrass the hell out of yourself, has made all the difference for me.
“One day I just decided that I wasn’t going to be scared of anything anymore. That has changed everything for me.”
Using Your Closest Resources – AKA Your Friends And Family
When I started and I didn’t have the money for anything, I said to my sisters and friends “OK you’re my photographer and you’re modelling for me”. I had all my friends and my sisters’ friends as my models for material. If you see any of it, they’re all people that I have a personal relationship with.
Fake It Till You Make It
I totally fake it till I make it! I realised early on that perception is reality.
Creating the company was a million little questions people would ask me that I wouldn’t know the answer to! Like “who’s your shipping broker?” or “where have you filled these legal papers?”. I’d go and find it out. It’s not knowing the answers to questions, and then just figuring it out.
The Entrepreneurial Gene
I always knew that I wanted to start my own company, my Dad has always been an entrepreneur in the sports space. I knew that my brain wasn’t shutting off ever. I knew that being an entrepreneur would be what I wanted eventually, I just didn’t think it would be so soon.
When I made my first sale I was like “OMG I created something and someone actually wants it?!”. My first customer bought all my inventory and it wasn’t regulated to go on shelves. It wasn’t bilingual (which is what we need in Canada) and all these other things and he took a huge risk on me. That was a great stepping stone for me to be able to take it to the next level.
Got A Business Idea? Start with 20 minutes work a day . . .
I always tell people when they come to me with ideas – just spend 20 minutes a day working on it and just see what happens. Don’t leave your life. It makes it seem less scary when it’s just a hobby or project.
On female entrepreneurship and the generation coming up
I don’t get to talk very often to other young entrepreneurs, especially females. I don’t have a single girlfriend who is in the same boat.
I’ve done a lot of trainings lately in stores, and at the trainings I’ll have girls, especially younger girls, come up to me and say “I have this business idea” and they open up to me. I feel so comfortable when they do. Then I get to say “first of all, you can do it”.
The Worst Case Scenario – Recognising It & Letting It Go
I noticed a while ago that I would be driving and I would clench my steering wheel because I was thinking of all the horrible things that could happen.
I thought to myself “Why am I doing this? What am I scared of?”.
The worst case scenario for me is that I go bankrupt and I start again. I decided that if that is the worst case scenario, I could live with it. I decided that I could live with starting again.
On Your First Hire & How To Choose Your Team
I always had my sisters help in different ways, but the first person I employed is a girl named Zoe who runs the social media.
I felt like I needed an online presence, so that was the first hire. Zoe’s 25 and I didn’t know her before. I initially began by reaching out to friends of my sisters, but I found that they wanted to know -“What are you going to do for me?”, my perception is – “This is an opportunity for you to grow with the company”. Zoe was my first employee, and she is already in charge of somebody else.
I only hire young millennial women, so all the girls who work for me are in their twenties. It’s funny because they all have no experience in what they’re doing.
The amazing thing about millennials (I don’t want to say especially female millennials because there are obviously amazing men who could fill the same positions) – but they’re willing to take the risk. For instance with Zoe, when she came on much of the job structure was commissioned based. It had to be a self motivating role.
Now I don’t have a choice with hiring like that! We’re in thirty huge department stores. I need people to be selling the products. If I want my business to succeed I have to spend the money, and you have to spend money in order to make money in business, you really do.
I brought on someone who would help me with my books too, that was a part I had to learn a lot about. I do all the shipping and logistics stuff and that was really tough for me. Now I’m bringing on somebody to learn the ropes so that I can offload that eventually.
I’ve realised that as hard as shipping and logistics and legal and insurance is, the hardest part is managing staff. It’s really hard! It’s hard to remember to appreciate people, it’s hard to instruct them when sometimes you just assume they think they same way you do – and they don’t! That’s really good in a lot of ways, and it’s also really hard in a lot of ways.
I’m continually trying to empower them, and make sure they know that I appreciate what they do. When I write a pay cheque I write a thank you note and I put it in. I know I’m not paying them as much as they’d maybe be able to make somewhere else, but because I really appreciate what they do, they care.
On Creating A Team Environment
I incorporate my team into all elements of the business.
I try to make it feel sort of informal. I read an article, and for millennials especially apparently, if they feel like they can swear in the work place they’re happier! So I sometimes swear.
If I have a photoshoot or something I’ll bring a bottle of champagne and some pizza and just try to mellow it out. I make sure they can always text me or call me. We all work remotely right now we do everything by text. Everything is instant.
I try to make it fun when I can, I take them to dinner every 4-6 weeks, and don’t make it like a business dinner, I make it a personal dinner.
On Flawless By Friday – The Products
The five day system was the first product I came out with. It has a different active ingredient each day which works in synergy to yield results by the weekend. It really gives you those results – from moisture Monday, toning Tuesday, wrinkle Wednesday, tightening Thursday and flawless Friday.
Your skin is more hydrated, radiant and even for whatever the weekend holds.
I fell in love with hydrogel which is the next generation in Korean sheet masks. Hydrogel is a gel that contours to your skin, holds a high concentration of product and doesn’t tear easily, and it also has a cooling effect. Once you put on the mask, either the under eye masks or the full facial masks, you feel a cooling effect which lasts throughout the whole treatment. We tell people to use the masks for a minimum of fifteen minutes and maximum of whenever you feel like taking it off because it feels really good too! Each mask is paraffin, sulphate and cruelty free.
“One of my philosophies for Flawless By Friday is to dummy-proof skincare, because it can be super complicated.”
20-Something Skin And Expanding The Product Line
All my friends who knew I was in skincare kept asking me: “OK I’m still breaking out and I’m starting to see fine lines, what do I do?”.
I wanted to create a product specifically for that dilemma, hence the five day system. Glycolic acid is the best ingredient when you’re dealing with both acne and fine lines – it helps with sweeping away dead skin cells so it’s able to reveal a fresher complexion and skin texture.
I added hyaluronic acid for hydration as well, as glycolic acid can be drying if it’s too high of a percentage. Mine is about 5%, but if you go to some the heavier brands they’re around 10%. Because of the age group I didn’t want to use anything too aggressive. I wanted the results to be something you see over time, after 4-6 weeks and maintain.
Then after the five step routine, we came out with a serum called Forever Flawless AM/PM. One of my philosophies for Flawless By Friday is to dummy-proof skincare, because it can be super complicated. I recall I went into my Mom’s bathroom one morning and she was putting retinal on her face, which makes you sensitive to the sun, and she was using vitamin C at night which doesn’t fight damage, because you’re asleep in the dark. So I took a permanent marker and wrote “Day” and “Night” on her products.
My serums come in a box which says “AM and “PM”. A drop in the morning to help with skin tone and a drop at night to help with skin texture. A 24 hour treatment for your skin that really dummy-proofs improving your overall skin tone and texture.
Why Gold Is An Unexpected Beauty Power-ingredient
I recently came out with a gold line. My mentor is this woman called Bonny Brooks, who is the former CEO of Hudson’s Bay. Basically the most dynamite business woman I have ever met, she’s insane, she’s amazing!
Bonny helped with the honey gold line which is called Flawless In 15. It is a mask, under-eye treatment, as well as a lip serum. It helps to take down redness, puffiness and boost radiance within 15 minutes. It’s a night-out treatment. You put it on as a two piece mask and take it off after 15 minutes, tap in the product and then you do your makeup and you go. The concept is a lot of fun but its also really effective. People are falling love with this mask.
Gold is actually a great anti-ageing ingredient as it boosts the collagen production in your skin and nobody is allergic to gold. Then I wanted to add the honey because it’s such a soothing ingredient for puffiness, redness and irritation.
The key thing is to ask, and not be afraid to say “I really respect and admire your career, I’m trying to build mine, do you have twenty minutes for me to take you for coffee or to come to your office”? Make it as convenient for them as possible. Really think about what you want to get out of every single conversation.
Bonny for instance will say to me “I have from 7:30am – 7:50am” and I’ll know exactly what I want to ask her in that time, otherwise you’re wasting everyone’s time. The most important thing is to not make it about you but to make it more about them, and say “you are the expert here”.
You’ve got to decide how they can help you specifically. With Bonny – she’s a retail expert, so I have to ask her “how do I move product?”. If there’s a financial expert I’ll ask them financial questions. It’s all about finding a mentor/s and not wasting their time – treating their time as valuabley as it is. They want to help you but you need to tell them how.
Next Up For Flawless By Friday
I feel like I’ve hit this really lucky point of success, but I’m still like “OK well here’s my next idea and here’s what I want to do and here’s how I’m going to tie it together.”
I think that might be my demise! We’re going to add a flawless foundation to the line so we’ll have a skin matching blur that also helps treat your skin at the same time. I’m always developing a couple of new products.
What’s your take?
I don’t know about you guys, but I adored getting to know Brittny and her story. I know that many of you who read The Elgin Avenue are big-dreamers, bloggers and fellow businesswomen, or you just love reading inspiring stories! (I know I do!)
I’d love to know what you took away from Brittny’s interview, and any advice which really resonates with you.
Have a great week ahead guys!
Love, Monica x