I had the pleasure of sitting down for an interview with Aleksandra from Supergirls Club, an organization in San Francisco that brings together passionate female entrepreneurs. We covered a lot, from my founding story, to how I deal with stress, to where I think the beauty and wellness industry is going in the next 5 years. Below is the transcript from the interview. Enjoy!
Aleksandra: Hi Sarah, thank you so much for taking time for this interview. Tell us a bit about yourself and why you launched Curie?
Sarah: Thank you for having me! Where do I start? My name is Sarah and I am the founder of Curie Deodorant, an aluminum-free natural deodorant that represents the simple belief that women can live healthier lives, starting with products they use on their bodies every day.
Before starting Curie, I worked in Venture Capital for 5 years. During my time as an investor, I met hundreds of entrepreneurs, and was inspired by many of their journeys. I knew I would start something of my own one day, it was just a matter of what.
I have always been passionate about health and wellness, and I am also a very active person. I run marathons, go on backpacking trips, travel often, and have always had a pretty demanding career.
After learning about the harmful effects of aluminum, parabens, and other chemicals that are found in conventional antiperspirants, I tried every natural deodorant on the market and couldn’t find one that could keep up with my active lifestyle.
So I decided to make my own. That’s how Curie was born.
Aleksandra: What have been the most challenging and rewarding parts of your journey this past year?
Sarah: The most challenging part of the journey was coming up with the formula for my deodorant. Before starting the process, I did a ton of research and thought I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted. So by the time I hired a chemist, I thought it would take 2-3 months to finalize my formula. Wrong! It ended up taking 10 months of tweaking and testing, and it felt like forever. But I was not going to put a product on the market that I didn’t absolutely love. I was not going to settle for “good enough”. Product is everything. Even though the iterative process took longer than I wanted, it was definitely worth the wait.
Aleksandra: Financially, how did you deal with the process going longer than planned?
Sarah: During the R&D process, I still had a day job, which I could not have done without. I worked all day, and worked on Curie on nights and weekends. Also, since I self-funded my business, I had no pressure from investors or a board of directors to get a product out to market quickly.
Aleksandra: How do you cope with stress?
Sarah: This is something I have to admit I am still working on! I have a lot of temporary fixes (running, yoga, meditation), but something that’s been really working for me lately is just stopping and identifying what it is I am scared of. Because for me, that’s usually the source of stress. Whether it’s fear of failure, rejection, embarrassment, whatever it is, I try to identify it and then imagine the absolute worst case scenario. Most of the time, the worst case scenario isn’t that bad. Once I come to that realization, I’m able to relax and do what I need to do.
Aleksandra: How do you find balance in your everyday life?
Sarah: Balance to me is making time for what’s important, which right now is Curie, time friends/family, and exercise/self care. To make sure I maintain balance and don’t work myself into the ground, I put everything on my calendar and try really hard to stick to it.
For example, right now I have 5 workouts on my calendar for the week and even though I will realistically only make it to 3 or 4 of them, it’s better than if I just worked out “when I had time” (aka never).
Aleksandra: What does wellness mean to you?
Sarah: I believe wellness is more than just physical health. To me, it embodies the mind, body, and spirit as well.
Aleksandra: What inspired you to work in this industry?
Sarah: Working in Venture Capital, I learned a lot about what really drives people. And I learned that where you choose to apply your time is usually the best indication of where your future is going to take you. When I was living in LA, companies like Moon Juice and Beauty Counter were popping up left and right, and I got very interested in the natural beauty space both from a personal and investment standpoint. I spent a lot of my time reading and learning about harmful ingredients in conventional beauty products and understanding the science behind those ingredients. I looked for natural alternatives whenever I could, but finding a good natural deodorant that worked for me was a struggle. It started out as a personal need, and as I talked to friends and family, I realized it was also a need a lot of women had.
Aleksandra: What will be the key trends in the health & wellness in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
Sarah: I think the biggest change we’re going to see is around regulatory oversight. I just wrote a blog post about this, but basically, right now the US government (specifically, the FDA) has almost no control over what goes into personal care products. It’s insane. Manufacturers can put just about anything in products. The recently proposed Personal Care Products Safety Act would bring the US cosmetics industry into the 21st century and ensure that products are safe for consumers. I think this will have a huge impact on the safety of personal care products, which is something I care deeply about. It shouldn’t be the consumers’ job to read and decipher whether every ingredient on a label is safe for them and their family.
Aleksandra: What advice would you give to other women looking to start a wellness business?
Sarah: First learn how to build and then learn how to sell. If you can do both, you’ll be unstoppable.