Lifestyle 19 July 2017
By Dana Beuttler
The FounderMade 2017 Beauty Summit featured some incredible brands, all with a unique back story and appealing booths to lure press, investors, and other entrepreneurs in — and it worked. Laura Heilman, founder and CEO of STIKS Cosmetiks, had a display I could not pass up, as it featured angular and flat lipsticks in bright, shiny packaging. I was like a moth drawn to a flame – angled lipstick? How? Why? I had the opportunity to speak with the lipstick's creator herself and ask all the questions my heart desired. See below:
Inspiration for STIKS Cosmetiks came from your wall street days when you would carry a flat wallet and your round Chanel lipstick would not fit inside of it. While this was your motivation to create a flat on-the-go lipstick, what propelled you to start your own beauty brand and enter this hyper-competitive industry?
As you mentioned, I come from outside of the beauty category – looking at it from outside in. So when someone asks – why did I invent STIKS? I think it was because I was out of the category! I didn’t know what should and shouldn’t be done! It was my dad’s pencils. He was an engineer. I always liked his supplies.
I started STIKS because I couldn’t find what I wanted – there wasn’t a solution to my problem. I wanted a better delivery mechanism for my make-up – I wanted to create a system. It was more about my desire for functionality, integration, and order among my cosmetics than any obsession with beauty products themselves – I was tired of the chaos and cumbersome process.
With my background in Wall Street tech, I’ve always been solving, streamlining, and modernizing. Being time crunched, as a single mother of three, and an executive needing to be polished, my cumbersome cosmetic process got me thinking. This ritual needs to be sped up, updated, and working on my terms. One-handed even, like my Dad’s pencils. That was my “aha” moment and from then on I was set on reinventing lipstick as a start, completely, from the bottom up. I gave the case a flip top, shaped the bullet, edgy and precise.
For convenience I wanted 3 STIKS to click into the KIT – I envisioned a Crayon box for make-up. Took a while but I searched out a true reflecting mirror to set into the front panel. The design is an entirely unique patent. I think it’s a smart solve and a beauty change long overdue and worthy of this millennium.
Once You Had Your Business Model Established, How Did You Begin The Process Of Bringing STIKS Cosmetiks To Fruition? How Did You Fund The Brand?
I called everyone I had ever met looking for contacts in the beauty industry to help me bring my vision to life. I ended up making some great contacts, met with my manufacturer, had the components designed by an engineer, applied for patent protection and began the manufacturing process. I believe what propelled STIKS and me to fruition was my seemingly endless optimism, passion, and confidence that the cosmetics world needed a change, and STIKS was that change!
One of my favorite experiences I had early on was successfully getting STIKS on to Spring, the mobile marketplace, just before it launched. When that launched, STIKS was discovered by several major retailers on Spring and thankfully, I received a ton of inbound interest in the brand. The team at Spring were so supportive of me and STIKS that it gave me such confidence that I had created something of worth that a lot of people responded by saying, “Why didn’t I think of that?” That was an amazing experience in itself!
I had to learn everything, top to bottom, from e-commerce platforms, shipping, packaging regulations, fulfillment, and social media on my own as I really didn’t have the money to put a “team” together at launch. I learned more during the first year of launching the brand than I had in all my professional years before that – it was an incredibly exciting and daunting time! All while raising my three boys on my own and moving us from the suburbs of New Jersey to Brooklyn. If I look back now, I can’t believe how far we’ve all come.
Funding the brand to this day was and remains the most difficult part. I watched tech companies with silly, non-revenue generating ideas get funded with millions of dollars on a daily basis but I wasn’t able to get a single penny from any CPG investor.
This dynamic seems to be shifting now so hopefully that process will be easier for newer brands wanting to enter the market. There still exists today a gap between friends and family and venture capitalists – companies willing to write more checks at $250,000 - 500,000.
So, I went to friends and family and was successful in raising enough money to get it off the ground. We are on the hunt for funding daily – I feel like it never ends. Hopefully, with enough attention, we’ll catch that elusive funding unicorn.
Why Did You Decide To Spell Your Brand’s Name With A “K?”
One of the major concepts and driving forces behind the brand was simplicity. When I lined up all the Lipstiks, they looked like a row of sticks to me. I thought the “c” was unnecessary, like so many of the steps with a traditional lipstick tube, so it became STIKS. And, I loved how the word cosmetics looked with a corresponding “K” so when the names were on top of each other, like in our logo, the “TIKS” lined up! I thought it looked cool, nothing more meaningful than that!
The Shape Of The Product Is Angular – Why? What Advantage Does An Angular Lipstick Have?
The angled bullet allows for extreme precision, every time, and also doubles as a lip liner. It also mirrors the shape of our flip-top cap which aesthetically, I really loved. And the design and shape of the component and bullet make for incredible Instagram-worthy images every time! It also ended up looking like a NYC skyscraper when it was finished.
Who Is Your Target Market, And How Do You Successfully Reach And Engage Them?
STIKS today and future capability is the introduction of a whole new category – tech chic, one-handed, portable, on-the-go buildable cosmetics system. We’ve given a name to our target market – we call them Engaged Futurists!
- Relentless hope seekers
- Globally influential
- Parallel taskers
- Tech edgy
- Curious life students
- Gender blended
- Empathetic spirits
- Millennials, perennials, x’s, y’s, z’s, boomers
- Inclusive individualists
- Numbers strong
Target market engagement is a living organism. I think staying true to our brand voice has enabled us to engage in an honest way with current and future customers. We’re not believers in paid influencers but in real women in the real world – they just like to hear it like it is, straight up, no BS. Not even going to mention the “A” word…
When we launch our new, nature-sourced Lipstiks and future products, we’ll be concentrating heavily on our own e-commerce direct-to-consumer distribution strategy. We’ve got some great evangelists over in the UK and Australia that have lined up a few very exciting opportunities for us with the new products – we love that we have fans all over the world! In the US, we are interested in getting into some of the more influential, smaller retailers showcasing more innovative brands so we can strategically grow STIKS and maintain its indie feel.
I Noticed You Were Finalists For The FounderMade 2017 Beauty Challenge (Congrats!). How Did You Prepare Your Pitch? And Do You Have Any Tips That You Can Share About Preparing For Pitch Competitions?
What Is Your Product Distribution Strategy?
Thanks! Yes, that was nerve-wracking! It’s a very tough exercise but a really great one as it makes you condense and distill the brand message to the point where it’s straight to the heart of what you’re selling and why.
Tips – Make sure you hire a glam squad and a pro team to film and edit. We managed to get our video together with the help of my 19-year-old son on the fly. I don’t recommend that but we made it to the finals so some part of it worked! Also, smile. Have fun with it. If you’re not having fun or your passion doesn’t shine through, why would anybody want to be a part of your company?
Can You Share Some Of The Short, Medium, And Long-Term Goals You Have For STIKS Cosmetiks? One Panelist At The Conference Stressed The Importance Of Focusing On Short-Term Goals Because They Ultimately Help A Brand Achieve The Long-Term Ones. Do You Agree With This Sentiment?
Short-term goals: to build out the brand with all the products we have in our imagination and to establish repeated and sustainable customer engagement and distribution. We also have several exciting tech ideas to integrate into the brand that would innovate the mobile shopping / user-generated content experience, both in-store and out in the wild. One of our top priorities is providing assistance and awareness for female-led causes and organizations with our #stiktogether campaign we’re looking to launch soon.
Long-term goal: To create a company that is looked upon as one that had a positive impact on women’s lives. And to be able to provide a legacy for my children and grandchildren to enjoy.
I totally agree with that sentiment mostly because the world is changing minute to minute, so you really need to be present and make decisions that will affect change now. If you make decisions that are true to your brand and to yourself along the way, it will lead to your long-term goals.
Is There Anything Special In The Lipstick Formula Itself? The Packaging And Shape Of The Lipsticks Challenges The Status Quo, But What About The Ingredients?
Oh yes, they are really great. Our formula, by design, is stiffer than most due to the shape of the bullet, but our new nature-sourced products have some amazing ingredients including cocoa seed butter and rose oil. And of course, all of our products are cruelty free! Our ingredients are nature-sourced now and we have lots of plans to bring in some amazing new elements and products but we can’t give that away just yet!
What Is One Of The Biggest Challenges You Have Overcome In Starting Your Own Beauty Brand? And What Advice Can You Give Entrepreneurs Itching To Create And Launch A Business Of Their Own?
I made one of the biggest mistakes ever when I launched STIKS. Having not come from the industry and it being a few years ago now, I didn’t understand that making the product, the actual Lipstik in China was going to be a big problem for us. And compounding that issue, I ordered a ton of inventory at once that made it very difficult for me to launch new products frequently and respond to trends in the market.
Advice: Never surrender. Never give up. If you believe in what you’re doing and see that there’s a space for it in the market, don’t let anybody tell you not to do it. Listen to your gut and your heart, since they won’t let you down. It will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, that I can promise you, but so worth all the hard work. It’s yours, so own it!
Fortunately, I learned from my mistakes and we’re still here and are now on the right side of fixing that issue with our filler here in the states and the natural-sourced ingredients I spoke about above. But, yikes, that almost ended my dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur.
This article first appeared in BeautyMatter.
5 min read
When we envision a person who is suffering from substance use disorder (SUD)—defined by having a history of past misuse, experiencing increasing mental health symptoms, or having a family history of addiction—we often picture someone waking up and instantly grabbing their first drink. However, in my experience working with those battling SUD for nearly a decade, I've learned that everyone's relationship with alcohol looks different and having a few too many drinks at night can be just as dangerous.
The time of day, amount, or type of alcohol one drinks doesn't define if they suffer from SUD or not—it's the compulsion to drink. By focusing on healthy stress relievers and implementing them into your daily routine, you aren't just avoiding another glass at night, you are curbing any inclination for SUD that you may have.
While you may feel the desire to reach for another drink after dinner and putting the kids to bed to relieve some of the stress you incurred that day, there are other things that you can do that are much more beneficial to your mental health and wellbeing.
Risks of Reaching for Another Drink
Reaching for another cocktail or glass of wine can feel like a great way to relieve the stress of the day at the time, but over time it can actually lead to the opposite. Excessive drinking is known to lead to increased anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders such as increased risk of family problems, altered judgment, and worsened sleep quality. These can all lead to increased stress and create a continuous cycle I have seen in many of my patients, which often prove difficult to break.
Increased alcohol consumption can directly impact an individual's mood and temperament, too. In my patients, I've seen a connection between increased alcohol consumption and irritability, fatigue, and loss of interest in activities that previously brought that person joy—activities that people should always put time into, especially right now during the pandemic.
While drinking in moderation doesn't have serious implications for some, others are already at increased risk for SUD. One drink per day is considered moderate for women, while eight drinks or more in a single week is categorized as heavy drinking. It's important to monitor your intake—whether you are at increased risk for SUD or not. It is all too easy for one glass to become another, and then another. And if you keep reaching for just one more drink, you can start to build a tolerance, as it requires more and more alcohol to achieve the desired effect. This can result in dangerous, addictive habits that will alter your life, and the lives of those who care for you.
Three Healthy Ways to Relieve Evening Stress
Stress relief from alcohol is short-lived, but choosing healthier, alternative stress relievers can provide long-lasting benefits for both your mental and physical wellbeing. At Wellbridge, our team not only focuses on treating addiction but also on teaching healthy habits to support ongoing sobriety. And many of these learnings can be implemented to avoid addiction by handling stress better as well!
Below are three healthy stress relief ideas you can implement into your routine:
- Mindfulness exercises can be a powerful and mentally stimulating stress reliever. Throughout our therapeutic program at Wellbridge, we provide different opportunities to cultivate mindfulness. For example, breathing exercises, such as box breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, mindful walking, and progressive muscle relaxation. If you're looking for entry, guided meditation, check out this YouTube channel where experts post mindfulness exercises each week.
- Human connection is invaluable. Whether it is your spouse, your children, a friend, or even a therapist, connecting with someone else can be a great way to relieve stress. The additional perspective that another person provides can also help us feel that the anxieties and stressors we are experiencing are more manageable. If you are feeling increased stress from loneliness or isolation, reach out and schedule a Zoom coffee hour with a friend, or call a loved one to check-in and chat.
- Physical activity is an excellent stress reliever as well, for so many reasons. Not only can it help us get our mind off of stress, it enables our bodies to release endorphins and provides long-lasting physical health benefits. Physical activity doesn't need to be a full-blown workout if you don't feel up to it, or simply don't have extended periods of time to dedicate to a longer exercise regimen. Even a short walk or some stretching can go a long way towards improving your mood. I enjoy following guided, online yoga practices for both mindfulness practice and physical activity.
Despite my years working in this space, I am no stranger to giving in to stress. However, I've learned that by allotting myself a little time each morning and evening for activities that set a positive tone in my life—like meditation, journaling, and exercise—I've been able to better manage my stress and feel more prepared for heightened periods of stress. Do I manage to set aside personal time every morning and evening? Definitely not—life happens! But by doing our best to take regular time out for ourselves, we're all certain to be in a better place emotionally and mentally.
Putting Your Mental Health & Wellbeing First
It's important to also recognize that it isn't just stress that causes us to reach for another drink at night. With the added pressures and responsibilities of women in today's world, having another glass of our favorite drink at the end of the day can often seem like a quicker and easier option than other healthier ways to relieve stress.
However, it's essential to put your mental health and wellbeing front and center in your priority list—something that many women struggle with. But just like the oxygen masks on an airplane, you can't take care of others if you don't take care of yourself first. By focusing on implementing small, healthy habits and making them a seamless part of your daily routine, you ensure that you can show up in all aspects of your life and for all the people in your life.
If you are struggling with increased stress, be specific and honest with your support system about your need to preserve your mental wellbeing. Prioritizing your needs will help you be there for other people you care about in your life.
I always refer back to a quote from a Dar Williams song—a song about therapy no less! "Oh, how I loved everybody else when I finally got to talk so much about myself." Talk about your needs with others and find time to develop healthy coping habits. And if you feel as though you've already created an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, discuss that relationship with a medical advisor to learn if advanced treatment is the right option for you.