Talk to an entrepreneur of any age, ethnicity, financial background or gender, and they’ll likely be able to name more than a few moments that changed the trajectory of their life, both personally and professionally. From deals that went sour before they had time to get off the ground to a disheartening divorce that made getting out of bed for a 9 a.m. board meeting that much more difficult, those who are often the most successful are the same ones who learn how to battle the toughest of demons.
Meryl Marshall, founder of Hynt beauty, has had her fair share of trials, including two major events – she is both a breast cancer survivor and a 9/11 widow. These irrevocably life-changing experiences have made her stronger, and the battles she’s fought her way through are what inspired her to create her own line of clean, green cosmetics that is growing at a rapid speed.
Based in New Jersey, Marshall has a cult following on Instagram, which she uses to showcase the line of clean, luxe ingredients. This innovative businesswoman, however, has her own story to tell that extends far beyond what’s kept in the bathrooms of women across the country. She also harbors a courageous drive that propels her forward, no matter which obstacles she encounters.
Prepare yourself, because you’re about to be astoundingly inspired by this gutsy entrepreneur:
You are such a survivor. How did you stay strong after 9/11 and the cancer diagnosis and subsequent battle?
When asked to reflect on myself, I think of how resilient I am. I have had to endure the tragic loss of my beloved husband Robert on September 11, 2001. It was indeed a very dark period of my life. I was widowed at the age of 42 with an 11-year-old son. I had to deal with the loss of my husband as well as the aftermath of a major world event. I was barraged with people constantly coming to my home to console me and reporters calling. I was interviewed by many, including Katie Couric and The New York Times, where my story made the front page.
I was blessed to meet my husband Craig – a widower with two young sons. We fell deeply in love and vowed to take care of each other and our sons. We married in May of 2004 and six months later, I found a lump in my breast. I was shocked when the test results came back and it was indeed malignant. Though we caught it early, it was a fast-growing type of cancer that required aggressive treatment. I endured surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Needless to say, that left me with three frightened kids at home who had already lost one parent.
Craig took such loving care of all of us, and that was when I realized that despite the seemingly insurmountable challenges in life, I had one great guy and three amazing kids in my corner. And so, I was lucky twice.
Were these turning points the catalyst to starting HYNT?
Yes. I was devastated when I received my diagnosis and thus began my journey of questioning numerous things, such as the food I ate, cleaning products I used, lawn and garden products I owned, as well as the products I spread on my body. I did extensive research and realized that many of the products I was using were potentially harmful to myself and my family.
I started making small changes and eventually transitioned to a healthier lifestyle, which included scrutinizing products on the market. I did find healthier makeup, but it was extremely difficult to find the textures and colors I was accustomed to in elegant, luxurious packaging. Clinical white and wood may connote green beauty, but they were not appealing to me.
I wanted to create a brand that expressed the message of trust and love – a brand that can be relied on for pro-makeup-artist level quality, in gorgeous, sexy packaging, that adhered to a strict blacklist of ingredients that were unacceptable in the formulations.
HYNT Beauty Products Courtesy of HYNT
My husband Craig and I infuse our passion into our business and truly love the interaction we have with our customers. We also enjoy working with our dynamic, creative team that keeps Hynt humming soundly. We are also philanthropic by giving back to various organizations that support those going through cancer treatment, a cause that is close to our hearts.
What was the hardest part of starting your own company?
The hardest part of starting a company is the amount of time and dedication required. My husband and I can work very long days and often for hours during the weekend. We still have a relatively small staff to delegate work to so it is often confusing whether we are working on our business or working in our business. We know the difference and we are always fine tuning the process. Craig and I mutually respect one another and play different roles in our business. We work well together and we support one another in problem solving.
Another challenge is the high MOQ’s (minimum order quantities) that we must purchase, especially in packaging. The packaging sits waiting to be filled with product so that it can be sold but when you are first launching a company, you can’t fill and sell 20,000 of a particular eye shadow shade overnight. And thus, a lot of money ends up sitting on shelves.
We aim to run our business frugally, but one needs to be wise on knowing where to spend the budget when there is a decent ROI (return on investment). The priority of these expenditures is changing all the time while there are changes in the way people purchase product.
Even though the business and its mission to share healthier cosmetic options are my passion, I must stay motivated and keep stress to a minimum.
What do you wish someone had told you before you became an entrepreneur?
I wish I was told how much money it takes up front to do things right. For example, money is required to build a better website, a stronger SEO, for consulting, and hiring and maintaining the top team members. They are costly, but the results are unquestionable. And with time or additional investment, they bring back far bigger returns.
This is a very exciting time for Hynt Beauty. We are encountering slow but very steady growth. The green beauty industry is here to stay and we receive calls and emails all the time hearing how someone tossed all their conventional products and are starting anew with clean products they feel confident in using. HyntBeauty.com is a thriving e-commerce site that has accumulated over 13,000 subscribers since its launch one and a half years ago.
We are cautious as to who we sell to and how. We learned that there are many challenges selling in brick and mortar locations.
We are still trying to get the line into certain markets. We have amazing partners with other clean beauty e-commerce sites. We have all learned that an expanded sampling program is crucial for the customer to ‘try before you buy’ which transfers to a high percentage of return to site for a full-sized purchase.
We are currently completing our EU Certification. We have several International distributors lined up. We are already selling very well in the Nordic countries.
We are continually trying to improve our packaging sources. I am working hard to secure U.S. manufacturers that can make the same cosmetic packaging that we currently purchase overseas. It is generally more costly but if it makes sense, we try to negotiate for sharp pricing.
Most of our packaging is recyclable, like the proper safe plastics and glass. Eventually a refill program for certain products will be incorporated into the line. We minimize the amount of printing we do in the office and use biodegradable paper when we do print. We even use biodegradable green-line plastic bags for our sample program. We are constantly looking to improve Hynt Beauty and remain dedicated to honesty so that it can continue to be trusted and loved.
Three years ago, I made a deal with myself - I wanted to have $100,000 saved when I'm 25. But I didn't mind if it didn't happen until the day before my 26th birthday.
One of my biggest priorities in life has always been to save as much money as possible — and I owe much of that to my parents, who made sure I had a strong financial education at a young age.
My dad even helped me start a vending machine business when I was nine. The experience taught me essential skills like how to pitch a business, cope with rejection and open a checking and savings account.
For the past three years, I've never made more than $80,000. About a year ago, I reviewed my rate of savings and investments and realized that I was on track to save $100,000. With only a car loan away from being debt free, I've got another year and $10K to go!
I want to acknowledge that privilege is a key part of my story. I'm white, I come from a middle-class family, and I was able to graduate college without any debt. All these things helped a great deal.
But my parents didn't raise me with a silver spoon. Paying for college was a collaborative process. We'd sit down at least twice a year to discuss how we were going to pay for the next semester. The first question they'd always ask me was: "How much can you contribute?"
I've been fortunate. But it also takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and responsibility to save and maximize your earnings. Feeling motivated and knowing that I'll be prepared for whatever life throws my way fuels my drive to keep making smart financial decisions. Here's how I'm getting to $100K.
- I side-hustled
This kick-started my journey towards six-figures. In addition to saving the majority of my 9-5 salary, my first year of freelance social media marketing made me quite a bit of cash that I could immediately save. I was able to establish both a SEP IRA and a fully-funded emergency fund with my earnings.
2. I started investing early
Knowing that compound interest is so important, I wanted to start investing early to have my money work for me. Once I started my first big-girl job, I opened my first Roth IRA. Starting to save for retirement at age 22, I was able to max out my Roth each year and also contribute to aSEP IRA and a non-retirement investment account. My first job out of school had a 401(k), but you couldn't contribute until you were there at least a year. Knowing I wasn't planning on staying long — I was at that job for a year and a few months — I opened a Roth 401(k) and then rolled my earnings to my Roth IRA.
3. I negotiated salary offers and raises
Negotiating should be a collaboration, not a confrontation. Growing up, I watched my father sit on hold, patiently waiting to negotiate our cable and phone bills. Negotiation was always part of my life, and I grew up with parents who knew how to do it. So when I was offered my first social media freelance gig, I negotiated over $10k more than they offered. And after achieving a 20% bump at my first 9-5, I negotiated $20k more than what was offered at my next job. And $10k more at the next job. If negotiating for raises freaks you out, here's a guide that can help.
4. I've automated my savings
Automating your money not only makes your life easier, but it makes you feel like the percentage you're saving just doesn't exist. I have 26% of each paycheck automatically deposited into a high-yield savings account. This savings account is purposefully at a different bank than my day-to-day checking account, so I'm less likely to withdraw from it and less likely to think about it. This "set it and forget it" level of financial freedom was something I worked hard for -- through money diarying, budgeting, and conscious spending. So now, my savings amount is completely on autopilot.
At the age of 24, I know that I am on the right track to make my goal a reality. Inspired by my own journey, I wanted to help women everywhere to have that same feeling of confidence that financial education gives — and get information from someone who isn't an old, rich white dude. As a money speaker and coach, I run Her First $100K, a financial literacy platform for millennial women on the path to get their first $100K too.
It's possible to achieve your first $100K — whether that's debt paid off, earned, saved, invested, or something else. With intentional strategies and focus, you've got this!