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.
Sometimes it takes falling to rock bottom in order to be built back up again. I learned this many years ago when the life I'd carefully built for myself and my family suddenly changed. But in those times, you learn to lean on those who love you – a friend, family member or someone who can relate to what you've been through. I was lucky enough to have two incredible women help me through one of my lowest moments. They taught me to love myself and inspired me to pass on their lessons each day.
In 2010, I was a wife, a mother of 3, and had filtered in and out of jobs depending on what my family needed from me. At different points in my career, I've worked in the corporate world, been a stay-at-home mom, and even started my own daycare center. Fitness has always been a part of my life, but at that point being a mom was my main priority. Then, life threw a curveball. My husband and I separated, leading to a very difficult divorce.
These were difficult times. I lost myself in the uncertainty of my future and the stress that comes with a divorce and found myself battling anorexia. Over a matter of months, I lost 40 lbs. and felt surrounded by darkness. I was no longer participating in my health and all efforts to stay active came to a halt. I didn't want to leave my home, I didn't' want to talk to people, and I really did not want to see men. Seeing my struggles, first my sister and then a friend, approached me and invited me to visit the gym.
After months of avoiding it, my sister started taking me to the gym right before closing when it wasn't too busy. We started slow, on the elliptical or the treadmill. This routine got me out of the house and slowly we worked to regain my strength and my self-esteem. When my sister moved away, my good friend and personal trainer started working out with me one-on-one early in the morning, taking time out of her busy schedule to keep me on track toward living a healthy life once again. Even when I didn't want to leave the house, she would encourage me to push myself and I knew I didn't want to let her down. She helped me every step of the way. My sister and my friend brought fitness back into my everyday routine. They saved my life.
I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again. My friend has since moved away, but, these two women made me feel loved, confident and strong with their empowerment and commitment to me. They made such an incredible impact on me; I knew I needed to pay it forward. I wanted to have the same impact on women in my community. I started by doing little things, like running with a woman who just had a baby to keep her inspired and let her know she's not alone. I made sure not to skip my regular runs, just in case there was a woman watching who needed the inspiration to keep going. These small steps of paying it forward helped me find purpose and belonging. This gave me a new mentality that put me on a path to the opportunity of a lifetime – opening a women's only kickboxing gym, 30 Minute Hit.
About four years ago, I was officially an empty nester. It was time to get myself out of the house too and find what I was truly passionate about, which is easier said than done. Sitting behind a desk, in a cubicle, simply didn't cut it. It was hard to go from an active and chaotic schedule to a very slow paced, uneventful work week. I felt sluggish. Even when I moved to another company where I got to plan events and travel, it was enjoyable, but not fulfilling. I wanted to be a source of comfort to those struggling, as my sister and dear friend had been to me. I wanted to impact others in a way that couldn't be done from behind a desk.
When I heard about 30 Minute Hit, I was nervous to take the leap. But the more I learned about the concept, the more I knew it was the perfect fit for me. Opening my own gym where women can come to let go of their struggles, rely on one another and meet new people is the best way for me to pass on the lessons I learned during my darkest times.
Kickboxing is empowering in itself. Add to it a high energy, female-only environment, and you have yourself a powerhouse! The 30 Minute Hit concept is franchised all over North America, acting as a source of release for women who are just trying to get through their day. I see women of all ages come into my gym, kick the heck out of a punching bag and leave with a smile on their face, often times alongside a new friend. 30 Minute Hit offers a convenient schedule for all women, from busy moms to working women, to students and senior citizens. A schedule-free model allows members to come in whenever they have a free half hour to dedicate to themselves. Offering certified training in kickboxing and a safe environment to let go, 30 Minute Hit is the place for women empowerment and personal growth.
Through my journey, I have learned that everyone is going through something – everyone is on their own path. My motivating factor is knowing that I can touch people's lives everyday just by creating the space for encouragement and community. It's so easy to show people you care. That's the type of environment my team, clients and myself have worked hard to create at our 30 Minute Hit location.
Fitness saved my life. If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today. The perfect example of women empowering women – the foundation to invincibility.