How This Lifestyle Entrepreneur Is Serving 360 Degrees of Clean Beauty And Wellness
This article was written by Shani Syphrett and originally published on Forbes.com
We’re familiar with the term “lifestyle brand”, a brand aiming to cater to a group or culture holistically — through products, services, experiences, values and aspirations. The brands that immediately come to mind are a mix of legacy (Nike, Red Bull and Harley Davidson) and newcomers (Bumble and WeWork). But they’re usually carried under the umbrella of a single brand name. With the spotlight shifting from the brands themselves to the visionary people behind the scenes, and the lifecycle from idea to launch consistently shrinking, entrepreneurs aren’t afraid to diversify and expand on a mission.
The “lifestyle entrepreneur” is a serial founder who launches multiple, often separate, brands that cater to a specific lifestyle that most often fits their own. These endeavors can be both self-funded or venture backed. While it is not unlike many entrepreneurs to have their hands in multiple businesses at once, it takes a certain level of ingenuity and commitment to purpose to tie it all together. These entrepreneurs are seeing their next step as a natural extension of what they have already created. Think Sophia Amoruso with Nasty Gal/Girl Boss, Morgan DeBaun with Blavity/21Ninety or the recent launch of the Alliance for Good fund by the founders of Thrive Market.
For Gianne Doherty, the rumblings to build the next step in her clean beauty empire came directly from her customers. After founding Organic Bath Co, an award-winning skincare line with healthy, organic and Fair Trade Certified-ingredients, she created W.E.L.L. Summit, the premier summit bringing leaders in the wellness and clean beauty industries together with enthusiasts, newbies and hardcore wellness fans for multiple days of panels, workshops and interactive vendor experiences.
I spoke with the Boston-based entrepreneur about the vision behind both brands, how she sees each as an extension of her passions and what it takes to build two business at once.
Shani Syphrett: What was your career trajectory before you launched your first brand, Organic Bath Co?
Gianne Doherty: I was living in NYC, where I was a business development executive in the staffing industry. My day-to-day involved cold calling, researching and networking, with every day being a little bit different, depending on the needs of the business. I did think I would eventually become an entrepreneur and business owner, but I thought I would start my own executive search staffing business. I never thought I would get into the clean beauty and wellness industry.
Syphrett: How far along were you with Organic Bath Co before you had the idea for W.E.L.L. Summit?
Doherty: Organic Bath Co is my original baby. My partner Jay and I started the company when I was breaking out in hives as a reaction to the products I was using. At that time, I had no idea how unregulated the personal care and beauty industry was or how many toxic products are marketed to women, especially women of color. I think it's absolutely ridiculous.
Through my journey with Organic Bath Co, I realized that a lot of my family and friends were not connecting the dots to a broader understanding of their wellness. I founded W.E.L.L. Summit because I believe that wellness should be a 360-degree conversation. It's not just about the ingredients in your food — it's the ingredients in your beauty and personal care products, the company you surround yourself with, the choices you make every day about how you treat yourself, and even how you talk to and about yourself. And with W.E.L.L. Summit, our community was hungry for more education, information, connection, ideas and DIY beyond the event, so we created W.E.L.L. Insiders as an editorial extension to dive into those topics on a daily basis.
Syphrett How are you funding each of the projects?
Doherty: I'm really proud to say that five years into my entrepreneurship journey, my businesses remain self-funded. I'm not against having that change in the future, as we decide how and where to scale, but for now, our growth is fueled by revenue. It certainly hasn't been easy, but having limited resources has definitely forced me to get really creative with marketing and collaboration. I think ultimately it’s been an advantage. I don't know if some of our successful collaborations would have come about if I had a lot of money to throw at a problem or an idea.
Syphrett: Can you explain a little bit more about how bootstrapping made you think more critically about spending money and how that led to interesting opportunities?
Doherty: I read Daymond John's book The Power of Broke and loved it. I think if you have money to throw at a problem, sometimes that becomes your quick fix. Not having that as an option really forces me to think about what I have at my disposal — and we truly have a lot of resources with the internet and social media. We can be our own marketing powerhouse these days. Which means getting creative about how I’m going to tell the story of either of my brands with my phone, the internet, our community and talking in-person with people I know.
I remember with our first W.E.L.L. Summit in 2015, we had no design budget and no decor. It was really just about the community, the content and the panels of speakers. The fancy stuff didn’t matter to prove the concept. But, if I would’ve waited and said, “Some of these other beautiful conferences out there have decor budgets of $100,000,” I never would’ve started the summit.
Syphrett: Between your time and that of your team, how are you getting it all done?
Doherty: Every single workday is different, which is an aspect of entrepreneurship I really love. I’m not getting it all done at once. On a given day, I could be overseeing a new formula for a product release or doing a retail visit for Organic Bath Co, interviewing a potential keynote speaker or working on programming for W.E.L.L. Summit, or reviewing upcoming articles for W.E.L.L. Insiders. My personal time and oversight overlap between my brands, but we do keep Organic Bath Co and W.E.L.L. Summit totally separate. There are separate advisory boards and teams for each brand with individual meetings, goals and agendas.
Syphrett: What are some of the advantages of keeping the brands separate?
Doherty: We keep them separated because they have separate goals. With Organic Bath Co, our main focus is on clean, non-toxic beauty and reaching as many people with our products. With W.E.L.L. Summit, we’re expanding upon the idea that clean beauty should be a part of your lifestyle — we’re taking it back to 360 wellness. So while the Organic Bath Co team is focused on wholesale, retail and marketing for our line of products, W.E.L.L. Summit is focused on connecting the dots for our community, bringing amazing content to the summit and community building. But the “why” for both brands are the same — we are making people feel beautiful in a healthy way.
Syphrett: You’re not just building a series of brands, you’re tapping into a lifestyle. As a “lifestyle entrepreneur”, how have you chosen to brand yourself?
Doherty: My brand is based on who I am — authentic, inclusive and empowering. I see these as both personal and professional skills. They’re what I’m most passionate about and form the bones of W.E.L.L. Summit. As a woman of color, I also feel the responsibility and opportunity to utilize the platforms I’ve created to disrupt the clean beauty and wellness industry and ensure it works for all women.
Syphrett: What advice would you have for founders who are looking to build and maintain multiple businesses once?
Doherty: Accept that you can't do everything well at once. Make sure you hire smart. I'm really grateful for the team I've been building around me. I've been able to reach new goals faster and more strategically because of them. Know what your strengths and weaknesses are and make sure you hire people smarter and more experienced than you. I have big goals for both of my brands and I want to take them to places I've never been before, so I've made it a priority to hire a team who has the experience to help us reach those goals that my passion and drive alone cannot.
Shani Syphrett is an expert marketer and business strategist helping to build the next generation of innovative brands. Follow her @ShaniSyphrettfor updates.