The last time we heard from Celeste Ruberti, our frizz-fighting entrepreneur was up to her elbows in natural ingredients. What was Celeste cooking up? A proprietary formula for all those gals (and guys!) who like their curls and waves air-dried, not blow-dried. When we left off, Celeste was feeling rejuvenated after taking a much-needed break from creating a new hair-care product (don’t forget, she’s a full-time hair stylist, too). She was refreshed, organized and ready to tackle logo design, branding, a new website and marketing – all while refining her secret recipe. So where is Celeste today? Let’s find out!
Celeste, since we last spoke in June, you’ve probably spent a lot of time just sitting around and eating bonbons. True?
Well … I did just take a day off from the salon to catch up on some product-related business. I’ve been creating a huge new blog post: the definitive guide to air-drying your hair! I’ve also been analyzing the feedback from a 50-person survey about the latest version of my product. Oh, and I’ve been interviewing chemists to decide who will make the final formula, too.
That’s not exactly chilling. Tell us more about what you’ve been doing the past four months!
I’ll start with the product. The testing process has been very time-consuming, and I’m the guinea pig for every product. I’ve made formulations that are too runny, too sticky or that separate over time. Last winter, I thought I’d found the perfect recipe. But after a long rainy season in California, we suddenly had an 80-degree day. I put the product in my hair as usual. As I drove to work, my hair dried and completely frizzed. It took me two months to figure out the problem was caused by glycerin. It’s a humectant that sucked all the moisture out of my hair!
I’ve now tested about 60 iterations of a leave-in conditioner that’s really close to what I’m looking for. That’s the sample I sent out for feedback, which I’m currently reviewing. As planned, I’m using all plant-based materials, which has the added bonus of being unlikely to blow up my house if I mix something wrong! My formula has nine or ten ingredients, which is a lot less than most hair-care products. I’ve realized you really don’t need all that stuff to make a great product.
This is exciting! Are you ready to start the manufacturing process?
Once I decide which chemist to hire to make the formula, I’ll focus on manufacturing. It’s stressful – no one will give you an estimate until you pay a fee for research and development (R&D) first. You don’t get the money back. At this point, I have no idea what my margins or my cost per unit will be, and I don’t know how much product to buy. The smaller the volume, the more it costs. Plenty of people have done this before me and they’ve been fine, so I’m getting ready to leap first and figure it out later.
Fortunately, I like the process of being uncomfortable, of learning as I go. Every step in this process is new, but I like it!
It can be lonely figuring things out on your own. Where do you turn for support?
I’ve joined a couple of online groups, including the QuickBooks Community. This site is helpful because everyone here has similar experiences to share about building a business.
I also post regularly to an online cosmetics business group. A branding expert in the community has offered to help me pro bono. She’s already given me some great advice. She told me about Sephora’s one-week Accelerate program that includes presenting a product to industry executives, hearing their feedback and participating in a demo day in front of potential investors. Participants get $5000, too. I’m applying for the program this week.
We’ll be rooting for you! Celeste, what’s been particularly challenging as you get closer to bringing your product to market?
I’ve been trying to build my social media presence without killing myself! I had lofty goals for posting every day on Instagram and Facebook but quickly realized I was sharing content just to get something up. I got really stressed out. My social media channels felt like two children I had to feed and take care of all the time.
I want my posts to be professional, but they also need to authentically reflect my business. It’s just me, and I’m messy and imperfect – just like air-dried hair!
Another challenge: I’ve had to change the name of my product. I found out a while ago that Truth Serum had already been trademarked by someone else in the skin-care space. I knew I might lose the name, and I did. I’m in the process of trademarking a new name, but I’m not ready to share it yet. Stay tuned.
What’s your projected timeline for launching your styling product?
I plan to launch by late spring or early summer 2018.
You know, thinking back on the past couple of years, one thing that’s kept me going is simply admitting how hard it is to work two full-time jobs. Sometimes I’m sad and stressed out because I have no free time. Just acknowledging this helps me feel better. And at the end of the day, I believe in what I’m doing. That’s what makes the effort feel worth it.
Do you feel like your social channels are like high-needs children demanding your attention? Have you struggled with branding and naming your amazing product? If so, let Celeste know by commenting below!
I’ve been self-employed for most of my career as content specialist, so I know how much discipline and determination it takes to run your own business. As QB Community Content Chief, I love sharing the stories of people committed to doing things their way. I hope you’ll join our community and share your inspiring story!