Failure happens, just learn from it. Early on in my business, I wanted to focus on brides and getting their skin ready for their big day. I did bridal shows, created pamphlets for special bridal packages and left them at local bridal shops, and even made bridal skincare kits. I never had anyone purchase the treatment package and I had one bridal skincare kit sell. I gave up on brides. Fast forward to now, I get brides all the time from referrals and online reviews. It just wasn’t the right time for me to advertise to brides. The right time eventually came, and I didn’t have to do any advertising to get them in the door.
As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Erica Suppa. She was a cancer research scientist who shifted careers to become an expert skincare specialist and developed Fresh Faced Skin Care; products that are science-based, clean, natural, non-toxic, safe, and organic quality, superseding any others on the market. They offer an honest and affordable alternative to skin care that is clinically tested, cruelty free and use the highest quality ingredients that nourish the skin, naturally.
Erica also has two advanced skin care studios in Historic New Castle, Delaware or in Greenville, Delaware and uses that background to treat the different issues she comes across to create solutions that work for everyone, no matter what their skincare needs are.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have always loved skincare. As a child, I remember creating skincare products in my Mom’s kitchen; a face mask with egg yolks, steaming my face with hot water and herbs. However, a licensed esthetician did not exist as a career at the time.
I went to college for Biology and Chemistry, which I really enjoyed. After working as a Biologist for many years, I was let go from a company unexpectedly and was shocked and devastated. During my job search, I went to a library to gather some job-hunting information and a book caught my eye. The book was about finding your passion, among other things. It really inspired me to think about what I was passionate about. I thought back to those times in my Mom’s kitchen and researched more about how to make skincare products. That is when I enrolled in a local school to become a licensed esthetician. Throughout the esthetic program, I had the opportunity to practice facial treatments on clients and what I really loved about that was helping them with their skincare concerns. After I graduated skincare school and received my license to practice, I immediately opened a small 250 sq ft space and focused my Fresh Faced Skin Care products and treatments to be as helpful for the client as possible without being irritating or aggressive. My main objective was to mimic the powerful results of prescription medication, lasers, and injectables with topical products designed to work in tandem with the biology of the skin.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
In November 2011, when I was first starting out and searching for a location for my business, I found this perfect space on a main street with high visibility and I inquired about it. It was way out of my price range and I could not afford it. However, the realtor informed me of another smaller space that was available behind it, down an alley off the main street. I took a chance and looked at it, even though I really wanted the space on the main street. It was a basic, small office space, but it was really all I needed to get started. I said ok and signed the lease. In November 2015, that perfect space on the main street became available once again. A client who lived in the town told me about it and knew that I was interested. I now operate out of that perfect space.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
While I was in skincare school, I was giving a facial to a client. I left a clay mask on too long and it was extremely hard to remove. It took so many hot towels to get that off! But the client never realized that it was a mistake. She thought it was part of the service and enjoyed the hot towel sequence! I learned that mistakes happen and that you must roll with them.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There is a person that I am grateful towards that inspired me to be where I am today, Jack Canfield. He is the author of the book that caught my eye in the library that made me want to become an Esthetician. That book is called The Success Principles. In 2019, I had the opportunity to meet Jack in person and thank him for being my inspiration.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
That is a good question. It may be because of a combination of things. I believe women are natural caregivers and do not prioritize themselves. They take care of everyone else first: their significant others, their kids, their parents, etc. Most women that come to me for facial treatments for the first time have never had a facial before. Not a single facial in their whole life and this would be coming from a woman in her 50’s, 60’s or 70’s. Why is that? It could be a similar mentality for starting a business. That would mean they would have to prioritize themselves and their passion over others. It also could be that the perceived risk in starting a business may be too great for most women. The fear of failure, whether personal or financial, can be paralyzing.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
I believe that there are many great programs for someone looking to start a business. However, there seems to be a lack of resources available to those who have been in business for 3–5 years and want to scale. There should be more support for established businesses that can be easily accessed and not be intimidating to a female entrepreneur. Perhaps more women-focused mastermind groups, women mentorship at local SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) and SBA (Small Business Administration) branches would go a long way to help female founders. In addition, I believe female founders should be featured more in the media (television, radio, print and digital publications) to inspire other potential female founders to begin their first steps.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
More women should become founders so that they can realize their passions. It is such a great sense of accomplishment to start your own business surrounding your passion. To have a chance to leave your mark in this world and do something good. Women have great ideas and creativity and I have met many wonderful and inspiring women founders.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder. Can you explain what you mean?
One myth about being a founder is that you make lots of money. You don’t start making money until about the third year in business. It takes time to make a profit and even to start paying yourself a salary. Another myth about being a founder is that you don’t work as much as an employee does for a company and you can take off work anytime you want. I work on my business every day of the week and if I want to take a vacation, I don’t have the benefit of getting paid while on vacation.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
I think anyone can be a founder. It only takes passion to become a founder. Everyone is passionate about something. Find your passion and be damn good at it. You can always surround yourself with others who are good at what you’re not.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Keep an open mind. When making a decision that affects your business, you can take a little time to think about it. Do not quickly dismiss something, as it could prove to be valuable for your business. I got an email from a packaging company that I worked with in the past indicating that they would be at a trade show in a couple of weeks and to meet them at their booth. I quickly deleted the email and moved on. Later that week, something made me want to look at that email again in my trash folder. I researched the trade show and thought it was interesting. I booked a flight and reserved my hotel room that night. I ended up finding the perfect packaging for my new eye product at that trade show and it completely changed how the product works for the better!
- Opportunity is all around you, but you must work for it. You can set all the goals you want, but if you do not act on those goals, you won’t get very far. I have always wanted to be on QVC and talk about skincare (preferably my products). An esthetician friend of mine sent me a link to a job opportunity for a local esthetician to be an ambassador for a major brand’s beauty device line and to represent them on QVC. I emailed the contact and sent my resume. Over the next two days, I had to rearrange my work schedule several times in order to attend multiple Skype interviews and in-person interviews. A video of me doing a live television segment was required. I had just completed that television segment the month before and it was the reason I was hired! I represented this brand’s devices late at night after working long days doing facial treatments. It was both fun and exhausting, but I made it work because it was something I had always wanted to do.
- Failure happens, just learn from it. Early on in my business, I wanted to focus on brides and getting their skin ready for their big day. I did bridal shows, created pamphlets for special bridal packages and left them at local bridal shops, and even made bridal skincare kits. I never had anyone purchase the treatment package and I had one bridal skincare kit sell. I gave up on brides. Fast forward to now, I get brides all the time from referrals and online reviews. It just wasn’t the right time for me to advertise to brides. The right time eventually came, and I didn’t have to do any advertising to get them in the door.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Things can happen in business that are out of your control and you will need to alter how you do things in order to succeed. The biggest example of this is Covid-19 and the year 2020. Because of the virus, my business was shut down by the Governor for nearly three months. About 80% of my revenue comes from skincare services and in-studio product purchases. I had to find ways to make money since my store was closed. Instead of my facial studio, I went to my laboratory every day to make skincare products. I decided to stream live videos on Instagram and Facebook to continue to connect with my clients. That is something I never did before. I ended up learning a lot from client feedback and what they wanted. I created new products and product bundles and offered free shipping for those 3 months. It was such a success, that my business grossed more money in 2020 than in 2019!
- Fasten your seatbelt. Your business is a roller coaster, and you will have peaks and valleys throughout. It is not a smooth path to success. There are weeks in a month where I am booked solid with facial treatments, and then there are days where I have huge gaps in my schedule. This is part of owning a business. I use these gaps to get other things done that I normally don’t have time for, such as creating marketing emails, social media, or researching ingredients for my next product.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I have raised money over the years for various local charities, such as the Delaware Ovarian Cancer Foundation and the B+ Foundation. I also actively serve on a senior centerboard to help raise funds for the center’s activities and health programs. Of course, I love to develop skincare products that transform the skin and help restore someone’s confidence.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
If I could inspire a movement, it would surround women and their healthcare. Particularly women who are pre-menopausal, going through menopause, and post-menopausal. There is a severe lack of help by mainstream medicine in this area. I personally went through menopause early and not a single doctor could help me identify that. I had to pay out-of-pocket at an alternative medical practice to find the correct diagnosis. Any help from that alternative medical practice was very costly and most women could not afford that. Let’s bring this issue to the forefront since this happens to more than half of the population! Make alternative therapies mainstream and affordable.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Definitely, Alanis Morissette. Her music and lyrics have and continue to inspire. Breakfast with Alanis would be lovely.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.