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Drea Gunness-Groeschel of Beautiac: “Think big, be positive”

Beautiac founder and CEO Drea Gunness-Groeschel shares her journey to startup success, along with advice for other female founders.

Drea Gunness-Groeschel is serial entrepreneur with a passion for product optimization. She recently founded Beautiac, a makeup brush subscription service known as the “Dollar Shave Club” of beauty. The company sends customers a starter kit with brush handles and removable, replaceable makeup brush heads that use a pop-on, pop-off design like a razor. Then, customers receive new brush heads monthly in order to keep their skin clean and clear – without the hassle. Beautiac then collects old makeup brush heads and sends them to Terracycle, a global leader in recycling, to be turned into community beautification objects like park benches and planters.

The Nashville, TN-based entrepreneur created Beautiac to cater to a variety of needs. In addition to makeup lovers and those looking for blemish-free skin, Gunness-Groeschel discovered early on that her product also helps women who have motor skill troubles that make washing brushes nearly impossible. We sat down with her to learn more about her history, her journey with Beautiac and her advice for other female founders.

The Beautiac VIP starter kit

Thank you so much for joining us! To start, can you tell us what brought you to pursue an entrepreneurial career path?
Thank you for having me!  Ever since I was a little girl, I was always a negotiator.  I had a clear understanding of what I wanted and I would go after it, constantly looking for ways around the “no” until I hit a “yes.”  This was probably pretty tough on my mother! But my parents are entrepreneurs and they constantly encourage me to pursue big ideas and unique opportunities, and not to settle for the easy path.  Cash flow, marketing, employees, and other entrepreneurial subjects were common conversations at the family dinner table. Nothing was off limits and it was all about my parents facing different challenges over the years as they grew their business.  So you could say I’m cut from the same cloth and I’ve been around startups since I was born.

Can you tell us about your company, Beautiac, and what you think makes it stand out from other companies in the beauty industry?
Beautiac is an exciting new concept in the online beauty space.  I invented a makeup brush system that “closes the loop” in a skincare routine by providing a recyclable makeup brush with a replaceable head.  With all the money we spend on great products and cosmetics, it’s important to ensure that when we apply our makeup, we’re using a great brush that isn’t harboring blemish-causing bacteria.  I was getting breakouts and found that clean brushes were the key to healthier skin, but didn’t have the time to wash my brushes and wasn’t sure that when I did they were actually truly clean.  So I invented the brush system and accessories to help others like me. I’m also not the full glam kinda gal, I believe in simple beauty and that we shouldn’t spend hours in front of the mirror.  It can be stressful and there are other things I’d rather be doing, but I still want to look great and be “me” at the same time. This belief gave Beautiac the culture it has today. Some of us are glammy, some of us are more basic, some of us fall in the middle – and Beautiac’s focus is to provide great innovative products that can help everyone with their everyday beauty routine by making it faster, simpler and healthier.  We are the first producer of this cool product and proud to see so many people who are happy we brought this concept to life!

What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you since you founded Beautiac?
Getting real customers – of course!  Any startup goes through this moment when you think you’re onto something, but there is always a tinge of doubt looming: “what if people don’t get it, or don’t like the product?”  But since we launched we’ve seen super positive reactions. We also have a product that has the ability to truly help people in their daily lives. People with motor skill trouble often struggle to wash their brushes thoroughly enough to maintain their makeup hygiene.  This was an unexpected value to the product that has really struck a chord with me. We started receiving emails and DMs from customers that thanked us for making a product that was easy to use, so they could have clean brushes and feel proud of their makeup routine. Nothing is more motivating than to help other people feel better about themselves and continue to support their journey for independence and good personal care. 

Every founder makes mistakes. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting & what lesson you learned from that?
Oh gosh where do I start!  Entrepreneurs make mistakes all the time, but the trick is to be flexible and quickly recognize when a mistake is made so it can be corrected as soon as possible. I will say that sometimes a mistake can be classified as a mindset.  A negative mindset can be the most common mistake that happens without anyone even realizing it! Often a startup is so difficult that it mentally can wear on you, long hours, learning curve, lack of life balance. There might be days when you wonder why you are doing what you’re doing.  Going down that rabbit hole can often be a mistake. So I try to recognize when I begin thinking negatively and force myself to not have conversations with myself, especially negative ones. I’ve trained myself to catch my thought process and steer it back to a positive subject when I begin to criticize myself.  Often those negative self conversations aren’t true, aren’t real and are based on made-up stories about self criticism and “what ifs.” Quickly gain control of your thoughts and push them towards something positive fix to your negative thoughts. It will bring your energy up, and days later you’ll realize the conversation with yourself was nothing but you giving yourself bad advice.  Think big, be positive. 

What advice would you give to other female leaders on how help their team to thrive?
Have meetings, lots of meetings.  People tend to get tied up in what they are doing, especially when working as a startup can be long hours jam packed with “to do” lists that feel never ending.  Communication can often get lost and it’s the most important aspect of any startup as procedures aren’t fully in place and decisions can change day to day. By having meetings daily, you will ensure everyone is on the same page and it will help a team gel and run smoothly.  Not to mention that as a female leader, I think I can connect on an emotional level. This is a great skill that women tend to possess and often something that is thought of as a negative female trait in business. I disagree and believe it’s a huge positive. It makes me relatable and approachable by my team.  Which is important in the early stages as the startup ride can have several ups and downs emotionally and everyone needs to support one another through the thick and thin as the business builds. There is always a place for passion in my company. I encourage it.

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? 
My family is truly my rock and the reason behind my successes.  They are a great source of honest advice, good soundboards and my cheering squad when things get tough.  I’m lucky because everyone in my family is a business owner, and has amazing insights to share when I ask for advice, and even when I don’t!  But there are two people in particular for Beautiac that helped me get where I am today. Brad Borne is our product technical advisor. He has several decades in development of scalable product and manufacturing techniques, and he is simply the best of the best.  What I believe separates Brad from the rest is that Brad goes the extra mile. He went to China with me to find the right factory. He even went back to China to ensure our production was being handled correctly, when I was unable to go due to my pregnancy. He did this without a question.  He is a major player on this team and I’m grateful for the relationship. My uncle, Andrew Adler, is the other. Andrew is a serial entrepreneur with big wins under his belt. He has an exceptional eye for marketing and has the unique ability to identifying future market shifts. A bit of a business crystal ball reader as well.  He is an expert business mentor and investor, and is by my side as we chase the next unicorn.

What are five things you wish someone told you before you founded your own company, and why? 
I’m not sure I have five things I wish someone would have told me.  The reason I say this is that I’m sure someone did tell me, and I probably didn’t listen!  Often we need to learn lessons on our own, or get to a certain place in our expertise where we know what questions to ask and how to discern advice.  After all, not all advice is good advice. When I think back to my beginnings as an entrepreneur, one of the lessons I may have missed would be sometimes you just can’t out-work a problem.  Some challenges, no matter how much time you put in, just can’t be solved without additional resources. I worked so hard in my last company, my personal life suffered greatly. In hindsight, I didn’t need to neglect my personal life as much as I did and I still would have found myself in the same place.  Learning what challenges to prioritize and knowing what you have or don’t have as resources to meet those challenges is a major lesson for success.  

Lastly, can you tell us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that has been relevant in your life as the founder of Beautiac?  
“Don’t Expect a Thank You” – my sister once said this to me.  She said if your expectation is to always receive a “thank you” when you do something nice or you put in the extra effort, you will often be disappointed and may even hold resentment when it doesn’t come.  Do it instead for yourself. Being a leader and an entrepreneur is often a thankless job. We are at work first and last to leave, we work nights and weekends, and make huge sacrifices. But ultimately I wouldn’t want it any other way.  I do it for my soul, not because I expect a thank you from my employees, investors, or vendors. Freedom from self-inflicted expectations is an amazing thing!

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