Don’t expect anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. Building Paris Laundry from the ground up has allowed me to do every job, and many I still find myself doing. As the Founder and CEO, I want to lead my team by example, and want them to know that I have been there and played just about every role at the company.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelsey Bucci.
Kelsey Bucci is a mom, army wife, breast cancer survivor, entrepreneur, and Founder of Paris Laundry, an e-commerce destination for clean, non-toxic beauty and lifestyle products. After being diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 30, Kelsey was instructed by medical professionals to refrain from using certain products to minimize her exposure to toxins. Kelsey soon discovered that her go-to products were riddled with countless chemicals that are known to cause adverse health effects, and she knew right away that this had to change, not only for her health, but for her family. Kelsey began documenting her journey to switch to clean products on her blog, and in 2018, she went on to launch a podcast, “But You Don’t Look Sick,” and her own e-commerce store, Paris Laundry, which offers clean and sustainable beauty, wellness, lifestyle, and home products that Kelsey personally vets to ensure the highest quality and safety. Today, Kelsey is enrolled in esthetics courses and has been hard at work expanding the Paris Laundry label (which currently encompasses The Everywhere Oil and Nourishing Facial Oil). She is a proud advocate for early detection and self-breast exams, and continues to give back to the breast cancer community, donating 10% of every sale to organizations supporting breast cancer research. She resides in Savannah, Georgia with her husband, four children, two dogs, and one cat.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I decided to create Paris Laundry after my own battle with breast cancer. Going through cancer treatments and at times being almost unrecognizable to myself, I wanted to create a place where women could come and feel beautiful through their own battle. I set out to offer our customers a safe destination for truly clean beauty and conscious living.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
What wasn’t hard about starting a self-funded e-commerce? I have a background in visual merchandizing and styling, so I have always felt very comfortable in the retail area, however, not having a brick-and-mortar location for people to walk in and experience all that Paris Laundry has to offer was definitely hard in the beginning. Finding ways to set ourselves apart from the sea of other beauty retailers was extremely difficult in the beginning with little to no marketing budget.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My drive comes from all that I have been through. A mom of four, military spouse, and at the time of starting Paris Laundry, still in cancer treatment, I had no choice but to keep moving forward. I am always one to figure things out, and I don’t really give up until I do. Not knowing a whole lot about e-commerce meant that I had to teach myself just about everything, and the only way to do that was to fail and then not make that mistake again. The drive simply comes from wholeheartedly believing in what we do at Paris Laundry.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things are going very well for us today, which is a true blessing to say in 2020! We are entering our second year in business, so I feel that in many ways we have not even scratched the surface of our success. Yes, we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were when we started, but our grit and resilience is still tested every single day.
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?
There are so many things to look back on and laugh, when in the moment I probably wanted to cry. The most recent was the launch of our second skincare product for our own Paris Laundry line of products, Nourishing Facial Oil. We had our bottles printed and sent to manufacturing, but somewhere along the way there was a delay in getting our boxes printed. We had the launch date set, bottles were delivered…but we had no boxes! So, we had to make the decision to launch the product anyway to finish out the fourth quarter, but some of the first bottles that were shipped out did not have a box! It was an embarrassing moment for us (because I tend to be a perfectionist with visual presentation), but our loyal customers did not mind at all.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think Paris Laundry stands out because of the community we have created in a short amount of time. There are so many women who make up our growing community that have connected with my breast cancer journey or a health diagnosis of their own and want to make a change. We’ve become a trusted resource for our customers because I personally vet and test all of the products on Paris Laundry before we make them available for purchase. I can truly speak to the products and their performance which I think helps our customers to feel more connected.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I would recommend taking a moment to step back and remember why you got started. There is so much of the day-to-day business that has nothing to do with the initial vision, but that’s what keeps things going. When I feel stressed or overwhelmed with the number of things I have to do, or the inevitable roadblocks along the way, it helps to take some time and remember why I got started in the first place.
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?
My husband is the true MVP of Paris Laundry. Not only was he my sole caregiver through brutal cancer treatments, he also held everything together with our four kids. When I approached him with wanting to start a business with little to no money and still fighting cancer, he didn’t even blink. He has been my biggest supporter, cheerleader, and all-around amazing business partner.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I think ultimately, I have turned my wounds into power. I have shared my breast cancer diagnosis and journey on my podcast, “But You Don’t Look Sick,” and social media, really opening up and being vulnerable throughout the process. This allowed me to connect with people on a much deeper level, but also helped move the conversation forward about young women and breast cancer. Using my platform and business to help the breast cancer community and women’s health advocacy is something I am really proud of.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Figure out your core values. This is important from the beginning because these will keep you on your path, and will be pillars that you will come back to when creating products, reaching out to customers, and building your team.
- Find mentors. This can happen organically, but find people to look up to, to guide you, and create a circle of them to lean on when you feel stuck.
- Don’t expect anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. Building Paris Laundry from the ground up has allowed me to do every job, and many I still find myself doing. As the Founder and CEO, I want to lead my team by example, and want them to know that I have been there and played just about every role at the company.
- You have to be willing to sacrifice, and it can get lonely. There won’t be as much support from family and friends as you think. Many people will doubt you because they don’t see the vision. You have to learn to tune them out and keep going. Sometimes, you have to be willing to sacrifice social time, family time, and downtime to get where you want to go.
- Execute, execute, execute! Don’t let overanalyzing and fear stop you from moving forward. You are either going to stay where you are or grow from the situation so, launch the product, go all in, just start executing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could start a movement for good, I would want to influence people to know how much power and control they truly have over the happiness in their lives. I would want to show people how their outlook on life ultimately effects the outcome in unexpected situations. Happiness and joy are choices that we have to make every single day, but if we choose to do it, it becomes a habit that is contagious.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!