Kirstie Kirkham: “Don’t let mistakes bring down team morale”

Don’t let mistakes bring anyone down. Sometimes things happen that aren’t exactly ideal; however, we don’t need to let these things bring the team morale down or make it feel like the mistake is bigger than it actually is. It’s important to support your team at these times of stress, accept that sometimes mistakes happen […]

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Don’t let mistakes bring anyone down. Sometimes things happen that aren’t exactly ideal; however, we don’t need to let these things bring the team morale down or make it feel like the mistake is bigger than it actually is. It’s important to support your team at these times of stress, accept that sometimes mistakes happen and lead the way to move forward collectively.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kirstie Kirkham, who is the founder of international self tan powerhouse MineTan. Created in 2013, MineTan is the leading 1 Hour Tan brand that offers its army of loyal customers world-first creations and a truly picture-perfect finish. Having grown up under the beautiful (yet harsh) Australian sun, Kirstie identified a gap in the market for a safe and healthy alternative to sun tanning — and she felt that the future was pointing towards self tanning. After extensive research, Kirstie discovered that there was a serious lack of innovation within the industry, and she simply couldn’t find the perfect product. That’s when she decided to create it herself! She developed the MineTan 1 Hour Tan Formula with no orange tones, a touch-dry, zero-transfer finish, and enriched it with moisturizing antioxidants, oils and other skin loving ingredients. In the few short years since launch, MineTan remains at the forefront of innovation and the company continues to grow globally at an impressive rate. Today, MineTan is the choice for millions of self tan lovers around the world and is stocked in leading retailers across the US, Australia the UK and Europe.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up in Australia, we are often known for the ‘quintessential bronze babe’ look which I loved myself — however I was also very aware of the harsh Australian UV rays. Sun safety was always of importance to me, but so was being tanned!

I was working as an event manager in the beauty industry, and knew lots of other self tan lovers like myself who just could not find the perfect product. We all wanted a tan that that didn’t smell, developed quickly and looked natural. After a long search, I discovered that nothing like that existed and there was a huge gap in the market!

Following a lot of research and consultation, speaking with industry contacts and friends, I decided that I would need to create it myself, and so the idea for MineTan and the world’s first (and to this day only) 1 hour tan was born. It all began from my garage in 2013 and I haven’t looked back since!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting out in business? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’m not sure how funny it was at the time… but looking back now it’s a little funny!

When we transported our very first large shipment of product, the transport unit was supposed to be set to 18 °C (which is about 64° F). But they accidentally set it to — 18 °C (about 0 °F!) so when it actually arrived all of our product was completely frozen! It then took another 12 months to resolve this all through our insurance agency, as they did not understand how this affected our product — essentially our first big shipment was completely ruined!

It was a big (and expensive!) lesson to learn but a valuable one, and since then we have implemented processes to minimize our exposure so this never happens again. We now ensure that photos of the temperature gauge are taken before they depart and utilize digital thermometers so we can measure the temperature throughout every journey and to ensure the products have held their integrity.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I can proudly say that there is no other tanning brand in the world with as much product and industry depth as MineTan.

Starting as a salon professional brand, we wanted to bring the same salon finish into people’s homes — so they could achieve the same salon quality, picture-perfect finish they were used to but from the comfort of their own homes. We used our expertise to actively listen and consult with our professional salon customers to bring the latest innovations to the sunless tanning industry. Much more than your standard light, medium and dark options, our tans have all been created to give you a different skin finish; so, you can choose based on your skin type, skin needs or even by the occasion you are tanning for.

We were also the first brand to launch color base tans, our hero collection, which has been designed much like hair color or cosmetics products where you select your tan based on your desired skin finish. So, if you’re looking for a light, golden, sun kissed tan we recommend Caramel. Or maybe you want a rich, warm tan like you’ve just returned from a Mediterranean getaway — then try Violet. With eight different tans within our Color Base Collection there is literally something for everyone. We like to encourage our customers to experiment with different Color Bases to find something truly unique to them.

Our Color Base Tans are just one of the countless innovations we have brought to the market. We have also developed the world’s first at-home spray tan kit with our Bronze Babe Personal Spray Tan Kit, the world’s first Coconut Water based tan for the ultimate hydration, and more recently our Nano Mist Tan Compact (the easiest way to tan your face) which utilizes nano atomization technology to deliver the finest mist possible.

We are constantly listening, adapting and refining our product offering in line with the needs, desires and trends within the market. This helps us stay on the cutting edge of the industry and bring our customers the latest in tanning technology year after year.

Are you working on any exciting new projects at the moment?

We recently acquired a new manufacturing facility in Tennessee, just outside of Nashville, which has been a huge project! We have done a complete renovation on the building and upgraded all existing production facilities. This has become our new global headquarters offering a single location for sales, customer service, marketing, operations and product development. Moreover, we have built a new state-of-the-art lab which has enabled us to create and test new products faster than ever before.

As we now own the majority of the supply chain it means we are better equipped to meet customer demand with shorter turnaround times on production. For our customers it means fresher products and shorter lead times for new product development. With our new lab now up and running in full swing, it will give us an even greater edge when it comes to innovation, all to give our customers the most advanced formulas for the best picture-perfect finish on the market.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Supporting and encouraging the growth of individual team members is extremely important in making them feel a part of the bigger picture, so that everyone can thrive together. We really focus on professional development within the team and encourage everyone to challenge themselves in working on things they may never have thought to try before.

If someone has been in our team and working on the brand for a while, we love to help them grow in their role and explore new avenues and career paths with us whenever possible. Really recognizing the value of the team as a whole as well as what each individual member contributes is what keeps the team engaged and thriving.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

I think the biggest tip I could give would be to actively engage and communicate with every member of your team, and build a strong collaboration culture. When the whole team is engaged and working towards the same brand vision, both the business and the team can grow together. We have team members all around the world, and it could be difficult to keep them engaged in all of our short- or long-term objectives if we didn’t have really strong communication measures in place.

We want everyone to feel included in the one large and thriving team regardless of where in the world they’re based. At MineTan we’ve implemented a lot of digital collaboration tools such as Slack and Trello for our teams worldwide, so we can manage, and keep connected with, everyone as efficiently as possible.

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?

If I had to choose just one influence, I would have to say my husband and business partner Cameron. He came from an operational and business development role from within the sunless tanning industry before we started MineTan. His previous experience and specific industry knowledge definitely helped give us a head start in what is a pretty competitive market. From advice on product formulations, right through to operations and ways of doing business, he has been with me every step of the way — guiding and supporting me and the overall business.

Not only that, but outside of MineTan, we’ve adapted to balancing our home life, with our twin girls Zoe and Mila, with the business. I am not saying it hasn’t been without its challenges — working and living together — but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why?

  1. You should always be learning and growing. This has been the key to leading our team, growing so quickly and continually innovating our brand. We learn from every single thing we do in terms of what works with the brands and products and also what works internally in the business and with the team structure.
  2. Commit to one another on equal footing within the team. We made a decision to do away with personal titles within our business as we see them as potentially creating issues attached to expectations or hierarchy. In our business, this isn’t relevant when we’re all bonded in strong teams committed to each other on an equal level.
  3. Learn to accept help. Growing a company quickly and balancing family life, I needed to learn when to accept help (or ask for it) instead of trying to do everything on my own. You build a strong team around you for a reason!
  4. Recognize non-work events within the team. We make it a priority to recognize (and talk about) things like birthdays, milestones, and personal events that have happened outside of the workplace. I’ve found it to be an easy way of boosting camaraderie within the team by recognizing the world outside of the office.
  5. Don’t let mistakes bring anyone down. Sometimes things happen that aren’t exactly ideal; however, we don’t need to let these things bring the team morale down or make it feel like the mistake is bigger than it actually is. It’s important to support your team at these times of stress, accept that sometimes mistakes happen and lead the way to move forward collectively.

Some of the biggest 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 🙂

I would have to say Jessica Chastain. I really admire her stance on diversity and equality within the workplace. I’ve always liked her films and respected her for her views as a feminist and when I recently watched an interview with her, I was so impressed by her bravery and selflessness in what she did for Octavia Spencer.

When she learned that like other female actors of color, Octavia got paid less than white women in similar roles, she bundled her own salary with Octavia’s and in doing so increased Octavia’s by five times. I was blown away by her integrity and really standing behind her beliefs.

So, I think I’d just love to have breakfast with her to thank her for doing her part for women’s rights.

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