Melissa Bayanzadeh of MÉRV: “Become a mentor”

It’s already proven that diverse teams produce the best results, as diversity breeds innovation. I believe this applies to entrepreneurs as well. Women tend to be very creative and they look at tasks and ideas from a new angle, which I think helps greatly in coming up with new and innovative solutions. It’s also a […]

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It’s already proven that diverse teams produce the best results, as diversity breeds innovation. I believe this applies to entrepreneurs as well. Women tend to be very creative and they look at tasks and ideas from a new angle, which I think helps greatly in coming up with new and innovative solutions.

It’s also a great feeling to turn your passion into a successful business. I know many inspiring women around me who have wonderful ideas and hobbies that could turn into successful business ideas. I always encourage them to start a side business out of their passion and see where it goes. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing where you quit your job and start from scratch. It is certainly possible, but not everyone is comfortable doing that. I think they can start slowly and see where the journey takes them.


As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Bayanzadeh.

Melissa Bayanzadeh is the founder of MÉRV skincare, a socially and environmentally conscious skincare line with a mission to use the power of nature to make a difference. Melissa started her career as a Chemical & Biological Engineer and worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over four years. Later on she completed her MBA from University of British Columbia and decided to change her career path. It was during the off-duty moments that she discovered her true calling: Creating clean and effective plant-based skincare products that empower women to celebrate their raw beauty.


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?

It all started when I was working full time at a pharmaceuticals company and also studying to get into graduate school. I had a very busy lifestyle and I was under a lot of stress and pressure. Having a busy lifestyle seriously affected my skin and my overall health; My skin was getting worse by the day, and I found myself trying to cover it with makeup all the time and doing these time consuming multi-step skincare routines that were not even working on my skin.

It was then when I realized the importance of self-care. I became curious about how I can improve my complexion without putting harsh chemicals on my face every day. That was when I started looking into alternative solutions and I was introduced to natural skincare.

I discovered the true power of botanicals and moved on to studying the science behind organic skincare. Since I had worked in laboratories for five years, formulating was nothing new to me and I absolutely loved making different skincare products from scratch. I started to create products with ingredients that were 100% natural, and served a specific purpose to help transform my complexion.

I switched completely to natural skincare products and never looked back! What I wanted was to create a line of products to help other women like me achieve a healthy, glowing complexion naturally, and celebrate their raw beauty without feeling the need to cover their skin with makeup.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was struggling a little to build our audience in the early days after launching MÉRV. I knew exactly who our audience was based on all the market research that I had done, but increasing brand awareness and attracting the target audience was proving to be more difficult that I had anticipated.

I always wanted to collaborate with other brands with a similar customer base as us to promote MÉRV, but I didn’t think that would be possible when we were still a new company; I didn’t think any brand would want to collaborate with a brand new business. There were particularly two female-owned brands that I always admired and wanted to collaborate with; one was a Canadian business making sustainable clothing made with fabrics that are hand-dyed from natural pigments; and the other was a sustainable jewelry line, making jewelry from recycled gold and silver.

Two months after launching MÉRV, I decided to just go for it and email the owners of these two brands, with no expectations. To my surprise, they both responded saying that they are interested in collaborating with us! I couldn’t believe that. After only a month we ended up doing a joint promotion with these two businesses, and it helped us tremendously in getting our name out there.

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?

One thing that I wish someone had shared with me before starting a business is that knowledge comes from personal experience. When I first started MÉRV I spent a lot of time researching and consuming knowledge. I would listen to business podcasts for hours, watch TED talks, read business related books, and read stories about successful entrepreneurs and their advice. I was so determined to do everything correctly that I ended my spending a few months just doing research and not implementing anything.

It took me a couple of months to realize that I actually learn much more from taking action and making mistakes. And I mean think of it this way, you can read 20 books about how to be a good writer, but you won’t be good at it if you don’t practice writing. I’m not saying that doing that research was not helpful, but I ended up learning much more from my own mistakes.

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 are so many people that have helped me get to where I am right now. I’m so thankful for my family and my partner for supporting me throughout this journey. They are always the first ones who test my new products, to show up at my events, and to lend a hand when I need it. They are always so eager to hear about my latest ideas, and I am grateful to have so many intelligent people with different backgrounds around me who could provide their unique perspectives and give me feedback when I need it.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I am definitely a book worm and I love business books and novels. One book that stands out that has made a significant impact on my life is “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. I believe everyone should read it if they want to take control over their lives.

One of the main points that Charles Duhigg emphasizes in this book is that habits work in 3-step loops: cue, routine, reward; and you can change your habits by substituting just one part of the loop, and that is the routine.

I find myself going back to this theory whenever I want to make a change in my personal life or in business. I referred to this book a lot when I was trying to change my own daily habits and incorporate self-care routines into my busy life.

I also used this book when I was finalizing my formulations and thinking about how they would be incorporated into women’s skincare routines. From the very early stages of creating MÉRV, I wanted to deliver an experience and a daily ritual, not just a product. There’s something slightly meditative about just sitting there and taking a few minutes just for yourself and taking care of “you”. I wanted to make sure to create a skincare line that becomes a daily ritual that women enjoy, and not just a product that is used rarely.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

Yes, “the fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.” by Reid Hoffman.

One of the biggest challenges I have had to overcome has been self-doubt. There have been countless times where I had to make an important decision and I found myself asking ‘Is this the right way to do it?’

Something that has helped me a lot was building a network of female entrepreneurs around me. It’s great to have the support system and knowing that there are other women who have been in similar situations, or are in similar situations. Leaning on their shared experiences and expertise has allowed me to overcome many entrepreneurial obstacles since the inception of MÉRV, and gave me the knowledge and confidence boost needed to propel my business forward.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

We dream of a sustainable planet and a better world, and believe changing the world begins with providing children with quality education; as education is key to creating a sustainable planet. At MÉRV, we know together we can help make the world a better place, and that is why we are committed to donating 5% of our sales to Save a Child International Foundation to help send more and more children to school, regardless of their race, gender, or the country they live in.

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?

I believe there is a combination of things that is holding back women from founding companies compared to men, and I think two of the main reasons are confidence and risk taking levels.

Women have a tendency to assume speaking positively about their achievements is bragging. To put forward a creative idea and argue that thisis how it must be done, you need to be assertive and not fearful of being rejected. We need to normalize women talking about their accomplishments and strengths, and make them confident and comfortable talking about their ideas and strengths.

Also, women in general tend to be more risk averse than men and I believe this stems from how the society teaches girls from a young age to be risk averse. For example we hear phrases like “don’t walk home alone after dark”; we hear this even when we grow up. I think this mentality plays an important role when it comes to taking a big risk like starting a new business with no guarantee that it will be successful, and it’s a major reason why more women are not founding companies.

Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?

I truly believe in the power of networking, and I try to help in any way that I can to connect the aspiring entrepreneurs I know to female leaders or business owners. The amount of collaborations and connections that can be gained by a good network is invaluable. I always offer to facilitate introductions and share any resources that have helped me along the way with others.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

It’s already proven that diverse teams produce the best results, as diversity breeds innovation. I believe this applies to entrepreneurs as well. Women tend to be very creative and they look at tasks and ideas from a new angle, which I think helps greatly in coming up with new and innovative solutions.

It’s also a great feeling to turn your passion into a successful business. I know many inspiring women around me who have wonderful ideas and hobbies that could turn into successful business ideas. I always encourage them to start a side business out of their passion and see where it goes. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing where you quit your job and start from scratch. It is certainly possible, but not everyone is comfortable doing that. I think they can start slowly and see where the journey takes them.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.

  1. Become a mentor — There are many mentorship programs out there for aspiring female leaders to engage with and learn from female entrepreneurs.
  2. Spread awareness about funds available for female founders — There are actually government funds and grants available for female-owned businesses and unfortunately not many people know about these opportunities. I have had many conversations with people around me who didn’t know about these funds. I think it would be great to spread awareness about such opportunities so more women can learn about available resources to start their businesses.
  3. Support female-owned businesses — This can be as simple as buying from a small female-owned business. It can be anything from jewelry, handmade goods, skincare, etc. Something that I have started to do more of is to buy from small female-owned businesses not just for myself, but for others as birthday gifts or for other occasions.
  4. Encourage others — When you hear a great idea from a friend, colleague, or a family member, provide encouragement by reminding them of their potential and celebrate their idea and vision.
  5. Share resources — I think sharing resources like networking events is crucial. Networking can be very powerful. If you hear of these events, or just know someone that you think would be a great resource — be sure to share that with others who are on the journey to become entrepreneurs.

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.

I truly believe we can make the world a better place by providing education for children, and that is why I have committed to donate 5% of our sales to the charity organization that I mentioned before that provides education to children. There are already other companies that are donating to different charity organizations, but I believe if every single company would commit to donating a percentage of their sales to these organizations, then that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people.

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.

I would love to have lunch with Jeannie Jarnot, founder of Beauty Heroes.She is truly changing the conversations around clean beauty and encouraging consumers to move onto the next phase of clean beauty by taking action and choosing brands that can have a positive impact on the community, oceans, air, and the planet. I would love to talk to her and pick her brain on how MÉRV can have the most social and environmental impact.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can visit our website at www.mervskin.com or follow us on Instagram @merv.skin .

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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