As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Drea Gunness Groeschel.
Drea is the founder and CEO of Beautiac, an innovative makeup company based in Nashville, TN, known for creating the first-ever interchangeable, sustainable makeup brush. Beautiac brushes have pop-on, pop-off heads that are fully replaceable and recyclable, and like the “Dollar Shave Club” of beauty, Beautiac sends subscribers new brush heads each month to keep their skin fresh and clear. Previously, she was the founder and CEO of FlashPoint Candle, a luxury candle and home décor company, which she exited in 2018 to start Beautiac. Gunness Groeschel is passionate about consumer goods optimization, creative product development, and supply chain transparency, choosing partners who share her vision of cleanliness, transparency, sustainability and female empowerment.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always been drawn to physical product. To touch, feel, smell or see something has always been more compelling to me than something intangible. It brings emotion to the forefront. I got my first job with a clothing manufacturer in Los Angeles, and although it was a ton of work, often the production team would stay into the evenings and work weekends too. I loved the challenge of meeting deadlines and quantity goals while still maintaining quality; it’s a difficult job. I was at the apparel factory during the time when they were transforming the way they produced T-shirts from a single sewing model to a modular sewing production method, where the sewers were put into teams. This created an efficiency and ultimately gave the company a way to scale into a mass-market retail. It was an eye-opening experience, and I loved everything about it! So it’s no surprise to me that I ended up in a product-based business with manufacturing needs. I just eat it up everyday!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I travel a lot and often get a chance to share the story behind Beautiac and why I invented the product. I was getting breakouts due to dirty brushes and needed to find a simpler, more efficient solution to maintain better brush cleanliness for healthier skin. What is always surprising to me is how many additional and important features of the product people identify with. I recently had a conversation in San Francisco with a mother and daughter, both are neuroscience nurses. They each have patients they work with that benefit from products, like Beautiac’s, where the weight and ease of function is a game-changer in creating a self-sufficient daily routine. As the entrepreneur at the helm of a company with a clear vision, I was surprised to find that there are other markets I had not even thought of, where our products could serve and help those with disabilities. I’m proud to say that this is an area we are exploring and I’m forever grateful to the nurses who shared their insights on a specific need in their patients’ lives.
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?
I was overseas searching for a factory to work with, and I wanted the factory to have strict and impressive measures in place for how they treated their workers. This is something that is very important to me and took me many factory visits to find just the right manufacturing partner. At each factory visit, the head of the factory will often ask if you would like a coffee, tea or water as you discuss business. The smaller factories tend to be very oriented to serving up great hospitality in an effort to win your business. I was at a small factory and when asked if I would like coffee, I said, “I’d love some coffee, I’m super tired from the overnight flight and I’ll need a lot of it!” A few minutes later the host returned with a silver tray and presented me with six cups of coffee, all at once. The employee said, “I hope this will be sufficient.’’ I, of course, got a chuckle out of the literal meaning that the employee had interpreted I wanted a lot of coffee at that moment. But the lesson in this: it is critical to ensure that communication is clear, not only with your own team but especially when guiding manufacturing or business overseas. The language barrier can add an unexpected twist. Luckily, it was just coffee and not a production run of the wrong color!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think Beautiac stands out through our innovation. We want to become known for providing innovative solutions to the market, and our first product release does just that. Beautiac has a culture of creativity and solution finding internally. That’s really at the core of our business. Everything we do, every day, is about efficiency and solutions. From customer service to producing product, we like to have team meetings where everyone can share ideas on how to make that aspect better. Many heads are often better than one, and people see things in different ways. So I like to maintain a sense of openness in the office so no stone is left unturned. We are explorers of ideas, and together we will be able to share many of them with our fans and customers.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Celebrate the little things, the small achievements. As leaders, we tend to have big goals in mind, a vision that we are constantly striving for, and it becomes our main driver. In my experience, not everyone on the team will thrive with a long term vision. Chunking it into smaller achievable success points can really keep the energy of a team high. Layering in fun moments of celebration when the smaller goals are met will be the boost needed to sustain the long game.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Lead by example and stay organized. Large teams require clear communication, organization with specific deadlines, and direction of who will do what task. Make sure the team members understand what their role is. The larger the team, the more room there is for accidental cross-over function, which can lead to team members becoming disgruntled. I also try to create a no-drama environment. When a new team member joins the team, I usually have this conversation up front. We are all pulling in the same direction, and if one member starts to build drama with negative conversations, it spoils the momentum of the whole team and simply is not tolerated in my work places. I like those that have positive outlooks, even when the going gets tough!
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?
I met Beatiac’s technical product advisor, Brad Borne, over the phone on a cold call. I had called to get a third-party opinion on the difficulties we were experiencing in engineering our molds for scalable production. Most engineers wanted me to change the vision of the product entirely so it would be easy to make. They said what I was trying to do was impossible. Mr. Borne had a conversation with me that was pivotal in Beautiac coming to life. He said my vision could be achieved and that the design just needed to be looked at in a different way. He knew the people that could do it, and he would personally see to it that it would get completed. I’ll admit I was slightly skeptical, as a lot of people will make promises they can’t keep. However, Mr. Borne kept his promise, and within two weeks, he had a clear path, validated by a team of engineers that the molds could be made in the intended way and brought the project to fruition. Literally the entire product line would not have materialized as it is today had Mr. Borne not taken the time to expand the thinking and find a solution for the challenges we had. He was willing to challenge the status-quo and push people to think differently. It takes a special person with high-level expertise to push the limits and break new ground. Not only was this exciting for me as an entrepreneur to see my vision come to life, but it was also a reminder to persevere, even when most don’t think it’s possible.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I mentor as much as I can. Not in the sense of business necessarily, but also about how we treat each other in the process as we build businesses that touch others’ lives. It’s important to recognize that we all have different strengths and weaknesses, and we are from diverse backgrounds. This makes the world an interesting place and challenges us to be accountable for our interactions with those that are different from us. I am a big believer that acceptance of diversity is the strongest path forward, one where we utilize our different views to create more solutions for a better world. I’ve traveled the world and had interactions with all kinds of people. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my job. People around the globe affect my business and ultimately my success. I rely on many different people to bring my vision to life. In doing so, I’ve seen that people across the world often share similar values and challenges, no matter what country they are from. At the core, they are similar; they want to enjoy their family and friends in a safe environment, where they can provide a healthy stable lifestyle and be loved. How different is that from any one of us? I try to remind people of the core fundamentals, and we are often working towards the same goals in our personal lives. So let’s be supportive of the journey we each take, because there are many challenges along the way, and moments of acknowledgment and kindness can go a long way with bridging our surface differences.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
I wish someone would have told me the following:
- You’ll need a big network to raise the right capital. I’ve found myself flying to larger cities like New York and San Francisco to build more of a network to raise money. It’s always challenging to raise money, but it’s even more challenging when you are looking for the right investor, and not just any investor. A friend of mine pitched over 250 times until she found the right person for her specific business who could help strategically too. Sometimes it feels like looking for a needle in a haystack, but that person is out there, just keep pluggin’.
- Trust your gut. People will have a lot of advice along the way, but ultimately you have a vision and a plan. Don’t let someone steer you off course.
- Take time to have some fun. It’s easy to work yourself to death and sacrifice too much of your personal life when starting a company. This can cause burnout, negative thinking and destroy your relationships, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Carve out a little time for what is special to you, and make sure you plan to have some fun. It will keep your energy up and the time away from the business will actually make you more effective when you return.
- Be prepared to hone your hiring and firing skills. Setting up and managing a start-up team is a difficult task as most employees will end up wearing multiple hats and have less defined roles than at a larger established company. Sometimes a start-up team works, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s okay to let people go if they aren’t right for the business. It’s a touchy process, but having the right team can make or break the end goal. Make sure you are on the path to building the best team you can.
- Sell, sell, sell. While it may seem obvious that a business needs to focus on sales, it’s easier said than done. If you yourself aren’t a great sales person, consider bringing someone on board that is. Or if you think you have it in you, get out there and aggressively talk about your business to everyone and anyone. In a product saturated society, those that shout the loudest get the customers. Be bold and sell!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂
Kindness. I asked an older investor of mine what he had learned over his years of doing business and if there was one lesson he would share, what would it be? He said that people should be kinder, even in business. At 70 years old, kindness seems to be an answer to many challenges, as it sets a different energy in motion. I took that moment to heart, and I’ve tried to work on my kindness since. I think it’s something we need to practice in our daily lives, and we can get better and better at it. It doesn’t take a lot of time, it doesn’t cost anything, and it’s something we can all do. If I could move the needle in a large amount of people, it would be to teach others kindness and how to practice it consistently.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have a lot of these, but here is one that I like to dig up often. “Don’t expect anyone to care how hard you work.” There are many times early in my entrepreneurial career that I was slightly miffed that investors didn’t acknowledge the hard work and sweat I put in, or that there was never a compliment for making major personal sacrifices to push the company ahead. I was complaining to my uncle when I was getting my first business off the ground and he, an entrepreneur himself, said “Don’t expect anyone to care how hard you work. You should care.” Ultimately, it would be nice to hear some accolades for time put in, but I’ve come to realize that this is just business. The extra time and effort put in is my own personal choice. It’s what makes me a great leader and dedicated entrepreneur that investors want to invest in. So it doesn’t bother so much anymore. I know how hard I work and I hope I can create positive change in the world from my hard labor.
We are blessed that 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 🙂
Great question! Probably Elon Musk and Bill Gates at the same table for lunch. I have some crazy ideas that aren’t for your average business person and could help solve global problems. Musk would be fun to noodle the ideas with and expand upon them, and Gates’s brilliance and wisdom would be a welcome guide in the conversation. Plus, I wonder what they would order….