Launching a brand is always difficult but building a business during a pandemic was unimaginable. Despite the extreme challenges, new brands and tenacious founders braved the challenge, dug in, and not only survived but are thriving. These founders used their ability to be nimble and pressed forward, capitalizing on opportunities to develop solutions for a new world, breaking through the noise, and carving out a path to success.
Lynn Power is one of these founders. After 30 years of climbing the corporate ladder in advertising, which culminated in holding the position of CEO of J. Walter Thompson NY, Power decided it was time to build her own business.
Tell us a little about your career. How did you find your way into the beauty business?
I spent 30 years in the advertising industry. I worked my way up to CEO of J. Walter Thompson NY and in 2018, I found myself feeling pretty unsatisfied. I wanted more control over my life and felt I should be putting my energy into building my own business, not someone else's. I had worked on a lot of beauty brands over the years (Clinique, L'Oréal, Vichy, Nexxus, St. Ives, and more) and found myself gravitating back towards beauty.
How do you think your 30 years in advertising prepared you for being an entrepreneur?
Advertising is a great training ground for launching a business. You learn so much about brand building, brand positioning, digital acquisition—pretty much all of the foundational elements you need to build your own business. I was fortunate to work with several generous clients over the years on Gillette, Estée Lauder, and Hershey's, who shared much more than marketing strategies with the agency—we were truly their "growth" partner. And that insight really helped me figure things out for Masami.
How did you get involved with Masami?
After I left advertising, I was doing brand consulting for start-ups but soon thereafter, the universe intervened and I met my co-founder, James, in the summer of 2018 through my husband. He had been working on clean haircare formulations for about 10 years and needed a partner to commercialize it (branding, packaging, go-to-market strategy, website, marketing, etc.). I fell in love with the products, so the partnership just made sense.
Masami is a pandemic baby. You had just launched and then the world shut down, yet the business has been very resilient. How has launching a brand during this time informed or shifted your strategy?
Launching in February 2020 has been interesting for sure. We had to pivot away from salon partnerships and focus on our DTC business. We also took the opportunity to lean into content creation—blogs, articles, videos, livestreams, social—just about anything you can think of. We also were lucky to find a bunch of amazing brand partners to help each other grow our businesses like Romer Skincare, The Sexiest Beauty, Seracell, Veronique Gabai, and more. We are continuing to lean into brand partnership and have some exciting ones coming up with Olita sunscreen, Anowi surfwear, Balm Labs skincare, 1 Atelier, Luna & Stella, and a few others.
One might assume, given your background, raising money to fund Masami would have been relatively easy but you hit some unexpected roadblocks when it came to fundraising. Can you share your experience?
It was tough during COVID to get traction with investors who I found were in a "wait and see" mode. I also had some surprising (to me at least) negative reactions about my age (I was 52 when we launched Masami). I always thought of my experience as a good thing, but many investors don't see it that way.
You've been very vocal about your experience as a founder over 50 years old and the fact that ageism has been a reality. What are the misconceptions you encountered being an "older" founder?
One investor said that I needed to be replaced immediately—that I was too old and would never have the energy to launch a business. It's comical because anyone who knows me knows that energy is not an issue—I run circles around my teenagers. And the irony is that this particular investor is in his 60s but certainly doesn't see himself as "old."
You recently wrote a piece for Entrepreneur about how you got yourself on 75 podcasts in the last year. Why are you so bullish on podcasts? What's your secret sauce of getting on podcasts?
I love that podcasts let you tell a holistic story about your brand and that they are evergreen. They help with SEO and they help you reach an audience you might not have otherwise. It's not hard being a guest—identify your talk tracks and themes and then join one or more of the Facebook groups dedicated to finding and being podcast guests. You'll be surprised at just how many opportunities there are and how relevant a lot of your experience is.
When it comes to marketing you are definitely an early adopter—you dove right into Clubhouse and livestreaming. How do you decide if a new platform is worth the investment of time?
My philosophy is "planting seeds." You have to try things out and then see what grows and double down on it. It's really hard to know if a new platform is worth it or not—sometimes it's not the platform but the execution that's a problem. Or the team. Or their ability to attract traffic. So you have to see for yourself what works, experiment a lot, and then place bets.
Livestreaming is certainly getting traction fast and it's only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in every brand's marketing toolbox. Any early learnings you can share on livestreaming as a start-up?
It's a great place to hone your story. Some of our key learnings: 1) Get the duration right. Some livestreams are geared towards shorter, snappier shows (10 minutes) and others cater to longer shows (an hour). It depends on the format of the livestream, their organic audience, and whether or not it will be available to view after you're done. 2) Put time in your setup. It should look inviting, the lighting needs to be good, it should enable you to move around and have energy. 3) Show and tell. For us, it's become much easier now that salons are open again and we can do our livestreams with demos on real people's hair. But if you feel it's not working, don't be afraid to mix it up and try something else.
What have been your biggest milestones and triumphs for Masami up to this point?
We were super excited to partner with Spoke & Weal's 8 salons and create co-branded products for DreamDry in their four locations. But the most exciting thing for me is seeing someone genuinely fall in love with our products and feel like it's transformed their hair—and their relationship with their hair. That's awesome.
What excites you about the landscape for consumer brands broadly but beauty and wellness more specifically in this moment of time?
There are so many opportunities for indie brands like ours, it's amazing. I see a lot more focus on sustainability (about time!). There are a lot of interesting ingredients to promote wellness beyond just being clean. And some amazing retail options have emerged over COVID, like Rush Haus, TheWMarketplace, and Project bYouty.
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