Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in skincare but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Madina Baxandall, Founder of Essentialist Inc., located in New York, NY, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Like most great brands, Essentialist was created to better the playing field. Frustrated by the shortcomings of the traditional skincare model’s maximalist approach, we carved a different path forward. Driven by the knowledge that transformative change takes time and sustaining those results requires a gentle and consistent approach, our multitasking, minimalist method was born. Instead of the typical line, we opted for a capsule treatment collection to target the most pervasive skincare issues and most common routine missteps. Addressing poor hydration, improper exfoliation, an overuse of actives, and the overall inclination to do too much, too often, too intensely, we’ve honed in on the biggest problems in skincare and done the work to correct them.

Our customers are men and women, ranging from 25-50, looking for clean, simple, and effective skincare solutions for skin that range from normal to problematic. Many of them are struggling to find products that won’t cause breakouts or trigger sensitivity while still providing all the “youth preserving” richness healthy skin needed. We’re able to deliver results across the spectrum of skin types because of the ingredients we work with and the way we formulate.

Tell us about yourself

I discovered a problem and wanted to fix it. I was having trouble with my skin in my early 30s and discovered that traditional skincare wasn’t working for me. It’s a nuanced conversation, but in short, the traditional skincare model keeps you stuck in a feedback loop. It’s a cycle of chasing results stemming from addressing symptoms individually instead of looking at the skin as a whole entity. Though it’s a brilliant model for selling products, it won’t deliver balanced skin.

Our mission is to help people find and maintain that balance. Unfortunately, it requires undoing some bad habits and relearning many of the basic principles of skin care, i.e., less is more. I’m motivated to help as many people break the cycle as possible. Why not spare others the pain, frustration, and wasted dollars?!

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I think business owners are always looking forward and sometimes miss acknowledging what they’ve achieved so far. We look for the major wins and forget the small steps that led us there. For us, breaking into retail was huge, given we don’t have the typical wide assortment, and we’re still relatively small.

We launched during a time of retail uncertainty, and the late Covid era left many buyers unwilling to take chances on new brands. We didn’t have a celebrity founder or come in with major VC backing, so we just seemed too risky. Opening the first doors was the hardest, and we had to almost force them open, the next less so, until eventually, people started coming to us. I now recognize that those first baby steps were foundational milestones that set the stage for the bigger opportunities to come.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

The great unknown. Starting a business takes a giant leap of faith, the first of many you’ll have to take. Yes, taking chances is exciting, but it also means mitigating risks. You’ll make the most informed decisions you can at a given moment though the reality is you won’t always nail it. It’s not necessarily logical, you can plan and prepare endlessly, yet things can still go wrong. The key is to pick back up and learn. Remember to be easy on yourself; these annoying and frustrating lessons are the strength-building ones you’ll appreciate looking back.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. There will be challenging days or ones where you find yourself questioning yourself or your mission. In these moments, try to remind yourself of why you began your business and how you felt about bringing it to life. If you can channel that energy and optimism anew, it will drive you through the hard times.
  2. Don’t try to wear all the hats. You can’t do it alone. Sure, you can try, and it might last for a short time, but it’s not sustainable. It’s a poor use of energy that will put you on the fast track to burnout. Know your strengths, be realistic about the kind of help you need, then find those who can deliver.
  3. Myopia is a killer, and so is inflexibility. You may be set on a particular path, process, or client, but there will be times when you have to just let go and pivot. The dream isn’t static, as you grow, it changes, and so should your perspective. It’s easy to get stuck on an idea or way of doing things. Just remember to look up and try to see the whole picture.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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