04 Dec Meet the Entrepreneur: Cynthia Cortina, Founder of BEING
While occasional spa visits proved to be a decent temporary fix for the former marketing manager, Cynthia Cortina, to cope with the exhaustion of her then stressful career – she realized there had to be a better way.
Her search for a self-care regime that didn’t use harmful chemical-infused treatments pushed her to create, and eventually foundBEING, where she now delivers wellness and indulgent experiences to others.
I’m sure you didn’t wake up one day and say, “Hey, I’m into self-care. I’m going to be an entrepreneur.” Tell me how you got started?
I’d had an interest in natural skincare and aromatherapy for years, but about two years ago, embarked on a committed process to research and experiment with various formulas. I studied the landscape and competitors. I knew that I could have a stellar product, but without the proper branding elements in place, people wouldn’t discover it. So, I enlisted the help of a design team and worked closely with them over the course of a few months to craft the look and feel of the brand. My marketing background definitely helped in facilitating this process. When I launched, my audience consisted of just family and friends, who were my main supporters, but I quickly expanded beyond that as I began to work with bloggers and using social media to reach a larger group of people.
What is a normal workday like for you?
On the days where I’m not making product, I’m working on marketing and sales outreach. Since I’m a relatively new brand, exposure is key at this stage, so I spend quite a bit of time pitching media, retailers, and collaborating with bloggers.
What are some tools that help you run your business everyday?
- Asana for collaborating with teammates and using as a file repository.
- Capsule CRM for keeping track of sales leads.
- Sidekick, which lets me see who’s opened my emails.
- VSCO for editing photos.
Tell me how you made your first sale?
I posted about my launch on Facebook and the first few sales came from friends and family.
I know you’ve come a long way from marketing to family and friends. What marketing efforts have worked for you, and what hasn’t?
Instagram is a critical channel for me, so I’m active on this platform more than any others. I’ve tinkered with Facebook ads, but noticed that it requires a lot more than I’m willing to put in and even then, I’m not sure it’s effective. But other people I’ve encountered find them to be useful, so I can’t speak for them.
What is the biggest pain with running a small business? And easiest?
The biggest pain…there are lots!
First, I think that working for yourself requires a lot of discipline and patience with yourself because it’s very easy to get discouraged from time to time, especially when you don’t always have consistent little triumphs. I think the hardest part is staying relevant and the constant hustle that comes with staying in front of people and garnering a larger audience.
You’re always going to be exposed to “better” ways of doing things, whether it’s from other competitors or well-meaning people telling you what you should be doing. It’s important to cut through the noise and stay true to your course because if you want to appeal to everyone, you’ll appeal to no one.
The easiest and most enjoyable process for me is product and brand development – whether it’s coming up with a new formula or new copy. I love that aspect of creation.
We all know that being an entrepreneur is hard. What keeps you coming back each day?
I’m part of a few small business communities and I notice common trends, including emotional fatigue and days where you feel like you’re not cut out for this. Everyone goes through the same motions. Just because I experience a rough patch, doesn’t mean I’m incompetent or that I should quit. It’s a perfectly normal feeling. Knowing that “we’re all in this together,” makes me feel like I owe it to myself, and my peers, to keep going.
Is it even more challenging to be in business alone?
I’ve never been in business with other people, so I don’t have that point of reference. Being in business alone has its pros and cons. The biggest advantage is that you have total creative freedom and decision-making latitude. However, it’s also tough when you don’t have someone with whom to share ideas. And sometimes you just want to say, “can you effin’ believe what just happened?!” to someone who’s in the trenches alongside you and who feels your plight like no one else does.
Is BEING your first shot at entrepreneurialism?
Yes, it is.
To what do you attribute your success?
I read somewhere that authenticity is more important than originality. Rarely anything, if at all, is original anymore because everything’s been done. However, what hasn’t been done is that thing with your voice and style.
Your story and personality is what makes something original, so if you’re being authentic with your brand and products, they’ll be original. I try to infuse everything I do with my authenticity, and I think this is what people tend to appreciate the most.
What are some of the greatest things that have come about since you decided to venture out on your own?
I’ve been published in magazines I could’ve only dreamed of! I’ve hired a small team of amazing talent to help me grow. And it hasn’t even been a year since I launched!
That’s exciting! So what do you do when you’re not working?
I recently resumed ballet lessons after an almost 20 year hiatus! As an entrepreneur, one of the biggest challenges is staying disciplined and planning routines for yourself, since there’s always an overwhelming list of things to do and you’re managing your own time. The discipline and rigor of ballet is strangely therapeutic. It forces a mind-body concentration upon me that I don’t get through working out at a gym or even through yoga. This balanced focus transcends into my work and relationships as well.
What do you wish more people knew about running a business?
It’s not an overnight thing. Successful people and brands make it look easy, but it takes a long time to hit your stride and even then, you’re always evolving and constantly working on your craft.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
What have you had to teach yourself on the fly?
I’ve had to learn how to pitch to wholesalers and the media, as well as how to gauge which collaborations are worth pursuing.
Something I hear from a lot of first-time entrepreneurs is they’re always learning, evolving. I imagine that’s the case with you as well. What do you wish you knew 1 year ago?
I wish I had developed a more learn more lean system for packaging design. With skincare, you’re always introducing and retiring products, so it’s important to test what works. That means that your packaging needs to be flexible so that it may be repurposed over and over again without having to design from the ground up every single time.
Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs that are looking to start their own thing?
Be ready to be humbled. Be ready to iterate. Be ready to become a student. Be ready to invest more than you bargained for. You’ll come into with loads of confidence, but you’ll soon realize that you only know a minuscule amount of what you need to know. Don’t let analysis paralysis overwhelm you, though. Keep pushing out content and product and test it, then modify over time. Keep training yourself on best marketing practices and join a community in your field – the support will be incomparable.
BEING is a handcrafted line of small batch, organic and vegan bath and body products based out of the Pacific Northwest. It was born out of an intention to help people claim their right to take care of themselves.