Real Women Doing Real Things: Grace Lee, Founder of Nine Naturals

Grace Lee, founder of Nine Naturals, was working on Wall Street when she, a mom herself, learned about the health risks posed by chemicals contained in beauty products.  She has since dedicated her life to creating chemical-free, high-performing products for women and educating mothers about the potential risks of environmental toxins!  Here’s what the entrepreneur has to say about growing her skincare business and what she’s learned:

Tell us about the first “aha” moment of your career and what made you decide you wanted to create your own skincare brand.

I was inspired to start Nine Naturals when my friends and I were looking for safe beauty products to use during pregnancy. Pregnancy is the most critical developmental stage in a human life and environmental toxins can have long-lasting effects on a person’s health, even beyond the womb. As we searched for safe products to use, we kept running into the same two problems.  One, most products that claimed to be natural still contained harmful ingredients and two, many natural products simply didn’t perform well: the shampoos didn’t lather, the body products didn’t do much for their skin, etc.

When I developed Nine Naturals, I focused on using plant-based, pure ingredients safe for pregnancy, while maintaining a high standard for beauty and performance. Now, several years later, we have a full suite of product offerings – from shampoo to belly butter to sunscreen – and many devoted customers who make Nine Naturals haircare and body care products a part of their everyday beauty routine during pregnancy and long afterwards. Women should still be able to use luxurious beauty products without risking their health or the health of their new baby. Nine Naturals empowers women to be able to make safer, more natural beauty choices for their families.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur thus far?

Keep moving. In a startup there are a lot of unknowns; it’s easy to feel like you don’t have enough information to make a decision. But “analysis paralysis” can be deadly for a startup!

If you ever get caught in a decision vortex, think about:

1) What are the main goals for the company?

2) Does this decision help the company get closer to achieving these goals?

3) If there are risks involved, are there ways to negotiate/minimize around the risk?

4) If this is unsuccessful, will the company still be able to learn something valuable about running the business through this process?

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Since inception, the feedback from our customers have been wildly positive. I’m so glad that I was able to share my vision of a non-toxic, pregnancy-safe beauty regimen with other women. Reactions were so encouraging, in fact, that we were able to successfully launch a whole line of body care products on top of haircare and expanded our influence nationally both in-stores and online.

I recently received an email from a customer. It read, “THANK YOU for all that you do–creating great products and extending that philosophy into superlative service.” Knowing that I am helping women like myself find safer, natural products to use during their pregnancy and treating them well during this special time in their lives is what makes what I do everyday worthwhile.

What’s been the hardest part of your job?

There are a number of challenges with creating and running a company. My greatest personal challenge is finding balance between my personal/family life and the business. When you start a business, it is like having a baby; it requires love, commitment and time. There are times when I have had to sacrifice time with my family in order to grow the company.

One thing that has helped immensely is creating boundaries around the time I spend with my family and time with my business. In the mornings and evenings, I have carved out time specifically for my daughters and my husband (can’t forget him!). I give them my undivided attention and don’t answer calls or write emails. But when I’m at the office, I really focus on work. It makes me a better mother and wife and a more successful businesswoman by being able to prioritize my time in this way.

What advice do you have for young female entrepreneurs?

Have confidence in your abilities and don’t be afraid to take risks. Over the years, I’ve noticed a confidence gap between the sexes; not because there is a competence gap, but because women are less willing to take risks. Build a killer resume full of top-notch jobs and skill sets, but when the time is right, don’t second guess yourself – take the big step and become the boss. I think this world would be a better place if there were more women entrepreneurs!

What’s one thing you wish you knew at the beginning stages of growing your brand that you now know?

Having the right business partner and team is everything. I didn’t appreciate at the time how critical a decision I was making when my business partner Amanda and I joined forces on Nine Naturals. Luckily for us both, it’s been an incredible partnership!

Business partnership is like a marriage; don’t step into the decision lightly. Make sure to understand among other things: 1) your business partner’s strengths and weaknesses and how they can complement yours, 2) his/her motivations and goals in being part of the business and making sure they are aligned with yours, and 3) his/her risk tolerance, which can make a big difference in decision making abilities in a startup.

For more information on Grace and Nine Naturals, check out their website!

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