EPISODE 121

You never quite know where that BIG IDEA is going to come from.  Jacqueline Gutierrez, Founder of Beauty Backer, says it was her inventor’s mindset… which she first recognized as a teenager… that inspired her concept for the beauty-centric crowdfunding platform. When she was all grown up and trying to launch her own beauty business, she experienced the founder’s perpetual stumbling block: lack of early-stage money. That’s when her let’s-solve-this attitude took over and the rest is soon to be history as she launches Beauty Backer in just a few weeks. Enjoy listening to this conversation with an amazing woman who just might change the game for beauty start-ups.

 

Jodi KatzHey, everybody, welcome back to Where Brains Meet Beauty™. I am on the line with Jacqueline Gutierrez. She is the founder of Beauty Backer. Welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty™.
Jacqueline GutierrezThank you, very happy to be here.
Jodi KatzWell, thank you for joining our show. This is an unusual format for us, since we're usually live in the studio, but today we're doing this show over the recorded line, because we're going to get to meet face-to-face for the first time in a few weeks at the Beauty & Money Summit in New York, where you will be actually launching Beauty Backer, which is so exciting.
Jacqueline GutierrezYeah, that is super exciting. I will be launching at the event. I'm also a speaker at the event, so I'll be covering the crowdfunding session at the Beauty & Money Summit.
Jodi KatzBefore we dive into your background, which I'm excited to do, why don't you tell us what we can expect from Beauty Backer when you launch it?
Jacqueline GutierrezAbsolutely, so Beauty Backer is really a platform that I believe is going to change the beauty industry for both the founders and the backers that... Basically people that are defined as beauty lovers, who they're the types of people who will traditionally go to YouTube to check out the latest makeup applications, and they follow influencers. They're not really people who use crowdfunding today.

From a founder's perspective, there's a lot of up and coming beauty startups that they struggle to find that early stage funding. Beauty Backer really is a crowdfunding platform that you can look at as a marketplace that brings those early stage founders and those beauty lovers together, so that the founders can help get the funding and resources so they can start and grow their business and do that early proof of concept, and the backers get their hands on the latest and greatest beauty products before they're hitting the shelves of retailers everywhere. It's really a win-win for both sides. It's really... kind of think of it like a community in many ways.

It is a crowdfunding platform, so for your audience members who are familiar with rewards-based crowdfunding, right now what a lot of founders will do is, if they're looking for that early stage funding, they'll go out to Kickstarter or on Indiegogo, and the challenge that they'll have is that there aren't any beauty centric categories on either of those platforms, so those founders generally end up putting themselves in a completely non-related category, where nobody knows they exist. They're not going to get any visibility, and 9 times out of 10, if not closer to 9.9 times out of 10, those founders end up with campaigns that don't do really well. That's why I created Beauty Backer, was to be a solution for that ongoing problem, so that founders can have access to crowdfunding, the same way that technology and gaming companies do today.
Jodi KatzI love this idea, and one of the number one questions I get from brands when I meet them through my day job at Base Beauty is where can I access capital? Certainly, there's a void waiting to be filled, so super cool for you. I want to go-
Jacqueline GutierrezAbsolutely.
Jodi KatzI want to go into your background, because the way that this idea came about is slightly unusual. I wasn't expecting that Beauty Backer would've been created because you're working on a hair extension company. Tell me where you were, and your mindset was, when this idea came to light.
Jacqueline GutierrezYeah, and that's interesting, because I've worked in technology as part of my career for the past 15 years, but I've always been an inventor at heart, so I've been an amateur inventor since I was 16 years old, and I've created a lot of products. Unfortunately, I always hit the same space in my product development that a lot of other inventors hit, which is where I ran out of money.

I was working on a new project, hair extensions, as you said. I had invented a new way of applying hair extensions without any damage to the hair, not using combs or anything of that nature. This time, I did get myself a business partner, so I wouldn't run out of money, so that was great, and he was helping me on the engineering side. I was really focused on the business side, and my area of expertise was product management and product marketing, so I sat down and started working on the marketing plan.

Of course, when you're building out any type of hardware product, one of the most expensive initial costs you have is tooling, which is basically where we have to pay a manufacturer to create those initial tools so that we can mass manufacture the product. That's very expensive. We had estimated it was going to cost us about $30,000. Being a startup, and not really having $30,000 to throw into tooling, especially with the many iterations you have to do before you get something that's actually viable for mass production, I thought, well, why not crowdfunding. A lot of other people use it, and it works well, so I sat down and started thinking which would I use. There are two main ones that I mentioned previously, Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

I settled on Indiegogo, and I started working on the campaign. When it got time to choose a category, I was a little bit dumbfounded, because I was looking, and it was like, wow, there's all these categories, but none of these are going to be a good fit for a hair extension product. At that point, I stopped, and then took a step back and thought, this isn't going to work, and this would be a waste of my time to spend hours, if not days, building out this great campaign that no one would ever see, unless I spent a ridiculous amount of money on outside marketing, which again, we really didn't have.

I started doing some research to see if other people were having this problem. I found a newspaper article that was written a couple of years ago, and it was about this very problem. There was a woman who had been trying to get her beauty business off the ground. She tried the crowdfunding route, and it was miserable, the whole experience for her. She obviously didn't make her goal. I don't think she made anywhere near her goal. It was just a real negative experience, and it set the precedent that beauty products really didn't belong in a crowdfunding space, so at that point, I did some additional research, found a couple additional articles.

There were a few successes in this space, but they're few and far between, and they generally involve a lot of resources, either a very heavy existing base of customers, who will go to your campaign and back you, or you just have the money to do a mass marketing campaign, which most startups don't. As I started to dig a little bit deeper, I noticed that there was a massive hole in the crowdfunding space for beauty brands. At that point, I started to do a bunch of different surveys. I joined a bunch of Facebook groups on both the backer and a potential... the founder's side and the backer's side, trying to get an understanding of is there a need in the market for a crowdfunding solution for the beauty industry. It became pretty apparent that there was.

Surprisingly enough, as I did my research, I had a lot more interest from men on the backer's side than I did from women. I thought that was a little bit unusual, but as I did my research, it became very apparent that crowdfunding, as it stands today, rewards-based crowdfunding, specifically Indiegogo, Kickstarter, have almost an 80% audience which are male. You've got about 20% of females that will visit these sites. The majority of people who back campaigns today are male, so it would stand to reason, with that in mind, that a crowdfunding platform, even though it's more beauty centric, would appeal more to men than it does to women. The data also shows that women tend to, in the way the landscape is surveyed, tend to back more donation-based crowdfunding activities.

That being said, this is going to be a completely new area for women. Beauty Backer, as a whole, is a very inclusive platform, so even though beauty is in our name, we define beauty as anything that makes a person look and feel good. That means that we will have products within our platform that are geared towards men, geared towards gender neutral individuals, geared towards beauty technology. We're very open, as far as who we anticipate our audience will be. It's designed that way on purpose, because of how we define beauty.
Jodi KatzI love the fact that it came from a pain point. I think all good ideas do, but before the hair extensions company, you had a very long career in technology. Walk us through what that career involved and the types of companies you worked at.
Jacqueline GutierrezAbsolutely, so I've been in the technology space for about 20 years. The past almost 15 years I've worked in product management and product marketing. Throughout my career, I've worked at every PC manufacturer, except for Apple. I started my career at Alienware, which is a gaming company. They were based in Miami. They were purchased by Dell shortly before I left.

I moved from Alienware over to Hewlett-Packard, where I worked in product management and product marketing for almost seven years. I then got an opportunity to work for IBM, so I relocated to North Carolina, and I spent a year and a half with IBM, doing product management on their server team, and then that business got purchased by Lenovo, so I ended up at Lenovo for another year and a half. Somewhere within there, my three years in North Carolina, I got married. Our marriage didn't work out. I got divorced. I relocated again, because now I'm a single mom, and my son did not want to stay in North Carolina once that marriage fell apart, so I relocated again.

Today, I live in Georgetown, Texas, which is a suburb, you could say, of Austin, and I work for Dell as my day job. It won't be my day job for long, though, because I will be transitioning over to full-time at Beauty Backer soon as I get this launched. I've been in this space for about 15 years. Today, my day job at Dell is really strategy-based, so I do strategy for the client business at Dell.

One thing I will say is that I've been, as I said, an inventor for many years, and I've always wanted to do my own thing and have my own business. I never thought it would be something like this. It just happened to take me down that path. I'm a firm believer that life will take you down the right path for you. I believe that this is the right path for me, even though it wasn't the intended path.

That being said, I think to myself, could I have done this 10 years ago? The answer is probably not. The reason for that is I really do believe that building the experience that I did in product management and product marketing gave me the skillset to design this platform from the ground up and get the resources I needed, because everyone except for myself is an outside resource and not a developer, but I knew how to go about getting a developer. The experience that I had from my day job really gave me a thorough knowledge on how to build a product, or in this case a platform, from nothing, and launch it, and make it successful.

As much as I would just love to have created Beauty Backer 10 years ago, I think now is the right time. I think just the landscape for crowdfunding is pretty well set. The beauty industry is about 10 years behind the rest of the industry, but it's the right time for it. I think, just based on the reception I've had so far, when I've had conversations with founders and potential backers, about the idea behind Beauty Backer, everyone is super excited. They are really thrilled to get on board and start using this platform, and I think it's going to be a huge success.
Jodi KatzThrough your career, you've moved not just companies, but you've picked up your home many times, to go to different parts of the country. Do you have a sense of adventure that motivates you to do that, or is it something else driving that?
Jacqueline GutierrezYou know, when I made my first move from Florida to Houston, it was a big step. It got a lot easier after that. One of the things I always kept in mind, as I was making these moves... I never moved for the sake of moving. I moved because there was a career benefit for making the move. I always got more money, and I always got a promotion out of my move. I never just moved for the sake of moving.

I'm a very resilient person. I'm an extremely determined individual, and I don't let anybody tell me what I should or should not be doing. I make my own decisions in that way. One of the things that has always been a key driver for me, as a single mom, was making sure I moved at a time where it would not negatively impact my child's education.

I moved when my son was seven, and he was little enough that the move really wouldn't have impacted him that much, but I always tried to make sure I made the moves where it wasn't going to hurt his school year, so he would be coming into a new school, either very, very early in a school year, where he could easily catch up, or over summer vacation where it would have basically no impact to him. I designed it that way on purpose.

For me, my son always comes first. My health comes second. That's why I work so much, because my health does come second, but my son always comes first, so yeah. Sad, isn't it? It should probably be the other way around, but he's always come first, so I always wanted to make sure that the decisions I made were the right ones for him, and it would not negatively impact his academic career. I think I made the right decisions. I mean, today he's an engineering student at Texas A&M. I pay for his education, which that's the one piece I wish I didn't have to do, but I'm a mom, and it's my job, so I've got to pay for it.

He's doing great, and I really feel like all of the work I put into not uprooting him in critical moments of his life set a very good foundation for his future. He's on a very good path right now. It actually opened up a window of opportunity for me, being an empty-nester, that I can dedicate my weekends, my evenings, and whatever other free time I have in between, to getting Beauty Backer off the ground, and giving it a successful launch.
Jodi KatzI actually meet a lot of people in that empty-nester stage, who really are reinvigorated by work, because now they have fewer pressures, time pressures. Have you found that with your cohorts? Do you have a lot of friends who found new paths in their careers at this time of life?
Jacqueline GutierrezYou know, I've got to tell you. Honestly, I don't have a lot of friends. Truthfully, I spend most of my time at home working, so I really don't get out too much. I mean, so no, I don't. I mean, most of my friends are still actually working in their day job.

There are people in this life that are perfectly happy working at a company until they retire, and that's their goal. That's what they want to do. They don't really want to do anything else. Most of my friends are those people. I have very few friends who are actually driven to basically define their own life and not be a slave to some other company's corporate America policies.

I don't have a lot of friends actually even remotely like me. I would say I'm probably the only one, out of all of my friends, who thinks this way and acts this way and does these things, and it's always been that way. It's not anything new. My friends are very risk averse, stay on the easy path, and don't make any waves in your job, and just stick around until you retire. That's how they think.

I've always been the polar opposite of that. It's interesting, because I had a conversation with one of my dear friends last week. I was telling her a little bit about what I was doing here, and one of the challenges that I hit. She said to me, she said, “Jacqueline,” she said, “you will get this sorted out. You always do. You never let anything get in your way. When you put your mind to something, you're going to make it happen.” That's the way I've been my entire life. I have goals in mind. There are things I want to do. There are things I want to achieve. I don't want to live this life and just disappear and be like I never existed. I want to leave a legacy. I want to build something. For me, this is an opportunity to build that something.
Jodi KatzWell, you'll definitely make a lot of new friends through Beauty Backer, because this mindset of pushing hard for your goals is something that I've seen many times in this industry, people who are super passionate, and they don't really care what the odds are. There are many odds against them, but it doesn't matter, because they really believe in their vision. You'll make new friends who are a little bit more likeminded.

I have to say, as an entrepreneur now for 12 years, maybe 13 at this point, there are days where I'm like, why don't I just have a job at a company? It happens maybe twice a year, where the pressures of running the business or dealing with clients who are unhappy really gets to me. I take it very personally. It's hard for me to separate it. I daydream about having a job where I just get a check every two weeks, and I could probably be mediocre and be just fine, but then of course, the benefits of running my own business is that I have control over my time and the type of people I work with and the people I hire and what we do and how we do it. That freedom is... I'm very wealthy in that, wealthy in that freedom. It's hard, though. I can see the allure of playing it safe when every day feels like a risk.
Jacqueline GutierrezSorry. You know what. There's nothing wrong with that. I mean, it works for a lot of people, and I've done it myself while my son was younger and in school, because it was the right decision for me at that time. I needed to make sure that I had a steady paycheck, and I needed to make sure that I was doing a job that had opportunity and was going to pay me well, because as a single mom, my son's father never contributed a dime to raising my son, so I've paid for everything his entire life, and I pay for his college now. I'm okay with that. It doesn't bother me.

I think it's more of an internal self-satisfaction need for me than a financial need, if that makes sense. Obviously, I want Beauty Backer to be amazingly successful. My goal is that within three years there are three companies that people will think of when they think crowdfunding, and we will be one of those three. That is my goal, but when I think about it, for me, it's a personal satisfaction level. I guess it's just a level of pride in my abilities and what I've done and what I can accomplish that I can do with Beauty Backer that I would never be able to do if I stayed at Dell, for example. It's just not there.

There is a mindset within corporate America that I've found, at least in my personal experience. Personalities, such as mine, do not work well with traditional corporate America. What I mean by that is I always got the same speech at every single year-end review, always, and I pretty much know it verbatim at this point. I've heard it so many times.

It generally goes something like this. Jacqueline, you're doing a good job with all of these other activities, but you really need to work on your soft skills. You really need to work on having a more amenable personality, basically play the game.

I'm just not built that way. After all these years of having people tell me, you need to be softer. You need to play the kumbaya game. You need to go to all these social events we have. You need to do... I have already established in my brain that these are things I will never ever do and will never ever be. I'm just not one of those people.

I like to do my work, and I like to be recognized for the work that I do, not with pats on the back and little badges online and all of that stuff, but pay me if you think I'm doing a great job. Pay me my money that you feel I'm worth. If you're not paying me, and you just give me a little sticker... Stickers are great when you're in kindergarten. When I'm an adult, I don't care about stickers. I care about what you're paying me. I care about moving up the ladder. I care about growth. I care about feeling like I'm learning something new every day, and that what I do really matters.

I feel that way, even though I'm in the early stages with Beauty Backer. I feel that way. I feel like what I'm doing matters. I feel like people care. I feel like it's going to have a real impact on the beauty industry, and I can make a difference. I can give visibility to these founders that today they struggle to find it. I can give those beauty lovers, who today are getting really frustrated with relying on influencers who are only collecting a paycheck, and they think that they're getting truth from these influencers. Instead, what they're getting is what the influencers are basically being told what to say in exchange for money.

I get satisfaction out of being able to put those potential backers in direct contact with real, up and coming beauty startups, so they can have that conversation, so they can understand what it is that these startups are doing to create better beauty products that are kinder to the environment, that are sustainable, that are all natural, where they don't have to learn a new language to pronounce the ingredients that are in the skin cream they're using. These types of things I really care about.

I think, for me, the big difference between working for corporate America and doing a job I understand and I know and I'm good at and I get it versus Beauty Backer is that connection, that ability to really make a difference in people's lives. While a lot of people will look at something like Beauty Backer and think, well, it's a crowdfunding platform. Do you really care about bringing these people together? It's just making you money.

Yes, it's making me money. I wouldn't be doing it for free. I'm not that nice, per se, but it really is about bringing people together, because everybody... I do believe everybody intrinsically wants to help each other. They want to do what's good for their skin. They want to do what's good for the world. I think people, at heart, are good at wanting to see others succeed and not just rely on helping the big companies that are out there, swallowing up smaller companies and basically still being those big companies but in new packaging. They want to help the little guy. They want to see these smaller companies succeed.

I get satisfaction out of being able to bring these people together. I've spoken to a lot of founders. I've heard a lot of their pains, the challenges that they have, and I really want to help them. I think, for me, this is a win-win. I get to do something that I'm good at, which is basically launching product and watching it be successful, and I get to bring people together. I get to help these founders find their own success, and help these backers find good products that have an opportunity to really make a difference in how they improve their skin or their outlook or their overall beauty desires that they have, as well as helping these companies grow and see their own level of success become a reality.

I feel really good about what I'm doing, even though I... I'm not going to lie to you. I love getting a paycheck every two weeks. I get a very good paycheck, and I'm quite happy with that, which is why I still have my day job, because Beauty Backer hasn't launched yet, and I'm not at a point yet where I can walk away from that, because I do get paid very well for what I do.

I look forward to the day when I can walk in and give my boss my badge and say, “You know what? This has been great, and I appreciate everything you've done for me. My business is doing well, and I can go and help some other people now.” I look forward to that day.
Jodi KatzMy last question for you is about how you got connected with Beauty & Money Summit, because it's pretty cool to be able to launch this. It's such a likeminded event. How did that relationship come about?
Jacqueline GutierrezAs I mentioned earlier, as part of my initial investigation into whether or not there was a market here, I joined a bunch of Facebook groups. One of the Facebook groups that I joined, I was able to get in touch with a woman by the name of Cat Collins, and she has a consultancy business in the beauty space. I reached out to her, and we had a couple of very good conversations. I started then looking around at opportunities, as Beauty Backer was evolving, and where can I go and talk to people about this, because creating something in a vacuum that nobody knows exists is a recipe for failure, so I had to make sure that I could get opportunities to build awareness.

I found the Beauty & Money Summit and took a quick look through their proposed agenda. I saw that they had a section on crowdfunding, but they didn't have a speaker, so I reached back out to Cat and I asked her. I said, “Hey, do you know anybody at this event?”

She said, “As a matter of fact, I'm going to be at that event. Let me put you in touch with somebody on that side,” and she did. She basically sent an email and introduced me to a contact over at the Beauty & Money Summit, and the ball just rolled from there. They scheduled a call with me, very similar to the call we're having today. I told them what Beauty Backer was about, and they were thrilled. They were thrilled that someone was actually doing this, and they offered me the opportunity to speak at their crowdfunding session at the show, and also some other marketing activities, as well.

I thought that was pretty cool, at my first try I did actually get a speaking engagement. I'm hoping that I can do some other shows with them in the future, because I know they have several a year. I think the next one coming up is going to be LA, so I want to make sure that I have an opportunity to participate in that one, and any other opportunities I have to get out there, because I think this is an important offering that I have here with Beauty Backer. I think building awareness is key to its success, so any opportunity I have to get out there, I'm looking for obviously, the ability to speak, the ability to do interviews.

I do have several interviews lined up, as part of my engagement with this show, and I'm looking to expand upon that as much as I can, because awareness is key. I think once we can get a good amount of awareness and some press engagements and hopefully some articles here and there, Beauty Backer is going to quickly become a pretty well-known crowdfunding platform for both founders and for backers. I can't help but say how incredibly thrilled I am at all of the positive response I'm getting for Beauty Backer so far, and we haven't even launched yet. People get really thrilled about what we're doing. We will be...

Just before we close, I just want to let everybody know we will be running a contest here probably a week prior to launch, so please keep an eye out at our Facebook page, which is Beauty Backer on Facebook. Basically, our contest is going to give folks the opportunity to win one of three packages. It is a leaderboard contest, so the more you share, the more you follow us, the more you like us, the more points you'll earn. We're basically giving prizes to the top three folks within the contest.
Jodi KatzWell, Jacqueline, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us on the show today.
Jacqueline GutierrezThank you for having me.
Jodi KatzI'm really glad to have met you over the phone, and get to see you face-to-face at the event. For our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes, and for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.
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