Lynn is a longtime ad agency executive with a love for beauty. She's been fortunate to work on many iconic brands, including the Gillette Venus global marketing launch, Clinique global, L'Oreal Natural Match launch and VIVE relaunch, Nexxus repositioning, Vichy positioning and La Roche-Posay and St. Ives. She has done lots of other categories too including American Express, Hershey's, Campari, Kimberly-Clark, Nestle, T. Rowe Price... She loves building teams, reinventing cultures and disruption.
Q: If you could explain yourself in a couple sentences, how would you do that?
A: I am a marketer at heart, but also an entrepreneur. A new entrepreneur, I'd say, even though I think my spirit has always been entrepreneurial because I spent 30 years in the corporate world. But I also like to describe myself often as a learned extrovert. People expect CEOs and people in very visible positions to be extroverted naturally, but it's not always the case. I'm much more introverted at heart.
Q: Will you tell me about MASAMI and your role there?
A: I'm the co-founder and the CEO of MASAMI. MASAMI is a clean premium haircare brand with a Japanese ocean botanical that was created to deliver massive hydration to your hair. The reason that we focused on that is because hydration is the number one issue for most people when it comes to them complaining about what they don't like about their hair. I partner with my co-founder, James, who'd been working on the formulations for about 10 years. We joined forces together about two years ago to launch MASAMI.
Q: That's exciting. So how did you get into this business? And what was the moment you decided to do it?
A: Well, I had left the corporate world. I was in advertising for 30 years running agencies. I was a CEO of a very large agency called J. Walter Thompson. I was heading the headquarter office in New York. And I decided I was so tired of building brands for other people and making other people lots of money. I wanted to have control and build my own brand. So I left. I was actually doing brand consulting for startups, and then I met my partner, James. Like I mentioned, he had been working on the formulations for about 10 years and he's just insanely passionate about it. I've worked on beauty a lot in my career (L’Oreal, Clinique, Nexxus and more). So I've always had an affinity for beauty, and I've always gone back to it. So it just made sense.
Q: What was your first year like with MASAMI?
A: Well, we just officially launched in February. But it took us almost two years before then to get everything done to be able to get to that point of launching. So really over the past year, I've been focused on getting the products ready. We came up with the brand name. We developed the packaging and the product design and needed to source all the inventory and packaging and get it all made, and then figure out our go to market strategy. What types of partners are we going to be looking for? What stores and salons are we going to be in? And how are we going to set up our DTC ecosystem to kind of make the most out of the customer journey? So that's what I've been focused on mainly.
Obviously, when we launched that took the business to a new level. It's been really exciting, but it was also really unpredictable because we launched in February right before COVID. So that's been an interesting challenge as well because I think everyday, “what's going to happen today?”
Q: Has COVID had any particular impacts to the business since you guys have launched?
A: When we first launched, we were talking to several salons because I really believe that people want to look, feel, see and experience the product firsthand. It's hard in hair care versus makeup or skincare where you can go into a Sephora and try those things. You're not going to be washing your hair in Sephora.
So, the salon channel was really important. When COVID hit, obviously salons all shut down. So we just pivoted back to DTC, which is the epicenter of our brand anyway. We focused on building relationships with our customers, and building out content. So we've created a ton of blog posts, and have done tons on social. That was really good because it really helped us get our foundation and figure out our voice. Now that things have opened up again, the salon conversations have picked back up. We just got into Spoke & Weal, which is fantastic. They are a really amazing top salon with eight locations in the US.
Q: Congratulations, that is so exciting! So was there anyone in particular that inspired you or encouraged you to become an entrepreneur?
A: I grew up in a household of entrepreneurs. Both my parents were small business owners. So I think I've always had it in my blood. I would say if anything, it was them and looking at their work experience. They were both pretty satisfied with how that all panned out for them. I think what I picked up the most is just the ability to have control over your life. That's what I always saw growing up with my parents. They could choose to lean into certain things, or not, or where they wanted to be because it was their own businesses. That's always appealed to me deep down.
Q: That sense of creating your own freedom is really appealing to a lot of people. How do you define success for yourself, both personally and as a professional?
A: I'm somebody who likes to be really productive and busy. I don't do well with doing nothing for too long. So for me, success is not necessarily being the biggest. I think there's something deeply satisfying about the quality and the craftsmanship and making products that are meaningful, sustainable, good for you, and good for the environment. That feels really good. I guess that's how I would define success is being able to create products that people really like and enjoy, but products that are also good.
Q: What has been the most important skill that you've developed to be a good business owner?
A: My superpower is building high performing teams. The more you can identify talent and capabilities and figure out what you need, and then bring those people in -- that's the killer app of entrepreneurs. The reason I'm saying that is because you can't do it alone. You need people on your team who believe in the vision and the mission. The trick is how do you find them, and how do you know they're good? And how do you know they're going to actually align with everybody and get along with everybody else? But I think that's a skill you can build, like a muscle. The more you meet with people and dig a little deeper, understand what motivates them, understand what their capabilities are, it allows you then to play up their capabilities and start to create a culture around your values.
Sometimes people think they're good at something that they're not. Or they don't give themselves credit in an area that they actually are really good at. So sometimes it's your job to bring that out of people and to put them in a position where they're going to flourish.
Q: How many people do you have on your team right now?
A: I have about eight people, not all full time, but really excellent, amazing people. So I've got my partner, James. We've got a CFO. We have a PR team. We have a digital marketing specialist who is a superstar. We have a UX person. We have a content person. And we have a business development person who's helping me with partnerships and things like that.
Q: That's great. So while being an entrepreneur, have you ever thought about quitting? If so, can you tell us the story?
A: No, I haven't. If anything, it's the opposite. I keep coming up with more and more ideas. There's only so much time, so I find that I have to edit myself and try to reign it in. So no. Quitting is not an option.
Q: I love that. What do you do when it feels hard to be an entrepreneur?
A: So the good thing about being an entrepreneur is that you wear 50 different hats. And if one hat becomes frustrating, you can put on a different hat. So if I find that I'm really struggling in one area and banging my head against the wall, I tend to focus on something else for a while, a day, two days, whatever, just to kind of clear my head. It gives my brain a chance to think about that problem when I'm sleeping, and then come back to it later. And when you're an entrepreneur, it's easy because like I said, you have so many different things you do all day that you can just sort of go, okay, I'm not going to tackle that one. Now I'm going to deal with something else.
Q: So I know there's a lot of uncertainty for everyone right now with COVID, but what does the future of your company look like?
A: I think it looks really amazing. We've gotten great traction despite the craziness and the uncertainty, as you've mentioned. When I think about beauty, and specifically clean beauty, more and more people are demanding that. It's still shocking to me how much of hair care is not clean -- about 90% of the products in the US market actually have toxins in them. So I think as people get more tuned into their health, which I think COVID has raised awareness of, people are going to be seeking out clean beauty. And for us, that's awesome. But it's even better that our products are super high performing, which a lot of clean beauty is not, especially clean hair care. So we have the benefit of being both clean and high performing. Plus, we have a bunch of new products in the pipeline that we are creating for next year. I just want to keep doing more.
Q: I have my last question here for you: What would you want to learn from a community of other women business owners?
A: I would want to learn both high level things like how they prioritize their days, because that's always a challenge for me when you have so many things going on. But I'd also like to learn smart tactics. What types of partnerships have they done that have worked well? What types of social media promotions have they done that worked well? Because I think it's a combination of those bigger picture things and where the rubber meets the road -- stuff that you think about all the time. That's what I would love to learn and share my own experiences as well.