In Conversation with Amanda McIntosh of Take My Face Off
Describe your business in a few words?
Take My Face Off replaces ugly disposables with cute reusables.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I kept looking for a better washcloth. I needed one for my cleansing routine and terry cloth was too rough, wipes make me break out and cotton balls are yucky. It was one of those, “well, if no one else is going to do it, I guess I have to!”
It seemed silly that we had all of these beautiful skincare products that needed application or removal. I’m talking about masks, makeup removers, oils, cleansers, gels, toners, astringents, etc. Our only choice for the wiping action was cotton. Cotton is bulky, thirsty, and scratchy—totally unsuited to skincare.
I didn’t know anything about sewing or fabric sourcing. However, creating something better than a cotton ball or a lumpy washcloth seemed doable. When I realized that cotton balls and wipes were awful for the planet (in addition to being bad at their jobs), it went from being a fun project to a life mission.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I started off in classical music. My first “real” job was in an orchestra in Spain. After I got married, we wanted to move back to the US, so I went to work for my mother’s business consulting firm. I wound up staying for ten years and working with some of the world’s leading companies. It taught me two important lessons:
- If you’re practical, you can be good at business.
- For all of its practicality, business is also creative.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I had no idea. “Entrepreneurship” always seemed so audacious. However, I was always trying to come up with novel solutions for problems. I’m glad I got past my fear of the label. It’s where I belong.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
I had no real plan. It’s embarrassing. I created a whole line of products, including packaging, photos, trademarks and patent applications. I created some beautiful visuals and I took it all to the world’s largest beauty trade show.
I guess I just thought people would see my booth, notice how great it was, and things would take care of themselves. That was clueless, but a lot of great things came from the event. First, it was a crash course in explaining the product and seeing how people took the information. I could constantly adjust the pitch, watch the reaction, and adjust again. It showed me what people cared about and what bored them. So helpful!
In terms of “catching on,” a third-party manufacturer noticed my eye makeup remover and thought there was an opportunity for a licensing deal with Sephora. This wound up working out, and I was able to say that my first retail relationship was Sephora. So I guess my not-a-plan worked.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
I’ve made a ton of mistakes. The one that bugs me the most was a set of contractors I shouldn’t have hired. I let them convince me that they were “cooler” than I was and that they knew best. I found out the hard way to never, ever work with people who try and make you feel inferior. It’s a sign of immaturity or bad ethics, or maybe both.
I made that mistake because I wanted to learn from people who were different from me. I know it’s a cliche, but it taught me to always listen to my gut. There are people who are both trustworthy and different. Just look harder.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Launching on QVC this fall. When people see a demo of how my product works, they light up! However, it’s hard for new concepts to gain traction, so a platform like that is the entrepreneur’s dream.
To be honest, it was the wildest ride of my life. That includes the way we met QVC, the negotiation process, finding a way to produce our biggest order safely in the middle of a pandemic, and going on live TV via Skype from my kids’ bathroom (because it’s bigger than mine). It’s something I dreamed of years ago, and watching it come to fruition was…surreal and great. My friends said I looked calm on air, but I was totally freaking out!
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Beauty is all over the place. Some companies are doing great, while others are struggling. We’ve had our biggest opportunities ever and our sales have trended higher. I expect that to continue for us, especially as more people become aware of the impact of disposables on the environment. Of course, we’re a totally new category, so our experience will probably be different from the rest of beauty.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
We’re launching our first truly unisex product next month. It’s an exfoliation product that addresses a big gap in the marketplace, especially for men. Some of our launches will continue to be replacements for disposable products, while others will just better, more functional versions of products that already exist. We are making the point that the planet and user experience can go hand-in-hand. You don’t have to choose one over the other, and we prioritize both.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
To keep your team involved in the solutions, especially when you think you’re out of options. If you get them involved, you’ll find a solution that’s better than anything you imagined possible.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Delegating is great, but you have to know how everything works. Give every single task a try before you hire someone else to do it. That way, you’ll know what’s needed and you’ll choose the right people. Also, you’ll save a lot of money on mistakes you won’t make.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I remember that all of the stress is because I have options. Even when I have big problems, I get to choose and I’m not up against a wall. Recognizing you have a choice is to realize you are ultimately free.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I think it goes up and down, but it’s about true priorities. I’m not a sailor, but I think it’s like boating—you’re aiming for a destination, and you won’t travel in a straight line. You have to course correct a lot, and you eventually get where you want to go. Do your best to plan, chart a course, consider all of the issues, and then take it easy when things spill over. If you know your real priorities, you’ll eventually make the right choices.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I still perform with professional orchestras sometimes and I love Star Trek.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- When it feels like a slog, or you don’t know what to do, don’t work through it. Our work ethic might say to keep going, but it’s wrong. Step back for a minute. Get some perspective and you’ll wind up making a better, more efficient choice.
- Try to meditate a little every day. Even a few minutes in the morning before you get out of bed is better than nothing.
- Finish lunch with a coffee.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being different is a strength. I’m not the perfect woman, or the perfect mom, or the perfect boss, but there’s literally no one else like me, and I intend to make the most of that.