Michele Henry of FACE FOUNDRIÉ on why she leans into her fears, and the importance of dreaming big

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Describe FACE FOUNDRIÉ in a few words?

Efficient and effective focused facial bar specializing in all things face, facials, lashes, brows, and skincare.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

I worked in my parents’ small inground pool business from age 13 all the way through college. Being an entrepreneur is something I witnessed firsthand, and I got to see the hard work and dedication, but most importantly and impactful, the excitement and pride of a successful business or execution.

I have always loved servicing and helping people. From a young age I knew that was my calling, so for me to mix that with entrepreneurship was always the goal. I started with my retail concept, PRIMP, which styled women in affordable clothes that made people feel good. Now with FACE FOUNDRIÉ, the services make people feel good, but we are also helping entrepreneurs reach their own dreams.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I started my first business, PRIMP, an affordable chic boutique, in 2010 with just $8,000 and grew it 100% debt free to over $25,000,000 in sales before selling my shares in 2018. Prior to owning a women’s retail chain, I started and sold a screen-printing business, worked in Target’s trend department, and designed clothing as a private designer for boutiques across the country.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Yes, after watching my parents build their business from scratch, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I always loved the idea of being my own boss and the assumed freedom that comes with it. 

However, I was fortunate enough to see firsthand the grit, hard work, long hours, and passion that goes into building a business, day in and day out. It is not just the glamour of “being your own boss,” it is the resilience, consistency and years of dedication that determines how successful you will be as an entrepreneur.

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?

The goal from day one was to promote our business as “WALK INS WELCOME” and showcase our service openings on Instagram daily so clients could book in quickly. The concept is all about efficient and effective services so adopting a modern approach to facials was crucial in how we convey our messaging and brand ourselves from the jump.

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?

When our flagship store first opened, our front bar faced the service area. After about a week of working the space, we realized how painfully awkward it was for both the person working the front desk and the guest receiving the service.

It goes back to making sure the end user i.e., the consumer is comfortable. Originally our space was all open air, after hearing feedback from guests that they would have preferred a bit more privacy, we installed curtains in between the service stations, which allows groups to still be together and open the space up or close it off for individuals.

It really taught us the importance of listening and making changes quickly to make sure the clients felt comfortable. By changing the design of the first space, we saved time and money in the long run as we executed our second and third stores with the new design and layout in mind.

Secondly, the pandemic. I learned the importance and innovation needed to pivot! Never did I ever think my service-based business would be forced to shut down and rely solely on e-commerce with a 1-day notice. We had to think quickly, move faster and not be married to anything. This made me realize how essential it is to have a nimble team that could adapt and innovate to work around any obstacle!

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

First and foremost, I am so proud of the team we have in place and how hard they have worked to help launch franchising in January 2021, without their hardwork and dedication our fast growth would not have been possible.

I am also proud and grateful that we have had 52 commitments for franchising around the country and continue to have interest in our brand daily. The franchisees we have committed to are astounding individuals with unique skill sets that align with our mission for FACE FOUNDRIÉ.

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience.

I always like to end the interview with one of the questions: “On a scale of 1-10, how positive are you? / On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you?” Anything less than a 7 is always a red flag for me because if they are not viewing themselves as a happy person, I know this job will not be the cure. 

With regards to the positivity question, I do very much believe you absorb the energy you surround yourself with. I always work better with optimistic people, and try to make sure it’s one of the core qualities in our team members.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

FACE FOUNDRIÉ had just celebrated its 1st birthday when 10 days later we were mandated by the state to close due to COVID-19. At the time we had two corporate stores open, 35 employees, grown debt-free and were weeks out from launching our franchising program.

As we furloughed all but two employees, we launched a GLOW TO GO *at home facial kit* so our clients could still feel like they were keeping up on their services as well as a constant stream of skincare educational videos and positive posts to try and keep spirits high during such unknown times. As a service business, pivoting to rely on e-commerce was the most challenging and innovation to create the GLOW TO GO. We are proud of what we created during that time. 

Additionally, our corporate office is in Minneapolis and just weeks before our scheduled opening, May 25th, 2020, our hearts were broken by the killing of George Floyd. The city and our community were shattered and for several days and nights we watched grief and chaos collide in the city. 

When we were granted the opportunity to reopen our locations we decided to pause and focus on our community and healing. As a staff we volunteered for cleanup, food drives and did a fundraiser where we matched donations for the Lake Street Fund. In less than 24 hours we had matched $10,000.

Both occurrences at the same time were difficult but we were able to persevere, innovate, and pivot and ultimately come out stronger on the other side.

What is next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

Our goal is to have 110 franchise units sold and 20 open by the end of Q1 2022. We are also, in the process of launching our own 7 step skincare programs with proprietary formulations that are locally made and clean ingredients. This means less time on a boat, ship, or train in the extreme heat or cold, which causes the active ingredients to dissipate.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

Easier said than done but to remain calm in stressful or fearful situations. This is so important as a leader, parent, and friend. The world was in shock, and many were making quick decisions based on the fear of the unknown. 

If 2020 has taught me anything it is to step back and have a calm demeanor, it made all the difference when we were furloughing employees, contacting clients to let them know we were mandated to close and comforting my kids when they were confused by the world shutting down.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

  • Dreaming small will only get you small things! I wish I knew the power of goal setting, manifesting, and believing in myself. I would have dreamed bigger from the beginning!
  • Lean into the fear, usually it is that pit in your stomach that leads you to the right answer.
  • Figure out what you are best at and what your weaknesses are, hire out your weakness as soon as financially possible.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

This year was intense. There is no other way to describe it in my opinion. With regulations changing daily, I knew I needed to stay on my toes, be ready to make quick decisions and stay nimble. 

In order to stay grounded and perform at my best I cut out alcohol completely, made nightly walks a ritual and wrote down my goals daily in order to see past the days of the pandemic and really visualize what the future of the company looked like without any constraints.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

My balance comes with traveling. I find if I am in town, I always gravitate towards work, it is what I know and take comfort in. With traveling to new places, I am energized and eager to explore. It is the only way I have truly forced myself to take a break from constant work. 

Traveling and working out, you can’t read an email when you are running!

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

Most people are surprised by the fact that when I started my first business, I didn’t have a functioning car. I would bike to our buildouts from Minneapolis to St. Paul and I was so broke and put literally every dime into starting ($8,000 in total) that I did not have gas money even if my car were functional!

Another fun fact…I am a TOMBOY at heart! I grew up fishing and playing outside. During the summer months I worked for my dad’s construction crew: boots on, wheeling around concrete and I was the only woman on the team.

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

  • When your feet hit the ground in the morning, say thank you, start your day with gratitude and I promise your outlook is better. (And let’s face it, after 2020, I will wake up and thank my lucky stars I am healthy and happy).
  • Make a list the night before, add to the list in the morning. If I don’t make a list before I go to bed, I tend to be restless when I sleep with constant things coming to mind. Making a list before bed and in the morning always helps me to plan the day better.
  • Know your most productive hours, schedule around them. I am a morning person waking up at 4:30 am naturally, I have never once slept in. My brain functions best between 5:30am – 10:30am, so I try and keep my schedule open to be the most productive during that time. If I have important meetings or interviews, I try to slot them in the mornings during my “sharpest hours.”

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

Being an Entreprenista means having the confidence and camaraderie to be vulnerable, lift women up, share ideas, best practices, and connect with like-minded people. I love that this offers a platform to give women confidence and encouragement as we all need more of that!

It also means surrounding ourselves with women that aren’t afraid to break glass ceilings (and at a much faster pace than we have ever seen). An achievement that I want to celebrate is having 52 franchise commitments in 4 months of launching our franchise system.

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