Welcome to Selfmade Stories, our series with Office Depot OfficeMax where we chat with up-and-coming entrepreneurs from our Selfmade virtual business course about their experiences launching a small business. To kick things off, Robin Doyle, founder of Beautyologie — a shopping site for fair trade and ethically sourced beauty products from around the world — tells about the joys and challenges of launching a purpose-driven company.
B+ C: If you were at a dinner party describing Beautyologie to a guest, what would your elevator pitch be?
Robin Doyle: Beautyologie is a one-stop shop for Fair Trade and ethically sourced beauty products. We partner with Fair Trade, cruelty-free and sustainably sourced beauty brands that put the people and the planet first, before profit. Each product is made with ingredients that are harvested or grown by women in developing countries and we promote, uplift, and empower them to live better lives.
B+ C: Where were you in your own life when the idea came about?
Doyle: The idea came about while I was traveling in India right before the pandemic. I had worked in capacities from writing as a beauty editor to being an owner of Charmed PR, which is a boutique PR agency, so I've worked with tons of brands over the years. When I was in India, I got to see firsthand how Western consumer behavior really affects a developing country. I was looking for some type of a change, to give back more, and I saw these cooperatives of people working together to create merchandising goods for Western consumerism. And it kind of dawned on me that beauty products [could be] made up with ingredients similar to food and plants. I wish people knew more about where their beauty products actually came from and the people behind them. So that kind of gave me the initial idea to create some kind of a marketplace for beauty brands that overtly promote a purpose-driven mission, in their marketing, and in their business philosophy.
B+ C: How did your previous work experience lend itself to entrepreneurialism? Did it require extra education and learning on your part?
Doyle: I always had a focus on the beauty world and seeing the industry evolve and change over time. But as far as fair trade goes, it was more like a learning experience — it was a lot of education, what does [this or] that mean, what are the principles of fair trade, and how can businesses truly use that model. Not just saying that they do, but proving that they do. But coming from the beauty industry already gave me a great insight as opposed to having not worked in this industry at all.
B+ C: Are you doing everything yourself at this point or do you have employees? What does your business look like right now?
Doyle: I have a couple of assistants and independent contractors that help me, whether it's uploading brands, doing a little copy, or helping with social media. I work with a developer and I recently hired a team that's helping me optimize the site and get it ready for SEO and Google ads and all of that. But primarily it's me doing everything. This is a bootstrapped project right now. I am also learning about the potential for funding opportunities, which is another world that I never knew even existed when I was just focusing purely on writing and PR. So when you become an entrepreneur in this day and age, you learn what it really, truly takes.
B+ C: Brands love to throw around words like sustainability and clean beauty. As a consumer, it's hard to know what’s buzzy marketing and what brands are genuine in their mission. How do you go about curating an authentic roster?
Doyle: There aren't tons of brands that really are either fair trade certified or talk about it. It is difficult for a product to actually be fair trade certified because you would have to certify every single ingredient in the product. So when a brand outwardly promotes the fact that they are sourcing great ingredients, it’s a big deal. But when they do talk about it, it means that they really care about what they're doing — so it isn’t hard to find these brands. They’re all pretty much smaller, little brands that I work with. There are a lot of brands that come to the site or want to be part of it because they say they make their products sustainable. Sure, but what are they doing with their ingredients that they don't really talk about? They’re not doing anything out of the ordinary. So I'm less inclined to want to work with those brands because it would just take away from what I'm trying to create.
B+ C: What are some major accomplishments that have helped you stay motivated?
Doyle: Getting great positive feedback that my idea was something that people really got excited about was super great. And having a PR background and connections in media, I was able to get some pretty nice press. Bloomberg did a piece on the site, which was really, really cool. I was named one of “40 Social Entrepreneurs to Watch for in 2022” by Causeartist and I just did a podcast with them. The positivity and all of the great feedback is what keeps me going.
B+ C: How do you approach marketing and brand awareness?
Doyle: It is an ongoing process. It's really about honing in on who the demographic is. The Selfmade course was really instrumental in helping me hone in on what that really means, who your market is, who you're going after, and then trying to engage them in an organic and thoughtful way that resonates and gets your point across without being too sales-y. I'm still learning, but it's a lot of social media, writing blog posts, doing email blasts, trying to connect with like-minded brands that have the same demographic but are not necessarily competitive. It’s just constantly connecting and finding other avenues and other collectives of people working together to promote one another. I recently joined Fair Trade L.A., which is a nonprofit organization for businesses in Los Angeles and that's been great.
B+ C: What has receiving the scholarship to Selfmade done to help you grow your business?
Doyle: I got so much insight from all of the amazing speakers that they had on every week. Just being able to get out of my bubble and be part of breakout rooms and to talk to other women that we're all kind of going through the same thing I was going through was so helpful. It really was wonderful and I really looked forward to it every week. Talking about early marketing, properly honing in on your demographic, creating a pitch template, looking for funding — there are so many aspects to being an entrepreneur in this day and age. I can't recommend Selfmade enough; it was incredibly helpful and I loved it.
B+ C: How have Office Depot OfficeMax services/products helped you accomplish more in your business?
Doyle: I have to say I'm a little old school and I really like planners and notebooks and that kind of a thing. I'm very detail-oriented and Type A and I'm a list maker and I love writing out things, even though I'm always on my computer. I'll email myself notes but then I'll forget about them. If I write them down in a planner it makes things a lot more organized for myself and my brain — I need that so much.
B+ C: What's the best professional advice you've ever received that you would pass along to fellow entrepreneurs?
Doyle: Keep reminding yourself why you started your idea, especially on a bad day when you feel like something's not going right or you get frustrated or you feel like things are going slower than you want. For me, it's always about going back to the initial reason as to why I decided to take this journey in the first place, what was it that really inspired me and staying focused on that. Be nice to yourself and realize that things take time and nothing happens overnight. As long as you feel that you're doing the best you can and you're working toward your goal every day, then that is something to really, truly celebrate and be proud of.
If you too would like to follow Robin’s inspiring footsteps, Office Depot OfficeMax can help you stay organized and save time with a suite of business services to help you accomplish more — from creating signs, posters, and banners to get your business noticed to marketing materials to help bring your brand vision to life.