After featuring Bolt Beauty in our Skincare section as the new revolutionary skincare brand allying performance and sustainable packaging. We had the honor to interview its founder, Lisa Sexton for our empowering section dedicated to Women Entrepreneurs. We hope this Incredible Woman will inspire you as much as she inspires us.
The Classy Time: Can you introduce yourself to our readers please?
Lisa Sexton: I’m Lisa, the founder of Bolt Beauty – we make incredible skincare in perfectly sized seaweed capsules. I am slightly obsessed with beauty products and know a ridiculous amount about ingredient labels, so I think it was logical for me to start a skincare brand. I also lead a really busy life – I worked >80 hour work weeks, love to do yoga and workout, and love to travel – so, I need my beauty products to work for me, wherever I am.
ABOUT BOLT BEAUTY
TCT: What’s the story behind Bolt Beauty? Why did you start it? What did you do before starting it?
L.S.: I didn’t set out to start a company, let alone a skincare brand. Before Bolt Beauty, I had a great career as a lawyer – I started off at a magic circle firm and then moved to a fintech start-up to focus on regulation. I thought my whole career was mapped out in front of me. Then, I turned 30…
My boyfriend and I decided we’d celebrate by taking a long trip (three and a half weeks) travelling around Asia. The night before we were due to travel, he kindly informed me that I was only taking hand luggage for the duration. I obviously freaked out because I didn’t think it was possible to do three weeks’ worth of skincare in an airline liquids bag. It was definitely a challenge. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a great skincare solution for people who needed their skincare on-the-go: my only options were decanting into pots (messy, wasteful, and time consuming), or buying plastic minis (expensive and crap for the environment). So, realising there was nothing that really worked for me and women like me, I decided to create a solution, and Bolt Beauty was born.
TCT: Tell us more about your slogan « We do beauty. Sustainably. »
L.S.: As we were developing our products, it was crucial to consider all elements: the skincare performance, the visual and sensual experience, and our impact on the planet. We all know we have a crisis on our hands: waste, climate change, and ethical supply chains are issues we are all aware of. I wanted to embed sustainability at the heart of the brand but in a way which requires minimal effort by our consumer, and doesn’t require compromise from an efficacy or experiential perspective.
We try to take care of all the sustainable elements for our customers. We get it: you’re busy and remembering to wash out your yoghurt pots, or sorting through your recycling bins are at the bottom of your list. So, all Bolt Beauty products are designed to be sustainable with minimal effort. This starts with our biodegradable seaweed capsules: once you use your single dose of skincare, just dissolve the capsule in boiling water or throw in your compost bin. I personally have a “capsule” mug which I keep in the kitchen – I gather a few days’ worth of capsules and then just dissolve them all together. It’s so little effort.
Secondly, we’ve eliminated all excessive outer packaging, you just get a postage box made from fully recyclable, FSC certified (which means you know the paper stock comes from sustainably managed forests) paper.
Thirdly, we use a circular packaging solution where we have one jar which is designed to be used for life. When you run out of capsules, we’ll send more in fully compostable refill bags. If you use four skincare products, and each lasts an average of 3 months, that’s 16 jars a year that are being thrown out. Over a lifetime, this is over a thousand jars. We can reduce this to just four.
Finally, we’re carbon neutral across our manufacture, operations, and distribution. I don’t believe a brand can be “sustainable” without taking into account their carbon footprint. We have made every effort to minimise our carbon emissions. Sadly, it’s impossible to reduce this to zero – for example, shipping products to our customers’ houses has a carbon impact. We measure all the emissions we are responsible for, and then offset these using Gold Standard carbon credits.
To us, being beautiful is about more than just what we look like. It’s about our attitudes, our beliefs, and, most importantly, our actions. I believe in creating beauty products that represent these beliefs and so our ethos is doing beauty, sustainably.
TCT: Where do you produce your capsules?
L.S.: We produce all our capsules in Europe. We manufacture to the highest standards to ensure the safety and efficacy of our products. All ingredients are safe and effective and we explain what we use and why in a lot of detail on our website: https://bolt-beauty.com/pages/ingredients
TCT: Why should I buy from Bolt Beauty?
L.S.: It will make your skincare routine so convenient, wherever you are. Our capsules are the perfect dosage for a single application. This means whether you’re at home, getting ready for work after your morning workout, or on vacation, you’ll always have the perfect skincare regime. Even better, you can enjoy your skincare guilt-free, knowing it’s not going to harm our planet.
TCT: How did you decide what market to target?
L.S.: I basically made a product for me… And fortunately, there are lots of women like me, who want incredible skincare wherever they are, without the hassle.
TCT: What is the most difficult thing about building a consumer brand from scratch?
L.S.: Managing supply chains are challenging. I wanted to work with the very best suppliers in the industry, and so it’s difficult just getting them to speak to you and take you seriously when you’re a start up. It takes perseverance to work with great suppliers and I work really hard to maintain these relationships. I’m proud to say that I think I have a phenomenal supply chain and love the individuals I’m working with.
TCT: What are the three most important lessons you’ve learned building Bolt Beauty?
L.S.: Manage your emotions. I’m still not great at this, but I’m getting better. Every day can throw something new and unexpected at you. Sometimes these things are incredible – like a journalist or influencer saying great things about your brand. Other times, they feel like a complete disaster – like entering a global lockdown on the day you launch an on-the-go skincare brand. It is a rollercoaster of incredible highs and lows so learning how to manage these feelings and keep things in perspective is important.
Patience is key. I keep reminding myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day; overnight recognition and success happens to very few brands. It’s extremely unlikely and is not based on hard work or skill, but rather pure luck. Building a company is a long process and you need to be patient with the journey.
You can’t control things outside of your control. As a type A personality, high achiever, ex-lawyer with minimal risk tolerance, I like to control as much as I can. You have got to let go of all of that. Most things can’t be controlled. Take the current, unprecedented global lockdown – I can’t control this and could never have predicted this situation a year ago. There is no point trying to control it or become frustrated by these types of events. Instead, it’s about trying to make the most of the situations that present themselves to you and make decisions based on the facts you have at the time.
TCT: What do you need to be a good entrepreneur?
L.S.: Tenacity. You’re in this alone and you need to have the motivation and determination to get up every day and push your company forward. No one else is going to, and you’re the one who cares most about it’s success. You’re also going to face lots of rejection and difficult times and so you need to be able to persevere, pivot and find a new path forward.
TCT: What advice do you have for women wanting to start a business?
L.S.: Think long and hard about whether you really want to do it. It’s not for everyone and I think it’s more about personality than capability.
It’s really hard work, emotionally all-consuming, and sometimes quite lonely. I wasn’t expecting the loneliness, but I went from working in a large organisation where every decision was made by committee to being by myself and making hundreds of solo decisions a day. I don’t have anyone reassuring me that I made the right call; and equally, I only have myself to blame if I make a bad decision. This is something I wasn’t prepared for.
So, my tip is to reflect on whether you think you’re the type of person who could thrive in a chaotic, uncertain situation and be motivated enough to get up every day and carry on. If you are, then go for it.
I’d also recommend reading The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, which covers the full cycle of ups and downs. It’s the best book I read about what the journey would be like.
TCT: Would you consider yourself a lucky person? Some people often hide behind the luck factor excuse. Was Bolt Beauty born out of luck or hard work and believe?
L.S.: I think I’m incredibly lucky. Just being born in a country and into a family that supported a good education, women’s rights, and entrepreneurial opportunity, is so fortunate. I don’t think these things can be taken for granted.
I do work hard, and I took a big risk in giving up my previous career. So I don’t think you can rely on luck alone. I think it’s a combination of the two: we all get given opportunities in life and it’s about how we react to them and make the most of each chance we are given.
TCT: What is a day like « in your heels »?
L.S.: It’s definitely not in heels right now 😉
I get up and try to go for a run to clear my head before the day starts. Then I’ll deal with emails and social media messages before spending some time looking at trend reports – particularly in relation to technology and retail experiences (I don’t really look at what competitors are doing, but I do spend time trying to understand market trends). I’m interviewing for new roles right now, so I’ll spend time looking at CVs and carrying out video interviews (so strange doing this remotely rather than meeting the person). I intermittently check out our performance and analytics so see how we’re doing in terms of orders, interest, and social performance. Finally, I’ll work on the marketing strategy for the next week – viewing or approving content from creators and approving our posting schedule. Most days there will be an ad hoc project that needs dealing with – like finalising our Leaping Bunny application, managing raw material supplies, or an IT integration. This is what I like most about starting a business: no two days will involve the same challenges.
TCT: How is your company coping with this global health outbreak and what message do you for other entrepreneurs?
L.S.: We’re doing the best we can. We actually launched on the day the UK announced its shutdown, so we don’t really know life before the crisis. It was a very difficult decision on whether it was the right time to launch – I don’t want to be insensitive to the gravity of the present situation, or put anyone who is part of my supply chain at risk. I wrote this article explaining why I decided to launch rather than delay: https://medium.com/@boltbeauty/why-i-decided-to-launch-an-on-the-go-startup-in-the-middle-of-a-global-lockdown-76556e7eaed
My message for other entrepreneurs: remain positive. It’s extremely difficult and uncertain times, but we’re all in this together. Treat your customers as you would want to be treated: with respect and gratitude for their support. However, hard this period is, we have to do the best we can and keep moving forward.
TCT: In your opinion, how can women be accepted and respected as leaders nowadays?
L.S.: This is such a good question. And one which resonates with me from an experience when I was a lawyer. I was meeting some very senior (male) members of a large listed company (they were meeting me to get my input on a key regulatory issue), and after I walked into the room, they asked me to get them a coffee. I realised they thought I was a receptionist and not the person they expected to be meeting with. It was gender stereotyping live in action and I was caught completely off-guard by it. I got them their coffee, sat down at the head of the table and asked them if they were now ready to get on with the meeting. They were mortified when they realised their mistake and incredibly apologetic.
This experience taught me the following things:
- Accept that we all make judgements. Like it or not, we’re all guilty. However, being aware of our biases means we can try and control them and reduce the degree to which we make snap decisions about someone.
- Always act with integrity. No matter how you are perceived or treated, you can’t gain anyone’s respect unless you act appropriately.
- Treat people as you want to be treated. I try and apply this across each part of my business (and life) – whether it’s with people who work for me, my supply chain, or people I’m trying to impress. Everyone deserves your respect and to be treated kindly and fairly.