Use Your Age to Your Advantage” The 5 Lessons I Learned Being a 20-Something Founder

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamika Martin, the founder of ROSEN Skincare. ROSEN Skincare is a direct to consumer e-commerce brand that creates clean beauty products for young people dealing with acne. Jamika finished her undergraduate degree a year early to pursue ROSEN full-time and has since been growing like crazy!

Jean: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?

For most of my life, I’ve pursued various business ideas at a super small scale. Going all the way back to middle school, I tried to start a t-shirt company or jewelry company, but they never really stuck past a few weeks. I even remember having a few ideas during my first year in college, but they were always just ideas​. I think ROSEN became the venture I decided to pursue because of my own deep connection with the issue. For me, ROSEN isn’t just a product or a brand I’m creating, but a real problem that I’m trying to solve on the market.

I was someone who dealt with super difficult skin for most of my life. Harsh acne treatments, medications and products, but at some point I got tired of compromising. I wanted to be able to treat my skin and prevent breakouts in a way that would be safer for my body and for the environment. After years of struggling to find something like this on the market, I decided to create ROSEN!

I actually started working on ROSEN during my second year in undergrad, which turned out to be perfect for me. The act of balancing time between school and a startup was super tricky, but it really gave me a ton of time to experiment with little strings attached.

Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

ROSEN is completely changing the way we think about treating or preventing acne. If you think about the current acne space, there is so little​ innovation being done. Most of these big brands are creating the same generic benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid face washes and just competing on price.

Our products and brand are really changing that narrative. We’re not only introducing new ingredients to our customers lives, but really being purposeful in what we create. We care about creating results and a brand our customers can get behind while using ingredients that are safe. There is so much being done in beauty at the moment, but it seems like the acne space is falling behind when it comes to reimagining a product and creating a true brand.

Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?

Currently, we’re really doubling down and focusing on growth. Early growth with ROSEN and seeing the loyalty that we’ve gotten is super exciting, so we’re just figuring out how to keep growing that. It’s taking a lot of focus because we’ve had to shift a lot around internally, because we just didn’t expect these opportunities this early on.

With that being said, new products are always an exciting part of running a skincare company. We do have 2 new SKUs in the works for the end of this year which is super exciting!

Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

My favorite entrepreneurial book is pretty cliche, but The Lean Startup is a favorite. This was the first book I read when I was starting ROSEN and it was just so inspiring to get me going. Also, I feel like there is so much jargon in the entrepreneurial space, so this book really got me acclimated to a lot of these phrases and ideas before jumping head first.

Personally, in high school I had to read The Brothers Karamazov. This was like the senior “right of passage” at my high school and everyone would be carrying around this huge Russian novel for most of the year. At the time, it really forced me to dive into a more analytical standpoint on so many things in my life. It’s still one of my favorite books and I love how it dives into topics like morality, religion, and loyalty.

Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Analyze and focus

Analyzing and reflecting on my past growth and successes was the biggest tip I got when I started out that really propelled my business. It seems like such an obvious idea to implement, but it was something that I had completely overlooked for the first few months of running. I mean seriously just sitting down and looking at the revenue you’re driving, who the people are and where they are coming from. Talking to your early customers and asking them how they found you, then doing more of that.

After I started implementing this practice into my business, I was able to start growing in a more meaningful way. However, with this practice comes the need to focus. I think as a founder, particularly a young founder, we want to try out so many methods and hit growth in all of them. All the social media platforms, influencers, SEO, email marketing, etc… Focus down on what’s working for you and keep hitting it. Once you start to master that first growth strategy, then move on to the next.

Be patient

I’m definitely someone who wants to do everything I can now so I won’t have to do it later. Honestly, I think a lot of “twenthysomething” founders are probably in this boat, or they wouldn’t have started their company so early. But just looking back to when I first started working on ROSEN a year ago to now, there were so many opportunities that I wanted to take on that could have really hurt the business.

You want to try to be everywhere and fulfill huge orders, but it’s just not practical. Give yourself some time to really feel confident in your business and your product before you start trying to go at scale. You definitely don’t want to take on an opportunity before you’re ready, because that version of your product could leave a lasting impression on a key decision maker or influencer in your industry.

Be confident

This is huge, because being a “twentysomething” founder is very intimidating. For me, adding on being a woman of color made it even harder. There’s a lot of questioning your abilities and feeling like you need to prove yourself to others. You have to constantly remind yourself that you are enough​ and you’ve started this really cool company that no one else has.

People won’t take you serious. There’s honestly no way around that unless you hit crazy growth and generate huge returns right away. But, you’ve got to be confident in yourself and your product so that you don’t feel the need for external validation outside of your customers.

Use your age to your advantage

You can get so many mentors, insights and help because you’re young! Use that to your advantage. This was one of the things I heard so much while in undergrad. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but people are going to want to help you so much more when they see you as a young founder trying to make it. I’m not sure if it’s because they want to see you succeed (your true mentors will) or if you’re just so naive that they can’t help but be on your side. Whatever it is, take advantage of it and learn all that you can!

Listen

Take it all in. You’ll get so many opinions and thoughts as a young founder and they usually know what they’re talking about. Some ideas may be wrong or just totally out of line for your vision, but take everything people advise and store it. You never know when someone’s advice can help you. As a young founder, you just have to humble yourself and realize that there are a lot of people who have been doing this way longer​ than you. I just finished up an accelerator with Target, and there were so many veteran brand owners in there that helped me immensely!

Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

Sheesh, I don’t even know where to start. I honestly admire so many people in the VC realm right now. Kirsten Green at Forerunner is investing in some amazing and inspirational brands right now, and I’m always in awe of what they’re doing. I’m also super inspired by funds like Halogen, Backstage, BBG and Female Founders Fund who are truly dedicated to helping folks like myself succeed in spaces that haven’t been made for us.

— Published on June 27, 2018