The Entreprenista League, a community of female founders, asks our founder about being an entrepreneur.

Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business:

Hello, my name is Cinder. My daughter and I co-founded a natural beauty brand dedicated to lip care called Abature. We make lip scrubs, lip serums, and lip balms all proudly packaged plastic free. Our wholesale distribution channel is currently only available to professional estheticians and spas. We also sell retail through our website at www.abature.com.

In the past, you had to choose between an effective product (often full of chemicals and preservatives), or a natural product. We worked diligently in formulation and chemistry for six years before our launch to achieve a safe, vegan, cruelty-free, and EFFECTIVE natural product.

The story about our brand cannot be told without explaining the name, Abature. Abature is an old word we found in an antique dictionary. A noun, and hunting term defined as "the trampled down grass and sprigs of a stag in the forest," and "the path a deer makes as it passes through the woods," or our favorite translation from French reads "the mark of a beast of the chase." Hunters would say "Let's follow the abature," or the path of the deer. It felt serendipitous as we were meeting challenge after challenge formulating a natural skincare brand to have found this word aligning us with the idea of forging new paths. Our brand mission was already there, we just needed a special way to talk about it. Abature was it.

Forging paths in female leadership, sustainability, and effective natural products are the three pillars of our business.

What's a piece of advice you can share that you wish you'd known when you first started your Entreprenista journey?

Starting your own business is risky. A lot of people fail. It's ok if you fail. You will win and you will lose, you will fail and learn over and over again at varying scales of intensity. It's ok. If you lead with purpose, even when you fail, it will be worth it. 

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

The formulas are my biggest accomplishment, I formulated everything myself. I didn't know anything about cosmetic chemistry 8 years ago when I started this project. I took classes, watched YouTube videos, hired consultants, and spent hours and hours researching raw ingredients, scientific processes, and doing experiments. It wasn't always fun and rarely easy, but I learned a lot and I was unwavering in my goals to create a sustainable, safe, natural, AND effective skincare brand dedicated to lips. It was hard work I'm proud to have done myself. 

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

When you make your own schedule and you're working with a small budget, it's hard to find work/life balance, (especially as a single mom) but I believe it's vital. Not just for yourself and family, but for your work too. When I take adequate breaks and let my mind rest I perform better. I have 2 tips for success with work/life balance. 

1. Don't be afraid to take a nap! I sleep in the middle of the day regularly. I work in the lab in the morning, nap in the afternoon, and then manage my overseas business from home in the evenings. The break in the middle of the day gives me a boost and helps me shift my day from active physical labor to computer work, and my body gets in a rhythm with that cycle. 

2. Schedule rewards. My Dad was a big advocate of planning something you enjoy into your daily to-do list. Especially if I have a particularly hard or frustrating to-do list that day, he would often tell me to reward myself with a simple pleasure like ice cream, watching my favorite movie, or even something more substantial like a spa treatment (I save this one for super hard days like tax day!). 

What excites you about being an Entreprenista League member?

Connections with like-minded women, the ability to network for my business, and have the opportunity to share my resources with other women who are starting out. 

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

I'm creative by nature and couldn't stop designing new things if I wanted to! My brain just works like that. I'm drawn to it in a purpose sort of way. 

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I was raised on a cattle ranch in a small town in Colorado, educated as an architect at the University of Colorado, and studied language and design at the Leonardo Scuola Divinci in Florence, Italy. Despite my rich studies in architecture, I only practiced for a short time in an architectural firm. The scale was too big. I practiced, instead, as an entrepreneur, product designer, and teacher. I taught photography, art, and design-build at a private High School in Boulder before starting my skincare brand. Prior to that, I owned several small businesses in fashion, photography, and design. I'm a highly educated designer, but a self-taught chemist.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

No. I didn't even know the word "entrepreneur" until after I had already started and sold my first business. I've always been very driven and curious though, and knew that would likely lead me to a creative career.

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 didn't have a marketing strategy when I started... gasp! I just wanted to make something beautiful, that worked and made the world a better place. I was purpose-driven in product design, not marketing. Marketing came later, naturally, as we built the brand. Very few aspects of my business went as planned though... I repeated a brilliant phrase by Cheryl Amyx to myself often: "Don't panic, pivot.”

What is the biggest challenge you have encountered along the way and what did you learn from it?

Scaling manufacturing of a product with a shelf life. In fashion, you have to worry about trends, in cosmetics, shelf-life. Not just of raw ingredients, but finished goods as well. We chose early to manufacture our own products and it was a good decision because it allowed us to scale at our own pace without having to over-invest in inventory and then have shelf life expiration waste. Negotiating lower minimums with raw ingredient suppliers was a challenge, but I was surprised at how many companies were willing to help us get started. Asking for help was the lesson, you never know until you ask.

What have you achieved recently that you'd like to celebrate with our community?

We just made the final cast for a reality TV series competition for entrepreneurs produced by the famous MTV star, Wes Burgmann filming this June at the Skyline Theater in Tulsa, Oklahoma! We're very excited to compete for the title of "Best Entrepreneur!"

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

Skincare dedicated to lips was a great place for us to start, but we are anxious to get colored lip care products to market. We want to develop a color line that solves a lot of lip color obstacles- dryness, chemicals, toxic dyes, and occlusion + wear length. We're also in R+D to develop a refillable pocket-sized vessel for our products to reduce packaging waste even further.

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

1. I write to-do lists the day before so I can get started quickly and stay focused.

2. I'm allergic to caffeine so I have to get creative when it comes to energy. I try to drink a lot of water, I keep healthy snacks in my office, and I take hits from a can of oxygen when I feel the mid-afternoon lull. 

3. I don't schedule meetings on lab days even if I know I can step away for a few minutes and take a call because it requires a significant shift in my brain to change hats from Founder to Formulator. I let myself stay in chemistry mode when I need to without distraction and vice versa. Entrepreneurs have to wear a lot of hats, but I find it far easier and more productive to dedicate full days to disparate operations to maximize working hours without multiple daily big mental energy shifts. Sometimes it's unavoidable, but I try to schedule my days with this idea in mind.

How do you stay grounded as an Entreprenista?

I meet with a mental health professional once a week to stay grounded. I started therapy when my father passed away a few years ago to help process and manage grief and realized how valuable therapy is. I strongly believe everyone should have access to mental health resources at all times, healthy or not. There's an unfortunate stigma attached to mental health professionals I hope we can start to change post-COVID. I consider it a valuable resource in my toolkit as a professional, mom, and partner. 

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

I firmly believe in the Montessori principles of intrinsic motivation. It seems so obvious, but I use this general concept when considering candidates and fostering growth for my employees within my company. I simply ask, what do you like to do? What interests you? And then find ways to let them pursue passions and purpose whenever possible in their work day. I was lucky enough to have one or two great leaders above me in my career to teach me, especially when I was a teacher.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned this year?

Patience. Ugh. The crawl, walk, run strategy is a good one. I had to learn to let go of the dreamy romanticized vision of what I thought it would look like to "make it" with my business. It takes time to build businesses, like years. TV shows and social media sensationalize companies that build fast and become overnight successes, but that's so rare and often not sustainable. Also, the term "overnight success" is loosely defined. It might look like that to a lot of consumers who newly learn about a brand, but it is never literally overnight... or even close. Building takes time, I had to learn patience on another level this year.

Did you raise capital for your business? What are your best tips for fundraising?

I self-funded during our first 5 years of R+D and the first year and a half of business. We sourced a small amount of capital after that from a family friend who works in private equity. It's super hard to raise capital, the biggest thing you need is traction/sales. Investors want to see sales, bottom line.

Are you a Mamaprenista? If so, please share your best tips to manage a business and a family:

I'm a single, working mother. My daughter is now a responsible teenager and also a driven creative human so I'm lucky she's on my team. It hasn't always been easy though. I align best on this topic with Shonda Rhimes. I recently discovered a speech she gave where she openly talks about the myth of work/life balance and how being a successful woman comes with sacrifice. She notes, “Whenever you see me succeeding in one area of my life that almost certainly means I’m failing in another.” When she was at her daughter's school musical she was missing Sandra Oh's last episode of Grey's Anatomy being filmed... if she was crushing it accepting awards or writing amazing scripts she was missing bath and storytime at home or her baby’s first swim lesson. Hearing other women talk about how they have to hedge time and make sacrifices is a much better place than comparing myself to super moms on Instagram homemaking all of their family’s meals. Some weeks we eat a lot of takeout, or cereal for dinner at 10 pm. I feel terrible when I’m at the lab late, and sometimes even worse when I leave work early to make a nice dinner. Shonda’s words resonated when she said “You never feel 100% ok, something is always lost, something is always missing…” but she’s proud to set an example for her daughters as a powerful successful woman. She said, “In their world mothers work, mothers run companies, and I am a better mother for it.”

How do you avoid burnout?

Healthy habits, acceptance... and fear.

I have hit burnout before. I wanted to quit a few times. Imposter syndrome and burnout are the opposite of creative energy, but sometimes an unavoidable part of taking risks. It’s tough, but you can come back from it. Simple daily things, committing to eating healthy, exercise (even if it’s just a short walk), fresh air, water, a little live music, and a few great orgasms... it’s ok to have some fun along the way ;)

On a more serious note, I think it's mostly about mindset. Fear drives me more than I should admit, but it also keeps me afloat on super hectic days when burnout is creeping in. Fear tends to land on eyes and ears as a supercharged negative word, so I'll massage it a little… In teaching, we called it "an appropriate level of discomfort." Haha, who doesn't love some good 'ol educator vernacular? When I was going through my divorce, I admitted something to a close friend and her response changed my life. She was this outrageously funny and interesting gypsy woman from Boulder who claimed her mother was a witch. She was fascinating, 20 years older than me and nothing like me, but I loved her. I told her I was afraid of being alone. She laughed out loud and said... "Oh honey, we're all alone. We come into this world alone and we leave alone. You've always been alone babe, you just need to accept it." I think the majority of Americans, to some degree, have a measurable level of entitlement- some larger than others. Burnout is a matter of perspective for me. I was poor/middle class at times growing up. There isn't a golden parachute waiting for me anywhere, I am alone, and my successes and failures are mine. I don't fear burnout, I fear not trying and looking back and realizing it's because I was too scared to try, or worse, expected someone else to do it for me. Accepting responsibility for my happiness with an appropriate level of discomfort in regard to financial well-being is the key to avoiding burnout, for me.

Do you have a co-founder? If so, how did you find the right one for you and what are your best partnership tips?

I made her! My daughter is my co-founder, she is a student and obviously not as active in the business as me, but she's an amazing confidant and creative force. When we don't agree on something we pro and con it. When we're tired of each other, we put in headphones :)

What's the one app on your phone you absolutely cannot live without and why?

Does Instagram count? We love this platform as a tool to communicate to our wholesale and retail customer base. It's our most successful social media platform. 

What is your favorite business tool or solution and why?

We made a "prop closet" for our product photography. It's a tiny room in my apartment the size of a large walk-in closet with built-in shelves in the wall. I got a table from IKEA and put it next to the window and handmade a few backdrops. Having a dedicated space we can go to often and shoot content for social media and product launches allows for more time to be creative and less set-up takedown time. I love working in the space and get excited every time we upgrade something in there. We just got a new continuous light by Godox and a softbox so we don't have to rely solely on natural light and reflectors and it's a game changer! Build yourself a tiny prop closet/photo studio in your office if you can!