Feeling a Lack of a Close Shave, She Invented a Solution
Leila Kashani is living proof that interesting things can come in small packages. As the CEO and founder of Sphynx, which provides a self-contained shaving solution for women on the go, she proved that through innovation, passion and creativity there may be a solution for every obstacle.
Entrepreneurs know that one of the best ways to create a product is to solve a problem. That’s just what Kashani did. Fed up with the annoyance of missed spots after shaving in the shower, Kashani felt that women on the go to had to have a better quick shaving solution that didn’t include dry razors.
That’s when the aha moment struck: Kashani thought of designing an all-in-one shaving accessory that’s water, soap and razer in a compact that could tackle missed spots when someone is away from the shower. This is not a replacement for a regular razor, but rather a portable, elegant accessory for times of need.
I had the chance to talk with Kashani about how she started shaving out her own niche in an already saturated industry worth billions:
What led you down the path to your pursuits today?
I've always considered myself an entrepreneur. At the age of 16 I had my own clothing store. At age 18 I started a summer program for over 200 children. With Sphynx, the idea came to my mind a few years back while I was sitting on the beach and realized I missed a spot shaving. I didn't know much about product development at the time so I didn't think much of it.
A few years later I was working a full-time job as a marketing and brand manager at a toy company where I got a lot of product development experience and realized I had gained enough knowledge to give this idea a shot.
How did that moment translate into taking action?
I would come home from my office job and then start to work on Sphynx every night until about 2 a.m. and on weekends. But the idea started to consume my mind! I spent six months doing research, developing the concept further and applying for the patents. Eventually working weekends and being up until 2 a.m. every night wasn't enough time to devote to it. It was at that point I realized I had to bite the bullet, leave my corporate career and do Sphynx full time.
What's the biggest challenge you had to overcome early on? How did you tackle it?
Even with as much experience as I had in product development, starting your own business is much more unique. You have to wear many hats. I had to learn about formulas used in soap, learn about patents, shipping and manufacturing details.
The hardest challenge for me was stepping back and making decisions. For some reason, it was always easy for me to make decisions while working for someone else.
When it’s your own project, you sometimes second-guess yourself. You don't have a team to bounce ideas off of and think things through the same way. I love working with people, so going out on my own and learning skills that are not as fun to execute was a constant challenge I faced.
What is the most common mistake you see entrepreneurs make today that you'd love to give them advice on?
Budgeting. Make a budget and double it. You'll always spend more than what you think! Things pop up that you cannot foresee. And if you end up being under budget, it’s way better then being over.
What's your best piece of advice for female entrepreneurs?
Ask questions. Always ask. Even if you get advice you’ve already heard, it’s still better to ask. Also, get real feedback and be comfortable with the change. Write down your goals, challenge yourself to see something new and constantly ask yourself if you’re thinking big enough.
Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.