My Queue

There are no Videos in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any video to save to your queue.

There are no Articles in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any article to save to your queue.

There are no Podcasts in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any podcast episode to save to your queue.

You're not following any authors.

Click the Follow button on any author page to keep up with the latest content from your favorite authors.

My First Moves

How This Founder Built a $90 Million Skincare Business With No Beauty-Industry Experience

To create Rodial, Maria Hatzistefanis threw herself into a crash course on beauty manufacturing.
How This Founder Built a $90 Million Skincare Business With No Beauty-Industry Experience
Image credit: Courtesy of Rodial
Entrepreneur Staff
Deputy Editor
5 min read

In the Women Entrepreneur series My First Moves, we talk to founders about that pivotal moment when they decided to turn their business idea into a reality -- and the first steps they took to make it happen.

In 1999, Maria Hatzistefanis didn’t know anything about starting a business -- and she definitely didn’t know anything about creating beauty products. What she did know, however, was that she had a very good idea: skincare products that addressed specific consumer concerns, from dark circles to large pores. So she spent more than a year researching and acquainting herself with the space before bootstrapping and launching Rodial. Over the past two decades, the London-based company has grown into a $90 million operation, with products sold across 35 countries. Here, the CEO and host of podcast Overnight Success talk us through the guidelines she used to get her start.

1. Make contact.

As both a passionate consumer and former beauty writer, Hatzistefanis was able to spot a gap in the market. “I wanted to build a skincare range that offered targeted treatment for various skin concerns, like, say, hyper-pigmentation,” she told Entrepreneur. But, she said, she had no idea where to start.

To learn what she needed, she attended beauty-industry trade shows to educate herself on the industry and get to know the labs, designers and packaging companies she’d eventually partner with to make her company a reality. “I went to probably five or six shows across Europe in a matter of months,” Hatzistefanis said. “I got business cards, set up meetings and made my initial contact.”

2. Find your first partner.

Following her trade-show research, Hatzistefanis met with multiple London-based labs in search of a partner who could help interpret her vision and create actual product. “I knew what I wanted the end result to be, but I don’t have a chemistry background,” she said. “I couldn’t put a formula together to save my life!”

Some labs were too large to take on her startup's work, and others tried to convince her to simply brand pre-existing formulas. Hatzistefanis wasn't on board with that: “It was important that we create our own,” she said. “So it took a lot of labs out of the running.” Finally, she found a local production facility that understood her mission, and she spent a year finalizing her formulations.

RELATED: 'Fast' Furniture? This Founder Spent Years Forming Her Business Idea -- and Launched When the Timing Was Right

3. Adapt.

Hatzistefanis started work on Rodial’s branding as soon as her product lineup was firmed up. “I started doing all of this work in parallel,” she said. “While our product testing was happening, I was looking for packaging, though most companies had huge minimum-order quantities -- between 5,000 and 10,000 -- and I was only doing 500-item runs.”

She ultimately had to compromise, using off-the-shelf packaging and customizing label designs. But, determined to move forward, she decided that every time she produced a new run of her product, she would tweak and update the packaging to stay close to her original vision.

4. Start selling -- any way you can.

Back in 1999, launching a brand online wasn’t an option; retail was the only choice. “I sent emails to all the stores here in London, explaining the products,” Hatzistefanis said. “I didn’t get a lot of responses, or I would get a response that just said they didn’t have space for us.”

She persisted, however, and within her first year, a small store in London designated a tiny amount of space for Rodial -- but it came with strings. “They gave me six months to sell all of our product, and if we didn’t, I had to take it back from them and issue the store a refund,” she said. “So we had to sell it.”

As a solo founder with no staff, Hatzistefanis assumed all of the sales pressure. “I’d run the business during the week and spend all day Saturday and Sunday on the floor, selling product, and pretending that I was a hired salesperson.”

RELATED: How Getting Laid Off Empowered This Entrepreneur to Start Her Own Award-Winning Marketing Agency

5. Make your first hire.

Hatzistefanis formed a vital friendship -- and partnership -- on that sales floor. “A woman from Molton Brown [an upmarket personal care company] and I became quite friendly, and she started talking to me about ways to take my business to the next level and drive sales,” she said. “I wasn’t a particularly good salesperson, so I brought her in as my sales manager, even though I could barely afford it.

"But it was the best decision. Having people to drive sales and bring in money is the most important thing.”

More From Women Entrepreneur

Inspire Me Series

How to Keep Going When All the Signs Say 'Quit'

Luba founder/designer Hannah Payne shares how she launched her fashion line for a second time after life required her to put it on hold.
Leadership

Jada Pinkett Smith on the Persistence and Passion That Drives Her as an Entrepreneur

The actress and businesswoman shares her insights about success, creative collaborations and self-care
Self Doubt

NLP: What It Is and How Female Entrepreneurs Can Use It to Erase Self-Doubt and Other Obstacles

It's called neuro-linguistic programming and it can help you 'reframe' the mental barriers that keep you down.
My First Moves

How This College Dropout Created a Fast-Growing But 'Culture-First' Hollywood PR Agency

As founder and CEO of Metro PR, Tess Finkle has built a business that serves its clients and employees alike.

More from Entrepreneur

Terry's digital marketing expertise can help you with campaign planning, execution and optimization and best practices for content marketing.
Book Your Session

For a limited time only, get this bundle of Entrepreneur PressĀ® titles for less than $30 (60% OFF) on our bookstore when you use "LEAP" at checkout.
Buy Now

Are paying too much for business insurance? Do you have critical gaps in your coverage? Trust Entrepreneur to help you find out.
Get Your Quote Now

Latest on Entrepreneur