Podcast Transcript – Series One, Episode 06

Rica Elysee BeautyLynk Feb 2020


 [00:00:00]Rica: [00:00:00] I did it on a WordPress site. I hired the first employee and I raised capital. Oh . Maybe I am CEO.

[00:00:09]we posted on indeed. for 10 individuals to pilot, and we got over 200 applications.

[00:00:16]You look at me being the granddaughter of someone who could barely read and write.

[00:00:21]that. Is it third culture experience,

[00:00:24]I think that beauty needs to transcend color

[00:00:28]How do we innovate the beauty chair?

[00:00:30]the fundraising journey when it comes to being a founder of color is unique.

[00:00:35]There were a lot of people who told me I couldn’t do it, and I’m still here.

[00:00:38]Dan: [00:00:38] What’s up Unfound Nation. Dan Kianya here, your hosts for Founders. Unfound. Thanks so much for listening in. You just heard our guests for this episode, Rica Elysee from Beauty Lynk. She’s transforming on demand in home beauty service and she’s a bright star in the Boston startup community. Our episode is sponsored by Perfect Pitches by [00:01:00] Precious, Precious Williams teaches the art and science of killer elevator media and investor pitches.

[00:01:06] As always, if you’re excited about what we’re doing with Founders  Unfound, you can find our podcasts on Apple, Google, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher, and please follow us on Twitter and now Instagram @ foundersunfound or go to our website, foundersunfound.com and sign up for our updates. Please follow, like, and share and help us grow! Now on with the episode.

[00:01:28] Hope you enjoy.

[00:01:40] Hello and welcome to founders on found spotlighting the best startups you don’t know yet. We bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented backgrounds. This is episode six in our series on founders of African descent. I’m your host Dan Kihanya. Well, let’s get on it today. We have Modjossorica [00:02:00] Elysee.

[00:02:00] Like many of our founders, she’s got a strong heritage in service and community outreach.  But don’t let that mislead you. Rica is a savvy business woman and a fierce entrepreneur. She’s a champion for women, led startups as cofounder At The Table and Female Founders Day. But today we’re going to speak with Rica about her startup Beauty Lynk.

[00:02:20] A company that brings on demand beauty to you at home, at the office or on the road. Welcome to the show Rica, and thanks so much for making the time.

[00:02:29] Rica: [00:02:29] Thank you so much for having me. I’m more than happy to like share experiences every time I get a chance.

[00:02:35]Dan: [00:02:35] .Terrific. Well, let’s start off with, maybe you can , talk a little bit more about , what is Beauty Lynk? How does it work?

[00:02:42] Rica: [00:02:42] It really is a personalized on demand service. So think about it as, yes, it is makeup artist and hairstylist on wheels. However, we gathered the data that we need in order to make these appointments great. So every thing going from, if you have oily skin, if you have curly hair, [00:03:00] or if you have a, if you’re a Tinder headed.

[00:03:02] Right? We gather all that information and we allow beauty professionals to accept and decline based off of their preferences. it’s something that is not really done right now, but as you start thinking about what beauty really is, personal journey, right? As of that, we wanted to be intentional about gathering the data that would make it always a personal experience.

[00:03:27]Dan: [00:03:27] I love that. I think that we’re, we’re in this era where people just have that expectation. I don’t want one size fits all.  I want something that matches who I am and what I want and what my needs are. So it makes a ton of sense. and maybe you can talk a little bit about where’s it located?

[00:03:46] Like, are you around the country? how many people you have working on it?

[00:03:51]Rica: [00:03:51] We’re in 30 cities across the United States, and we’re in six cities globally including Dubai, Egypt, Jordan, London. [00:04:00] So it’s been a really interesting experience bringing things together. but when it comes to the amount of beauty professionals, we’re in a

[00:04:07] Couple of thousand, right? We’re a little bit over 25,000 at this point. And they had a lot of great lessons to be learned. Like what does it necessarily mean to use technology and scale that, right? .And then when it comes to the executive team, or like the on the ground team, we’re really a small team of six.

[00:04:27]I was intentional about always thinking I want my team to be able to meet at a dinner  table. I don’t want it to be like. To dinner table at our table. I wanted to be able to say, we can go to a restaurant and have one table and we’re all there. Right.  it’s intentional about thinking about it as, as we’re family, right?

[00:04:48] Not the extended family, just the family. it’s been a very interesting journey when it comes to hiring and firing and understanding the difference between a consultant and a coach [00:05:00] employee. Right? All of that has been a wonderful experience thus far. 

[00:05:06] Dan: [00:05:06] That’s going to be great to unpack for sure. But why don’t we start by helping the audience. Understand who you are and sort of what’s your background, where did you come from? How did you end up becoming an entrepreneur?

[00:05:20] Rica: [00:05:20] I’ve always been mission oriented. If anything. So I think that I go where my heart is. And prior to starting Beauty Lynk, I was in a nonprofit sector  working in development. So raising capital  for nonprofits and their missions and the work that they were doing. Everything from a homeless shelter to a prostate cancer organization, to a youth program.

[00:05:43] So I’ve had like a breadth of like great things that I’ve done. But to become the entrepreneur I think was the toughest journey for me.  Cause I had to decide to accept the title of CEO. Right. And I think. There’s something that isn’t [00:06:00] really spoken about for a majority of the day, right? Like everybody will put CEO in the email and not know what that means.

[00:06:06] And I decided to be very, very thoughtful with my process of accepting what my role was. And so I didn’t want to be called a CEO for a very long time. I just wanted to be called the founder. Right. Cause I was looking at this as like the person who’s the executive will come over and take over at one point and to realize my journey going from, I drew this on a piece of paper.

[00:06:29] I did it on a WordPress site. I hired the first employee and I raised capital. Oh . Maybe I am CEO.

[00:06:40] Getting to that point and understanding what that meant was a huge journey for me. I will say it’s a complete accident. It’s not intentional. I did not go out and say, I want to be the richest person in the world and I need to be a CEO. I was never my role, my goal, my mission. That was never it. .

[00:06:58] Dan: [00:06:58] Most of the successful [00:07:00] entrepreneurs at the end of the day are people who. Pursue the passion and feel like they are the person that has to solve this problem. And  the hope is the world recognizes it, embraces it and rewards you for it.

[00:07:16] But  most, most of what drives entrepreneurs, at least the ones that are, had the resilience and perseverance, I think is that passion.  That makes a lot of sense. So  when you are doing kind of the nonprofit world and  embracing that, which I applaud, and I also think it’s one of the more difficult places  to operate, just because nobody really has to give you anything. So you have to raise money, you have to get volunteers, you have to convince people of the mission.  so  it’s a pretty hard place and probably good training wheels, ultimately for some of the day to day things you have to deal with as an entrepreneur.

[00:07:56] Rica: [00:07:56] I’d say that it is a great training wheel. So learn how to work [00:08:00] with a small budget  and what collaboration really looks like.  my first job, I was 13 or 14, and I worked at a nonprofit, so I was working for nonprofits pretty much from 14 to through my twenties. Right.

[00:08:17] And the things that I think are the most interesting about what I’ve been able to learn is the power of. The letter, right? The letter can raise money, can get you volunteers, can do so much, and now it’s been translated into email a force. But learning how to write a great letter is what led to me deciding to stay in the nonprofit sector.

[00:08:43] Dan: [00:08:43] Interesting. And do you feel like you mastered it?

[00:08:48]Rica: [00:08:48] I think that I’ve learned how to. B pretty direct and pretty short with what I need to say in a thoughtful way.

[00:08:58] Like you may say, gimme that [00:09:00] money, and I will say on our journey together, we have done some great things with X number Y number and it can continue with your donation right.

[00:09:10] It’s just understanding how to  use that narrative to build the story, build the drama around what you need to do. Just because you change the lives of 25 people  does it mean that everybody cares? But if you can bring one of those stories from the 25 people and share how $100,000 will allow you to do four times that work.

[00:09:33]It’s important.

[00:09:34]Dan: [00:09:34] Absolutely. And  again, I think this is a tremendous, a skillset and experience  that entrepreneurs need to, right? You gotta be able to tell a story that resonates, that shows impact and can make impact. But you can’t. Write 50 pages to do it. Or you can’t have somebody, you know, watch a two hour video necessarily.

[00:09:58] Right. So, especially when you’re [00:10:00] out trying to get customers and investors  and potential employees. The story has to be dramatic, succinct, and impactful.

[00:10:08] Rica: [00:10:08] I definitely agree that. They, they’re great for entrepreneurship, but I think they just great for being a person, right?

[00:10:16] For just like understanding that sometimes  you need to be able to translate someone’s story to be important.  When I think about my family history, for example, right? You look at me being the granddaughter of someone who could barely read and write. Then my mom coming into this country.

[00:10:37]And then me coming into this like, you know, realization of what my journey is, but it doesn’t look simple, right? Growing up in the hood, not having this, not wearing this, doing this, eating that, like no one talks about that. But when you think about this journey of entrepreneurship, every single thing has ever happened in your [00:11:00] life dictates your storytelling skills.

[00:11:02]Dan: [00:11:02] So true.  And one of the things I love about doing  these podcasts is that the stories are so rich. People are good storytellers. And like you said, it’s the content is really the thing that helps you.  Even if you don’t think you’re a great storyteller, you can’t help but be because you have these, fascinating and unique. story, arcs of life.  I mean, just what you said about, you know, having a grandparent that couldn’t read and write, and then your mom coming to this country. And where’d she come from?

[00:11:32] Rica: [00:11:32] She came from Haiti. She didn’t actually come from Africa, so I was just like, Oh, wow.

[00:11:35] Yeah.

[00:11:36] I’m in the batch where they came from Africa.

[00:11:38] But you know, Haiti Haitians are very prideful. Yes.

[00:11:42]They’re the first black independent, and they will let you know every day of the week.

[00:11:48] Dan: [00:11:48] Yes, this is true. you know, my mom, I’m from Boston and my family lives there and,  my mom’s church has  many, many Haitian folks there. And I know exactly what you’re talking about  and you’re right.

[00:11:59] I mean, there’s a [00:12:00] lot of pride there. and America is an interesting place for people who come. My  dad was the first generation  to come here . He came from Kenya. there’s sort of this optimism and  enthusiasm about the opportunities and then sort of realities come to play. like you’re talking about.

[00:12:16] Did you have any entrepreneurs in your family or experience with people growing up or anything that were entrepreneurial?

[00:12:24]Rica: [00:12:24] Everybody in my family was an entrepreneur. I mean, we grew up and like my grandmother, sold the produce that we grew on, our farm.

[00:12:34] Right. In order to make sure that my mom and my aunt, but that was from a care cropping perspective. Right. But that’s entrepreneurship. She put it on her head and she went and she sold in the streets and she, whatever she got, she made sure it was feeding the family. Like to hear stories from my mom about how my grandmother wouldn’t eat and just drink a cup of coffee.

[00:12:54] Dan: [00:12:54] Wow. It’s crazy,

[00:12:56]Rica: [00:12:56] But that’s how hard it was  right. That’s how strong she was. [00:13:00]

[00:13:00]Dan: [00:13:00] Isn’t that amazing to think about?  my grandparents were kind of in the same boat.  life is so.  there’s a strenuousness to it, but there’s also a simplicity of purpose, right? It’s like we gotta feed ourselves.

[00:13:12] We gotta take care of ourselves. That’s a focus. You know, we want a legacy of the next generation to be able to have maybe more opportunities than we do. And so how do we get that generation there? and I think that resilience is built into the DNA of a lot of entrepreneurs that come from underrepresented backgrounds.

[00:13:33] Rica: [00:13:33] I definitely agree. I think that there’s a level of resiliency that we have one way or not. I’m one more first-generation US. Right. It’s just my family didn’t come here for this. Right.  my family did not come here for this. Like you have to do everything you think about, you not finishing the food on your plate, and then you get to meet 10 kids when you go to visit your grandparents, they don’t even know where food is coming the next day.

[00:13:59] Like, you know, [00:14:00] these are the things that you get to deal with and experience, and they tell you. I mean, I’d say  I’m more of the third culture, right? I have to be just as American as every American kid, but I have to be just as Haitian as my parents want me to be.

[00:14:12] Right? And then I fall in the middle of this whole, like, I have to do both, has to do both. I can’t just do one. So I’m just falling in the middle somewhere. So I, I consider it to be like this third culture experience right.

[00:14:26] Dan: [00:14:26] That’s a great way to put it. What’s an example of a third culture life that people may not really understand?

[00:14:34]Rica: [00:14:34] The thing that I enjoy the most is eating fried chicken, right?  There is American fried chicken is Caribbean fried chicken. Those are two very different things.

[00:14:44] Dan: [00:14:44] Absolutely

[00:14:45] Rica: [00:14:45] Right? But what happens when your mom tries to give you the American experience was still needs to be seasoned the Haitian way, and that comes into this like hybrid thing.

[00:14:56] It has flour on it, it’s fried, but doesn’t look like [00:15:00] KFC. You see that. Is it third culture experience, right? Even when you think about how progressive our parents are becoming with celebrating Thanksgiving, for example, nothing that they grew up with. Well, because they’re here, they decided they need to make it theirs and then it has no American food whatsoever on the table.

[00:15:19] Aside from this,

[00:15:23] aside from that though, we’ve got the rice, we got the plantains, we got this, we got it. Yeah. And it’s just like. Mom. This isn’t Thanksgiving.

[00:15:32] You know…

[00:15:34] Dan: [00:15:34] Right, right. Which I think actually is, is so refreshing, right? I think it for you to be able to say  I can navigate how this could be in a way that is honoring my heritage, but also is honoring the, you know, American culture. Right. Which we all seem to try to embrace. Right?

[00:15:55] Rica: [00:15:55] Definitely. I think there’s some fun in  talking about intersectionality, [00:16:00] and I remember being in the sixth or seventh grade and reading Zora Neale Hurston and for the first time their eyes were watching God,

[00:16:07]Dan: [00:16:07] Right?

[00:16:08] Rica: [00:16:08] And I was like, Oh my goodness, she’s living two lives. She’s like this woman dealing with being beat up, but she’s a black woman and she didn’t realize she was a black woman. Til later, wait, hold up. What is this? And then that’s when I fell in love with it. Dubois,

[00:16:21]Dan: [00:16:21] There you go.

[00:16:22] Rica: [00:16:22] Double consciousness and getting deeper and understanding the whole entire situation of intersectionality, you know?

[00:16:30] Dan: [00:16:30] Absolutely. and more and more  unpacking that I think is incumbent upon us all.

[00:16:36] I mean, I’m quite a bit older than you, so I grew up  a couple of decades  ahead of you. And I was still from the era where assimilate. Assimilate, assimilate, you know, dude, keep your culture on the side, you know, do things you need to do, you know, when you’re on your own time and your own community.

[00:16:55] But. Assimilate, you know, and get along. Go along to get along. And so [00:17:00] it’s encouraging to me that, you know, sort of the next generations that have come along and said, no, wait a minute. You know, there’s this, there’s still some navigation here, but.  want to wear who I am because that’s who I am as authentically what I’m going to be. so it’s exciting to see that happening for sure.

[00:17:16]We will take a short break to hear from our sponsor and be right back with Rica Elysee from Beauty Lynk.


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[00:18:16] Dan: [00:18:16] Well, we’re back with Rica Elysee from BeautyLynk. we were just talking about  the wonderful world of  being first generation immigrant in the United States and sort of the, benefits and the challenges. But let’s shift gears a little bit and talk a  bit more about beauty link.

[00:18:32]Where did the idea come from and how did you decide to do it?

[00:18:36]Rica: [00:18:36] You know, the reality of it is, is that the idea came from a combination of things,  right?  I was leading a meetup of black  women at the time.  I had family members that also had a need, and so it didn’t even really comes together to me until a family member asked me if they could get something done at home.  and I made the calls. I already knew the stylists. I already was leading a meetup in this [00:19:00] area. So telling them, Hey, can you come over at 11 o’clock and they’re like, yeah, sure, no problem. You know, I have no clients, pretty much between 11 and three when it’s not a Thursday through Sunday. Oh, okay.  and then, you know, leaving it up, you know. After that, like I, I built the little miniature website so that person could always just click through and I wouldn’t have to constantly do all the hands calling for it.  Okay. So I built a first iteration of beauty link on

[00:19:27] Dan: [00:19:27] WordPress.

[00:19:28] Excellent.

[00:19:29]Rica: [00:19:29] And after I built it on WordPress, which I think was a great lesson for MVPs.

[00:19:34] Dan: [00:19:34] Do you have a technical background? Or…

[00:19:37] Rica: [00:19:37] I don’t have a technical background and you know, usually most of the fireside chats I do and conversations I have with founders, it’s really about digging behind that. Right. How did you become a technical founder with no technical background?

[00:19:50]Dan: [00:19:50] Yeah, what do you say?

[00:19:53] Rica: [00:19:53] It does that I want manual, Like building my WordPress site allowed me to find challenges. It allowed me to see how long [00:20:00] it would really be it take for someone to accept an appointment if I call them or text them manually. Right, it also gave me the route on if people were responsive to pictures or icons. It also gave me the feedback on if people cared about a certain service or didn’t, and I did that alone. So I just dropped them alone when I did that alone. Right. We had, I think we had gotten somewhere between 15 to $20,000 at that point.  And it was very interesting for me because I finally figured out how to translate my product to someone who was technical.

[00:20:33]Dan: [00:20:33] What was that epiphany? How did you work that through? What was sort of the key to that? That’s a really profound thing. I’d imagine

[00:20:39] Rica: [00:20:39] It is a profound thing, but I think that people forget literally that some of the things that you can do in order to just figure out how your website works is drawing it on a piece of paper and asking someone to perform something.

[00:20:51]Dan: [00:20:51] Isn’t that  funny? That we are in such a tool driven society that we can’t even go back to the basics. So at my company, we do the [00:21:00] exact same thing. It’s like, Hey, if you want it to do this, what if I, and then you draw a picture and say, would that help? And the, the learning and the acceleration and how you get to your solution  just from that experience can be so much more than  building, you know, 50 landing pages with different messages and running. Google. You have to get to the heart of the why the consumer  or the end customer is going to care.

[00:21:29] Rica: [00:21:29] Yeah. Once I got the drawing out of the way and got  the WordPress out of the way, I waited six to seven months before I approached my first developer.

[00:21:39] Dan: [00:21:39] Why?

[00:21:39]Rica: [00:21:39] Because I wanted to be sure I knew my problems. I didn’t want to tell them that I needed to be automated if I really didn’t need to be automated.

[00:21:47] Dan: [00:21:47] Absolutely. most people don’t think about it that way. they think about it in the sense of, well, I just need a little bit of indication that somebody wants this and then we’ll go build it to scale.

[00:21:58] And so you [00:22:00] did this MVP, get in front of the customer, customer discovery type work. You got to a point where you thought, okay, maybe this is something that I want to actually build out.  I have a real clarity on what’s the pain point and how we possibly could solve this. How did you make that next leap.  were you doing this full time at that point or no?

[00:22:22] Rica: [00:22:22] No. I was doing other things. I was still a development executive before I took the big plunge. but one of the thing I would tell entrepreneurs that are listening to this, do you save money? If what you want to do is go full time, .

[00:22:35] What’s the product that you’re not really sure it’s going to sustain itself. But Beauty Lynk had been at that point where it was making money off of every single transaction. So it was about taking it to scale. 

[00:22:47] Dan: [00:22:47] And you started with one area. I imagine one city?

[00:22:51]Rica: [00:22:51] Started with Boston and with hair and makeup. we found a lot of challenges and around hair because of the regulatory  things. The [00:23:00] deal with the makeup was relatively easy because there no licensing for makeup. It was something that, you know, became more and more of an issue for me as we continue to scale and now has transformed it as an issue for me as we were going international. And licensing looks different in every single location.

[00:23:19]Dan: [00:23:19] I can see how that’d be a challenge. For sure.

[00:23:22] Rica: [00:23:22] The number one thing before I got to connect with developers was I had to tell my story on beauty Lynk Why I was doing it.  And when I was sharing the story about why I was doing, I got developers to approach cause they connected with the mission.

[00:23:36]Dan: [00:23:36] the more progress you make, the more the story resonates, the less you have to push in, the more people come into you because they’re drawn to it, right?

[00:23:46] Rica: [00:23:46] Yeah. They were drawn to it. They liked it. I mean, my first version of the website with a developer costs me less than $2,000 because he was so connected with the mission.

[00:23:57]Dan: [00:23:57] That’s great.

[00:23:57] Rica: [00:23:57] Then the next iteration of the [00:24:00] platform, it didn’t cost me anything. Anything? No.  Because their family member had used it. So

[00:24:05] Dan: [00:24:05] basically almost like  a customer testimonial turned into somebody saying, I got to help

[00:24:14] Rica: [00:24:14] yeah. They felt the pain and they wanted to fix the pain.

[00:24:17] Dan: [00:24:17] That’s awesome.

[00:24:18] Rica: [00:24:18] And after, after that happened, I got a technical advisor to be able to review my code on a regular basis. cause I didn’t want to go down the route of getting a CTO cause that requires a lot of  like, you know, positive relationship.  and I  wasn’t ready for that yet.  I was still trying to solve my problem.  I still am trying to solve my problem. What is it that I can do better? but you know, once I got a developer involved, there were a lot of the things that changed  and most of what change really had to do with the need for me to touch the product. Like, I no longer had to make sure I was checking on how the customers were  [00:25:00] getting synced with the beauty professionals.  Because we started asking the right questions. We knew that, you know, beauty professional who has a cat allergy can’t go to someone’s house that has a cat. We automatically put that out.

[00:25:11] Of course, we couldn’t do that because we’re doing everything manually. So we had to call through every single beauty professional and ask, do you have the cat allergy? Do you not? Here’s a possible booking networks for you? There were a lot of things that were just really interesting to watch.

[00:25:28] Dan: [00:25:28] So you have the classic two sided marketplace  business. And there’s always sort of this chicken and egg, you know, you need customer demand to get the supply side, so to speak, the beauty professionals. and obviously you need the beauty professionals to service the demand. How did you crack that in the early days?

[00:25:48] Rica: [00:25:48] We posted on indeed. for 10 individuals to pilot, and we got over 200 applications. And then I had to weed things out and I had to learn. So I had to figure out [00:26:00] who was the beauty pro that was going to test these professionals for me to figure out if they could move fast enough.

[00:26:06] They were licensed if they weren’t licensed.  all of  those learnings came through.

[00:26:11] Dan: [00:26:11] Why  so many people,  applying?

[00:26:14] Rica: [00:26:14] I think the supply side is easier. Okay. Because when you’re offering money, right? Sure. Versus the demand side where you’re telling them to pay money. I think that that’s a little bit harder.

[00:26:24] You have to build the trust in order to get their money, but the supply side wants the money. Right? And when you think about the beauty professional, you have to think about the fact that this is a majority, like word of mouth industry. So being able to scale  using technology makes sense.  Style seed is what, maybe 12 years old. So technology has really just been introduced into this industry, right?

[00:26:48] was not something that, it’s been in existence for a long time, but when you think about the car, for example, taxis right? Technology is just getting better, but technology has always been streamlined [00:27:00] in there.

[00:27:00] The moment the phone became part of the  journey for a taxi, right. Technology was introduced.

[00:27:08]Dan: [00:27:08] Yeah. It’s definitely those  milestone moments. My sister in law actually is a stylist, and so I have a little insights into, you know, she has to rent a chair and she has two chairs she rents and has to organize with  people in the geographies of each of those locations to make appointments.

[00:27:26] And. I completely can see how, from a  gig economy point of view where someone could basically fill in that downtime where she may not have the option to have a hundred percent capacity filled in her  location.  so it makes  a lot of sense to me that they would flock to this for sure.

[00:27:45] Rica: [00:27:45] Yeah. I think that there’s that, but there’s also this interesting idea behind making beauty inclusive, and I think that that’s my newest thing about what does it mean to be inclusive as a beauty brand. [00:28:00] And a lot of people are thinking about, it’s being able to offer services to women of color. Where I think that beauty needs to transcend color and start thinking about what does it mean just to make it available. How do we innovate the beauty chair?  right. Those are the type of things that I think we need to start thinking about in the industry that haven’t been brought forward, but I’m looking forward to seeing what happens within the next 10 years about how people discuss  and talk about inclusion.

[00:28:29]Dan: [00:28:29] That’s a great point. I hadn’t even thought about that. And that probably, that’s one of the, also the benefits of being able to perform these services in somebody’s home because maybe they are Either uncomfortable in the professional salon settings or they don’t have the capabilities or, accessibility, like you said, to get out to them.  So that’s a great point. one of my parents lives in an assisted living facility. They do have somebody who comes once in a while to cut hair and things like that, but  there’s probably a difference [00:29:00] between. Basic grooming and this idea of confidence and feeling good about yourself  through a beauty experience.

[00:29:08] Rica: [00:29:08] I think that  beauty or the experience of beauty is transformative for anybody regardless on if it’s basic grooming or not. Even when I think of about the elderly market, you know, our grandparents are, were way more groom than we are. And they care more about their hair, their makeup, and their nails than anybody else.

[00:29:28]Dan: [00:29:28] That’s probably true.

[00:29:29]Rica: [00:29:29] Yeah, it’s extremely true. I even was bringing it up with somebody else and telling them these are the type of things that we need to think through. Grandma does not want to show up in sweatpants. She wants to wear couture too. So. Nice thinking about that and building that, and you know, how transformative that is for their competence and the longevity of their lives. Like all of that comes from together.  But it’s one of those things that I’m very, very excited about.

[00:29:54] Dan: [00:29:54] Outstanding. maybe let’s switch gears a little bit. Let’s talk about your funding journey. [00:30:00]  Have you raised money for this business in the past? Are you going to be raising money for it?

[00:30:05]Rica: [00:30:05] Beauty Lynk has definitely had a wonderful and interesting fundraising experience. I don’t want to really dig deep into what that looks like. I will say that the fundraising journey when it comes to being a founder of color is unique.

[00:30:22] Dan: [00:30:22] Can you give us one example?

[00:30:24]Rica: [00:30:24] I think that  there’ve been some situations in which, firms have pretty much started to look at diversity and inclusion, but they’re moving towards a micro fund model. So they don’t have as much money to give. So the checks  they typically give are anywhere between 25 or 100,000 versus our counterparts, which might receive $1 million, $2 million, $3 million. so I think that there’s a lot of different situations, right?  And with time we’ll be able to see what it really looks like.

[00:30:57] Dan: [00:30:57] Absolutely. so are you thinking [00:31:00] about raising money or just building the business organically, or how are you thinking about how you grow and sustain beauty Lynk

[00:31:08] Rica: [00:31:08] I think there’s a hybrid model for Beauty Lynk versus just looking at it from just raising capital.  I think there’s a understanding of  what’s really focused on is growth capital versus capital to make everything function. So I think that there is this misconception that you can just always raise money and not actually have a business that works.  you saw a couple of them implode last year in 2019.  however, with things changing and transforming, I think that there is a middle ground. I think that there is a hybrid model that works best for everybody. But what I do appreciate about beauty lending is that we are a two sided marketplace. There can be sustainability with the right volume.  So it’s, it’s not necessarily always looking at raising capital. Is there a raising capital in our future? Yes. Is it something that I want to say is the only thing I want to focus on? No. 

[00:31:59] Dan: [00:31:59] Yeah.  [00:32:00] unfortunately, that’s always the case.

[00:32:01] Is this tension between  raising money and  running your business. And sometimes it feels like the people who write the checks  lose a little sight of that.

[00:32:11] Oh, for sure.

[00:32:13]Rica: [00:32:13] I just think that founders need to understand the difference between being a small business and being a fundable business. And being a private equity business. Yeah. Very different. And sometimes the majority of founders don’t know the difference because they think is the only way. But if you take a look at the EBITDA in the way that you’re  pacing your growth, you’ll have an understanding on if you could go for a bank loan in three to four years, or if you should be looking at private investors, PE, right. Or angel investors at another end. And. VC at another end, like financing and startups is really about understanding your business and knowing what pathway you want to take.

[00:32:57]Dan: [00:32:57] That makes sense.  When you talk to investors, I [00:33:00] imagine you’ve talked to some at some point, do they get your pain point that you’re solving and the in the industry that you’re taking on, or does it seem like it’s not registering with them?

[00:33:11] Rica: [00:33:11] I think that… When it comes to Beauty Lynk particular, we have some great competitors in the market, and their success is also what either   driving or scaring investors away. And you need to be able to prepare yourself on what that looks like. And in the early days, I didn’t know. I really didn’t know. I was just so focused on that. What can I do around . Raising money just for beauty. Lynk’s Beauty Lynk is going to be so much different. To where we are now, where I could say, we know that 63% of our customers have curly hair based off of us collecting data on personalization. We can look at partnering with P & G.  It’s just knowing the difference and how you present your company and what the value point is. When you first started out as an idea, when [00:34:00] you go out afterwards, it’s a company.

[00:34:02]Dan: [00:34:02] I like that. Yeah, that’s absolutely true. and there’s a lot of work that goes on in between for sure. So we’ll take a quick break and we’ll be right back with Rica.

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[00:35:05] Dan: [00:35:05] So we’re

[00:35:06] back with Rica Elysee from Beauty Lynk. we spent some time just talking about the evolution of the company. maybe you could talk you a little bit about how the company operates.  you said you keep the company small. and I remember reading something about music and your management approach.

[00:35:24] Rica: [00:35:24] Yeah. I use music in order to dictate. Where, where we are as a company, like in order for someone to get in touch with me, they need to be able to provide me a song to explain the situation that they want my feedback on.  And that gives me about 10 minutes, 15 minutes buffer time to figure out what the next issue is or how to solve. So say for example, someone may send me a Michael Jackson song in celebration of something. And that gives me that five minutes to listen to that song, that 10 minutes that it took for them to possibly find that song.

[00:35:58]Twenty minutes in order to [00:36:00] figure out the whole entire situation, right. Yay. We should celebrate. Oh my goodness. We have a fire, like that’s why I decided to use music. It also scales regardless of age, so it doesn’t matter if you’re 45 65 or 18.  You can still provide me with a song that you feel connects with the situation, and by the end of the week I have a playlist.

[00:36:23]Dan: [00:36:23] That’s brilliant. That is absolutely brilliant. How did you come up with that?

[00:36:27] Rica: [00:36:27] I love music.

[00:36:28] Dan: [00:36:28] Oh, there you go. cause we live our lives that way. Right. Like  you’re driving home and it’s a good day. So you’re throwing on the upbeat music or it was a tough day and you throw on the stuff to embrace that melancholy or whatever. I think that is a brilliant, brilliant idea. and those playlists will be fun probably, you know, a year, two years, three years, five years from now. You go back and say, look at December, 2019, we were rocking it, all these fun songs.

[00:36:58] And then, you know. June [00:37:00] of 2020. Wow. There’s a lot of dark songs there, so maybe we had a tough time that time.

[00:37:03]  So  I know you’re passionate and  involved in the  startup ecosystem, and especially with women founders and women of color in particular. have there been organizations, allies, people that have helped to uplift you in your journey as an entrepreneur?

[00:37:21]Rica: [00:37:21] I’d say that there are a lot of different organizations, especially for women of color, which is great. You know. The things that have been established since starting have definitely been like, wonderful.

[00:37:32] You have black women talk tech now, you have visible women, you have all these different organizations that are doing great work. I think that when it comes to me though, I appreciate them and I enjoy participating, but I’m looking for something a little bit different as time moves forward. I think that I shouldn’t have to choose. To only deal with, with women, of color in my environment and that there should be a more inclusive environment. So  when I think about that, it’s the main [00:38:00] reason why I started looking at building At the Table  and Female Founders Day.  Is what could I do in order to unite a community versus split a community?

[00:38:09]Dan: [00:38:09] I love that. And you were part of the Morgan Stanley program.

[00:38:13] Rica: [00:38:13] Yes.

[00:38:14]Dan: [00:38:14] what was that experience like?

[00:38:16] Rica: [00:38:16] I think Morgan Stanley is doing a really great job at looking at diversity in a different way.

[00:38:23] Dan: [00:38:23] And you brought up this really interesting point of not having to choose, not having to be pigeonholed,  in terms of who you are, the resources that are available to you and so forth. Was Morgan Stanley more of a broader approach, or did you feel like it was still sort of, at that stage where  it’s kind of narrow?

[00:38:43]Rica: [00:38:43] I think Morgan Stanley is doing a great job as a corporate partner for a lot of startups with their program.  I can’t necessarily say that I know if there were really narrow or wide, I only really participated you corporate like programs.

[00:38:58]Dan: [00:38:58] Well, from your perspective, in [00:39:00] terms of what you got out of the program, do you feel like it was on the Mark?

[00:39:03]Rica: [00:39:03] I think Morgan Stanley did a good job.

[00:39:05]Dan: [00:39:05] Nice. So you would recommend it to others ?

[00:39:08] Rica: [00:39:08] I think it depends on the founder. I think that if you’re a good fit for Morgan Stanley is really driven through Morgan Stanley itself. and not something that I could just say, Hey, go for it. Different years, Cal, for different campaigns, different strategies, and I can’t necessarily always tell every single founder, to participate.

[00:39:29] Dan: [00:39:29] Got it.  and does everybody who participates get to be on a billboard in times square?

[00:39:35]Rica: [00:39:35] Yes, they do. They do. It’s part of the perks.  I don’t know if they’ve changed anything, but I do know it’s one of the perks and it’s definitely one of those situations where you’re just like, wow, I didn’t think that this would ever happen. And it does.

[00:39:47] Dan: [00:39:47] Yeah. What was that like?

[00:39:49]Rica: [00:39:49] I think that, having the look glow in times square definitely was this moment of I worked my ass off  And look. To the, I’m [00:40:00] stressed out. Look, my hustle mentality is strong. Look like it was just one of those moments where there’s so many emotions that are going through your body, but you still need to figure out what happens past that happening for you.

[00:40:18] Dan: [00:40:18] I mean, it’s a very cool thing.  I’ve been doing startups for a long time. I’ve never had any of my companies on a billboard in times square. So. Congratulations for that. It’s a good thing and it’s well deserved, so

[00:40:31] Rica: [00:40:31] thank you so much. It was definitely one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.

[00:40:36] I also did a visa ad for the world cup, the women’s world cup, which was very like, Oh shit, I did this. I’m like, I think what ends up being a really interesting place as a founder. Is understanding that your journey is really being laid out  for the public to see and that they have no idea what it’s like behind the scenes.

[00:40:59] Dan: [00:40:59] Right. [00:41:00] It’s  so true. I think it’s romanticized quite a bit  in media and pop culture. And, there’s a lot of hard, lonely days in the background for sure. so any chance you can get to celebrate, I found you know, keep it in perspective. You know, like you said, the next day you gotta go back to work. But definitely I appreciate it and embrace those times. Was there like a song or a playlist that went with the billboard?

[00:41:26]Rica: [00:41:26] Most of my time  at Morgan Stanley, I was listening to Rick Ross  and Cardi B.  it was definitely, I  am somebody who like needs to listen to music about money and hoes. I know that’s horrible for me to say as a woman, but  you know, when I think about the complexities and the appreciation of entrepreneurship and the African American culture, it’s really been tied into the church pimps and drug dealers.

[00:41:54]Dan: [00:41:54] Hmm. Interesting. I wouldn’t have drawn that conclusion myself though. That’s pretty interesting. [00:42:00] and so that resonates with you.

[00:42:01] Rica: [00:42:01] Yeah, it does resonate with me. I, I think about it, and in this way of like, I would have never known it as much as I do about business and stability.  And fear. If I didn’t listen to the rap music, if I didn’t read, some of the stories about the pimps, right?

[00:42:19] Iceberg slim, that whole entire collection. You’d think about all these things that resonate and build entrepreneurship in the black community and what that means  moving forward, what does our future look like?

[00:42:31] And  it’s looking at this place of  always being pushed back, but letting church push you forward.

[00:42:38] But even in church, the pimps and the drug dealers were the ones that were given the most money and changing the community.

[00:42:46]Dan: [00:42:46] Fascinating, It’s almost like anthropology, you know, kinda trying to piece together how this works and it’s not straightforward. so, I think that’s an interesting insight for sure. What’s the future for [00:43:00] Beauty Lynk? What’s next?

[00:43:02] Rica: [00:43:02] We’re currently expanding globally. so that is immediate, moving forward with the technology. We are looking at what does it mean to build an ecosystem versus a marketplace.

[00:43:12]So. Everybody thinks about the two side of the marketplace, but in order to make the two sided marketplace, it’s work,  you have to educate, gamify, and continue to build on what’s already available. So I think that our technology will definitely. A different in the next year or two as we start to look at what are the regulatory challenges we have to deal with with the gig economy?

[00:43:35] What are the things that we have to look into moving forward and an inclusivity? So do we ask the questions associated with more than just disability? One of the questions that  one of our customers. Asked me not too long ago was like, can we mute our stylist?

[00:43:52]Like, what do you mean? Can we just tell them not to talk to us?

[00:44:00] [00:44:00] Dan: [00:44:00] Oh, my.

[00:44:01] Rica: [00:44:01] There’s another the preference. Right.  you need to think about when it comes to personalization and religion also be a question that we need to consider. And gender. Do you care if you have a male or female? Like those are the things that we want to start looking at in the personalization of, the services that we provide.

[00:44:23] Dan: [00:44:23] It makes complete sense. And, you know, like we were saying before, people want that experience of them. Right? They don’t necessarily need somebody else’s experience, so whatever that means. and so you said expanding internationally. Are you looking at specific areas?

[00:44:39] Rica: [00:44:39] we’re it definitely doing our work right now towards Africa, it’s very interesting for me, especially looking at communities that are underbanked.

[00:44:48]And deciding how to go about that if it’s the right market or the wrong market. so those types of things are really interesting. we are also looking at the middle East and in terms of Europe, [00:45:00] I’m very limited. I think we might go into Paris, but it Paris and Amsterdam, but, I still need to evaluate those markets a little bit further.

[00:45:08] Diversity numbers when you move into Europe are a little bit more, well, when they are here, these are the States.

[00:45:13] Dan: [00:45:13] Sure. that’s true, unfortunately. so I guess we’ll, we’ll be wrapping up here in a couple of minutes, but one, one last question I have is, so you have a tremendous career and, you’ve been working hard at being an entrepreneur, and I’m sure, I’m sure that you’ve learned a lot. what’s a couple of things that you might tell. The 10 year ago version of yourself that might’ve been thinking about doing a startup, maybe at that point? What kind of advice would you give yourself?

[00:45:46] Rica: [00:45:46] Know, the difference between advice and opinions.  It will save you a lot of time.  it’ll also dictate your relationships. There were a lot of people who told me I couldn’t do it, and I’m still here. That was an opinion that wasn’t gonna be able to do it.

[00:45:57]There’s also the need [00:46:00] to look at mental health, because he spent so much time alone in your head as an entrepreneur. You need to be able to have a place to let go.  So I think mental health is really important and something that should be, focused upon more early on.

[00:46:15] Dan: [00:46:15] That’s a great point. It’s, a tough, tough business. I mean, entrepreneurs are warriors. And yeah,  they don’t fight with a gun or a sword, but they have to fight disbelief. They have to fight, naysayers. They have to fight the status quo. you’re trying to change and do something different. And so  that’s, being a warrior . Like you said, you’re a solo founder, so there’s a lot you have to go through and figure out, do we expand into Africa versus South America and should we change our logo color from blue to red, and all of those decisions have, and everything in between. There are, are ones that you have to process. so that’s a, that’s a great point about the mental health. well, this has been so good. I have enjoyed our [00:47:00] conversation tremendously. so Rica, if, people want to get ahold of you or find out more about what you’re doing either with at the table or a beauty link, do you have any ways that, you’d offer for people to find out more.

[00:47:13] Rica: [00:47:13] Sure. If you’re trying to find out about BeautyLynk, please follow us at Beauty Lynk with a Y L Y N K on all social media. And our website is beauty link.com as it comes for at the table, and female founders day and the other products I work on, Rica, elisa.com is the best way to figure out what those projects look like.

[00:47:35]and I’m. Very, very loving on Twitter and horrible over email. I will definitely be nice to you.

[00:47:46]Dan: [00:47:46] Got it. That’s very clear.  I’m glad you made that distinction. Well, this has been so much fun, Rica. I appreciate it. Thanks so much. .

[00:47:54] Rica: [00:47:54] Thank you so much for having me.

[00:47:56] Dan: [00:47:56] Thanks so much for listening to the show. We’d [00:48:00] like to thank our guest Rica Elysee from Beauty Lynk and our sponsor Perfect Pitches by Precious. Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @foundersunfound. This podcast was produced by Dan Kihanya.

[00:48:15] Our music was composed by Adrian Berenguer, Jason Donnelly, CJ Harris Judson Lee, Frederik Storm, and Michael Vignola. I am Dan Kihanya and you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound.







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