The founders faced numerous challenges both as entrepreneurs and personally, when starting out: limited funds for scaling the business, no salary for a while and achieving work-life balance. W Insight sat down with Ewa to learn how she coped with these challenges and ask for concrete and relevant advice for other women entrepreneurs.
Joanna Socha: What is the idea behind Glov?
Ewa Dudzic: It all started around 2009, when my business partner Monika Zochowska was traveling and forgot to take a makeup remover with her. Then she thought about creating a product that would remove make-up with just water. She had heard about a microtechnology of fibers with electrostatic abilities that can be used to clean different things using just water. She thought about adapting this solution to the cosmetics industry and asked herself: What if we use these fibers to remove make-up? This is how we came up with the idea of make-up remover gloves. Many of us remove make-up every day and we have so many skincare solutions, but nothing is convenient and easy to use and travel with. The gloves are reusable and you can wash them with soap or in a washing machine.
When we started out, we were already running a few businesses. We decided to continue the work and, in the meantime, we did some market research, started manufacturing and producing the first prototypes. We also tested all these for the fiber abilities in the different laboratories. We had a friend who worked at the University of Warsaw in the chemical department, who helped us to do some first research as neither of us had a chemistry background. We both come from the management and marketing sides. We had an idea how this product could respond to people’s everyday needs. But we outsourced all the research and laboratory tests. Now we work with about 20 laboratories around the world.
BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS
What were some of the major challenges when you were launching?
When the prototypes were ready, we started to look for investors to commercialize the product. I remember the interview with the potential investors – three men who did not have a clue what we were talking about. We told them: “Look, imagine like you have some magic fiber that helps you shave every day.” They immediately liked the concept.
We got the first investors, but we did not have much money. We managed to cover the first production round, the packaging, filing a patent, and a cheap website. And when the product was ready, we were supposed to start selling. We struggled, as it was difficult to sell without a budget. We promoted the product among our friends, on social media and on local shows. It started to live its own life! Women began to pass the information to one another.
How did you sustain yourselves as entrepreneurs?
In the first three years or so, we didn’t take any money from the company. Today, whenever someone is telling me that he’s building a startup for the money, I laugh.
Both Monika and I were lucky to have some savings from other businesses that we were still running part-time. I had a gastronomy business, and Monika is a certified diamond grader, so she had some jewelry gigs. Yet, there were moments that we had no money left for winter shoes, for example, because all the revenue we had was reinvested. There were moments that we doubted that this was going to be worth it and we even considered getting “normal” jobs.
What kept you going?
There were always some small successes that motivated us and made us believe that it’s soon going to work out; that it’s coming.
You started slow, but today you sell in about 60 countries. Apart from getting the investors on board, what were some other elements that helped you succeed?
There were moments when we completely had no cash. And it coincided with a moment when a huge potential client from France, Monoprix, approached us. They made a significant order, and we didn’t have money for production. We asked the bank to loan us some money and they refused as we didn’t have any credibility. Our investor couldn’t help us as well. This is when we asked our parents for help. They gave us their small savings to make this production happen. And that’s what saved this contract and turned out to be a big step for the company. The fact that we have had this support from our close ones – it made us feel safer. Having this security from your loved ones makes you a bit more risky and bold about your business.
MANAGING SOCIAL MEDIA
I noticed you have a significant social media following (Instagram: c. 95,7k followers, Facebook: 60,5K followers ). Could you share some tips for successful social media management in today’s super competitive setting?
It depends on what kind of product or service you’re trying to promote. We have this product that is very “likable,” easy to promote, to show around. But one thing that we do is rely on user-generated content.
We often try to find bloggers and influencers, even the small ones, who are willing to share something about our product. We share their post in our insta stories, and this is how we build brand awareness online.
What was also very important was the story behind our brand and the fact that we were building this brand ourselves. We were sharing some moments of our own lives, how we used the product and why. This is how we built this close relationship with the followers – they knew who made this brand, and that there are real people behind it, not a big corporation.
We also experimented with out of the box partnerships. For instance, we have been sponsoring makeup master classes in different parts of the world. We even had Mario Dedianovitch – the creator of the contour makeup cult, who did make up for Kim Kardashian, among other celebrities. Every time we sponsored such a class, we also sent some influencers or makeup artists from Poland to participate in this and create some interesting content for our fans.
Yet in this strategy, you must have a marketing budget. But many entrepreneurs, especially when they just start out, don’t have a marketing budget at all or it’s minimal. Do you have any advice for free strategies to get your content promoted?
If you advertise just the product or just the brand, it won’t bring a big value to the audience. So the quality is very important. And I believe that when you create something exciting, you can organically achieve wide reach.
But to do that, you have to know your target group. Listen to your followers, understand what they’re looking for.
Are there any tools, software or apps that you recommend in terms of managing social media?
Our social media team uses an app called Later. It costs only about USD 49 a month and you can use it to plan all the future posts and content for Facebook and Instagram. There is an access to analysis, comments and other useful tools. Another app is Social Blade, which is free and where you can check an influencer’s potential in terms of real or fake fans.
What were some of your biggest failures in your career so far, and what did you learn from those?
The word – failure, it’s very negative. I wouldn’t say that something was a failure and a failure only, because when one door closes, another opens. Something might feel like a failure now, but something good might come out of that in the future.
And I also believe everything happens for a reason.
About 15 years ago, when I was a student, I created a small advertising company. The idea was to put screens in taxis. It was a failure for many reasons. Apart from the fact that we didn’t have a good business model, we also weren’t well prepared: we hadn’t thought about cash flow at all and we didn’t have enough skills to manage this company. The company stopped functioning after about six months, and I came out of that experience with debts, as I had to pay for all of this equipment I ordered.
My second business was sushi catering. It was successful and allowed me to pay off my debts. If you look at this from one perspective, I didn’t fail. I experienced something. And I came out stronger and ready to do the next business and not repeat the same mistakes. If everything I did were perfect and I only made great decisions, I would not have much chance to learn and grow.
It’s challenging to run a business and to keep work-life balance. How do you handle it?
It’s challenging for me to this day. I have a baby that is about two years old, and I’m pregnant with a second baby. It’s a very demanding time for us as generally being a mother is challenging in terms of your emotional, mental and physical stability. And when you still expect yourself to continue on the same rhythm as you were before the pregnancy or motherhood, it’s tough to manage.
So when I became pregnant for the first time, I had to learn how to live my life differently and still manage the company. I believe at the end of the day, we should be gentle to ourselves, not demand too much. It’s important to realize that there are limits to everything, that it’s okay to let your child stay with the nanny or at a daycare. But it’s also important to know that you do not have to work 12 hours a day as you did before. It’s important to know yourself and know what works for you.
I’m still learning this and when I have a second child, I am going to have to learn again how to arrange my time, because there will be two babies that expect my attention.
It’s essential to have support from the people that you work with, and from your partner. When my baby was born, my husband worked from home for the first year, so he was also engaged as a father and cared for the child a lot.
Interview by Joanna Socha
Edited by Diana Asatryan, Phyllis Budka