Maria Pantaleoni is the Co-Founder of 7True.
How did you get into the industry?
A little more than a year ago I was first introduced to Non Toxic nail polish by my friend, turned business partner, Miriam Brochero. She was telling me about the dangers of regular nail polish and how non-toxic polishes are much safer. My nine-year-old daughter and I get manis and pedis all the time and I didn’t realize how unsafe the polishes were. I felt awful subjecting my young child to the harsh chemicals. I thought everyone one should know and everyone should have access to non-toxic polishes! So I decided to partner with Miriam to make our own brand of non-toxic polishes and bring it to the masses.
Any emerging industry trends?
We’re finding that consumers are becoming more aware of the chemicals in their cosmetics in general. However, for nail polish, it’s a Catch 22. While they want to be healthy, many consumers falsely believe that non-toxic polishes are weak, thin, and chip easily.
In addition, we’re finding a movement towards nail polish benefits that go beyond color options. Essentially, consumers are starting to gravitate to quick-dry nail polishes, gel polishes that do not require a heat lamp and special treatments that heal damaged nails.
Finally, nail art is in full swing and is now a featured and credited element in fashion runway shows. Nail artist are coming into their own and are looking for nail polish sponsors to promote their craft.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
Our biggest challenge is twofold. First, compared to two years ago, the overall subscription box category growth has slowed down. There is concern that the platform has run its course. Second, luxury subscription boxes need to show meaningful value/savings to attract subscribers. For example, consumers want to see that they are getting $300 worth of product for only $50. Successful subscription boxes are able to deliver on this price/value proposition.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
(EXAMPLE: Tell us about what originally inspired the business concept, and tell us what the desired future of the business is)
I was initially unaware of how dangerous regular nail polish was to your health. I saw a void of non-toxic solutions for nail care and as a mother, I wanted to make a product that I knew was safe for my daughter without compromising the quality of the polish and the array of colors available. It needed to be safe, fashionable and premium. In addition, I wanted to make sure we had a charity component, as its very important for me to be able to give back to women in need. I hope that we’re able to expand beyond polishes and create a new clean beauty line that will continue to support women’s causes.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
• This spring we are moving from a month-to-month nail polish subscription box to offering four seasonal boxes. Each box will have four colors that have been curated by season. Subscribers will receive 4 boxes for each season (Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall) throughout the year.
• We will also be partnering with other non-toxic cosmetic and beauty companies to include their products in our seasonal boxes.
• We will promote our new advisory panel of highly distinguished women representing marketing, branding, social media and cosmetics industries
• 2019-2020 Outlook: We are hoping to expand to other clean, beauty cosmetics, starting with lipstick.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
Our most recent PR initiatives have really helped drive awareness of the brand. We are seeing an uptick in web traffic and are confident this will convert to sales soon.
We are also doing a series of pop events in retail stores and salons to the raise brand awareness and increase sales as well as participating in trial runs at high-end nail polish salons to secure retail presence.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
Our fulfillment center was not delivering the best quality of work. Because they were located in another state, we gave the company very specific directions, including a video, of how we wanted our product packed and shipped. We noticed that our packaging instructions weren’t being followed all the time, but since shipments were arriving on time, we thought it was ok. However, we noticed that we were getting a lot of breakage complaints and had to replace our product on more than one occasion. For quality control issues, we decided to move our fulfillment in house and do it ourselves. Since we started doing it there have no breakage issues. We will look for another local fulfillment company after our Spring box launches in March.
We learned that quality control is important and that poor quality can cost more money in the long run. We also learned that our fulfillment house needs to be located close by so we can stop by and check the process without having to travel too far.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
We hope that our customer will love receiving their curated nail polishes every season. We want it to be like Christmas for them… like every season they are getting a gift especially curated for them. We want them to anticipate it and be excited when they receive it in the mail.
We want our customers to love the product and feel good knowing that a portion of their sale is going to a good cause.
We want our customers to believe that they are getting a premium product. One that is safe, comes is beautiful colors that are durable and will last just as long, it not longer than regular nail polish.
How do you motivate others?
I focus on the things they are doing right, on their successes and praise them for their efforts. If mistakes are made we talk about them, but with the intent that the next time it will be a lot better. There is always a next time. Incredibly, you can always apply what you’ve learned from a past mistake, even if it’s a different situation.
I always seek advice from the team when making big decisions so that I know where they stand and that they feel invested in the process. They need to feel invested. That is key!
I also try to lead by example meaning, that I will always volunteer to do the hard and more challenging pieces so that they see that I’m willing to do what it takes to make this business successful. I find that just by showing my dedication, it has inspired my teammates to work just as hard.
Career advice to those in your industry?
Celebrate your successes as well as your failures. We learn a lot more from our mistakes.
Network, network and network. Relationships are key to learning, growing and being successful.
Keep your integrity. Don’t cut corners. You owe it to your business, employees and customers.
Take a stab at doing something first before hiring the “expert” to do it. You’ll be surprised at how much you really can do on your own and the amount of money you can save.
What do I do best?
I’m a really good listener. I think the first part of building a relationship, either professionally or personally, is to really listen to what is being said and to absorb it before responding. A lot of times I find that people ask a question and are already thinking about their next question without listening to the person’s response. Or worse, they interrupt before letting them finish their point. A good listener is engaged, empathetic and genuine in their response. A good listener is present. I strive to be all of those things.
What makes me the best version of myself?
I’m my best self when put to the challenge. If you say I can’t do it, I will find a way.
What are my aspirations?
Personal Aspiration: Whether it’s going to the best schools or exploring the world, I want my family to experience things I was never able to when I was growing up.
Business Goals: Over the next 2-5 years, I would love our brand to be household name that stands for clean beauty, gorgeous colors and making a difference to those in need.
My Biggest Success?
My biggest success was creating a company, in an industry where I had no prior experience, with two hard-working moms. In less than one year we have created a beautiful brand, amassed a large number of followers and were included in People Magazine’s and Huffington Post’s Best Subscription Box round up for 2017.
My Most Challenging Moment?
Walking away from my comfortable, senior-level, corporate job to go out on my own into the unknown was my most challenging moment. As the breadwinner for my family this was a huge risk. But I needed to walk away so that I could find my true passion and obtain work-life balance. I have never looked back and feel more fulfilled, both personally and professionally, than I ever have in my entire life. It was the best decision ever.
Never believe your own press. They will love you one day and hate you the next.
(Be your own barometer and have a good sounding board in place so you always know the truth of where you stand.)
My Favorite People/Role Models?
My father is my role model. He came to the United States from the Philippines with $500 in his pocket. In less than 6 months he was able to get a job, petition my mother and myself to come join him and make a successful life for his family. After 40+ years in the United States he truly represents the American dream. He is a citizen, a homeowner, a successful engineer and has contributed to his children’s education, while at the same time taking care of his family abroad. Watching him over come his struggles that most immigrants face (i.e., language and cultural barriers) has inspired me more than any person or celebrity that I know. I am who I am because of him.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
I love the beach. Something about the waves and where the water meets the sky is completely relaxing and inspirational to me. I especially love the Manhattan Beach Pier in California. When you’re on it, you’re literally standing above the Pacific ocean. There is nothing more satisfying than standing on the edge of a continent.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
I love my iPhone. It’s my computer, phone, camera, alarm clock, TV… lifeline. I can’t function without it.
My Current Passions?
Learning about non-toxic beauty cosmetics and pursuing a healthier, more balanced, lifestyle.