298: How Mented Cosmetics Grew From Side Hustle To Multi-Million Dollar Beauty Brand (w/ KJ Miller)

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298: How Mented Cosmetics Grew From Side Hustle To Multi-Million Dollar Beauty Brand (w/ KJ Miller)

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This week we have an update episode with KJ Miller, Co-Founder and CEO of Mented Cosmetics, a multi-million dollar beauty brand celebrating women of all hues. KJ was on the podcast in 2017 when she first launched Mented Cosmetics and joins us again to share how her company has achieved rapid growth since. Mented helps women feel seen and empowered with its inclusive shade range and has been featured in Vogue, Vanity Fair, Allure, and was hailed as having the “best nude lipsticks we’ve ever worn” by Essence Magazine.

 In this episode we discuss:

  • Mented Cosmetics’s rapid growth since 2017
  • How KJ Miller is inspiring so many other entrepreneurs 
  • Her approach to scaling her business by building her team 
  • How she handled the fundraising process & so much more!

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Mented Cosmetics- @MentedCosmetics

Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:02

You're listening to side hustle Pro, the podcast that teaches you to build and grow your side hustle from passion project to profitable business. And I'm your host Michaela Matthews a Coleman. So let's get started. Hey guys, before we get into today's episode, I want to let you know that this episode is brought to you by Comcast rise. Comcast has launched a multi year multifaceted initiative designed to help strengthen small businesses owned by people of color who were hit hardest by the pandemic. I'm always looking for opportunities for you guys that go beyond just one time funding and one time donations and Comcast rise does just that. I even recently won a technology grant for a side hustle Pro. So apply, apply, apply. Okay. And I'd like you to hear from some of the other recipients of the amazing Comcast rights grants. So here they are, entrepreneurs have to have vision like Sabrina, my name

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Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:52

keep rising.

Hey guys, welcome. Welcome back to the show. It's Mikayla here and today in the guest here we have an update episode with KJ Miller of mental cosmetics. Now, the first time we chatted with men said it was the year 2017. I said that like it was a decade ago, but it's been a whole five years and so much has changed in that time, so I definitely had to have her back on the show to hear all about it. So if you don't know, KJ is the co founder and CEO of Manta cosmetics, a multimillion dollar beauty brand celebrating women of all hues. Since its 2017 launch meant it has achieved rapid growth by helping women feel seen and empowered with its inclusive shade range. kJ led the company in securing over 9 million in venture funding and has been featured in several publications, including Forbes Fast Company and the New York Times for her authentic relatable approach to entrepreneurship. Prior to founding mensen KJ spent most of her career working in retail with a two year hiatus to attend Harvard business school graduated in 2014. Her immense retail and product expertise spans across functions including merchandising, assortment planning and supply chain management, outside of Manhattan KJ has mentored and advised dozens of entrepreneurs, guest lectured at top ranked business schools across the country including Harvard Business School, Yale School of Management and Columbia Business School and created a groundbreaking course startup starter kit that levels the entrepreneurial playing field and makes the business world accessible to all. In today's episode, we talk about the growth that has happened since we last spoke, we talked about all the ways that she's inspiring so many entrepreneurs. We've talked about the real deal, things that she's had to do to scale her business, how she's dealt with the frustrating fundraising process, and her approach to scaling her team which allows her to feel relaxed as she hires new people, and to not be stressed about the process. We get into this and so much more in today's episode. So let's jump right into it.

Welcome back, KJ how are you?

KJ Miller 4:17

I'm doing very well. Thank you for having me back.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 4:19

Well, thank you for coming back. Last time we did this in 2017. We did not have video so we did not get to see each other as we spoke. So this is really nice. And I am really looking forward to learning more about what you have been up to with mented. So like I said, We last chatted in 2017 Around that time you guys you know we're just still in the thick of new business life. you'd gone through a round of fundraising. And now five years later, what's going on? What's been going on?

KJ Miller 4:53

Oh my gosh, everything has changed. Everything has changed. It's It's crazy because startup year There's our little like dog years, right? Like one year feels like, in years. Yeah, some way. So, yeah, I mean, the team looks completely different, our operations look completely different. You know, it just, it all has changed a lot. So I'm, I'm happy to jump in wherever you like, Well,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 5:19

let's start with Okay, so in 2017, were you guys in any retailers yet? And if not, then how did you go about, you know, deciding on who to target first and then getting into your first retailer.

KJ Miller 5:33

So we were not. And in fact, we did not go into retail, really, for our first three years. And that that was purposeful. We decided, you know, we wanted to focus on our.com business, because we wanted to be able to tell our story our way, we wanted to be able to, to sell our products our way. We wanted to be able to, you know, think about promotions, our way, we just didn't want any of that to be dictated for us. And of course, when you go into business with a retail partner, a lot of that is dictated, you know, they have a lot of expectations. And in you, they become your customer. And you know, the customer's always right, you got it, you got to please your customer. And so we just wanted for our first few years in business to really get to focus on our end customer, because ultimately, that's who we exist to serve. Right. So that was that was a purposeful decision. And we actually said no to one of our now partners for a couple of years before saying yes, so target reached out pretty early. And, you know, we said one, we don't think we're operationally ready. You know, we were still at that point early on. Our warehouse was kind of the small mom and pop warehouse and, you know, absolutely no shade to the small mom and pop warehouses. Because they are the ones who got us through in those first two years. But, you know, we couldn't go into Target and service hundreds and hundreds of targets with a small mom and pop warehouse. So we didn't think we were operationally ready. But we also just weren't sure yet. If it made sense. from a brand perspective, you know, our price points are higher, we're a premium brand. So we had to, we had to really make sure it made sense before we went into business with target. And so we launched with target at the very end of 2020. And just 50 doors, okay, which you know, for target is very small target has over 1800 stores. So to launch in just 50 stores is very small. But that's what we wanted. We wanted to crawl before we walk before we ran. And we had heard so many stories of brands doing too much too fast. And we just did not want that to be our story. And so we lost at ease, at least or you know, where are you? Yeah. So we got to sort of like consult with our buyer on what would make the most sense. And we were aligned on wanting to go into their most heavily African American Customer penetrated doors. Because of course, our core customer is heavily African American women. And so we knew that made sense. So I think we launched in, I want to say maybe like November of 2020. By February 2021. I think it was they had us expanding to over 200 doors. So very quickly. Target said, we want to do more. Okay, then.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 8:46

I mean, that's congratulations. You know, the performance was really good.

KJ Miller 8:53

Exactly, exactly. And then by the end of 2021, we were in 300 targets. And then this year, the beginning of this year, they rolled us out to over 500 targets. So we're now in over 500 Target doors, which is fantastic. But it's because we did exactly what we said we wanted to do, which was crawl, walk, run. And now of course we have our sights on even more doors, but we're very happy with where we are because we're trying to learn, you know. So we're in target and we are also now in about 400 altos did a very similar thing there. So we're just we're very excited about the retailers we've partnered with. We're very excited that they've partnered with us and have been willing to be with us on this journey to crawl Walk Run. Yeah, because not not everyone is so yeah, it's been quite a journey

Nicaila Matthews Okome 9:58

you know, it's crazy. I I could have sworn that I'd seen you guys targets before 2020. That's the craziest part. Like, it just felt like I see men said a lot. And I'm always, you know, because we spoke in 2017. So I'm always like, they're doing so great. Oh my god, I'm so proud of them. Oh, my goodness, like, so it's so amazing that you did that, while you were in house. Like, we're going to just focus on being direct to consumer for as long as possible. What did you learn from that process from handling fulfillment that way? And and before going into any big box retailers? What did you really find today?

KJ Miller 10:39

Oh, man, I learned so much. And I still say even though now our retail business is, is a really big chunk of our overall business, I still say that.com is and always will be our engine for growth. Because what I've learned is, you know, our customers are going to speak to us directly, okay, and they're going to let us know, everything we need to know about how to reach out in terms of product, what products they want, how they want to be messaged to, how they want to be considered, how they want to think about loyalty, you know, rewards programs, what stores they want to see us in, how they want to interact with us in person, what other sorts of brands we should be partnering with, you know, I just, I learned everything from speaking with our customers. And it is very hard to speak with your customers directly in retail, but not that you can't do it. It's just very difficult to do. That's what I've learned, you know, and I've learned the power of speaking to your customer directly. And every time I get the opportunity, I'm so grateful. So that's what I say no matter what it's going to continue to be the engine of our growth.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 11:59

Speaking of growth, so you recently launched a primer. And I remember when you guys were focusing on lips, primarily right, like it was the nude lip glosses. And that was the big problem you were solving at first, at what point did you decide to expand across the entire face the entire body? And you know, how did you go about developing those new products?

KJ Miller 12:24

Yeah, so I mean, from the very beginning, we knew mented which, you know, as a reminder, everyone is short for pigmented. We knew mented was going to be a beauty brand focused on all facets of beauty, particularly as it relates to Color Cosmetics. But lips was our starting point. So we always knew we were going to work our way to cheek products, eye products, complexion products, the brow products, eyelash products. So the question really was, what makes sense when and also what can we afford to do? What do we have the resources to do? So complexion products were always what we sort of wanted to do the most. But complexion products are also the most expensive products to produce from a product development standpoint. And the most crucial to get right because people aren't going to give you another crack at it if you get it wrong. And so we launched our foundation in 2019. And thank God our customer has loved it. It is our number one selling category. So you know we sell a whole lot of our skin by Minton foundation. Yes. So we launched

Nicaila Matthews Okome 13:44

the way that is um, so like, you know part of your your line because yeah, I love the sticks. So,

KJ Miller 13:51

thank you I love it too and just through Manon before we got on camera, I was like I don't know if this is going to be junk people I don't know. I mean put on some makeup so yeah, it is our number one selling category our customer loves it and you know, but we didn't have a primer to go with it. And that partially is my fault because now that I'm realizing how well this primer is doing. I am kicking myself that took us so long to launch one but I never wore primer and so it was a total blind spot for me. Because I was thinking of it as like this kind of niche product like yeah, like the makeup girls were primary. Girls who really understand makeup they wear primer but most of us don't wear primer. And by the way that might be true. It might be true that like most people don't remember but the people who do are like obsessive about it, I tell you, we have moved through this primer so quickly. I've never placed a reorder as quickly for any product as I have for this primer. So yeah, you know what's guided our price development process has always been one. What's missing? For her? What do we have a real point of view on based on what our core customer is missing? And to? What do we have the resources to do? Well, because I don't have unlimited resources. So that's that's really what guides our product development process. And

Nicaila Matthews Okome 15:22

in that, how do you make sure that what you are developing is really what people are going to buy? Because we hear so much about customers who say one thing and want the other? Or, you know, you've developed something and everyone said they wanted it, and then you drop it, and it doesn't move as quickly as you thought it would. So how do you kind of do pre sell? What do you do to make sure that it's actually going to sell?

KJ Miller 15:49

That is the million dollar question. And honestly, it's kind of it's kind of it's, it's, it's tricky, because exactly to your point, if you ask customers what they want next, like if I if I survey and I do I survey our customers all the time we serve our customers all the time, what do you want to see next from it? First of all, they're gonna say everything, every every product, every makeup product that exists, yeah, someone will mention it. Okay. So and the reason why is because if you if you if you love a makeup brand, why don't why wouldn't you want XYZ product, right? Why wouldn't you want your eyeliner to come from them? Why wouldn't you want, you know, whatever it is special thing that you're you're using from some other brand to make. And I get that. And actually, I'll bring up the eyeliner point, because eyeliner is one of the things we get requested for more than anything. Okay? And that makes sense. On the one hand, because we don't currently make eyeliner, and most people who wear makeup, wear eyeliner. So if you purchase from our brand, and you like our brand, it makes sense that you'd be like, Why don't y'all have eyeliner? Right? On the other hand, if you think about our brand ethos, which is you know, we are color experts, we are developing pigments that are going to work expertly for you, I have a hard time figuring out what I'm going to do in the eyeliner space that hasn't already been done. So that doesn't mean I'm never going to launch an eyeliner, eventually 100% I will to complete the collection. But I'm still early enough in the life of this company, that every product I make has to have a real reason for being. And it's hard for me to say this eyeliner is going to be so different from all these other eyeliners usually I know you want one because you you love mented and you want to be able to buy your eyeliner from Monza. But I need to be able to say this is the reason that I've launched this eyeliner. And right now at this very moment, I don't know if I have that reason. So So to your point, customers will say they want to thing and that thing isn't always the thing you need to launch because of what makes sense for your brand. Conversely, customers won't say they want to thing, but you'll watch that thing. And it'll do really well. So yeah, it's difficult. And that's why I've developed my framework of looking at what's missing. Because if it's missing for her, then I feel pretty confident that there's going to be a customer who will who's who will try mine. Right? If I if if it's truly missing, then I feel pretty confident that I can convince her to try let's

Nicaila Matthews Okome 18:34

let's talk about social media marketing, because you guys were so good at that are still so good at that. You know, it's one of the first places I started to hear about mentored, like, wow, there's a line coming out that is for us. It's no, it's by these two awesome black women. Now, what steps did you take to build this large, loyal following?

KJ Miller 18:55

Yeah, well, I would say we've done two things. Well, the first is posting consistently from the very beginning. So literally, from the very beginning, when we had 20 followers, we posted every single day. Now we post every day, multiple times a day, but in the beginning, we posted every day, once a day. And just to Instagram now we post every day multiple times a day, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and tick tock.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 19:29

Before it was you know, you

KJ Miller 19:36

got interns who also help us out. But we were consistent from literally day one. So consistency matters. It matters not just to the people who are following you, but it also matters to the algorithm, right? Because then the algorithms start to understand, oh, this account is creating content that people are consistently engaging with. So let me show it to more people so that more where people can see this content that people seem to like. So algorithms can only start to learn that if you're posting consistently enough for them to pick up to pick up on it, right. So we posted consistently from the very beginning. And the second thing was we engaged consistently from the very beginning. So if you commented, We commented back if you if you come to we liked it, and we as you know, we would drop a heart, we would say, Thanks, this, we would say, you know, we would we would always, always engage, we would, if you DM to us, we would always reply, and that's still true today, which keeps you know, my team very busy. A lot of people these days, exactly, but from the very beginning, and we and we don't slack on them. And I think some people and some brands discount how important that is. But it's incredibly important. And those are the two things I think we've we've always done well. The third is I see accounts that are so polished, where everything is the same color. You know, as beautiful as that is, and it is beautiful. Yeah, it also comes across as so corporate. Yeah. Right. And I think if you look at our account, yeah, you know, it's a brand account, but it also feels real, it feels like it's run by I think people that

Nicaila Matthews Okome 21:30

it represents, you know, like, it's not like, exactly, it's the actual voice behind it that it represents.

KJ Miller 21:38

Exactly. So that those are some of the things that I really think have have mattered and have helped us grow.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 21:43

And then you know, another thing with your account, too, it can be hard sometimes for beauty brands who are starting out. To figure out what to post people often asked me what the what do I post? And should I just post on my personal page, because I have more followers, but you know, you will figure it out a way to really reach that target customer. So in terms of what you are posting in those early days, do you remember Do you remember like how you were able to create content, while also highlighting the products that you were creating or about to create?

KJ Miller 22:17

Yeah, so you know, we take data and analytics pretty seriously. And that's across the board. And that relates to our social media as well. So we look at for every posts, how it performs, and we group our posts by type. So is it a product post? Is it a UGC? Post, which is user generated content? Is it an influencer post? Is it a QUOTE CARD post? Is it you know, we have all these productions that a model pose or whatever, we have a bunch of different types. And we and we look at how does each type of content perform? And how many likes how many reposts? How many, how many comments, so on and so forth. Based on that, we then create our grid. So the grid says, every week, we're going to have this many of this type. So two, quote cards, three model shots, for product shots. By the way, this isn't the actual grid. They be like girl that, that's wrong. I'm just giving you examples here. But whatever, whatever we create the grid and the grid, the Grid is based on what we have seen works well. And by the way, it's not stagnant. So we're sometimes updating that grade, we're saying, Well look, the algorithms change, the algorithm doesn't like quote cards as much anymore. So we're dropping them back, we're only gonna do one QUOTE CARD a month, right? Or whatever it is. So we are constantly looking and seeing what's working, but we do have a grid that we're working off of, so that, you know, it's not just like, scrambling every day, the team isn't like, oh, we gotta we gotta we have to, you know, we have a grid that we're sort of following. But I will say, you know, we are now in a place where we're trying to figure out a new platform, which for us is tick tock, tick tock is new for us. Yeah. And so we've built a pretty large following on, you know, Instagram and Facebook and not not a huge following on YouTube, but definitely a loyal one. And tick tock is new. So I think my last count, maybe we had like 1200 followers on Tiktok. So that's, that's very small. Right? And so we are figuring out what sort of content works on that platform and what is it that people you know, they want to see so we're in the same boat as as brands that are just getting started right now and figuring that out. So I never want any any one brand or any one founder to feel like oh, every brand It's been around for a while has such a huge leg up on me, because that's not the case. There are always new platforms popping up that even if you've been around been around for a long time, exactly, we're having to figure out

Nicaila Matthews Okome 25:09

Yeah, yeah, everyone, there's always going to be a new platform, and everyone has to start from the ground up and figure out their voice on that platform, like you might have a brand voice. But the platform is different, you know, short form is much different than a photo or a video, you know, so it's really getting the hang of that. So your content makes sense. Otherwise, it's gonna be like, what are they trying to do? Don't they know, we don't do that over here? Right. So switching gears a little bit, now, I want to talk about the whole aspects of raising money. So you know, going after funds, and capital is something you were always focused on from day one, because you know, that it requires money to build the kind of brand that you are building. So now I think you've raised over 9 million is that. So what was that process? Like? You know, how many people did you have to pitch? How many investors did you bring on? Yeah, I've lost

KJ Miller 26:06

count of exactly how many people I've pitched over the years. But certainly, it's, you know, it's over 100 different firms. This this last round, though, you know, the number of people you have to pitch with each round, typically does shrink. So this last round was our, our Series A, that was a $5 million round. Okay. And, you know, I probably had serious conversations with me, maybe 1015 firms. So you know, nothing like our first round where I spoke to 40 or 50, firms, maybe more, but it still was just as grueling because at this stage, you know, they want to see much more that do the due diligence is much more robust, and you get much farther down the line with people before they say no, which is just incredibly frustrating. And so and it takes you away from your team and from your work. And yeah, it's it's just, it is the part of the job I hate the most. Because it just, it doesn't always feel value add obviously it is cash in the bank.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 27:29

Decide that you need to do another round, like when did you decide how to space it out when you want it to go after another round?

KJ Miller 27:36

It all comes down to your cash runway. So I'm always always looking at how many months of cash do I have on hand. And in the typical rule of thumb is you really don't want to let yourself get to less than six months, okay, of cash on hand. And then you think about how long is it going to take me to close around. So you know, most people will say, it's probably going to take around three months. So when you get to that nine to 12 month mark is when you probably want to start your raise. Now I did that. But then had a baby in between. I was

Nicaila Matthews Okome 28:18

just thinking like, were you pregnant during this time? Were you like pitching shortly after getting out of the hospital? Like what was that timeline?

KJ Miller 28:26

Yeah, so the timeline was all wonky because I started raising January 2021 thinking and I don't know why I did it like this. This was just pure craziness. My daughter was due April 2021. Oh, so I was thinking I'm gonna wrap this up in March and then I'm gonna go on maternity leave. Yeah. Okay. We'll wrap up this little round when

Nicaila Matthews Okome 28:52

she came this because of like, were things more virtual now. So you're like, Okay, I don't have to travel as much so yeah,

KJ Miller 28:58

right. Things are more virtual. So yeah, and you know, and we had had a really good 2020 And I had a lot of inbound interest in this round something and this is gonna be good you know, cake. So you know, and I and I had at the end of 2020 already started like informal conversations because I had a lot of inbound interest so I had sort of put put people on ice as they had reached out I was like, Yeah, okay, I know you're interested like I'm gonna have I'm having a nice holiday

nothing in this is gonna be wrapped up with a bow by March no problem right away just did in 2020. You see the girls

Well, conversations did not go exactly the way I thought. It's not that they were bad. It's just that they were slow. And, and so and my daughter came early, so she was due in April, but she was born in March. Oh, and by March, I didn't have a lead signed on yet. So I had a lot of interest but no firm like, Yep, we're the lead. This is the term sheet is a gun. So if I hadn't had the baby right, then probably I would have gotten to a term sheet by April, right. And you know, then closed everything up. But I had the baby in March. And then I said, I mean, honestly, not to be crass. I said, Fuck it, I'm not going to be here trying to take care of my child, and messing with you home, honestly.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 30:46

is out of you. Come on, you just had a kid. So long, I'm getting really mad now. Okay, because

KJ Miller 30:55

and I was getting mad, and I was getting mad. So basically, to be completely honest with you, I really think it was because I'm a black woman. And I think when you're a woman of color raising is much harder. And I think if I had been a white woman walking in to these rooms, or virtual rooms with our numbers, a our back our track record. Yep, I definitely think the deal would have gotten done by March. But when you look like us, you have to work 1000 times harder. And I mean, truly, because I was having conversations with my investors who are already on board. And they were like, really like, this is still going on? And I'm like, yeah, and they're looking at my data room they're looking at, they're like, I don't get it. I'm like, I don't get it either. But I'm gonna tell you this. I'm going on maternity leave. Yes, I have this child. You know, I'm a first time mom, I'm not I'm not playing these games. So I did. And I literally for three full months, all of April, all of May, all of June. I did not talk to one investor. I did not send out one, one deck to anybody. I said, I literally am not doing this. So I'll holler at y'all in July.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 32:09

What happened to him July like were they? Did they come to their senses a little bit more? Or was it still dragged out?

KJ Miller 32:15

Yeah. So in July, people came to their senses. So basically, by end of July, I had a term sheet. And then we spent August doing all the stuff with the lawyers that you have to do like once you have a term sheet. Yeah, your deals pretty much done. But then the lawyers got to do this, that and the third and so then we closed but yeah, it it. It shouldn't have taken the time it took but it did. And so that but that meant what I thought was going to be a three month process was like a seven month process. And we almost ran out of cash. That's you know, yeah. And that's that's but that's real.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 32:57

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Talk to us about like the yeah, let's get transparent about the actual what you use the funds for right so you are obviously paying your team. And at this point, are you saying okay, I know I want to bring on x more team members, I want to build out this department or we're about to launch X Y, Z products in August and I need to pay for this much inventory. And that's kind of hard when money is up in the air. So how were you planning out your finances with so much up in the air?

KJ Miller 34:51

Yeah, I mean, so. And I think a lot of founders will be able to relate to this. Yeah, some of it. You're doing On hope, faith in a prayer, you know, you're sort of like, well, I believe I'm gonna close this round. So I'm gonna go ahead and plan for these things, I'm gonna go ahead and, and plan it like it's gonna happen, because I believe it's gonna happen. And that's a scary space to operate in. But at this point, I'm so used to operating in that space, it's been, it's been five years. And so if I, if I didn't know how to operate in the space of like, cross my fingers and hope, and hope we get to where we need to be, I would not be here, you know, because there just aren't a lot of guarantees in startup plan, there aren't a lot of L for sure, this is gonna work out the way we planned it that that just happens so infrequently in startup world. So you just learn to plan it like it is going to work out and then deal with it. deal with the aftermath. On the other end, if it doesn't work out. That's what I've learned.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 36:03

Now, you have obviously scaled your team a great deal since we last chatted in 2017. How many employees do you have now?

KJ Miller 36:11

We are now a team of 16.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 36:14

Okay. And so how do you approach trusting outsiders to grow your baby to take things off your plate that you once ran and had, you know, complete oversight over day in and day out?

KJ Miller 36:29

Yeah, you know, it gets way, way, way easier to trust others when you hire really smart people, and that is what I have been focused on. Particularly since I've returned from maternity leave. I have just been focused on hiring the absolute best talent I can afford. And honestly, sometimes people I can't really afford. And again, just stepping out on faith that we're gonna make enough money for me to be able to afford them because I need them. And so it becomes much easier to trust, when you know, you're hiring really fantastic people. And that's what I've done. My team is, is so amazing, so smart, they work hard, they work fast, they work creatively. And they're ambitious, and you know, just excited to get it done. And so that makes it easy to hand it over. Honestly, I all the time. i It is my goal. It is always my goal. Whenever I'm hiring for any role to do my best to hire someone who's smarter than me at that thing. You know, like that. That's always my role, particularly if I'm hiring, you know, someone at a senior level. But even if I'm hiring someone a bit more junior, I'm hoping they're smarter at me in the thing I'm hiring them for, you know, so they're maybe they're not smarter at me and everything. For the thing I'm hiring them for I really am hoping that and that is I mean, that is literally always my goal. And

Nicaila Matthews Okome 38:03

I can do it the hiring or have you outsourced that as well.

KJ Miller 38:07

I'm still I still interview every person who makes it onto the team. I think we're still we're you know, we're a team of 16. I think once we get past like 2530 Folks, I might not be able to interview every single person. But right now, I think, right now we still can. I'm not now now. Now as my team knows. The last interview like the person, like when you feel really good about that candidate,

wasting your time worrying about him before they interview with me, but everyone still interviews with me. Right, right.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 38:54

And you know, I would be remiss, so you obviously when you guys came out, it was two of you guys, I understand Amanda is now on the board. So how did you guys, you know, work through that transition and decide how to go about that.

KJ Miller 39:09

Yeah, you know, it was one of the toughest but best things. I think for both of us. I had a conversation this was I think December 2020 When I sort of sat down with Amanda, I think it was December 2020 Something like that sat down with Amanda and with our lead investor because we had these like we always have these bi weekly meetings and basically said like, so I kind of want to touch base on on where you are this was to Amanda and what you're feeling because I've sort of been feeling like maybe you're, you know, a little burnt out or maybe even a little checked out. I don't know if that's true. I don't want to presume I'm that's sort of what I'm picking up but may Maybe I'm picking it up wrong. And she very honestly and candidly was like, Yeah, I'm, I'm feeling really burned out, I'm just I'm feeling really burned out. And I think I might be reaching the point where it makes sense for me to move on to my next thing. And, you know, that was just, it was so hard. It just was so hard, because, you know, Amanda is one of my best friends in the entire world and building this company with her has been a dream come true. And, you know, and the brand is, it's what we dreamed up together. So it was just really hard, but we had just a really honest conversation about where she was and where she wanted to be. And, you know, I think it's just a credit to her and to our relationship, that we were able to have a really honest and difficult conversation and, and get to a place where she was able to transition out of her role as CFO and into you know, her next chapter. So yeah, you know, I

Nicaila Matthews Okome 41:18

still, you know, so hard for you guys. And I, you know, I thank you for sharing that with us. And I think people need to hear that because there might be people who are on this journey right now, who started with one of their dear friends as we tend to do, right? When we're, when we're starting things we tend to share and build with those closest to us, which can make it so hard when as life does, it takes us on different paths. I'll never forget, you know, one of the most memorable things I don't even know what class it was, but from business school, was talking about how hard it is. Partnerships, you know, and how I don't know some crazy statistic like 95% of them, like mergers, mergers and acquisitions, you know, how they tend to fall apart, and not talking about you guys here, right? But just follow along with me, Hey, guys, how you know, whenever you're thinking of partnering, like it is really a marriage. And in order to stay married, like you really have to, like your life paths really have to continue to intersect as you go through so many different things. And it's hard. And so I think you know what you guys have done. So tastefully immaturely, respectfully to have that conversation, while continuing to have relationship both personally and professionally is encouraging for others to see.

KJ Miller 42:41

Yeah, absolutely. And you know, she's so great at what she does in so many ways. And I would never want to be someone who stood in her way of getting to do the things she wanted to do next, you know, so getting to see her Excel, you know, and whatever she chooses to do is really exciting for me. So yeah, I love that our story gets to continue to be one of the really great friends because a lot of founder relationships and very terribly inaccurate acrimoniously, and that's not ours. Right? So I'm super excited about that. And

Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:17

how do you take care of yourself so that you aren't burnt out? I mean, you mentioned taking a maternity leave, which I'm glad to hear. And, you know, how else are you? Because I imagine it could feel like wow, I'm taking on so much more. I'm the sole founder left standing kind of a thing, you know, how do you make sure to not burn out yourself?

KJ Miller 43:37

Well, so I, one of the first things I did, and my board really encouraged this was they said, KJ, you have to get a senior leadership team, because I really didn't have one. So when I talked about, you know, bringing on talent that I couldn't quite afford, that's all I was referring to. And so I've done that abroad on the senior leadership team, they are fantastic. And it has truly been life changing, game changing, because then there are more things you can hand over. It doesn't mean I don't care about them anymore, doesn't mean I don't think about them anymore. It just means I'm not the only one stressed and anxious all night, you know, trying to figure it out when

Nicaila Matthews Okome 44:17

you say senior leadership, like what particular roles are you talking about? Because you're still the CEO, right? So you're talking about a CFO, another CEO.

KJ Miller 44:26

So what I have is a head of finance. I never had a finance before, I have a head of growth. And I have a head of brand. So those are my senior leaders as of right now. I don't have another coo yet. I do have an operations lead. But I don't have a CFO as of yet. But yeah, I It does make a big difference. So that's that's one thing on the work side. The other thing on the personal side is you know, my husband and I still make time for just the two of us. So, you know, we go on regular date nights, we booked vacations just the two of us. And that's really, really, really important to me. It's, it's one of the things I said before we had a kid, you know, I was always more reluctant about having kids, he wanted to have a kid. Since the dawn of time, he's wanted to be a dad. And he's like, the world's best dad. And I was very, very, like, not on board with having kids for a long time. And before we did, I, you know, I told him, I was like, I really like me and you, and I'm really scared about losing me. And, you know, you know, or neglecting me and you. So that's something that he and I are very committed to is making time for the two of us. And that helps me a lot.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 45:56

And he also mentioned the having a board and I just keep thinking, like, when did this board come to be? What stage did you bring on a board?

KJ Miller 46:06

Yeah, having a board is is is pretty great. So we, we've had a board for actually a pretty long time ever since we raised our seed round, which was in 2008. Teen, but it was small, it was just me, Amanda and our lead investor. So it didn't become the five person board it is today until we closed the series a last year. And I and I like it more actually, as a larger board. I was nervous that I wouldn't. But as it became larger, it became more formal. And even though that can be tough. It sort of forces you to you know level up and I've appreciated that

Nicaila Matthews Okome 46:50

I like that a lot. So you know before we head into the lightning round, is there anything coming up that you want to share with the audience about you know, what mentored has planned or tell us more about what you just launched?

KJ Miller 47:06

Yeah, let's see what can I share what Well, I will say if you haven't tried our primer, it is a mattifying and blurring primer stick. And

Nicaila Matthews Okome 47:22

to use that today look at this shine guide.

KJ Miller 47:25

Phenomenal in it, it is going to sell out so I just I don't want anyone DM me mad because it's sold out because I'm telling you now is gonna sell out. So I will say that our next launch isn't coming until August but when it comes baby, oh, okay, y'all are gonna be excited. So that's what I'll say about what's coming. And the other thing I'll say is we're hoping to do our first in person event since February 2020. That's the last in person event we did. We're hoping to do that this summer. So you know, join our email list or stay tuned on social to find out about that. Will it be on the west coast or it will probably be on the East Coast east coast. Okay,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 48:13

so fun facts just you guys I actually am a huge massive fan so I wear mobile marvel over almost every day like anytime you see me on one of these interviews I'm probably wearing that and then the eyeshadow kit like that palette palette is a is like a must staple in everyone's makeup kids so you guys if you haven't tried mentored already like Oh, thank you. Yeah, it is really good and so like I said anytime I see you guys I'm just so so happy for you so I you know always whatever I can do to support I'm here for it now we're gonna jump into the lightning round Are you ready? Just answer the first thing that comes to mind. Okay,

KJ Miller 49:00

I'm ready. All right, let's

Nicaila Matthews Okome 49:01

do it. Okay, what is one of your favorite resources these days you know that has helped you in your business that you can share with the side hustle pro audience.

KJ Miller 49:10

Oh tick tock learned so much on tic tac I mean, waste a lot of time on tick tock but I learned a lot.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 49:22

Just super informative. You know, don't want to interrupt the lightning round but being able to get that info so quick. Okay, number two, what is you know, the best business book or podcast episode or live event you know, that you have consumed recently?

KJ Miller 49:39

I really enjoyed the how I built this about the McBride sisters. He had them on and I was like, Oh, that's interesting. And it was the it was I think the only time it was a two part episode because their story is just so interesting and compelling and like it's good. It's where Listening.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 50:00

Number three, what's a non negotiable part of your day?

Unknown Speaker 50:05

Coffee?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 50:09

Number four, what is a personal habit that has helped you significantly in your business?

KJ Miller 50:15

So I do 360 reviews, where I let my team review me, and it has helped me tremendously. I get the sense not a lot of CEOs do this, from how my team reacts. Whenever I get new people on the team, they're like, Oh, my God, because not only do I do it, yeah. But then I present the feedback back to them. So they know like, this is what you this is what you guys, and I heard. And this is what I'm going to do. Right? Like, these are my action items. And it's, it is very helpful.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 50:55

That is, you know, it's brave. But we should all toughen up and do that. So do you do it anonymously? Or is it like, you know, you have to tell me to my face?

KJ Miller 51:05

No, no, yeah, that would be Yeah. So what they do is they meet with an investor, okay. And so, they give the feedback on me to the investor, the investor then summarizes it, and then I meet with my investor, and they tell me,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 51:21

Ah, okay, okay. So you know, that keeps it very professional. And then finally, what is your parting advice for fellow women entrepreneurs who want to be their own boss, but are scared of everything that comes with entrepreneurship?

KJ Miller 51:36

Yeah, I gave this piece of advice recently on my tick tock, so I would invite all of you to follow me, if you so choose, it is I am underscore KJ Miller, on ticktock. So my advice is think of the most pared back version of whatever it is you are interested in, offering, if it's a product, if it's a service, whatever it is, think of the most pare back version of it, and then do that thing. Like do it today. Don't delay. So for instance, if it's, you know, a service, if it's, you know, a hair salon, instead of feeling like I don't want to quit my job and open up a whole hair salon. Right, then book out an Airbnb for a weekend and invite 10 Mommy friends to come get their hair done. And you and one other stylists, you know, hire her for the weekend, and give appointments for the weekend. And then survey everyone who comes and booked an appointment for the weekend. And ask them what they thought of their style, what they thought of the service how much they they would pay our fee, or if you did charge them, what you know how they felt about the price, whatever it is, like just just really think through what is the most pared back version of this that I could offer right now. And then do it do that in that way that at the very least is going to start to give you some feedback and it's going to start to give you some confidence and whether or not this is a thing that you should move forward with. So I talked about it a little bit more on my tic tac but yeah, I think there probably is a pared back version of it you could do today.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 53:21

That is the best advice KJ that is that right there. I hope everyone takes that and actually does it okay, like start What did you say start today? Don't delay.

KJ Miller 53:31

That's okay.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 53:34

So where can people connect with you and Mensa cosmetics after this episode?

KJ Miller 53:38

Yes, please go to admitted cosmetics.com or follow us on every channel it's at minted cosmetics.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 53:47

Alright guys, and there you have it. Hey guys, thanks for listening to side hustle Pro. If you liked the show, be sure to subscribe rate and review on Apple podcasts. It helps other side hustlers just like you to find the show. And if you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Instagram at side hustle Pro. Plus sign up for my six bullet Saturday newsletter at side hustle Pro, that CEO slash newsletter. When you sign up, you will receive weekly nuggets from me, including what I'm up to personal lessons and my business tip of the week. Again, that side hustle pro.co/newsletter to sign up. Talk to you soon.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Meet the host:

Nicaila Matthews-Okome

Hi! I’m Nicaila, the Creator and Host of the Side Hustle Pro Podcast. I started Side Hustle Pro when I was a side hustler myself. I was a digital marketer at NPR by day, side hustler by night. Through the powerful stories shared on this show and the courage to launch my own initiatives, I was able to quit my own job and go full time with Side Hustle Pro.

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