Today in our Meet the Maker series, we have a very special guest in the form of LBU alumna Renan Kennedy of Sans Skincare. Renan joins us from Potomac, Maryland, and we are thrilled to share her story with you today. Welcome, Renan!
LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?
Renan: I have been an entrepreneur all of my adult life; I have always worked for myself, so for me it was not a leap, but a part of who I am and what I’m used to. Being an entrepreneur is all I know and all I’ve ever done. Actually, if I were ever to work for someone else, that would be a leap for me!
LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?
Renan: I started my business in such an unplanned way. I always say that the universe pointed me in this direction. I originally started Sans Skincare to help my beautiful mother, who at the time was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I wanted to find healthy products to use on her skin. But as I look back, I realize that I started Sans also to help myself get through a very painful time in my life. Starting Sans at the time I did, when my mother was so sick, distracted me from the awful reality of what was going on. So because the start of Sans was so unplanned, I really didn’t envision anything. At that time, I was really taking one day at a time.
LBC: How would you describe what you create?
Renan: I would describe my products as pure and simple skincare. I try to create products that are simple in every way. Simple from the ingredients I use, to the number of ingredients I use, all the way to the very simple and minimal packaging. There is a serenity that one gets from simplicity. Simple is important to me.
LBC: Where can we find your products?
Renan: You can find Sans Skincare products on our website (www.SansSkincare.com), at small boutique spas and stores, and being used by estheticians.
LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.
Renan: I am an early riser, so things start pretty early for me. I must have gotten used to that from years of taking my older son to water polo every morning at 5 o’ clock!
After taking my younger son to school, my first order of business every morning is a hot cup of tea with our homegrown honey. Can’t start my day without that! I typically like to address emails first thing so I don’t keep anyone waiting. This way I know that I have gotten back to everyone in a timely manner before the craziness of the day begins.
Since I wear all the hats in my business, each day is different and I try to designate specific days for specific tasks. For example, I try to do all of my formulating early in the week, and try to get all orders out early in the week so no products sit around on a truck over the weekend. Days that I am formulating, I usually just formulate and nothing else. Later in the week is designated for business things. A typical ‘business’ day might be working on collateral materials for marketing, then doing a photo shoot of products and other related items to be used for social media.
Organization is an ongoing process, and I do it every day, trying to make my processes more efficient. The evenings are usually set aside for things that I can easily do on my iPad like social media, research, planning, note taking, etc. I even sleep with my iPad next to my bed for spontaneous ideas in the middle of the night!
LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?
Renan: I think the most important question one can ask themselves before starting a business is if there is actually a need for their specific business. I see so many people starting businesses without doing the upfront research needed to see if their product or service will actually sell. This is so important and can save a lot of frustration, time, and money. I even suggest doing a ‘dry run’ before actually launching. Put your idea or product out there on a small scale first and see if there is any interest, and realize that you are not only looking for interest, but you are looking for sustainable interest.
It’s also very important to think your business model through well…very well. Not just what kind of a business will it be, how will it function, but also a very important question to ask is, “How will this business integrate with my life?” For me, it was very important to find a business that will fit in with my life. My younger son has special needs and requires more attention than a typical child; for this reason, I needed to create a business that would provide me the ability to have flexibility. My business must work around my family. I firmly believe that one’s business must fit into their life, and not the other way around. It makes for a much happier and less stressed life!
Lastly, but certainly not least, please, please ask yourself if you can afford to start your business at this time. This sounds very simple, but the reality is that many businesses fail because someone didn’t calculate the upfront costs, and they didn’t factor in that somehow you have got to be able to have an income stream coming from somewhere else while you are trying to generate this new income stream.
LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?
Renan: I really don’t get overwhelmed. The times that I do become frazzled, I try to step back and look at the big picture, and put things into perspective. I think it’s important to assess the situation and reassign importance and reaction. In most cases, I realize that I am giving a situation more importance and reaction than it really deserves.
LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.
Renan: My training is in graphic design and I have had my own design firm for the past 15 years. Initially, when I started Sans, my inclination was to hire a designer to create my brand look. I thought I was too close to the process and thought that I wouldn’t be able to do a good job for my own company. After much thought, I decided to keep the design in-house and do it myself. It was difficult I must say. Much more than anything I have ever done for a client in my 15 years as a designer. I suddenly knew what it felt like to be on the other side of the table. As difficult as it was, I’m glad I took he project on myself. It probably took me 3 times as long to come up with my ‘look’, but I’m happy with it, and I saved a lot of money in the beginning when every penny saved was so important.
I also think in the beginning it was a very good idea to involve my friends and family in the marketing of the business/products. I have an amazingly loyal and loving family and friends. When I launched this business, everyone took serious responsibility for getting the word out, passing out samples, and calling on all their connections (I have some well connected family and friends!) This was huge in getting the initial big push. I would say to anyone starting a business use your resources, task your friends with getting the word out; one person tells another tells another.
LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?
Renan: My biggest obstacle was right after I had developed my brand – after I had developed the formulas and my packaging was on lock, I was ready to get started, but I didn’t know what to do next. I was trying to figure all this out by myself, but I had never created and tried to sell a product before. I somehow found the Indie Business Network (IBN) and I joined. I initially joined just to get my liability insurance, but I quickly realized what amazing, amazing support IBN, and other groups like it, can provide. The help, knowledge, inspiration, and resources I was able to get from fellow makers was incredible. I soon began asking questions and really involving myself. I think the big lesson I learned was to not isolate myself. I was able to get so much direction from other makers.
LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?
Renan: Of course, the cure for cancer is important for me. A portion of my profits have always gone to cancer research. But recently my focus has taken a turn. I am still, as a company, very interested in supporting the cure for cancer but now this support in much more focused. I have recently come upon a doctor who is making huge strides in the cure for cancer. He is not well know at this time, but I’m confident soon he will be as his protocols are currently going through the last stages of FDA approval. This doctor has spent his life fighting for those with cancer and first hand I have seen this remarkable man cure those who are stricken with this awful disease. There is currently a documentary in the works about him. I am so taken with this wonderful doctor and his work that I want to support him in his efforts.
LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?
Renan: 1. My iPad. I can’t live without my iPad. I have everything on it; I use it to research, store information… I use it for absolutely everything. I would be completely lost without it (don’t worry, it’s backed up!)
2. Social Media. I am on social media every day. Where else can you reach so many people and get so much visibility for free? Social media is modern day advertising. Fewer people are buying expensive media spots and doing all of the advertising/connecting with their customers with social media.
3. My Board of Directors, and I use this term very loosely! Over the years, I have assembled a group of very trusted people. Each of these people have expertise and are very accomplished in a different area. When I have questions, when I don’t know what I’m doing, I call on them. It is one of the best things that I have done for my business!
LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?
Renan: I hope you will see a company that is secure and sound. I hope you will find a company that makes good decisions and shows a healthy increase in sales every year. I hope you will see me having the time of my life running this company. But most importantly, I hope Sans can be part of a greater mission, a mission that encourages people to think about their well being and to consider what they are putting onto their skin, what they are eating, how they are living. I hope we can help people realize that it is within each of us to take control, to make our own lives the best it can be and to make our beautiful planet the best that it can be.
LBC: Which Lucky Break products or services have you utilized and have they proven helpful?
Renan: As I described previously, one of the best things I did was to join the Indie Business Network. It was there that I could get answers to my questions. I asked many questions and would get many wonderful answers. But the answers of one really nice, curly-haired woman always resonated with me. She always had very sound answers and advice. One day, I looked her up and found that she had a business consulting company. I went through her website with a fine-toothed comb. Now, you have to know, I’ve never taken online courses, and really didn’t think a course could be taught very successfully online. But I really liked what this woman had to say in our IBN Facebook group, so I took the plunge, with a smaller course to start.
The first course I took was Mastering the Spa Market. It was taught over the course of a couple of nights and honestly, I thought, what can you learn in a few nights? Well, the first night of the class, this woman came online, with her southern drawl, and started teaching. It was after that first class that I knew I’d be around, taking classes from Lela Barker for a long time! This course BLEW ME AWAY. I learned information in that course that, had I tried to learn on my own, would have taken years of trial and error to pick up.
After the Spa class ended, I was all in, no stopping me. Soon after, I registered for Lela’s LBU, class which was everything you ever need to know, from A-Z. I just recently completed the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) class. So much information, so well taught, so easy to follow.
I am so happy. I really do feel that I have a partner in Lela; she is always there to help.
LBC: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?
Renan: Salad. Cold greens. I love fresh, straight-from-the-garden veggies. I could eat salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner…no problem!
LBC: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?
Renan: My favorite quote is not really a quote; well, it’s more the words of a song. and the song is “I Hope You Dance”. My beautiful mother dedicated that song to her grandchildren and said to them, “And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance…” That is how I live my life…I try to dance!
LBC: If you were given a million dollars, but were not allowed to keep a single penny for yourself, friends or family, how would you spend it or give it away?
Renan: Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve said this hundreds of times. I wish I had so much money that I could know what it feels like to give it away. But it’s got to be enough money so as to be able to completely change someone’s stars, to change their life.
If I were just given a million dollars, I would try to find those who are good people, hard-working people but because of circumstances in their lives beyond their control, they just can’t seem to get ahead. I would want to make their lives completely changed and create happy people who don’t need to struggle anymore. I would love that!
Thank you, Renan, for sharing your talent with us! We absolutely love what you’re doing; we’re so honored to be associated with Sans Skincare, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you. We’re cheering you on!
Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!