Skillshare member Jaleh Bisharat is a marketing executive-turned-entrepreneur who co-founded her clean cosmetics company, NakedPoppy, after she struggled to find beautiful, non-toxic makeup that was both tailored to every woman and easy to buy online. Although the brand is still in its early days, it has already secured funding from some of Silicon Valley’s leading investors and has begun connecting online consumers with products that are flattering, long-lasting, and free of harmful ingredients.
Jaleh spoke with Skillshare about creating NakedPoppy, what makes her most excited about building her business, and why entrepreneurs should never stop learning.
Tell me NakedPoppy's origin story! What inspired the brand?
I’ve loved organic, nourishing food for as long as I can remember. It made sense to me that over time, what I put on my face could also have a cumulative impact on my health.It also concerned me to learn one day that the FDA barely regulates cosmetics safety in the U.S. While the European Union restricts more than 1,300 known or suspected toxins, here in the U.S. we only restrict 12. So, I started buying some pretty crunchy granola makeup.
Then, something magical happened. Products started getting better – like, as good as mainstream makeup. I found a clean mascara that worked just as well as traditional mascara! I became obsessed with the idea of starting a company that makes fabulous clean makeup easy to find and buy online, so that many more women could enjoy better-for-you cosmetics. So, last fall, my co-founder and I started NakedPoppy.
“Naked” represents what’s pure, untouched, and clean and “Poppy” is such a happy colorful image that we put the two words together to name our brand.
I understand that before you began this company, you had served as the Vice President of Marketing at OpenTable, Amazon, Eventbrite and Upwork. What inspired your leap in this new direction?
I’ve always been passionate about taking worthwhile ideas from inception and building them into brands that consumers know and love. I was at those companies when they were smaller than they are now. When I began at OpenTable, for example, the company was a little startup with negligible brand recognition. NakedPoppy is similar in that way, except that in this case my co-founder and I are building from scratch.
Has that been uniquely challenging for you? How so?
This brings me to Skillshare! For the last decade or so, I’ve had teams of various sizes working under me. At NakedPoppy, I absolutely love getting my hands dirty with our seed-stage startup, but it’s humbling to confront how many specifics skills I need to learn when doing the work myself.
I began [using Skillshare in] the summer of 2017, right around the time I started thinking about NakedPoppy. I watched several videos about raising venture capital, [including] a great video called How To Create A Winning Presentation for Venture Capitalists by John Colley, in order to learn more about raising venture capital. I loved his insights and it took us less than a month to raise a healthy seed round of funding.
Tell me more! Have there been any classes that you particularly enjoyed along the way?
I recently enjoyed Peg Fitzpatrick’s course Pinterest Marketing 101 for Creative Entrepreneurs, I haven’t personally spent a lot of time on Pinterest, but I wanted to better understand how NakedPoppy might use it. She did a great job explaining the platform and describing how businesses can succeed on it. Being in the clean makeup business, I also watched and learned a lot from Mira Metzler’s Complete Guide to Eyebrow Makeup.
When you look ahead, what makes you most excited?
It’s still early days for us! We’ve just gone “quietly live” to friends and family. This means women can use it (everything works) but we’re taking their feedback in great detail so we can build a fabulous service over the long run. We think of the business as a marathon, not a sprint, and even though it is hard work there is nothing I’d rather be doing.
What gets me most excited is hearing early customers say “I love NakedPoppy,” and knowing they’ve told their friends. When that happens, we know we’ve solved a real problem.
Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in becoming an entrepreneur?
Don’t rush to become an entrepreneur because it’s trendy right now. Do it because you see a genuine problem, you’re equipped to solve it, and you know you’re ready to go to the ends of the earth to make it happen. Even then, never stop learning. Your customers and ways of reaching them are changing. Be a student every day.
To learn more about Jaleh Bisharat's new company, NakedPoppy, follow it on Instagram.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity