With gitti, the future of the beauty industry could be at our fingertips
How does an entrepreneur build a business that sells out a year’s worth of products in its first two hours? If you ask Jennifer Baum-Minkus, founder of vegan nail colour brand gitti, she’ll tell you to have a very clear “why”.
Jenni’s mission–to ”revolutionize the whole beauty industry with better products for consumers and our planet”–began when her curiosity led her to research nail color products one night three years ago. “I found out how toxic conventional nail polish can be. It causes serious health issues like cancer, hormonal imbalances, and reproductive problems–after only two hours after applying nail polish, you can measure these toxins in your body.” Literally overnight, Jenni decided to do something about it–and one and a half years later, she had developed a completely new water-based, petrochemical-free vegan formula, which launched in 2019.
gitti started with ingredients and formula (because, Jenni says, “we are looking at the whole circle and you need to start somewhere”) but Jenni has made it her job to rethink the complete value chain of ingredients, packaging, production and logistics. Gitti has already moved on to packaging, designing alternatives to current products that are safe and sustainable. Jenni says her mission is her driver, and she reinforces this in every interaction with stakeholders.
“Jenni’s philosophy is that investors do their due diligence on founders, so founders should do the same.”
Jenni extends the same conviction to investors, and believes strongly in turning down funding if an investor doesn’t share her values. Jenni says a misalignment of values and goals is a dealbreaker, and has turned down several investments: “Our investors need to share our goals. We are a business, and we also have very ambitious business goals. But we also are creating impact, and our investors need to share that.”
Jenni believes this sense of conviction is crucial for anyone building a company, and poses an important question to founders: “What keeps you going? You need to decide what energises you.” She believes that clarity around a founder’s purpose is the essential starting point for creating a business and that without this, it will be impossible for founders to onboard the right people and partners for the company they want to build.
Jenni says that she believes in what Gitti is doing, and her belief in her company and its people is what keeps her going. She acknowledges that for other founders, their driver might be money–in which case, all investment might be good investment; but for Jenni, having anyone on board who doesn’t share her values is tantamount to setting the company up for failure: “Their funding might buy us another two or three months. Is it worth it?”
For Jenni, filtering investors should start before founders even begin approaching them; her philosophy is that investors do their due diligence on founders, so founders have the same responsibility. She recommends the following “checklist” for founders who are looking for investors: “What do I want? What kind of company do I want to build? What is my mission? What do I want from investors? Is it purely money? Is it network? Is it expertise? Why do I need to have these people on board? That's the homework that the founder needs to do.”
Jenni admits that staying aligned with her vision has made it hard to separate herself from her business and not get overwhelmed. “At first I struggled to find my new role as a leader. I got very easily emotionally affected, so it was especially helpful to learn how to grow into this new leadership role while still maintaining our company culture and my own personality.”
Jenni got the guidance she needed to navigate her role as a mission-driven leader on Google for Startups Immersion: Women Founders program. Thanks to the mentorship and coaching Jenni received, she says both she and her company have grown. As a leader, Jenni has found balance between defining a clear vision for Gitti and managing her team to ensure they achieve results; OKRs helped Jenni to bring structure into the organisation, making it possible to delegate tasks and give team members more ownership and responsibility to grow the business.
As well as the successful changes implemented during the program, Jenni says there was another aspect of the Immersion: Women Founders that has been invaluable: the women founders. The cohort has continued to stay in touch, and Jenni credits an active and supportive Whatsapp group with continuing to help her learn and grow in her role.
In the spirit of paying it forward, we asked Jenni for her best advice to other founders.
“Sometimes we look so much for an answer externally that we can forget that our own founder journey is inside of us. Each company is different, and each journey as a founder is different. Ultimately, you know inside of you what is right for your company. Taking a step back and getting in contact with your own intuition really helps.”
Founders Book Club
What book are you reading right now?
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle - I read this over and over again, because it always reminds me to stay in the present moment. I think a lot about the future, about my vision, and dream big–but I’m in this moment right now, here, and that's also a beautiful time and something that I should enjoy.
Immersion: Women Founders is a 12-week, skill-building mentorship program for high potential women-led startups selected from startup communities across Europe, including the UK and Israel. The program aims to address predominant challenges for women founders in the startup ecosystem with the aim to close the gender gap, ensuring more equal access to funding, and leveraging strong professional networks.
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