Briogeo Founder Nancy Twine Shares Her Best Advice for Aspiring Female EntrepreneursMarch 08, 2022
The passing of her mother inspired Nancy Twine, founder of Briogeo, to leave her successful career in finance behind in order to pursue something she was truly passionate about. That passion project has since turned into a wildly successful hair care brand, but not without obstacles and incredible resilience on Twine’s part.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we spoke with her about her journey as a female entrepreneur and CEO, her advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs, and the supportive community she’s found within the beauty industry — including her competitors.
You've said that you were inspired to start Briogeo as you reflected on happy memories of mixing your own beauty products with your mom. But what gave you the courage to actually start a brand?
I really wasn't inspired or passionate about the job that I was currently in and I had known that for quite some time. Despite that though, I would not have changed the experience because I learned so much. I don't think that I would've come this far with Briogeo had I not had that experience working in finance and being challenged, learning about negotiation and presenting, and working with teams, building teams, like a lot of that was just foundational skill building.
And after you lose someone, you do have this reinforcement of how short life can be. Why wouldn't you pursue something that you’re excited about? That really got me pumped in a way no other job had.
It was [also] about assessing the risk. What's the worst thing that could happen? For me, that was pouring all of my life savings into starting this company, it not working out and having to either go back to school or get a job. And in the grand scheme of things, is that really the worst thing ever if that happens?
I'm also a big believer in passion. I do think passion is this invisible force that allows you to tap into your superpower. And whenever you do anything that is rooted in passion, I think your odds of succeeding are that much higher because when you're passionate about something and you get met with adversity or challenge, it's not like you're gonna instantly say ‘Okay, I'm going to give up.’ That superpower is being able to say ‘Wow, I faced this obstacle that I wasn't expecting. Let me figure this out.’
What were the first few tangible steps you took when building the brand?
I was actually on this panel the other week, for an entrepreneurial class, and one of the things that frustrated me a bit, is that there were all these students that were trying to crack the code in entrepreneurism. They were reading all these books and they think ‘If I do X, Y, Z, I'll be a successful entrepreneur.’ And for me, so much of entrepreneurship is really having the right mindset which ties back to what I was talking about before — being so passionate about something that, in your heart and in your mind and your soul, you're able to overcome adversities that you didn't realize were possible.
When I was thinking about pursuing this entrepreneurial journey, I realized that I was going to be giving a pretty major career in finance. So for me, pursuing entrepreneurism was something that was very methodical. I thought, before I just quit my job, ‘Is this an actual, viable idea?’ And so I actually spent a lot of time doing research into the natural personal care landscape. I ended up purchasing a lot of research reports. I wanted to get a sense of what analysts were saying. Was clean [beauty] just a trend that was going to go away in a couple of years? Or was it really an evolutionary shift in how people were thinking about purchasing body care, hair care and skincare?
I was also really thoughtful about building a business plan because I didn't want to just quit my job and be like ‘okay, now what?’ I wanted to have a plan that I could jump right into. So I did a lot of research and planning because it was a big decision and I was fortunately able to work my day job up until getting my contract with Sephora.
A piece of advice that I do give people is don't just rush into it and leave it to the wind. It's a big deal to quit your day job and not know where you're going to get your income from. So the more research and planning that you can do in advance [the better].
What has been the most challenging part of being a woman in entrepreneurship?
I will say that this is probably one of the best times in our history to be a female entrepreneur because there are funds dedicated to supporting female entrepreneurs. But I will say that every now and then I come across male counterparts that feel the need to mansplain — it's like the worst thing ever.
Some of the other challenges I think have been to my advantage. Being a first time female CEO, I've always felt like I've had more to prove. Because of that, I feel like I've just worked harder and I over-prepare. And in a lot of ways, by focusing on being your best because you have something to prove, [that] ultimately leads you to being your best. I feel like at the end of the day, that's why so many women have gotten ahead and are oftentimes the top talent at companies because we felt like we've had to work harder to get to those positions and in the journey of working harder, we've just become better.
What advice do you have for other women and women of color who have dreams of starting their own successful businesses? Is there anything you wish you would have known before you started?
There's some crazy statistic on the percent of startups that fail — and I don't necessarily think it's because it was a bad business idea or that the market didn't exist. I often think it's because people just give up too soon. They see a challenge and view it as something that can't be overcome. So just knowing that when you sign up for the entrepreneur game, you are signing up for challenges, you're signing up for obstacles and it's all about how you handle them and overcome them.
In terms of challenges, I speak to a lot of my founder friends and it's really hard to build out a team in all facets of the journey. Very early on, it's really hard because you don't have the money to pay people, and so maybe you're bringing in interns or you're bringing in less experienced people that you need to do more experienced things. I do wish I would've leveraged more consultants earlier on then kind of transitioned into full-time hires as I could have supported that from a financial perspective.
What are the main do's and don'ts when it comes to being a female entrepreneur?
Always treat people with kindness — even your competitors. There is space for everyone, and there may be some people that you interact with today that you feel have no place in your sphere. And then five years from now, they're the lead buyer at the retailer that you wanna get into. So just being a kind person really does go such a long way.
Also just making sure that you're prioritizing your wellness and health during the process [is important]. I know so many entrepreneurs that are just nonstop working seven days a week and you can just see the exhaustion [which makes it] hard to make good decisions and motivate your team.
Have you found community among other female entrepreneurs in the beauty space?
Completely — male and female to be honest with you. I feel that like attracts like. When you put out good energy and kindness, you'll attract those other founders that want to support you and help you thrive.
I was in Utah this weekend, and I ran into Jen Atkin who runs Ouai. We ended up just randomly being sat next to each other at a restaurant, and we just talked and joked all night. We were just congratulating each other on our businesses. And [saying things] like ‘What can I do to support you? Can I make this introduction?’ And she sits next to me on the shelf — technically her brand is a competitor. But there was no weirdness — we're just so open and so supportive because the truth is, there are billions of people in this world. There's plenty of Briogeo and plenty of Ouai hair care to go around. And I just love that. I just love that we can support each other even though we're in the same category.