For Kalumi Beauty founders Jayla Harnwell and Chrissy Blair, the problem they were trying to solve was a simple one: They wanted to make beauty attainable. Knowing long beauty routines and overflowing cabinets full of supplements and potions could be incredibly time-consuming — not to mention expensive — they decided to launch a line of marine collagen protein bars that provided effortless beauty via delicious food.
While the idea sounds like an irresistible one, Harnwell and Blair’s idea didn’t come to life overnight, Launching Kalumi Beauty, which officially took off in 2017, took a lot of hard work. Auric Living chatted with the co-founders to find out exactly what went into making their dream a reality.
We love Kalumi Beauty! Can you share how these bars came to life?
Yay! We love to hear that. They came to life through our own need for them. We were traveling a lot and living in the hustle and bustle of New York, modeling at the time. It was very hard to find healthy and convenient food on-the-go. We had to work long hours and needed a way to stay energized and look our best on set. The food we were served on set was typically unhealthy. We were both suffering from eczema and breakouts, which seemed to get a lot worse when we were eating low-quality foods. We originally created the bars for ourselves and included a full 12 gram serving of marine collagen (amazing for skin hydration), antioxidant-rich sweet potatoes, and high protein. We saw a noticeable improvement in our skin and hair almost instantly and knew we had to make our little invention available to everyone.
Going into business with your best friend is risky. Did you have any hesitations?
The whole process of starting a company is risky! We made sure we had an operating agreement in place from the start so we were clear on our roles and responsibilities, as well as ownership. That way there was no confusion. This helped tremendously. In any relationship there are ups and downs, but communication is really important to both of us. Being able to work with your best friend every day is really special.
When did you know it was time to deeply commit to the company?
We both dove in and gave it our all from the very beginning. We knew we had something truly unique and we were excited to venture into a new business and offer something new and exciting to the world.
What did your business plan look like, if you had one?
It was very detailed and organized. We wanted to build a strong foundation from the start, so we had everything as in place and it was as thought-out as possible. That way, we could build, grow, learn, and adapt as we went. Our business plan outlined our why, when, and how. It addressed our story, mission, product expansion, sales strategy, and growth plans, including how we would build out the line and when, risk profile, exit strategy, etc.
What would you suggest start-ups have together at the beginning to get some traction for capital raising or business loans?
It’s important to have a detailed financial model that is thoroughly thought-out and shows projected growth and a realistic plan on how you will get there. Your financial model should be constantly monitored and updated with upcoming costs and projected expenses — that way, you’re never caught off guard and you know exactly how much money you need to raise and how far that money will get you. Investors are going to want to see how you plan on spending the capital you raise, how far it will get you and how their investment will result in growth in the company.
Once you’ve worked out your financial model, you can build a deck that shares details on the brand, product, metrics and an overview of your financial projections.
Did you raise capital? If so, what tips do you have for readers looking to do the same with their business?
We raised capital after a year of being in business thanks to angel investors. Up until then, we were self-funded. Raising capital is never an easy job — each business has different needs when it comes to raising capital and the source of capital, whether it be VC/PE funds, angels, strategics, or debt. One thing we regret is not taking in a larger sum of money in the beginning for fear of dilution. We could have grown the company a lot faster if we had. Everything happens for a reason, but seriously consider taking in money when it presents itself, as it can be an important part of growing a company. Fundraising can be a distraction!
Can you share a startup disappointment story or unexpected challenge and how you overcame it?
Wow, there are so many! I tend to adapt quickly and move on from struggles, since focusing on them can hold you back. They really do force you to get creative and pivot quickly, usually resulting in a better ending.
But something we were hit with early on was the struggle to find the perfect manufacturer. Since our bars are natural and lacking all the sweetener or additives many other bars contain, it was more expensive and harder to find the right manufacturer to produce our product properly. We spent the longest time developing the product, but it was so rewarding once we found the right
one. We had to make hard decisions to stick to our mission and goals from the beginning, deciding we wouldn’t sacrifice quality to save money — we wanted to go the extra mile and spend the premium cost to develop literally the best bar on the market.
Jayla, your mom raised four children while being a naturopath and holistic healer. What was some of the best advice she gave you that you swear by still today?
There really are too many things to list! She gave me amazing advice all day, every day. But the biggest takeaway would be that everything you put in your body has a direct correlation to how you look and feel. If you’re eating poor quality food, chances are you won’t feel good and end up having skin reactions — at least, that’s what happened in my case. When I’m eating high-quality, live foods, I feel and look my healthiest.
Another thing I took away from her was a strong work ethic. Mum worked her butt off and I really admired that.