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5 lessons on launching a bootstrapped beauty business

Clean Your Dirty Face CEO Shama Patel discusses organic growth, how services inform products, and rules to live by.

​Shama Patel.

Shama Patel. (Courtesy photo)

For beauty entrepreneur Shama Patel, a hard-earned lesson applies across skincare, business and life:

“You can’t see results unless you do something consistently.”

It’s one of the ideas at the heart of Clean Your Dirty Face, a facial bar franchise with a presence in 10 states that has also grown into a brand of natural beauty products. Since quitting her job as an attorney to pursue wellness, Patel has grown the business organically, turning profits into growth and building with customers. For entrepreneurs, there are plenty of lessons from the founder and CEO’s journey.

Here are a five takeaways from our recent Q&A with Patel:

Educate your customers, and lower barriers to entry

Living in Chicago and working as an attorney in her 20s, Patel wore makeup daily. But there was a link between beauty and wellness that changed her outlook.

“On the surface, I looked like I had good skin but it was really because I was using makeup to cover up my blemishes and acne scars,” she said. “Not once in my 20s would I have gone out in public without foundation on. Unaware that the lifestyle choices I was making played a key role in my skin’s health, I wish I possessed some basic skincare knowledge earlier.”

Patel quit her job in 2013 to pursue a passion in wellness, and by 2015, she opened the first Clean Your Dirty Face facial bar. The target audience is the point in the journey where the adage about results and consistency was applied to skincare.

“The only way I could have consumers get facials consistently is if I made them affordable, accessible and approachable,” Patel said.

At Clean Your Dirty Face, facials were priced at $50 each, and they are now less with a membership. The facials were 30 minutes long, so they fit into a consumer’s lifestyle. The products, meanwhile, were clean and simple. Providing knowledge about skincare is woven throughout the experience, as the facial bar employs licensed estheticians who aim to empower clients through education.

It’s all designed to reach people who are brand new to facials. Today, that comprises more than half of clients who seek out the business.

“Start small, grow big, and along the way, refine, refine, refine"

That was how Patel described the path to arriving at the franchise model that brought expansion to new states.

Patel has no outside investors, and started the business with an initial bank loan (It was paid off years ago). It’s all based on organic growth. Looking back at how this came about, Patel there were several factors at play comprising the personal, the entrepreneurial and the societal.

“First, I move too fast to stop and raise funds. Raising capital is a full-time job in and of itself, and not only is it an uphill battle for female entrepreneurs to raise capital in comparison to their male counterparts, but it’s also a waste of time if you don’t need it,” Patel said. “I could stop what I was doing for six months to put the framework together to raise capital, or I could just keep moving forward and focusing on the client experience and bottom line.”

As a result, growth is based on profits earned by the business, and those come before expansion.

“I believe in business fundamentals such as constantly reinvesting the money that you’re making back into your business, and that you should always have more money coming in than going out,” Patel said.

In the early years, Patel acquired customers through word of mouth, community outreach, cross-promotions with local business and plenty of conversations with media and apartment property managers. Here, consistency came into play in outreach and marketing.

“I did everything I could to get the word out and always sealed it with a firm call-to-action plan,” she said. “No matter who I was speaking with or what advertising literature I was handing out, I always marketed the same message. Eventually, that same message traveled and everyone in town knew about the new client deal that I was offering to persuade prospective clients to try out my new business.”

Research and data are foundational

Instead of putting together pitch decks over six months, Patel was working at the business, and learning from those on the ground. For six months straight, Patel worked the front desk of the first Clean Your Dirty Face location from open to close. She didn’t only assist clients and staff. She asked them lots of questions, and closely observed buying patterns and consumer behavior.

“It was from that initial six months that I built the entire framework for what would become this company,” Patel said.

These days, the scale of the business is different. But the foundation of input from customers remains.

“Today, we have hundreds of thousands of clients filtering through our doors so our customer data is a bit more sophisticated,” Patel said. “But, I still don’t think you can underestimate the power of listening and observing people in real time – it gives me a unique pulse on things that numbers can’t always provide.”

clean your dirty face products.

Clean Your Dirty Face products. (Courtesy photo)

​Services can inform goods

In the same year that the facial bar opened, Patel launched a clean beauty product line. Again, talking to the people closest to the products was the bedrock of the business.

“Back then, there was no such thing as clean beauty so I sought out to create my own,” Patel said. “Since I did not have any prior background in skincare, from a common sense perspective, it was very important to me that I understood the ingredients that went into the products that we were using in the facial services. Formulated with our estheticians and direct client feedback from over 100,000 facials, I worked with an apothecary to invent a skincare line that was jam-packed with effective, clean ingredients.”

Eventually, the treatment that was applied at the facial bars became available to take home. The skincare line launched to the public in retail sizes in 2019. Now, it also has an ecommerce store with products for anti-aging, acne prone consumers and brightening. It’s an example of how what’s used within a business can become an opportunity to create new ways to serve customers in its own right.

3 rules to live by

Throughout the journey of entrepreneurship, there will be plenty of new challenges that arise, and sometimes without warning. So it helps to have principles to stand on.

“There are a few rules that I live by and anytime I begin to waver, I revisit my fundamental rules and everything usually falls back in place,” Patel said. “Those rules are: be consistent, don’t ever give up, and a bad decision is better than no decision.”

Here’s a breakdown of these three maxims for entrepreneurship, provided by Patel:

Be consistent. This is where doing things consistently applies to life. “Find a routine that works for you and stick with it,” Patel said. “For me, I wake up at 3 a.m. everyday because from the hours of 3-7 a.m., I like to say those are the hours where I’m moving the rocks that will propel my company forward. From 7-8:30 a.m.,I’m preparing my kids for school, and from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., I’m making decisions that are more day-to-day and operational in nature.”

Don’t ever give up. “People really underestimate staying power. I think the ability to show up in a meaningful way, to never give up, and have the staying power to see something through from beginning to end is something every entrepreneur should have.

A bad decision is better than no decision. “If you try something and you fail, it’s okay. Get right back up and try it again in a different way," Patel said. "I find that people often get paralyzed during the decisionmaking process and it’s more about just doing than overthinking it. There are so many times when I’ll release a service or pricing option and it’s not well-received by our clients, but then there are other times when something I never thought would work completely takes off. I like to listen and let my consumers guide me in the direction that we should move instead of overthinking it.”

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