Rochelle Weitzner, a seasoned C-suite executive and beauty industry veteran, began her journey to create Pause Well-Aging soon after experiencing her first hot flash. Naturally, the beauty executive, who has served has CEO of Erno Laszlo, and CFO at Laura Mercier Cosmetics and RéVive Skincare, looked within her industry for products that could support her through menopause. What she found— or what she didn’t find — shocked her. “Not only were there no products targeting the effects of menopause on skin, no one was even talking about it,” Rochelle said. “For all the noise we make about aging and all the products aimed at anti-aging, it was as if the whole topic of menopause was forbidden.” She decided to change all that with her brand, Pause Well-Aging. Here, we catch up with Rochelle about how Pause Well-Aging is enduring in the wake of COVID-19, her experience and advocacy for the LGBTQ community in the beauty industry, and her tips for fellow startups in beauty.
I have always advocated for the LGBTQ community throughout my entire career, both in the beauty industry and while working for a Fortune 50 Paper & Forest Products company earlier in my career. To me, making sure that every employee has access to healthcare, dental and all benefits was essential. In every position I have ever held, I made sure that these benefits were in place. Back in the day, it was called domestic-partner benefits (gay marriage wasn’t even on the radar yet) and I fought for this across industries and always had them available to all full-time employees.
I’ve also been an advocate by just being who I am and not shying away from it. I speak openly about my wife and try to act as a role model to show all LGBTQ people that you really can do anything you want to do. Who you love should never impact your career potential — only you can impact your potential.
For Pause Well-Aging, it’s actually a lot of business as usual in the wake of COVID-19. We launched as a direct to consumer brand so that’s still our focus. We continue to work on new product development and expanding our distribution, but this was our strategic plan anyway. During COVID-19 we’ve really honed our communications and we’ve also had a chance to positively impact the frontline workers by donating product to them to help alleviate the skin care challenges brought about by wearing PPE for many hours.
Regarding working remotely, I’m sort of obsessed with Microsoft teams. I just love the simplicity of it. We have at least weekly video meetings, but most weeks we chat almost everyday via video conference. I think having one weekly video meeting scheduled — whether you have anything critical to talk about or not — is key to remind people that they are still part of a team. The only real change in-house is that we don’t physically see each other on a routine basis. Even prior to COVID-19 we embraced a work-from-home culture, but now that’s just become the norm. Over-communicating is essential so that everyone feels like they are up to speed on the full operations of the company.
I can’t say it enough, but over-communicating must be the new normal. For startups, staying lean and nimble during this time is essential. Who knows what we might have to pivot to next and we definitely don’t want to be stuck with an overhead structure that won’t allow for flexibility.
I think it’s also really important to talk about what the future might look like. For us, it’s entirely possible that we might work remotely or at least with extreme flexibility for the foreseeable future. So, what does this mean for the team? Can people live anywhere? How do we integrate new hires when that time comes? How do we make sure we remain a cohesive team? These are all things I’m personally thinking about a lot right now.
As a startup it’s difficult to cut costs because you’re focused on building brand awareness and launching products into the marketplace, so reducing spend can be tough. That said, we absolutely dug into every line of our expense plan and pared back on everything we possibly could that would not negatively impact our sales growth plans. Having a finance background is incredibly helpful to me because I monitor every penny being spent every single day. This may be a bit overkill, but when you’re a startup, every penny makes a difference.
Our strategy has always been that of an online retailer. Our focus shifted to a little bit more self-care, but otherwise we have stayed the course. If anything, we had to rethink the timing of some planned brick and mortar launches. As for fulfilling online orders, from the day we launched we worked with third party logistics firm Dotcom in Edison, NJ. We chose them because their focus really is on fulfillment for direct to consumer brands and they are very focused on delivering the customer experience that we want to deliver. Throughout this time, they have continued to fulfill orders for us with little delay in service. We maybe had a two to three week period where they were figuring out how to work in such a way to keep their employees safe and healthy, but otherwise there was little interruption of service. Our bigger issue was with the carriers and their inability to meet expected delivery times. One thing we did have to do was stop all shipments to Canada because we couldn’t rely on the carriers to actually deliver the orders to our Canadian customers. We are hoping to resume deliveries to Canada very soon.
The startup (or even legacy brand) that is agile, nimble and obviously has a great product will be the winner in this New Normal.