Melissa Butler is the CEO and founder of The Lip Bar. Her vegan cosmetic products were launched in her kitchen after she noticed a lack of lipstick shades that complimented her skin tone. Today, the brand is carried in 500 Target stores nationwide. Last year, The Lip Bar launched their makeup system called Fast Face. It became the brand’s number one product of 2019.
Recently, we spoke to Melissa about the realities of being an entrepreneur versus what you see on Instagram, how the coronavirus and quarantine have affected her business, and what she and other entrepreneurs can do to take care of their physical, emotional and mental health. See what she had to say below.
MadameNoire: With everything that’s going on with the coronavirus and quarantine, people are having this discussion about whether we should be using this time to be productive, whether we should launch new projects, grind, or whether we should take this time to rest and reflect. What would you say is the best way to strike a balance between productivity and rest?
Melissa Butler: That’s life, right? In general, you always have to listen to your body. You always have to listen to your heart. And some days, you might very well wake up, kill it. You might work on that thing that you’ve been meaning to work on, whether that’s launching that business or that podcast or purging your closet. One day, you might wake up and have the energy for that. And then the next, you might not. And that’s okay. I think that we have to get out of these habits of labeling these time periods in our lives. This is a very stressful moment for this country. People are saying it’s just the flu. Well, it’s a new strand of flu that our bodies are not used to. I think its naïve for us to categorize things in such a nonchalant way and to put so much pressure on ourselves. This is a very turbulent time not only for this country but for the world.
I think it’s very ambitious for people to say, ‘Oh I’m about to conquer the world in this 2-4 quarantine.’ If you’re able to do that, then do that with a positive mindset. But if you’re not able to do that because you’re not feeling great because we have a world pandemic and a global crisis surrounding us, then that’s okay too.
MN: Can you speak to some the challenges The Lip Bar has been facing as of late because of the virus? And how have you been addressing those in your company?
Melissa: Right now, we know the world is in a frenzy and people are really stocking up on those essentials, toilet paper, food, water. ‘And then similarly trying to find places of relief and peace. So people are spending a lot of time watching tv and trying to be mindless, which you can’t blame them.
But when you think about makeup, makeup has always been that thing that does make people feel better but it’s typically reserved for people leaving the house. People aren’t doing their makeup just to sit on their couch, unless you have company coming over. And with us practicing social distancing, this is something that the beauty community has never seen before. So we’re having to adapt and pivot and just make sure that we’re useful to our customers. There’s this concept of “the lipstick effect” which says even in times of recession or hardship, people still do little things to make themselves feel good and look good. Well, this is not just a recession. It’s a recession coupled with a quarantine. So things have slowed within the beauty community overall.
I can particularly speak for The Lip Bar. Now it’s a matter of us serving our customers, making sure that we’re driving conversion. People are still coming to the website, just like they came to the website before. Now, we’re doing things making sure that they convert. Asking what’s stopping them from converting and getting them to opt in. Even if it’s not opting in to a purchase, maybe it’s opting in to being a part of our community. I’m just trying to be as transparent as possible with my team to make sure that they understand what’s going on, they understand the shifts that are happening within the beauty community and how they can be a part to help us on the job.
MN: Entrepreneurship is presented as a very cool and trendy thing to do and be. With Instagram, there are so many businesses, large and small and everywhere in between. But the realities of entrepreneurship are not always so glamorous. Can you speak the challenges you experience as an entrepreneur?
MB: Entrepreneurship is not for the thin-skinned or for people who don’t like to fail, essentially. As an entrepreneur, you have to understand that as much as you want to control things, you can’t. You’re in control with the staff. You’re not in control with the customers. You’re not in control of the market or the environment and so it requires a mentality that says, ‘No matter what, I’m going to stay resilient and stay on the path.’ It says if I need to take another turn, I’m going to be okay with that. That’s what entrepreneurship is. It’s being open to constant change, it’s being open to constant feedback in order to create a better experience for your customer. And that sounds good but it’s very difficult. It’s difficult to have all of your plans interrupted by something that you can’t control. It’s difficult to even be privileged to have other people be responsible for your hopes and dreams. You got to be okay with delegating and allowing things to grow beyond you. It’s difficult. I think people management is the most difficult part of it and that’s the part no one really talks about.
A lot of people starting businesses are solopreneurs. But if you want to scale a business, you absolutely cannot do that by yourself and it’s going to require you to be a leader. You’re just not a leader overnight. It takes time and it take development. It takes you looking inward constantly and you deciding that you’re going to show up and get better every single day. So that sh*t is hard. Moral of the story, that sh*t is hard. And there aren’t enough books on the real thing that happens in entrepreneurship. And that’s why it’s so trendy because people are like, ‘Oh, I just want to be a boss.’ Not understanding that being a boss requires a level of responsibility that you couldn’t imagine until you’re in that position.
Right now, everybody’s talking about corona and how it’s affecting businesses, meanwhile tomorrow payroll is still going to come out. So I have to figure out how I am going to be responsible for my team and allow my team to be responsible for their families. It’s next level pressure but it’s also super fulfilling.
MN: How do you take care of your mental health juggling all those challenges you just mentioned, knowing that you have people’s livelihoods that are dependent on your decisions. What are the things that you do to make sure you’re in a good place so you can operate effectively?
Melissa: I journal. I work out from time to time. Sometimes I fall off the workout bandwagon. And when I don’t workout, I can absolutely tell the difference. But journaling has been really helpful for me. Meditating has been incredibly helpful. And then just being honest. I think that my biggest strength has been my ability to be transparent about what’s happening so I don’t try to be perfect. I don’t try to say that I’m this person that’s figured it all out. I’m really open with failure and change, being okay with making mistakes and owning it. Because otherwise, you’re walking around with this mask. There’s no perfect person. There’s no perfect business. Entrepreneurship is certainly not a perfect path. So, I think that that’s what allows me to stay grounded because I’m able to look at everything from face value, own it and create solutions from there.
MN: What are things you do to protect your physical health. You mentioned working out but what else do you do to take care of your body?
Melissa: I travel a ton which is another thing that just compromises your habits. I love home remedies. I am one of those people who absolutely believes that food is our medicine and that our bodies know everything and have the ability to heal everything. I’m that person. And so, I really try to lean on whole foods to keep me healthy and I make a lot of drinks. I’m like the drinks girl. In my house, I have a basil plant and a mint plant and I always have fresh limes in my house. And I just make water everyday. I have some filtered water, I squeeze the fresh lime in there, I put a couple mint leaves, basil leaves—all of those things have healing properties. Limes are really high in vitamin C, basil is good for a number of reasons, all being anti-inflammatory. And it’s refreshing and it tastes delicious. I drink water, I drink Apple Cider Vinegar Tea, which actually changed my life four years ago. I also make golden milk. It’s almond or coconut milk, turmeric, black pepper, honey and it’s like a warm, steamed milk drink. And it’s also good for inflammation. I’m just like a drinks person. And I try to eat as clean as I can.
MN: Is there anything else you want to share with people to make sure they’re keeping themselves well during this time?
Melissa: I will say don’t spend all your time just watching tv. I know it’s appealing and being a couch potato is fun for three days but you don’t want to be like that for three weeks. Try to move your body. Try to learn some new things. I’m not saying you got to go out there and start that project or that business. I’m absolutely saying you need to listen to your mind, your body and your heart but see if you can learn some new things, if that’s watching a documentary or reading a book, reading about a different country. A lot of us travel a ton. Travel is one of life’s best teachers because you learn about different cultures. You can still do that. You can still travel without leaving your home if you just start looking. Everything is on Google. You’ve been dying to go to Thailand? You can absolutely learn what’s magical in Thailand and what they do differently. You can try out some of those recipes in your own home to give you that feeling or that new experience of a different culture.