Lara Schmoisman 0:05
This is Coffee Number Five. I’m your host, Lara Schmoisman. Hi, everyone. Welcome back to Coffee Number Five, my coffee is ready and worm and excited to have another chat. Today I would thinking about the different layers that we have in our life and how one I mean, I don’t think I will be here today, if I didn’t start my life at 14 years old working on a radio station, just given my time for free and look at where I am today. But you know what, I’ve been in radio and been as an assistant and then being a radio host. And then so many years later, I’m doing a podcast again. Isn’t that crazy? But you can see how things really connect in your life. And you never know. So keep doing things. However today, I want to come. Nikita Charuza. Welcome to Coffee Number Five.
Nikita Charuza 1:04
Lara Schmoisman 1:07
You are the founder at Squigs Beauty. You were also an Ulta Beauty Accelerator. And but on top of that they are a freelancer, editor for beauty magazines. So they regrow how from being an an editor or writer, you decided to be the founder of your line and then being part of accelerator because that takes a lot of commitment.
Nikita Charuza 1:35
Yes. Yeah. So like you said, I’m Nikita, I’m the proud South Asian founder of Squigs. So Squigs is a fun and effective brand rooted in ayurveda. Our mission is something I love to call happy head care. And that’s our comprehensive approach for taking care of the skin on your face and your scalp. Because both are equally as important. Which is why we launched with our Forex award winning hair oil and our double shot face serum. And yeah, so like you mentioned, my background stems from being a journalist. Over the past 10 years, I was a fashion and beauty editor at various publications. And then I decided to take the leap of faith and start my brand Squigs just over a year ago, we’ve been around for just over a year, which is super exciting. And yeah, I mean, it’s just been a wild wild ride. Yeah, I know. It’s just been a really wild ride so far. But I think just going a little bit into my background. So I was at a bunch of different publications. Actually all over the world. I did a bunch of internships at publications like L in India, l in Dubai. And that also just stems from the fact that I moved a lot growing up. So my dad’s an entrepreneur, I kind of get this bug from him. So I blame it on him. Whenever I’m stressed out, I just call him and he like literally just calms me down in a second because he’s like, I’ve been through worse, let me tell you, and just like it.
Lara Schmoisman 3:02
I remember when I started my agency, I will stress for every little thing on the unit like a reality check. And that reality check is I’m doing a product that is not doing harm to anyone. So their little thing, that is it not brain surgery. That if we’re delay one day, of course, if we don’t want we delay, I’m a really sucker for deadlines. I love that line. But at the same time, sometimes you need to understand and put put things in perspective.
Nikita Charuza 3:42
I know. And I think that’s honestly like the hardest part because you’re putting those timelines on yourself. And obviously, there’s like other factors that play into it if there’s like retailers involved and things like that, but like, I think it’s a very good piece of advice to just give yourself a second to breathe and realize that you’re the one putting the pressure on yourself. So for me, that person is always my my father. Just seeing him start something from scratch from the ground up, I think has just been a really amazing experience growing up seeing that and that each time we moved, we moved from places ranging from Mumbai to Dubai to New York and kind of how I made friends was my love for fashion and beauty. So you know, I’d like whenever I’d make friends, I’d be like, oh, like come over and let’s hang out like we’d have like little fashion shows a little bit outfits. And then I’d be like, oh, like, whenever people would compliment my hair or like my mom has hair going all the way down to like her but basically be like, Oh my god, like what do you do like and I’m like, oh, have you heard of I already care oiling. Have you heard of Kamala hair? Or like let me show you how we make it in our house. So that’s kind of like how my love for this started. And then I find myself going down the path of being an editor because I just love to tell people’s stories and I’m just so fascinated with the world I think and that really just stems from me also moving so much and like seeing so many Different cultures. And for me, the one constant was every Saturday or Sunday, my family, the one time we’d like really get together and spend time together was creating these Ayurvedic beauty products at home. And it’s very common within the South Asian community. Right? So that was like our moment, no matter where we were in the world to just come together as a family and just spend time together and enjoy.
Lara Schmoisman 5:23
And that’s so great. I’m very intrigued, because I want to ask you about your background in editing and how that knowledge helped you to put to place your products in the media. Oh, yeah, I had to deal with my brands, when I took my brands, or my clients, because they became like, my, my brand. Yeah. And I, it’s crucial to get that not only social proof that we get through social media and other strategies, but also that proof or that our authority that publications will give you.
Nikita Charuza 6:03
Yeah, 100%. So like I mentioned, I was in fashion and beauty editor for the past 10 years. And I think, truly, that experience also just helped me shape my brand overall, because, you know, it was my job basically to, you know, test and review 1000s of products, both in fashion and beauty. And, you know, during that time, I got to talk to you know, so many dermatologists so many doctors, so interview so many countless inspiring celebrities and brand founders, and through that experience, and like hearing other people’s stories. I was like, wow, this is just so absolutely amazing. And that little thing in the back of your head that comes up like, you go back to that idea. And for me that was squeezed. I’m like, why shouldn’t I start something like I have the knowledge, I have the capability? What do you have to lose? But it’s also terrifying, right? Because I –
Lara Schmoisman 6:51
You were even to kind of reverse engineer what you want. Because you were first of all, you have the knowledge of knowing a lot about a lot of your brand, the brands that you work with over time, but also you had the insights of us an editor or as a writer, what, first of all, how to pitch someone, or why don’t we? And product to be picked up? And also what audience wants to hear.
Nikita Charuza 7:20
Yeah, and I think it’s really just like a craft that I think I learned without even realizing it. Because you know, you get so engrained in the day to day of just like, oh, I need to write the story. Like let me get it up things like that, where it’s just such a fast paced environment, you know, where you’re writing, like turning out like 10 pieces of work, like a week or a day sometimes like, depending on like, if it’s an award show, like we’re literally sitting there like typing, like 15 articles that night. So it’s you through that process, I think I really learned, you know, what worked with our readers, what didn’t work the way you talk to them what really, you know, got the clicks, what did and things like that. So I think I was able to use that knowledge for Skwiggs. And just how we communicate with our, our fan base and our customers. And I think for me, it also taught me what I didn’t want to do, when I would be covering certain brands as well. And for me that was personally just making sure that I’m talking to consumers like they’re humans at the end of the day, because I think sometimes brands forget, like, you know, there’s a person on the other side, like, how would you want to be spoken to?
Lara Schmoisman 8:22
That there are some magazines that are great, but they’re not your target audience?
Nikita Charuza 8:28
Exactly. Thank you.
Lara Schmoisman 8:30
So while you’re going to make the effort, or I see some people getting brand owners getting obsessed on being featured in certain places
Nikita Charuza 8:40
I think it’s in the end. It’s kind of just like a name thing, right? Because I think sometimes people just get so you think about like the movies, right? Of like what an editor’s world looks like, like 10 ways. What is it How to Lose a Guy in 10 days like Devil Wears Prada, things like that, where like, if glamour rises it and to a certain extent, like yes, there’s so many glamorous parts to the job, like you get to go to all these amazing events meet these celebrities do things like that. But then there’s also the other side of it, where you’re literally like, you know, it’s Amazon Prime Day, you’re up at like, five like chugging out content, things like that, where you have to think about SEO, you have to think about so many different factors that come into play. So I think it’s just also if I guess my piece of advice would be like, if you’re planning on starting something, just peel back the layers all the way back to the beginning and be like, Okay, why are you starting it right? Because just starting something for the sake of starting something is not really gonna get you anywhere. And that’s not also going to tell your story. I feel like it really does have to come from a place of like authenticity. And like the reason of why you’re creating it because the market is so saturated, right? Like there’s a new brand every day and that was my job covering these brands on like a daily basis. And I think from that I just also got a little bit jaded from the industry if I’m not gonna lie of just like, oh, this is the car Except of like, what beauty is like, you have to look like you know, XY and Z model to like, you know, be considered perfect and beautiful. And those are the things that I didn’t like, for example. So you have to kind of think of like your reason of why, and as corny as it sounds, and why it’s being repeated. So many times, just figure out what your North Star is, and really stick to it and make sure that’s woven through all points of your story. So for me, that’s our mission of happy healthcare. And because of our mission of happy head care, we also donate a percentage of proceeds to mental health charities, because, in my opinion, if you don’t take care of what’s inside your head, what’s the point? And beauty has just such a polarizing effect on different races and ethnicities, and I’d feel remiss if I’m putting something out there in the world, and not giving back in a meaningful way. It just didn’t sit right with me. And like that was kind of my North Star. So I think if you kind of just go back to the basics, and just think about like, Okay, let’s start from the beginning. Why am I creating this brand? Like, what is my Northstar? What is my mission? Yeah, a lot of times, like, even when I talk to other founders, it’s hard to just come up with that one sentence of why it takes a lot of refining to just have one quick sentence because if you tell somebody a brand story, and like 15 minutes, I’m gonna be like, That’s I’m already zoned out like to be in the first sentence.
Lara Schmoisman 11:20
That’s what again, the moment when you pitch you get them or you don’t get them in that first sentence.
Nikita Charuza 11:27
Exactly. Because people have like short attention spans right now. Right? And things like tick tock real stuff like that.
Lara Schmoisman 11:33
These journalists, they get 1000s of emails a day with pitches, hundreds. So you want to make sure that in that first hour, even when you working with an influencer in Tik Tok, or in social that in the first minutes, they know what it’s about.
Nikita Charuza 11:50
Exactly. So that’s what I love to say. And it’s really hard to just distill everything about your story and like a sentence or two, it’s very hard. But if you’re able to do that, and like, keep refining, because each word and a part of that sentence really should define all aspects of your brand, that that’s what’s going to get people to get hooked to go on to the rest of the story. If you’re not able to capture their attention in that first sentence, you know, people are just like, Okay, on to the next one, there’s like 500 other things out there. So that’s the hardest part. And I think that’s why for me, and with Skwiggs, it took me four years to come out with it. Because again, like, Yes, I the products are based on what I would create as a child. And I had things I wanted to improve on the DIY versions of like our online hair oil and like face serum that we’d use. But at the same time, I also wanted to make sure that like, my story made sense, like, why am I doing this, because at the end of the day, I do want it to be successful, like I want squibs to be a brand where, you know, 10 years from now, it’s larger than me, you know what I mean? I want it to be its own entity of people who
Lara Schmoisman 12:55
want to break a legacy brand that it’s there to help generations and older generations how these oils were doing for you and your family, in your history. And let me ask your question, because he decided to start with his kids. Why was that?
Nikita Charuza 13:14
Yeah, so we launched with our Goosberry Delight Hair Oil and our Double Shot Face Serum. And that’s solely because again, it goes back to our story and our mission of happy head care. If I truly do want the consumer to think of their head in a different light, it it has to come out with both at the same time, because the whole point of happy head care is taking care of the skin on your face and your scalp. Because both are equally as important, right. So you may have your 10 Step skincare routine, but people oftentimes neglect their scalp and too. And it’s even more sensitive than like the face, like the skin on your face. So I really wanted to, I think depict what happy had care and what our mission was. And to do that I had to do both our hair oil and our face CRM to let the consumer know like, Hey, this is what our mission is. This is what we stand for. We are an effective, fun, approachable, aerobatic brand. This is what our mission is. And this is why we’re coming out with these two skews to start with.
Lara Schmoisman 14:08
The feel like having only a choose Q line affects your opportunity to be in retail.
Nikita Charuza 14:16
Honestly, no, because I’ve seen brands start out with one one product and be so successful. I think my perspective on that whole front is I had to think about what made sense for me. And not only monetarily, but also just with what I’m trying to create. I don’t ever want to be that person who just creates a product for the sake of creating it. Because again, yes, you may create a really good product, but if it has no like meat and bones to it, no one’s gonna pay attention to it. No one’s gonna buy it and what’s the point? So I think you really have to be like intentional with that. And if you have a great product if you have a great story if you have a great founder story as well, which you know, like you do. For example, I think like it’s just how you convey that message. TJ, and I don’t think that should hinder anyone’s chance of getting into retail.
Lara Schmoisman 15:05
That’s a great approach, because I see a lot of people very concern of. And also you need to do a little market research to see if in your case works. Yeah, works. I mean, and that’s why I always recommend, don’t try not to launch with huge quantities on your site. First products and don’t try to go for huge lines, because that won’t, might need you to reassess things. Actually, I was talking to a prospective client a few days ago, that we need to reassess the formula, because that they’re working with won’t get the margins that they need.
Nikita Charuza 15:47
Yeah, no, that’s what I’m saying. There’s so many different factors. And I think if you don’t think about it from that angle, versus what other brands are doing, you’re not gonna make it like I personally don’t think that’s an it’s, it’s hard, right? Because like, for example, I’m completely bootstrapped. I see other brands that are like VC backed with the millions of dollars doing so many crazy things out there that are amazing. And I’m like, Oh, I wish I could do that. But I also just have to, again, take a step back and be like, where are you in your journey? Where are you in your life, and just think about it realistically. And it’s not a competition to get to a certain stage. At a certain point. There’s so many brands out there who have been around for like, for example, take survey, they’ve been around for how many years, and now they’re having like such a big comeback in such a big way, where it’s amazing. And that’s what I’m saying, you never know how it works out,
Lara Schmoisman 16:33
I love that you’re saying this, because this is a conversation that I have with all my clients and all my prospective clients, this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon for emerging brands. But on top of that, what I seen brands failing is because they want to compete with another brands that they’re in the same space, they try to do the same. But without first of all, they don’t have that legacy that time that they need. Exactly, I’m sick on that they don’t have that the budget that they don’t have, they have. And it’s many times clear because of the amount of talents that they use, or the photoshoots that they have that they have a different battle. So the only thing that you can do is really to create a strong foundation to grow from there. And 100% and be strategic even beat me to the word but where you are, you need to do it well.
Nikita Charuza 17:26
Exactly. And like for me, for example, it’s like we just started out a year ago, right? So I’m like, I’m really proud of like, everything we’ve been able to accomplish. Like we won four amazing Beauty Awards, we sold out online and Urban Outfitters and like the first three weeks of launching, we recently just launched in like, Urban Outfitters stores this past month. So like, I’m proud of it. But again, if I were to take it in perspective of like thinking about what other people are doing, I’d be like, Wait, okay, I’m not at this stage. I don’t have X amount of sales. I’m not like in the like, the trillions, like comparing yourself in terms of every aspect gets you nowhere,
Lara Schmoisman 18:02
Compare yourself in the aspects of life. Who, what can you grow, you graduate college, who cares? I want to have a kid is your own stage and be happy. Exactly. Your own journey, the same thing happened with your business.
Nikita Charuza 18:18
100%. And I think, for me, personally, I think everything that really put it into perspective is having my daughter and I had a very traumatic, like birthing experience where it was just a lot to handle. And that was around the same time where I launched Skwiggs. And that whole experience, honestly, yeah, and that whole experience really was a wake up moment for me to be like, What are you doing life is truly so short, you learn that through this experience. Like let’s start living every moment. As corny as it sounds like, you don’t know what’s going to happen next. Like, let’s just try to be happy. And I think that’s why with squibs especially like, it’s my it’s my other baby, right? Like, I want it to just evoke joy and happiness. I want our mission of happy healthcare to be like, its own tentpole where people are like, Oh, that’s the happy head care man did you know they do this Did you know they do that like, and there’s just so much more to life. But again, putting that pressure on yourself to get to a certain stage with whether it’s your business or your life or your family. It’s just in the end, we’re all people, we’re all working towards our own goals. And you’re the hardest critic to yourself. If you don’t take a minute to just accept that and just be still on your moments and just accept the little wins that you get get along the way. You’re just making the whole experience so much harder and then they’ll go like this.
Lara Schmoisman 19:39
What are you going to not do is to stop. What do you need to do is to keep going you’re gonna feel a lot of times so unit has to get up and keep going. Because the thing is in this industry, if you have a great product and something is not working, maybe it’s not the product because if you tested the price If you have people, so maybe there is something that is wrong, maybe the price point is wrong there. Exactly. So you can always tweak things. Yeah. And keep testing. And you have to grow. But you need to be passionate and put yourself out they are, I think the like you were saying the brand story is as important as the founder stories for new. So people 100%, the brand is coming from.
Nikita Charuza 20:29
Yeah, people want more now, like, honestly, just having a good product is just table stakes at this point. And this is coming from someone who’s literally tested out like, millions of products in her life. So it like, yeah, you can have a good product. But if I don’t feel that personal connection to that brand, and some form capacity, whether it’s even just like, Oh, I love the founder, or I love how it looks, I love how it makes me feel, oh, there’s social is really funny. Any key point that will like get someone to feel that sort of like human connection to it.
Lara Schmoisman 21:00
I think that’s the most important part that in this world right now, because there’s so many platforms, and the ecosystem is so big having an most of us, and I’m guilty of it, too. I’m way too much on the computer, and my social life is smaller and smaller every time. Yeah. I think creative. People are looking for that human connection with the brands
Nikita Charuza 21:23
100%. And I think, again, it just goes back to your story. Like if you’re able to, you can also just think of it a way of like testing out your story, right? Like, try saying the same story in six different ways to six different people and see what feels the most authentic to you. And that’s really how you figure it out. And that’s why again, it just takes time right over that course of, you know, the year that we’ve been around, I really have been able to like hone in on like, what I feel like is the brand ethos and take it to the next level and be like, Okay, this is 100% Like, what it is and what I want to convey to the world of like what Squigs is.
Lara Schmoisman 22:00
That’s fantastic. Well, thank you so much for being here and having coffee with me. I really enjoy on your products, and I’m sure our audience will I mean, you guys we’re gonna put all the chapter notes all the information about Nikita and about her products so you can reach out you can test her products and, and also give feedback because I think that’s the most important things that in this world right now that we have the tools to listen to are the people who use our products to our audience, the people who buy our product so we can listen and we can always improve and we can get to know our audience. So that to me is a wonderful feedback.
Nikita Charuza 22:45
Thank you so much. It was really an awesome time speaking with you today.
Lara Schmoisman 22:49
And to you guys. Thank you so much for being one more time here and copy number five and I’ll see you again next week. was so good to have you here today. See you next time. Catch you on the flip side. Ciao ciao.