Startup Spotlight: Bellicose / LIXAApril 3, 2016
Our startup spotlight for this week is Bellicose, a beauty startup creating a shave gel and moisturizer that doesn’t require water (now that’s interesting)! Read up our conversation with Jamie Steenbakkers.
GH: What is Bellicose?
Jamie: Bellicose (transitioning to Bellicose Beauty Co.) is start-up which brings innovation to health and beauty products that haven’t seen innovation in over 50+ years. Bellicose was founded in 2015 by Michael and I (Jamie) in Boston, MA. The company is based in the USA with product manufacturing and distribution in California. LIXA: water-free shave gel is the only product available, currently sold commercial and retail. LIXA is a 2-in-1 shave gel and moisturizer that provides an ultra-smooth shave, without the need for water. Natural essential oils let razors glide like new, while the specialized built-in moisturizer keeps your skin soft and looking refreshed. Women can shave outside of the shower. There is no need apply water, lather, or rinse.
GH: Who are the founders?
Michael Leahy manages LIXA’s web presence including the website, Amazon page, Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter. He is also the product package designer and advertising marketer.
Jamie Steenbakkers is the face of the company and the backbone of the operation logistics. She focuses most of her attention on the company’s financials and supply chain logistics. She also drives partnership and wholesale outreach programs.
GH: How did Bellicose get started?
Jamie: The idea behind Bellicose Beauty Co. came while Mike and I were brainstorming ideas for a class project. I originally thought of the idea because shaving inside cramped college community showers was inconvenient and unsanitary; I wanted a product that would give me the ability to shave inside my room but nothing existed on the current market which allowed shaving without water. I also found that I was very forgetful with my shaving routine, and would find myself stuck in situation where I needed to shave but did not have time to shower. We didn’t act on it right away. A few days passed before Michael called me, excited after pitching the idea at Babson’s Butler Venture Accelerator – It was something along the lines of, “Jamie, I think this idea would really sell.” We met and began our long journey of designing, developing and sourcing a great product which fit our personal values, using the best natural ingredients that were healthy for your skin and the environment.
GH: How did you build your team?
Jamie: As Michael and I almost stumbled into this idea together, the team was built around excitement and a First Year’s eagerness to prove what they were capable of. Luckily, Jamie and I turned out to be a great fit. We have the important characteristics in common: strong work ethic, outgoing, resilient, and not afraid of failure. We differ in opinions and backgrounds which leads to better decision making than that of like minded-individuals.
Although Michael and I are the only two co-founders / employees, we’ve gathered a wide range of advisers with varying specialties such as Ross Beyeler, founder Growth Spark, Bill LaPoint, Professor from Babson College and former venture capitalist, Hanson Grant, founder of Think Board and Cindy Marmer, Associate Director of Babson’s venture accelerator program. This network didn’t come overnight. Each new challenge we faced presented an opportunity for us to seek advice. It was as simple as reaching out and asking for it, presenting our story, and getting people invested in our success. Without these advisers, we never would’ve been even close to where we are today.
GH: What is the company philosophy driving your culture?
Jamie: We want to build an amazing customer experience with an even more amazing product. If customers ever have any request, question, or issue, we do everything we can to make it right. Just recently, a customer’s order was delayed in the mail and she needed LIXA for her trip to Jamaica. I personally over-nighted her LIXA to her address in Jamaica. She was so excited she gave us a shout out on Facebook! Not only does it build a stronger brand, but it makes us feel like we are selling something more than just a product. That is what drives us.
GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?
Jamie: Almost everyday is a “make it work” moment when just two people are the company’s entire marketing, design, engineering, operations, IT, sales and executive teams. Frequently, we face issues with size. Big businesses are skeptical of dealing with a start-up run by students. I think that is where the term “fake it until you make it” comes into play. For example, during one contract Michael was working on settling the client asked to be referred to our marketing team…so he referred that client to me as “head” of the marketing department. Then we used our network of friends to solve whatever technical question the client had!
GH: What did you learn from your first users?
Jamie: Our first customers were some of the most dedicated ones we have sold to. Although everyday it is critical that we improve our customer’s buying and using experience, we learned quickly that customers did not understand how to use LIXA. That’s why we made an explainer video as the centerpiece of our website.
GH: What has the Boston/New England ecosystem provided you?
Jamie: We are just beginning to touch upon Boston’s resources. Babson alumni and Founder of GrowthSpark, Ross Beyeler has been a great mentor and is a genius when it comes to E-commerce. Soon to be alumni and Founder of ThinkBoard, Hanson Grant, has taught us how to live as students and grow as entrepreneurs. E-Tower, the Babson entrepreneurial community, has provided us with the hard working like-minded individuals that inspire us to grow and always have the best advice. The Butler Venture Accelerator at Babson hosts great entrepreneurial workshops and is filled with other startups willing to lend a hand.Greenhorn Connect has given us a space to meet entrepreneurs big and small beyond the campus boundaries of Babson College. The only way you can truly fail at entrepreneurship is doing it alone!
GH: What is the Boston/New England ecosystem lacking from your perspective?
Jamie: Boston needs a year-around student accelerator. A place where students go to work on the weekends and between classes. This would give the consistent network and bouncing of ideas that allow startups to grow, pivot and succeed. I have always found, no matter how stressed you may be, it is better to work around other entrepreneurs. You can laugh about your problems and work together to turn them into opportunities.
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
Jamie: Best: “Know your network.” If you doubt your ability to leverage relationships and create new ones you are strangling your venture’s growth. When there is a problem, you, or someone you know, will be able to solve it. I have a list of every person ( or group of people) that I could ask something from. This is a great way to remind yourself of the strength of your own network. Worst: “Entrepreneurship is about sacrifice.” Entrepreneurship is far from sacrifice. If you feel that way, you are doing something wrong. Entrepreneurship is about indulgence. I find entrepreneurs are never working and yet always working, but one thing is for sure – they are always excited about their business.
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
Jamie: Our recent feature on www.thegrommet.com/lixa has been incredibly valuable. With their help, we have become exposed to their 1.5+ million visits per month boosting sales and becoming the impetus to many other wholesale relationships. If we never reached out to a friend who had a connection there, we may not have ever been featured!
GH: What does the future hold for Lixa?
Jamie: Following popular demand, we are soon to come out with a new TSA approved 2oz bottle designed for travel. We have also refined a new formulation which is dye-free, fragrance-free and lower in preservatives, making the product more eco-friendly and better for sensitive skin. From a business perspective, we are beginning to get in contact with different distribution channels to make LIXA more accessible. We are going to be working with college book stores to have LIXA available to more students. Additionally, working with several travel retail stores to make LIXA a staple for shaving on the go.