Willa's Wisdom: Teenage skincare mogul Willa Doss talks finding inspo and starting your biz
So, what inspired you to create willa?
The idea for willa came several years ago, when I was looking for healthy skincare products specifically formulated for me. My mom was always nagging me to take care of my skin because she had skin cancer at 29 and didn't want the same to happen to me. But I couldn't find anything I loved to use—everything that was in stores was either made for adults or babies. The whole thing seemed incredibly bizarre to me; after all, I know a significant amount of skin damage can happen before you're 18, so you have to start taking care of your skin when you are young now if you want healthy skin later. The fact that there weren't any healthy skincare products for young women—whose skin goes through so many changes and needs a lot of protection—was crazy. That's when we decided to do something about it.
How did you take your business from an idea to a reality?
The first thing my mom and I did was research on the marketplace to see if there was a need for skincare and cosmetics for the specific needs of young women…and we discovered a big need. Then, we conducted a bunch of focus groups with young women to determine exactly what they wanted in their skincare and beauty products. Next, we researched labs based in the US with chemists and dermatologists who could help us create our products. During the learning stage, we realized how many contacts we had who could help us—that's always a great place to start.
What was one of the biggest lessons you learned while forming willa?
Definitely the power of listening. Every decision we made regarding the brand has been influenced by the behaviors and needs of our target audience—girls. Every single one of our products is unique because it was created in part by feedback from the girls in our focus groups. For example, girls told us that they didn't like wearing sunscreen, let alone reapplying it, because it made their skin sticky and shiny. The super white color of most natural sunscreen, too, just didn't make them look or feel their best. So we took this feedback and came up with willa's Face the Day SPF 30 with a universal tint (to offset the white of the zinc) and go onto skin with a powdery feel. This is one of my favorite products, but the key for us was to create products that girls genuinely want to use as part of their routine and actually love.
We were also listening to the girls when we made the decision to pull out of retailers and switch to a social selling model (aka girls selling to other girls—starting their own mini businesses!). The best salespeople for willa are the girls who love the products and really love telling their friends about them. I love how confident they feel and the empowerment selling brings.
What advice would you give to girls out there who want to start their own biz?
To be an entrepreneur, you need to be really aware of the world around you. Ask yourself how you can either a) improve what already exists to the point where you are making a significant and impactful change or b) create something new by filling a need. No matter what it is, don't hesitate! Get to work turning your idea into something concrete. More often than not, young people dismiss their ideas because they believe that that they don't have the means to make an impact on the world now, and that their age somehow makes their idea less valid. I've learned from experience that this belief isn't true—we are so capable right now and can already achieve so much.
What biz ideas do you have? Let us know in the comments!