- Mary sheds light on the grit it takes to be a business owner
- The entrepreneur shares her passion for sustainable beauty and the lengths she is going to to create a ‘clean’ product range
- Mary explain how she runs her business with transparency and clarity
Mary Schulman is the CEO and Co-Founder of PYT Beauty – a clean, conscious, sustainable and cruelty-free makeup brand which she created when her daughter started delving into her makeup bag. Mary talks to 35 Thousand about the harsh realities of entrepreneurship and the importance of living in the moment.
Describe yourself in 3 words…
“Determined, funny, self-aware.”
Tell us about your work…
“Three years ago on July 23rd, we launched PYT Beauty with a mission to offer clean makeup products to ALL who seek it. I am the co-founder and CEO of the brand. From the outside, many think it must be glamorous because you make your own hours and control your own destiny. While this is true, being an entrepreneur and part of a team of seven women means doing whatever is necessary to make the business succeed. Some days I work on the P&L and Inventory forecasting and others I’m cold calling a retailer, but then there are times I’m on my hands and knees packing up boxes or digging through a back room at a retail partner trying to find a sign that is missing from the display. It takes grit, perseverance, the ability to hear “no” time and time again, but finally make it a “yes”. Most of all it takes the ability to put any semblance of ego aside and having the willingness to do whatever it takes to be successful (ethically of course).”
Do you work in a spare room, skyscraper, or other?
“During the pandemic, a typical question was – how are you adjusting to working from home? The truth for me is the only office adjusting was having my family at home with me. I have worked from home (my office is on the 3rd floor of my home in what was once a spare bedroom) for the last 16 years. Our PYT Beauty team is dispersed from San Francisco to Bethesda, MD (where I live). We have been using Zoom since day one. As we see it, we were a step ahead of the trend.”
What parts of your work give you energy?
“Like most, I am motivated by the big wins. For example, finding out that we were going to be in Target stores across the country launching on Earth Day with our sustainably packaged makeup was a total high. At the same time, I am driven by the low points too. When there is a problem to solve I relish in the journey to get through the tough times. The pandemic is a perfect depiction of this. We were posting great year over year growth in January and February of 2020 and so excited about our future and then we were faced with stores closing their doors, retailers halting the placement of PO’s, our loyal customers no longer buying makeup and even payments receivables postponed. We had to get through this tough time while staying safe and praying for the world, it wasn’t easy, but we did it and now our sales are back on the right track.”
What parts of your work drain you?
“I’m lucky to say that what bothers me the most work-wise, we don’t have at PYT Beauty. I am drained by team dynamics that don’t allow for honest communication, even if it might be hard to hear. I think it is incredibly important to be able to be open and clear in order to have a healthy organization. It’s particularly important with a small group like ours so that we are always in sync on how to propel the business forward.”
Most pivotal point of your career so far?
“As you can probably imagine the process and continued journey we have undertaken to move to sustainable packaging has been monumental and we did all of this during a pandemic. When we first presented this to our manufacturing partners they told us it wasn’t possible. Now, here we are today offering clean beauty products at prices that won’t break the bank, and all of these are packaged with recycled plastic and if they are over 2 in X 2 in dimension they are also curbside recyclable. This has been a time to celebrate in my career as we know that the beauty industry creates 120 billion units of packaging every year. The packaging is the number one contributor to plastic production in the world and offender for plastic waste pollution.”
Best piece of advice you received that you now pass on to others?
“The most valuable advice to a future entrepreneur is get ready to hop on the roller coaster. The highs and lows are much more dramatic when your own business is on the line. If you are someone that can handle the unknown uncharted territory this is for you, if not I might recommend sitting this ride out."
What event or situation is funny now but wasn’t at the time. Please expand!
“When this question is asked I am instantly transported to my prior business. Prior to co-founding PYT Beauty, I started a natural snack food brand called Snikiddy Snacks. As a self-taught wellness expert and a new mom, Snikiddy Snacks’ mission was to provide families with healthy snack choices that kids would love. Our first orders were huge, coming from a well known wholesale club. We were thrilled to grow quickly but were rushed to get the productions completed in time. Finally, the snacks were baked and ready to head to the retail partner. They arrived and immediately complaints started to arrive. Notes such as, “This tastes like cardboard” and “I would rather eat a grasshopper,” it was devastating. We later learned that the seasoning wasn’t applied to our specifications which made the snacks bland and tasteless.
We thought for sure we would be done as we just got started, but 10 years later we were still in business and were acquired by Utz Quality Foods Inc. in 2015 (Utz is ranked fourth in market share in U.S. salty snacks behind PepsiCo, Campbell Soup Co., and Kellogg Co.). Today when people ask me about Snikiddy Snacks I can’t help but have a this or that image in my head – Snikiddy Snacks on the left and a grasshopper on the right and a caption, ‘The choice is yours’.”
Pets, hobbies, external commitments?
“I have two pets, a pug named Buster, who is often featured on our Instagram account and a cat Spike, who has also made a couple of debuts. I love to read (or listen) to books on Audible. I read/listen to everything from history and business books to mindless trashy romance novels. I meditate every day, which is new, but I think it will stick. I also exercise almost every day. This takes many different forms from walking while listening to Audible, to using my new Mirror, a pandemic purchase. I also am part of a dinner club. We are a group of women that try out different restaurants. We all love food but have come to love each others’ company even more. I love to cook (not bake) and enjoy experimenting with new dinner recipes. Don’t want to leave off, I love a glass of wine (or two).”
How has your daily life changed due to pandemic?
“My work life during the pandemic became more stressful. At first, it felt like we were trying to run a business with our hands tied, but once the “new normal” settled in the stress settled down as well. Business travel, of course, came to a halt as well. As much as I enjoy getting out in the field it was nice to spend more time with my family and not have the added travel commitments. For my personal life, it was shocking, but I feel incredibly fortunate as a mom to have had the ability to work from home. I know that this was not the case for most that were dealing with being out of work or having to go to work and leave their children to fend for themselves with online school. It was a full house, we fought over bandwidth, we learned to live with the company of only one another, but are blessed to have been able to have each other.”
What, if anything, keeps you up at night?
“I am one of those people that falls asleep pretty easily, but I find myself frequently jarred to consciousness, typically with a possible solution to a problem that I have been focusing on. What this tells me is that sometimes pushing too much on what we are trying to accomplish isn’t the right thing to do. I believe that most often the answers are right in front of us, but that we have to let things sit and when our unconscious mind has an opportunity to work it can be astonishing.”
What have been your best coping strategies over the past year? Do you have any objects, routines or tools that you found particularly uplifting? Gin or Gym?
“I started getting serious about meditating during the pandemic. I also worked with a hypnotist to help guide me through my meditation practice. I spent more time with my family and figured out ways to get exercise from home.”
What has kept you sane? And kept your family sane?
“As a family we embraced cooking from home. It became our family activity. Deciding what we were going to cook, how we were going to get the ingredients (sometimes that wasn’t possible), then spending time together preparing dinner and eating together represented our most coveted time.”
Did 2020 change your outlook on life in any way?
“2020 shifted my thinking and outlook on life in many different ways, but most importantly recognizing the importance of living in the moment and appreciating all that is good. To me, the silver lining in 2020 was being able to slow down a bit and recognize that each day is a gift.”
Are you travel ready? Where do you want to go, with who or would you rather stay home?
“I am travel-ready. We had postponed a family trip and decided to take it in July. We appreciated it more than we would have pre-pandemic. We were cautious and avoided big crowds, but felt very comfortable being out and about living life!”
Finish this sentence “If you look in my handbag at any time you will ALWAYS find….”
“Comfortable, relaxed, monochromatic. I believe you can conduct PYT Beauty Dew Me Lip Gloss, not a lie, but for sure a little plug!”
What are your work from home saviours?
“Black sweatpants, black and white cropped top, black workout pCoffee, meditation, exercise, work, wine, repeat…”
Describe your style?
“Effortless. I love to look good, but don’t have the time or patience to put hours (or even an hour) into the task. I love comfort that looks great! If I can find a pair of jeans that look good and feel great on, they will get their fair share of wear! No worries here about fast fashion and the downfalls of it. My closet is not packed, but rather curated with only my very favorite things.”
Name your 5 essential items of clothing?
“Comfy jeans, white t-shirt, white button down, cool sneakers and a great belt.”
How do you see your business or career in two years from now?
“In 24 months I see us continuing on our path to sustainability. I should begin by saying that having sustainable packaging is a work in progress and we are constantly looking to improve. We started this journey by removing mirrors and reducing secondary packaging, but we didn’t stop there. On April 11th we launched our sustainable packaging meaning that all of our packaging is made with PCR. Our tubes are made with the renewable resource bio-based sugarcane (sugarcane based plastic). With all of our products that are over 2X2 inches we have made them easily curbside recyclable. Additionally, we have added a patented ingredient that chemically degrades plastics at the manufacturing point so that the consumer receives pre-degraded plastic (as labeled on each product). We have eliminated most of the outer boxes…those that need outer boxes to protect the product are using 100% mono-material resin 1 curbside recyclable boxes. All of this results in emissions savings of between 13-38% (depending on product).”
What’s next on this journey?
“It’s important to note that all of these need to be done while staying true to our mission to offer affordable clean beauty: Including higher percentages of recycled plastic and/or working to eliminate the need for as much plastic in our packaging as possible; creating packaging that has next to zero impact on the environment; providing the clean beauty seeker with exactly what they need; continuing to innovate and offer products that solve a problem and need, and continuing to deepen our relationship with our retail partners that have been so successful thus far: Ulta Beauty, Target, Macy’s, Credo Beauty, Grove Collaborative.”
What’s something you haven’t conquered yet but really want to?
“Personal and professional are one for me. When I leave this world I want to have left it in a better place. This means I have raised loving children with good moral compasses and that I have created businesses that have helped others in some way. I created my first CPG business (Snikiddy Snacks) because I wanted moms like me to have healthy snacks to offer to their children. PYT Beauty was created when my 13 year old daughter started diving into my makeup bag. I was appalled by the ingredients in the makeup I was using every day. I didn’t want my daughter, friends or family members using these harsh chemicals. The problem was that clean makeup was far too expensive for most people to afford. I partnered with my college friend and we founded PYT Beauty with a mission of offering clean beauty products at affordable prices.”
What could you say to your 20 year old self that would help her the most?
“I would not say anything except to enjoy life and the journey. I think sometimes knowing too much just hinders your opportunity to grow and learn. If I had known all the challenges and pitfalls that go along with starting your own business I probably wouldn’t have done it, but when you’re in the moment and just put one foot in front of the other to move things forward it doesn’t seem quite as daunting. Suddenly, you can look back and realize how far you have come. I guess it’s a marathon not a sprint.”
Do you have a life motto or mantra that really resonates with you?
“The state of being “happy” takes work. You don’t get to just sit back and say I want to be happy, you have to decide I am going to be happy and put in the effort. This can come in many forms, for me I find fulfilment in doing things for others, practicing self-love and appreciation through meditation, exercise and breathing exercises and praying.”
Take a look at the PYT Beauty website here.
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