Women with GRITT
April 19, 2021
by Rose Garnett

Women With GRITT: Nudestix Founder Taylor Frankel On Identifying A Gap In The Market, Why Passion Is The Most Attractive Employee Trait And Starting A Business At 17 Years Old

by Rose Garnett

"We realised that there was a huge white space and my mum, sister and I were really able to identify what we felt was missing. My sister and I were 14 and 17 years old. All we knew was what we wanted to create but we really started from scratch business-wise."

Welcome to Women with GRITT: a series where we interview the resilient, hardworking women who have kicked in the glass ceiling and inspire us to do the same.

If you thought starting a business was hard, imagine doing it at just 17 years of age. That’s the story of Nudestix co-founder Taylor Frankel, who started the business in 2014 with her then 14-year-old sister, Ally, and mother, Jenny. Now arguably the go-to makeup brand for that no-makeup-makeup look, Nudestix is the epitome of convenient, quick and downright good.

The brand is the result of Frankel’s eye for identifying a gap in the beauty market. She had an innate ability to create a business model that the market didn’t even know it needed until it got it. “My mum worked in the beauty industry but her idea of makeup came from that time when full-coverage artistry was at the forefront,” she says. “And then she had these two teenage daughters who saw beauty as a less is more, natural type of lifestyle and aesthetic. We just had to trust that others wanted what we wanted.”

But beyond her savviness and ability to identify a need before the market does, Frankel is also the picture of humility, still in disbelief that this is the life she gets to lead. And with the customer at the forefront of everything she does, the brand is showing no signs of slowing down (despite the COVID-19 curveballs that Frankel will touch on later).

In this interview, Frankel speaks to Gritty Pretty about infiltrating the already saturated beauty market, building a business as a teenager, why hiring passionate people is the secret to success and how to manage your friend’s expectations as an entrepreneur.

 

Taylor, hi! Thank you for chatting to us today. Before we jump into the incredible success of Nudestix (and the newly launched Nudeskin), we want to know a bit more about you. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a little suburban area near Toronto, Canada called Thornhill. I grew up living with my two parents, my sister and my two older brothers. I always gravitated towards makeup because my mum has been in the industry for so long. She’s a chemical engineer and started her career at M.A.C Cosmetics. 

 

Wow! That must have been very handy later on when you decided to launch your own brand.

It certainly was! My mum actually developed Cover FX in 2000, when my sister and I were still in diapers. To build that brand it was a good 12 years of really grinding and travelling a tonne. So, my sister and I have always been surrounded by beauty. My mum would always bring her work home and it was a lot of fun. I think seeing her work so hard also lent itself to nurturing our entrepreneurial spirit as well. My dad was also an entrepreneur so it was really inspiring to see what they were capable of. But, in the end, it was also so normal to us because it was all we’d ever known.

 

As you said, that would have been incredibly inspiring seeing both your parents be such entrepreneurial and driven business people. Would you say that was the greatest source of inspiration for you growing up?

I think our biggest source of inspiration actually came from our competitive spirit amongst siblings. I mean, I certainly inherited a lot of drive and passion from my mum who really led by example and was a true leader. But I also think that coming from such a large and wonderful family certainly lent itself to a little bit of healthy sibling rivalry—we all wanted to prove to each other that we could do it. 

 

There’s nothing like a bit of sibling rivalry to get the drive going! You were also only 17 when you founded Nudestix with your sister and your mum. What was that experience like, being so young and having the practicalities of a business to manage?

Luckily for us, our parents never sugar-coated anything. We saw the hardships it took for them to achieve their success and they have always been very transparent about that and what it takes to find success. I remember my mum saying if we had an event or a meeting, she would say, ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re tired, if you’re hungry or if you have to go to the bathroom. When you’re on stage, you’re on stage.’ So we were always very hardworking and if we were travelling or if we had jet lag, we just didn’t let anyone see it. And that was a really important lesson to learn being so young. I think it was also interesting because our friends were obviously just going to school and we had this career and this team that we were leading. That was a bit unusual for the first couple of years, until I left school.

 

What were the practical steps you put in place to build your business from the ground up? Particularly during the era of full-coverage glam?

From a practical standpoint, nothing about starting Nudestix was as glamorous as it may look now. As mentioned earlier, I was in my last year of high school and my sister was in her first year of high school and our warehouse was our basement. So, when we’d come home from school, we would go and pick and pack boxes together and ship them out. That was the norm. It might seem strange to someone who didn’t grow up in an entrepreneurial family, but to us it was always all or nothing. I even remember at the age of 10 or 12 years old, going into the Cover FX warehouse distribution centre and packing boxes. We had always had drive and work ethic instilled in us. 

In terms of hiring the team around us, we were always very much of the belief that throwing people into the deep end was the best way to do it. It’s the best way to learn. And, you know, if they have questions, ask away, and if you fail or make mistakes, you’ll learn from them. 

Speaking of employees, what are the top three traits you look for when hiring someone?

It definitely depends on the hire themselves but I think something we’ve definitely learnt since we began is how important hiring for culture and fit is. When we started we were just hiring to fill the roles and now we definitely look at how their personality fits into the overall culture of our business. We’re still an indie brand, we’re still a founder-owned brand and so passion is also really important to us. Because at the end of the day, you can teach certain skills but passion comes from within. We also need people who will work hard and slot into the face-paced nature of our business. We just want people who have the same drive as we do—and we can tell pretty easily.

 

Passion is certainly important—especially when working with founders directly. What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of your business journey to date?

I mean, obviously last year was a challenging year. The majority of our business was brick and mortar, with 800 points of distribution globally, so COVID-19 definitely threw a spanner in the works. Within a month, all our retailers shut down simultaneously. Our saving grace was that our business is in natural, no-makeup-makeup—which was all the rage during the pandemic—so our digital sales went through the roof. But as a manager of staff and other people’s livelihoods it was definitely very stressful. We were just in survival mode. But beyond that I think one of the hardest things was getting people to take me seriously when I was so young. I don’t know if self-conscious is the right word but I definitely found it hard to balance respecting those with more experience than me but also putting my foot down when I really believed something. The biggest thing I learnt was just to act the part and fake it until I made it, I guess.

 

That is great advice for anyone starting out in business at a young ageself-belief can get you a long way. But in saying that, being able to lean into your youth is also important. So, how significant is it for you to have that fun and supportive network around you?

I think it’s so important, regardless of your career. Finding those people—whether their family members or friends—is vital to your success. I’ve lost friends over the years because they couldn’t understand my lifestyle or why I was working so hard to build this. And that’s okay. It’s important to know your boundaries and find people who will respect those boundaries. But I do think a support system is a non-negotiable and negative energy has no place in my life so my friends know that if I fall off the face of the earth for a week or two, it’s nothing against them, I’m just busy. And having people that understand that when you communicate that to them is so important. I wouldn’t be here without them.

That is such great advice, especially for young entrepreneurs who may be struggling to juggle all the different aspects of their life. What other advice would you give to people who look up to you?

Be kind to yourself. There’s so much comparison, especially with social media and I think it can be so damaging to mental health. We’re so hard on ourselves just by scrolling through social media so I think just being kind to ourselves is so important. Obviously, it’s easier said than done but I think it’s a non-negotiable for young women to learn how to love and be kind to themselves. 

 

And before we leave you, we would love to know your favourite products. So, if you could only take five products to a desert island, what would they be?

That is so hard! But I would definitely pick my exfoliants. So, my Lemon-Aid Detox and Glow Micropeel because we’ve always got to make sure we’re promoting skin renewal and clearing out those pores. Then definitely our 5% Citrus Fruit & Glycolic Glow Toner, our Nudies Matte All Over Face Colour Blush & Bronze and then the Nudestix Cream Concealer. It’s the ultimate lack of sleep product. Like 10 shots of espresso for the under eyes.

 

Noted. Thank you for chatting to us today Taylor! 

If you thought starting a business was hard, imagine doing it at just 17 years of age. That’s the story of Nudestix co-founder Taylor Frankel, who started the business in 2014 with her then 14-year-old sister, Ally, and mother, Jenny. Now arguably the go-to makeup brand for that no-makeup-makeup look, Nudestix is the epitome of convenient, quick and downright good.

The brand is the result of Frankel’s eye for identifying a gap in the beauty market. She had an innate ability to create a business model that the market didn’t even know it needed until it got it. “My mum worked in the beauty industry but her idea of makeup came from that time when full-coverage artistry was at the forefront,” she says. “And then she had these two teenage daughters who saw beauty as a less is more, natural type of lifestyle and aesthetic. We just had to trust that others wanted what we wanted.”

But beyond her savviness and ability to identify a need before the market does, Frankel is also the picture of humility, still in disbelief that this is the life she gets to lead. And with the customer at the forefront of everything she does, the brand is showing no signs of slowing down (despite the COVID-19 curveballs that Frankel will touch on later).

In this interview, Frankel speaks to Gritty Pretty about infiltrating the already saturated beauty market, building a business as a teenager, why hiring passionate people is the secret to success and how to manage your friend’s expectations as an entrepreneur.

 

Taylor, hi! Thank you for chatting to us today. Before we jump into the incredible success of Nudestix (and the newly launched Nudeskin), we want to know a bit more about you. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a little suburban area near Toronto, Canada called Thornhill. I grew up living with my two parents, my sister and my two older brothers. I always gravitated towards makeup because my mum has been in the industry for so long. She’s a chemical engineer and started her career at M.A.C Cosmetics. 

 

Wow! That must have been very handy later on when you decided to launch your own brand.

It certainly was! My mum actually developed Cover FX in 2000, when my sister and I were still in diapers. To build that brand it was a good 12 years of really grinding and travelling a tonne. So, my sister and I have always been surrounded by beauty. My mum would always bring her work home and it was a lot of fun. I think seeing her work so hard also lent itself to nurturing our entrepreneurial spirit as well. My dad was also an entrepreneur so it was really inspiring to see what they were capable of. But, in the end, it was also so normal to us because it was all we’d ever known.

 

As you said, that would have been incredibly inspiring seeing both your parents be such entrepreneurial and driven business people. Would you say that was the greatest source of inspiration for you growing up?

I think our biggest source of inspiration actually came from our competitive spirit amongst siblings. I mean, I certainly inherited a lot of drive and passion from my mum who really led by example and was a true leader. But I also think that coming from such a large and wonderful family certainly lent itself to a little bit of healthy sibling rivalry—we all wanted to prove to each other that we could do it. 

 

There’s nothing like a bit of sibling rivalry to get the drive going! You were also only 17 when you founded Nudestix with your sister and your mum. What was that experience like, being so young and having the practicalities of a business to manage?

Luckily for us, our parents never sugar-coated anything. We saw the hardships it took for them to achieve their success and they have always been very transparent about that and what it takes to find success. I remember my mum saying if we had an event or a meeting, she would say, ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re tired, if you’re hungry or if you have to go to the bathroom. When you’re on stage, you’re on stage.’ So we were always very hardworking and if we were travelling or if we had jet lag, we just didn’t let anyone see it. And that was a really important lesson to learn being so young. I think it was also interesting because our friends were obviously just going to school and we had this career and this team that we were leading. That was a bit unusual for the first couple of years, until I left school.

 

What were the practical steps you put in place to build your business from the ground up? Particularly during the era of full-coverage glam?

From a practical standpoint, nothing about starting Nudestix was as glamorous as it may look now. As mentioned earlier, I was in my last year of high school and my sister was in her first year of high school and our warehouse was our basement. So, when we’d come home from school, we would go and pick and pack boxes together and ship them out. That was the norm. It might seem strange to someone who didn’t grow up in an entrepreneurial family, but to us it was always all or nothing. I even remember at the age of 10 or 12 years old, going into the Cover FX warehouse distribution centre and packing boxes. We had always had drive and work ethic instilled in us. 

In terms of hiring the team around us, we were always very much of the belief that throwing people into the deep end was the best way to do it. It’s the best way to learn. And, you know, if they have questions, ask away, and if you fail or make mistakes, you’ll learn from them. 

Speaking of employees, what are the top three traits you look for when hiring someone?

It definitely depends on the hire themselves but I think something we’ve definitely learnt since we began is how important hiring for culture and fit is. When we started we were just hiring to fill the roles and now we definitely look at how their personality fits into the overall culture of our business. We’re still an indie brand, we’re still a founder-owned brand and so passion is also really important to us. Because at the end of the day, you can teach certain skills but passion comes from within. We also need people who will work hard and slot into the face-paced nature of our business. We just want people who have the same drive as we do—and we can tell pretty easily.

 

Passion is certainly important—especially when working with founders directly. What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of your business journey to date?

I mean, obviously last year was a challenging year. The majority of our business was brick and mortar, with 800 points of distribution globally, so COVID-19 definitely threw a spanner in the works. Within a month, all our retailers shut down simultaneously. Our saving grace was that our business is in natural, no-makeup-makeup—which was all the rage during the pandemic—so our digital sales went through the roof. But as a manager of staff and other people’s livelihoods it was definitely very stressful. We were just in survival mode. But beyond that I think one of the hardest things was getting people to take me seriously when I was so young. I don’t know if self-conscious is the right word but I definitely found it hard to balance respecting those with more experience than me but also putting my foot down when I really believed something. The biggest thing I learnt was just to act the part and fake it until I made it, I guess.

 

That is great advice for anyone starting out in business at a young ageself-belief can get you a long way. But in saying that, being able to lean into your youth is also important. So, how significant is it for you to have that fun and supportive network around you?

I think it’s so important, regardless of your career. Finding those people—whether their family members or friends—is vital to your success. I’ve lost friends over the years because they couldn’t understand my lifestyle or why I was working so hard to build this. And that’s okay. It’s important to know your boundaries and find people who will respect those boundaries. But I do think a support system is a non-negotiable and negative energy has no place in my life so my friends know that if I fall off the face of the earth for a week or two, it’s nothing against them, I’m just busy. And having people that understand that when you communicate that to them is so important. I wouldn’t be here without them.

That is such great advice, especially for young entrepreneurs who may be struggling to juggle all the different aspects of their life. What other advice would you give to people who look up to you?

Be kind to yourself. There’s so much comparison, especially with social media and I think it can be so damaging to mental health. We’re so hard on ourselves just by scrolling through social media so I think just being kind to ourselves is so important. Obviously, it’s easier said than done but I think it’s a non-negotiable for young women to learn how to love and be kind to themselves. 

 

And before we leave you, we would love to know your favourite products. So, if you could only take five products to a desert island, what would they be?

That is so hard! But I would definitely pick my exfoliants. So, my Lemon-Aid Detox and Glow Micropeel because we’ve always got to make sure we’re promoting skin renewal and clearing out those pores. Then definitely our 5% Citrus Fruit & Glycolic Glow Toner, our Nudies Matte All Over Face Colour Blush & Bronze and then the Nudestix Cream Concealer. It’s the ultimate lack of sleep product. Like 10 shots of espresso for the under eyes.

 

Noted. Thank you for chatting to us today Taylor! 

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