BTS of a Fledgling Wellness Brand
Startup Diaries: Pretty Mushroom
After studying neuroscience at Johns Hopkins, Nadine Joseph founded Pretty Mushroom with the goal of simplifying the confusing world of adaptogens.
From exhaustion to exuberance
After a successful Kickstarter campaign and first year of online sales, Pocket Palette sets its eyes on fundraising and expansion.
If you dream of starting a company and want the inside scoop of what it’s like running the day-to-day of the business, you've come to the right place. In our series Startup Diaries, we ask new founders to take us to work for a day, and reflect on what they discovered during the process.
This time we went to work with Lynda T.C. Peralta, the founder of Pocket Palette. Based in Washington D.C., Pocket Palette offers clever and convenient makeup solutions for makeup-wearers on-the-go.
Back in 2013, Peralta was on a 5 a.m. train ride from Washington D.C. to New York City. Not wanting to carry around her heavy makeup bag on a short day trip—or wake up earlier than necessary in order to get her makeup done—she decided to squeeze a bit of makeup into a sandwich bag so she could do it on the go. She found herself wishing there was a product that existed that could allow her to have access to her makeup in such scenarios. So, she decided to create one.
Pocket Palette is a line of disposable, portable makeup products. Their signature product is a full-face travel makeup kit made for people who want to do their makeup while on the road. The Pocket Palette has a single serving of mascara, a tinted moisturizer BB cream, and a dual purpose lip and cheek cream packaged into a disposable pouch that’s about the size of a playing card. The products are sold to consumers online, and also marketed to hotels that want to provide an extra amenity for improved guest experience.
Pocket Palette’s first Kickstarter campaign in the fall of 2017 raised more than $50,000 from people in over 15 countries, and the company began production and sales in 2018. Now, Peralta is looking ahead to where she needs to take her company, while figuring out how to scale the brand and approach future rounds of fundraising. Peralta brought us along to work with her to give us a look at a day in the life of a Latina entrepreneur and first-time founder.
4:38 AM -- I wake up suddenly, and panic that I’m late for something. I didn’t get to sleep until just a few hours before because I was up late trying to crank out new pieces of content for Pocket Palette. I go back to sleep and wake up two more times before it’s actually time to get up.
6:18 AM -- I wake up for real and get ready for the gym. On the way, I listen to my Harry Potter book on Audible. I read or listened to over 60 books last year, but this year I’ve taken to re-listening to a few favorites as a way to turn off my brain.
8:21 AM -- I get home from the gym, water the plants, make coffee, open the windows, and get into the shower. My face is puffy from the interrupted sleep so I do a face mask because I have an event later. I walk around the house with palo santo to get rid of the weird energy that kept waking me up and settle down to my desk. I’m so tired. I scan the agenda for the day to see when I can squeeze in a 20-minute nap.
10:18 AM -- I finish editing the blog posts I wrote late last night. The blog posts on our website are a huge part of our content strategy because we are able to reach audiences outside of social media through search engine optimization. It’s worked well for us! I send the blog posts to my business partner for a final edit and to load into our content queue.
10:31 AM -- I’m starving, so I walk to a bagel shop around the corner from my house. I order a sandwich and an alfajor to go.
11:10 AM -- I’m at my desk again and hit refresh on emails. I decide to take a nap, set a timer for 22 minutes, and get into bed.
12:00 PM -- Today I have my first video conference with a new freelance marketing client. Pocket Palette is my full-time job, which means I have other side hustles to fund the business. I’ve been an Instructional Associate in Marketing at George Washington University for a few semesters, but I don’t have a class this semester so I took on a new job. It’s hard to manage multiple projects, but I’m pragmatic, so I’m able to see that two hours of my work for them means I can pay for a Facebook ad for a month.
1:15 PM -- I finish the call with my client and Facetime my cousin, Tiare, who is also my co-founder. We have implemented daily check-ins to stay updated. Sometimes, like today, it’s only two minutes long. Since it ended early, I call my mom to catch up. We talk for 15 minutes.
1:32 PM -- I dedicate the next two hours to business development. As CEO, I’m in charge of partnerships, which usually means I’m just following up on emails. I’m also in charge of building the substance for business decks so today I’m crafting a 10-slide sales deck for a potential opportunity to sell Pocket Palette on TV. This involves getting quotes from my manufacturers and building sales projections. I don’t finish the deck; I’m hungry again, so I head to the kitchen.
3:53 PM -- I have an early dinner because I know there will be food at the event I’m going to tonight. I check our Shopify store for orders that need to be shipped. I know I won’t be able to send packages out in time today so I ask Tiare, who is on the west coast, to send them instead. She agrees. I quickly scan inventory for items we’re low on and place an order.
4:39 PM -- I check emails again but start flagging items that require a lot of brainpower for tomorrow morning. I find that my focus is usually better in the morning and early afternoon, so I use this time to catch up on travel and beauty industry trends on Google Alerts.
6:35 PM -- I get ready for the event I’m attending. I change into a dress, start curling my hair but get too lazy to do it all. I take a selfie for my husband, grab Pocket Palettes and business cards, and head to the venue.
7:25 PM -- I arrive at the event. This is a networking party that Latino Victory Fund (a progressive political action committee working to elect Latinos at every level of government) is hosting to kick off Hispanic Heritage month. I meet someone who has heard “so many great things” about Pocket Palette. I feel a sense of pride swell in me. I see friends and we get a drink together.
8:15 PM -- Someone comes running up to me gushing about Pocket Palette and thanking me for being a Latina entrepreneur. I’m shocked and a little overwhelmed.
8:45 PM -- I meet people, take photo booth pictures, delight in the hors d'oeuvres being served, talk to LVF staff and thank them for hosting the party. Then it’s time to head home.
9:36 PM -- I text my husband that I’m home, watch some TV to wind down, and sort the business cards I collected at the party. I write some follow up emails and schedule them to go out in the morning. I also write a LinkedIn post about meeting Pocket Palette fans, and schedule that as well.
10:50 PM -- I set my agenda for tomorrow. I cancel my 6:30 a.m. yoga class and laugh at my folly for scheduling it in the first place. Then I set up tools for my freelance gig so I can start right away tomorrow, and begin my bedtime routine.
12:25 AM -- I write in my journal, then send a goodnight text to my husband and set the sleep timer on the Harry Potter audiobook. Then, I go to sleep.
What was it like keeping track of your day?
It was my first time doing a diary like this. I really enjoyed it because it made me more conscious of what I’m doing. For example, I now find myself thinking: ‘If I were doing my Startup Diary today, what would it be saying? Would I be proud of how I’m using my time?’
It’s changed the way I think about my time and made me realize how much time every little thing takes. I realized when I was writing emails that it took me almost an hour just to read five emails because they all involved follow up tasks. It’s interesting to look at my work that way.
How did this day compare to a “normal” day?
This day was a bit choppier than usual. Normally I don’t leave my house that many times and would try to get an early start and do more brain heavy stuff in the morning. Also, I usually don’t have parties to go to in the middle of the week but since it’s Hispanic Heritage Month, having events like that is normal.
How do you normally stay organized and on task?
I use my agenda to stay on task; I’ll have meetings and stuff plugged into my Google calendar and then I’ll usually break things down in more detail in my agenda, because I like to cross things off.
I also use timers on my phone a lot. I’ll say something like: ‘I’m going to give myself 45 minutes to blast through this draft for my blog post.’ And then I try to force myself to only do that.
Is there anything you’d like to change or do differently?
Yeah, definitely. It was striking to see on paper how my sleep patterns affect the rest of my day. I went to sleep at almost 2 a.m. the night before and woke up at 4 a.m. Having that disrupted sleep pattern not only made me tired, but I was thirstier and hungrier throughout the day. I also had a coffee late in the day which means I stayed up late again. I definitely noticed how little bad habits pile onto each other because of a poor sleep schedule. So I’m realizing I need to be more strict with my bedtimes.
How does your life as a founder compare to what you thought it was going to be?
Before I became a founder, I thought I’d be doing something super exciting every single day, whether that was interviewing or going on TV or doing pitch competitions. I thought I was going to be living a much more glamorous life, but—surprise—it’s actually pretty normal.
There are challenges, and, also, being a Latina founder is its own thing. But I think about a lot of my friends who have their regular 9-to-5 jobs, and we kind of work the same. We’ll talk and we both work on emails, projects, and sit in meetings that are boring. But the other part that they don’t have is the 5-to-9 job; I know that if I didn’t do things during the day I have to do them at night.
What are your current business goals and how did your day tie into what you’re building?
Right now, the two main things are to get more sales and to prepare for a fundraising round. I made steps towards both of these in my Startup Diary. My business development emails were part of partnership development, and the blog writing and editing was geared towards sales. In terms of investor development, I think that going to these networking events can help.
Do you have any words of advice for new founders?
The advice I give to people specifically thinking about creating products as an entrepreneur is to not think about it too much and just do it first. I’ve found that when people do too much research, they can kind of get overwhelmed and decide not to do it. So I usually say “make the product first”—see if you can physically make a prototype and then go do research on how to make the actual product.
The very first time I had the idea for Pocket Palette was in 2013 and the first thing I did was talk it over with a lawyer—they started talking to me about how expensive patent applications are and then I did nothing for three years after that because it felt exhausting.
In 2016, I really needed the product again, so I started making handmade prototypes with stuff I got from CVS and my local hospital. Once I had that, I was like: “Oh, this physical thing actually exists—now how can I multiply it?” So that’s my biggest advice: If you’re trying to build a product, physically make it first and then figure out all the details.
For Lynda’s advice on running a successful business, head over to How to Succeed in Business: From 5 Latinx Founders.
Focus through the frenzy
Listening to a beloved favorite might help you "turn off" for a bit.