During my travels, I am constantly meeting entrepreneurs who have gone above and beyond expectations to manifest their dreams into reality. These inspiring and motivated individuals are an everyday reminder that when we believe in a vision bigger than ourselves, pursue our passions relentlessly and take action, it is indeed possible to create a business that is successful and serves others.
Case in point: meet Kate Alcaraz, cofounder of Beauty Advisor, the first all-in-one community for beauty and fitness. In addition to being a thriving startup founder, Alcaraz is an impressive woman and role model: despite being homeless at one point as a teenager, she entered the corporate world at 16 years old, put herself through college at night while working 60+ hours a week in the tech industry, and saved an astonishing $150K before quitting her high-paying corporate job to launch her dream company.
Alcaraz shares why she decided to leave corporate, how she’s turning her dream of revolutionizing the beauty industry into a reality, and insights on the ups and downs of being a startup founder and entrepreneur.
Tell me about your career trajectory.
Kate Alcaraz: I was entrepreneurial since I was a child, selling jewelry I made to local stores when I was eight years old, advertising my babysitting services, and dreaming of the day I’d start a business that would have a profound impact on others. Specifically, my dream was to enter the beauty industry because it is an industry focused on helping others feel good.
During my teenage years, my life turned upside down when my parents went through a very long, brutal divorce that left me sick, without a home, couch-surfing, and barely graduating high school.
I was lost and without confidence, not understanding what my true strengths were, but I insisted on being a success story.
I juggled three jobs to get my own place while loading my resume up with experience, landed a high-paying gig at age 20 for a mortgage lender during the housing boom, and worked my way up to the top of my sales department by closely watching what made my colleagues successful… and then working harder than them.
When the mortgage industry crashed in 2007, I transitioned into the software industry; strategically working for companies that offered products which helped businesses make money during the recession.
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In 2011, I was brought on to help develop the first online community to research elective plastic surgery and dermatology treatments. Within four years, the small site grew into a multi-million dollar powerhouse used to learn about face, body, and skin treatments.
At this point, I had a college degree, money saved, a strong business background, and expertise on community-building. In 2015, I quit my corporate job, and after traveling for a year, soul-searching, and giving birth to an incredible baby boy, I decided it was time to build a company that brought transparency, convenience, and innovation to the beauty industry.
Why did you leave your high-paying corporate job to create Beauty Advisor?
Alcaraz: I identified a crucial need for a beauty community with my husband and cofounder when we got married in Ireland in 2015. During the wedding planning, I spent months researching the ideal makeup and hair look online to no avail. Booking hair and makeup artists who I personally connected with, were experienced and could create the results I wanted was impossible!
My husband and I had a serious discussion about how the beauty industry needed a one-stop community where people could get inspiration, ask questions, connect with professionals, and find what they needed to look their best. While this alone won’t make an individual feel confident, I don’t know anyone who will disagree that taking care of yourself is an important part of the journey.
After the wedding, going back to my high-paying corporate job felt increasingly suffocating. Ready to embrace who I really was, I took a leap of faith and gave my notice in 2015. In November of 2017, we launched Beauty Advisor, the first all-in-one community for beauty and fitness, where you can discover the latest looks and trends, get advice, connect with experts, view product recommendations, and more.
What have been the biggest challenges of being a startup founder?
Alcaraz: As an entrepreneur, I’ve put everything into my company: money, time and energy. It’s crucial for me to understand all areas of our business (finance, development, marketing, etc.) and find talented people to help grow it. On top of that, 1,000+ beauty and fitness experts rely on us to help them gain new business and grow their exposure, and users rely on the community as an important resource.
To take it a step further, as a female founder I’m also responsible for my family and making sure to raise our son well. There’s a lot of juggling and balancing.
That being said, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to a cubicle. It takes time to learn who you truly are, and who and what you want to be surrounded by. I insist on creating an environment of positivity, creativity, and support.
You mentioned you aspire to change lives through beauty. What actions are you taking to do that, and why the beauty industry?
Alcaraz: Beauty Advisor is currently working on a partnership with an amazing non-profit organization called “The Beyond Project,” which partners with beauty and mindfulness experts in various cities to help individuals who have been through really difficult situations in their lives get access to free hair, makeup, and wellness services. The vision is to give them that extra confidence to get back on their feet, apply for a job, date again, etc.
Our new movement, called “Beyond Beauty,” will give beauty experts the information and tools they need to volunteer their time to help others. We aim to defeat the stereotype that the beauty industry is just about looks: in reality, beauty and fitness experts go into their line of work because they are passionate about making others feel incredible. We want to help them do that!
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs looking to turn their dreams into a reality?
Whatever you choose to do, love your work. Life is too short to wake up dreading the day ahead of you. Of course, there may be stepping stones you need to follow and positions that you will temporarily take to build experience as well as confidence, but don’t settle.
Even if you are not an expert in the industry, channel your passion and drive to learn everything there is to know about it. I find that I learn something new on every phone call or meeting I schedule, and opportunities, as well as relationships, are created with conversations. To be an entrepreneur, you need to step out of your shell and be a risk taker.
Lastly, remember that you’re never going to be great at everything. Recognize your strengths, and work with people who make up for your weaknesses — by teaming up with the right individuals, together, you can create something truly amazing.
Originally published on Forbes
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