Raise your hand if you’ve ever daydreamed of starting a business with your best friend. Maybe you had the conversation after three-too many happy hour sangrias or maybe it’s something the two of you have been discussing for years. Jennifer Paschall and Gita Vasseghi, co-owners of No Mo-Stache, managed to turn this longtime dream into their reality.
How? Well, hard work, of course.
Paschall owned a Los Angeles waxing salon and Vasseghi was a fashion executive. Together, they were passionate about women feeling empowered to look their best while on the go. The result was the world’s first portable lip-waxing kit, coined No Mo-Stache.
The Jumping Off Point
One of the most difficult decisions entrepreneurs face is when to step away from their full-time gig -- most likely, the one that’s paying the bills -- to give their passion project the time and energy it requires to grow.
Vasseghi says she knew it was time to resign from her work as a fashion executive when the workload simply became too much to handle. “I was scared, at first,” she recalls. “But it felt right. Jen and I had been discussing it, and we knew it was time to go all in on the business.”
That’s not to say they jumped without a safety net. “I recommend anyone who’s starting a business while also working a full-time job save at least a year’s worth of money,” Vasseghi advises.
When Vasseghi left her job in fashion, Paschall also cut back hours at her Los Angeles waxing salon. “When Gita decided to leave her job, I knew it was time to cut back on my time at the salon. So, I started slowly pulling back.”
Paschall remembers her struggle to maintain the momentum at both businesses. “You want to set a precedent for your business, even if you’re just there once a week. You want to show them you’re part of the team and in the trenches.”
Her advice for keeping one business afloat while getting another off the ground? “It takes a lot of trust. You’ve got to keep the lines of communication open,” something Paschall has mastered as she continues to run both businesses successfully.
Mind the Gap
One thing the businesswomen weren’t worried about was their target audience. They recall, “Both of us were in the beauty industry and knew there was a void for a new, millennial waxing product that was affordable.
We went door to door selling our product to boutique salons and the more traction we gained, the more we knew we’d really hit on a gap in the market.” When Sephora contacted them about selling No Mo-Stache in their stores it catapulted their confidence and their business.
With their flagship product flying off the shelves, the natural next step was to diversify their product offering. “When we knew it was time to expand, we listened to our customers,” Vasseghi recalls. “We looked at what our customers were asking for and expanded our product line organically.”
Not everything about their business was so intuitive. Early on, as they were seeking support from investors, Paschall would cold-call CEOs seeking advice. When asked how she identified and connected with those executives, she responds with a laugh, “I Googled them!”
She continues, “I’d find them on Facebook or LinkedIn and contact their office. We were so naive, I just asked them any question we needed an answer to. They found it refreshing we were so open and honest about what we didn’t know.”
At one point, a Walmart executive told Paschall that she and Vasseghi needed to get their TPS percentages up. “I Googled TPS percentages and checked in with him as we progressed.”
To Catch a Shark
Unlike some small startups, No Mo-Stache was funded entirely by its founders in its early days. When asked how they managed to keep so much financial autonomy, Vasseghi recalls, “It’s all about multitasking. If you want to succeed, you have to maximize your time, keep your day job, and work nights and weekends to get by.”
Something else these entrepreneurs weren’t used to? Speaking in front of investors. “Funding was tough,” Paschall recalls. “It’s so hard to get the help you need, when you need it.” Research and lots of practice bolstered their confidence in front of a crowd -- as did an appearance on the ABC television show “Shark Tank.”
“For years, people told us we should be on Shark Tank, but we never felt ready,” Vasseghi remembers. “We heard the questions the sharks were asking contestants and we didn’t know the answers. But eventually, we did.”
When asked what they learned from the show (They received $100,000 in exchange for 25% equity from guest judge Bethenny Frankel and “Queen of QVC” Lori Greiner), the duo replied, “It proved to us that we need to trust ourselves. There’s no magic bullet. Shark Tank was amazing for our brand, and it introduced us to a lot of people, but at the end of the day, we know our brand best.”
Risk and Reward
After the show, Paschall and Vasseghi found themselves incredibly busy. “No one can prepare you for the amount of work it is to get all those orders out.” They also found the experience further opened the lines of communication between them and their customers. “
After Shark Tank, we received so much good and bad feedback. We quickly found out what we needed to improve upon to keep going. Suddenly, it wasn’t this kitschy product.”
When asked about the greatest risk they’ve taken with the business, Vasseghi answers without hesitation, “The biggest risk was leaving my job. If I hadn’t left my job, we wouldn’t have been able to apply for Shark Tank -- and that was a pivotal point for our business.”
And, when it comes to advice for other entrepreneurs, Paschall reiterates, “It has to be fun for you. It can’t be all about the money. You’re going to need your passion to make it through the tough days and tight deadlines.”
She says, “People love to share their ideas with us, and I think the number one piece of advice I give is, ‘Just do it!’ Look it up and put yourself out there. Identify what’s holding you back and figure out how to move past it.”