Cindy Barberes used to be focused on the facts: black and white. After leaving the corporate world, she discovered many other beautiful colours through a commitment to self-care. This extended to launching a natural skincare business that gives back to the community. Here she shares how she learned to compete in a new industry.
What inspired you to launch your own business?
I always thought corporate was well-suited for me. But the longer I was in that structured, male-dominated environment, the more I wanted a change. I knew that when I had the opportunity, I would do something completely different.
I left the corporate world and took six months off to decompress and find my new direction. During this time, I undertook wellness courses like mindfulness and health counselling. It was a transformational experience with a lot of soul searching.
In my corporate life, everything was black and white. But after leaving that world, I discovered many beautiful colours…the yellow that peace of mind can bring, the orange of relaxed confidence, all brought out through a commitment to self-care.
I wanted to do something I felt passionate about – to create something tangible that brings people pleasure. I also found social media for business fascinating; I wanted to embrace an individual’s need to feel connected, have a new experience and feel better about themselves. I call it “feel good doing good” and it can include doing good for the community, doing good for yourself, or both.
All of this inspired me to launch my natural skincare business, H. Honeycup, in 2017.
Starting a business takes courage. What obstacles did you have to overcome?
I did not have experience in the beauty and personal care industry. I know many amazing women who have succeeded in an industry new to them, and they truly inspired me. I connected with them and learned from them.
Additionally, in corporate, my mindset was what I would call a state of futility, so I left it behind and embraced a new approach that I call “Instead of”. For example:
INSTEAD OF giving up, I opened my mind.
INSTEAD OF struggling, I asked for help.
INSTEAD OF waiting, I took the initiative.
INSTEAD OF faltering, I rallied.
A realistic and positive mindset is critical when you have your own business!
What challenges have you faced running your business, and how did you resolve them?
It’s a challenge to let people know your company exists. One way I addressed this was to collaborate with like-minded brands. We have a similar philosophy, want to create a product together, or both have a similar mission of giving back. The bottom line is that shared values and joining forces expand your reach.
At first, I thought it would be too hard to compete in my niche. Yes, it will always be a challenge to compete. But I Iearned to embrace what made my company different and share my personal side. People want to know about the founder, so I learned to step forward to tell my story.
Putting all your eggs in one basket is tempting since you naturally gravitate to what feels comfortable. I learned I couldn’t just focus on social media or retail to distribute my product. Whatever your product or service is, think outside the box, observe your competition, and try to be in as many places as possible. Go where your customers are.
What achievement/s you are most proud of and why?
I’m proud that my prior career in corporate enabled me to fund my business. Self-funding isn’t the only way, but so far, that has worked for me. It also helps me grow at a reasonable pace.
My husband is my manufacturer. I never envisioned interacting with him in business and thought it was best if we each had our separate careers. It turns out that we have different skill sets that work well for my company. He knows the tactical aspects of production, whereas I have experience in goals, strategy and execution.
Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome? How did you address it?
Imposter syndrome never goes away for me, but I use it to give me a boost when I need it. I’m analytical, so I take time to think things through, but when I see others succeeding, I try to keep the envy at bay and use it as a success story to learn from and appreciate.
Who has been your biggest champion on your journey, and how did they help you?
The most important influence on me as a person has been my parents. They encouraged me in everything I did and were so proud of me, which remains a motivator.
Then with my small business, my husband Kevin was supportive from the start. He respected the six months I needed to decompress from my corporate life. Then I would run ideas by him, and he would share his opinion. Once we got past “are you sure you want a natural brand?” I kept moving forward.
My friends continue to cheer for me, and that helps keep me going. They even give me ideas for products and social media.
What skills do you believe women must have to succeed as a leader?
Keep going. If you fail at something, learn, get better and try again.
Don’t let naysayers discourage you. Learn from the input and move on.
You can’t know and do everything. Choose carefully (seek referrals from those you trust) and outsource key things others can do better.
Stand up for yourself and your company. Never think that your company isn’t worthy; make it worthy.
Work/life balance can be difficult. What are your ‘tricks of the trade’?
I like working for myself because I can be flexible with my time and work when I need to from anywhere. I make time in the evenings to be with my family. Vacations are essential, and downtime helps me stay energised and motivated. Also, I always have my dog with me, which helps me stay relaxed and not overly serious.
What has surprised you most about having your own business?
Once I had less stress and a flexible schedule, I had time to give back to the community. It was so satisfying to broaden my reach and help others.
One of the things that amazed me when I started my business was my enthusiasm for learning new things. I was using a different part of my brain to be creative and learn things I never dreamed I could master.
For example, learning about:
- a new industry
- new and changing social media
- tone and messaging
- product ideas
- interacting with more women, and
- meeting all new people.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I thought I could fast forward to success in my first year of business. I hired a PR firm and a social media specialist. Then I realised that I needed to allow my business to evolve before jumping into serious promotion. I needed to live and breathe my business for a while. Only then could I engage professionals that could help bring my vision to life.
I concluded that there are no shortcuts. That was a hard lesson and one I’ll never forget.
Cindy Barberes’ Top 3 Leadership Lessons Learned:
© Laini Bennett, MBA