Kasia Cummings’ skincare and beauty business, Buffalo Gal Organics, evolved from an epiphany she had after creating a product to help her daughter’s dermatitis. Unfortunately, her then-husband wasn’t keen on her ‘hobby’. Here, Cummings shares her lessons as an entrepreneur, including why it is essential to have a support network and an authentic voice.
What inspired you to launch your own business?
Starting Buffalo Gal was definitely not something on my career path! I am a medicinal chemist by trade and had left the profession to have more flexibility to raise my children. When my younger daughter developed contact dermatitis from using hand sanitiser at school, I decided to create something that would help ease her discomfort. So, with some research and about $100, I bought some supplies and made my first lotion. It sounds a bit cliché, but it was a pivotal moment of realisation that this is what I should be doing with my life.
Starting a business takes courage. What obstacles did you have to overcome?
There are so many! Financing, work-life balance (that’s huge! I’m not sure I’ve mastered that yet), finding the right employees, cash flow management… I also think every stage of your business requires a different version of you. As you face each set of challenges, you grow and respond to them as a more experienced version of yourself.
What challenges have you faced running your business, and how did you resolve them?
Taking the leap to brick and mortar was a big deal for me. I had been on what I call the gipsy roadshow for a few years, and while they were fun, they weren’t enough to create a profit-generating venture. I knew that I needed something more permanent that I could draw people to on a regular basis. So, I found our first location and set about establishing myself in a community and creating a network of business owners that I could reach out to when I was at a crossroads or stuck.
What achievement/s you are most proud of and why?
Making it through the pandemic with a viable business.
I saw so many wonderful businesses shutter their doors and dreams completely crumble. It was heartbreaking and scary to think that we might be next. We hustled; we morphed our business to take on new methods of production, delivery and fulfilment; we created new lines of products that met our consumers’ needs – all in the course of a few years. The ability to learn and grow in a brand new world that everyone was trying to navigate is a very proud moment.
Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome? How did you address it?
I think we all feel that way sometimes. We’re all told to fake it ‘til you make it, but honestly, I think that’s not always the best advice. I’ve found that I attract the right clients and people to surround me when I am authentic. It’s also about not beating yourself up if you aren’t at the point where you think you should be in your business but are not. Comparison leads to self-doubt and disappointment, leading to making decisions based on what others do vs. what is right for you. Be your authentic self. Find your voice… then tell your story.
Who has been your biggest champion on your journey, and how did they help you?
When I started Buffalo Gal, my husband at the time was definitely not supportive. He felt that I had a nice hobby and would probably soon tire of it. His lack of support set me back in terms of not believing I could grow and make my dream viable. It was an uphill battle, and without that support structure, I feel my growth was delayed; I could have been further along than I was.
Fast forward five years, I met a wonderful man I’m now engaged to. He is so supportive and encouraging! He’s always there to offer emotional support, ideas to grow, and even a bit of elbow grease to get the job done. He always says that he’s my biggest fan!
Find your person or your tribe of people that give you unconditional support.
What skills do you believe women must have to succeed as a leader?
I feel that women must have a balance of strength and intuition to succeed. Our innate ability to balance so many things at once and stand strong when things get a little crazy is really quite an advantage when you’re an entrepreneur.
Work/life balance can be difficult. What are your ‘tricks of the trade’?
What has worked the best for me is having a hard stop time for work (especially if you work from home). My fiance and I have a hard stop time of 7 pm during the work week and we reserve Sundays as a no-work day. While it’s not absolute, and sometimes we work past 7 during the week or work a Sunday, it’s just nice to have those rules that create a boundary to switch off work mode.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
How much time do you have??? Honestly, I don’t know if I would change many things. While some lessons and learnings have been difficult and hindsight brings perspective on how some situations could have been handled better, I have found that each part of the journey has given me something valuable to build on.
Kasia Cummings’ Top 3 Leadership Lessons Learned:
1. Follow your instincts and don’t second-guess yourself when others question your vision or abilities.
2. Be authentic in your voice and actions and do not try to be someone else. It’s your journey that you are living, not theirs.
3. Ask for help. It’s not a failure to need support in any aspect of your business… in fact, it will help you grow.
© Laini Bennett, MBA