Welcome to the first installment of Self-Made, our new interview series that covers tenacious founders who have overcome adversity and challenges to successfully scale their businesses.
Our first interview is with Renee Rouleau, beauty expert and founder of Renee Rouleau Skincare. Renee found her passion for skincare at an early age, spending time at her grandmother’s beauty salon and observing the day-to-day interactions. There she would witness how her grandmother’s compassion, humor, and caring touch not only improved women’s hair but lifted their spirits. It was then she realized she wanted to make women feel amazing, too.
That dream would eventually be realized, but along the way, Renee had to overcome nearly losing her sister to cancer and escaping a toxic relationship with an ex-boyfriend. Early on in her career Renee’s sister was diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemo and radiation treatment, losing her hair in the process. To help lift her sister’s spirits, Renee would apply her makeup and care for her skin. She saw how this boosted her sister’s self-esteem and it inspired her at the time to continue working with cancer patients by visiting hospitals and providing bedside services to patients who were unable to leave their bed.
Along the way, Renee experienced another traumatic event that would inspire her to use beauty to help others. In her 20’s she entered a toxic relationship with a man who became controlling and verbally and mentally abusive. She escaped before it became physical and through this experience, she decided to use her skills to help abused women at shelters and safe houses. When the women would show up at shelters she would offer skin and spa services to help them find their self-confidence again. Renee continued her work at shelters regularly until she moved to Dallas in 1996 and founded her namesake skincare line. From there she connected with another organization, The Family Place, to continue her philanthropic work.
Today Renee continues to run her skincare business and grow her lifestyle website and blog which now has over 1,500 posts and has been lauded as “the WebMD of skin care.” She continues to learn and teach, studying cosmetic chemistry at UCLA and teaching classes at top esthetic trade shows. We were able to catch up with Renee and gain insight on her business, learn her favorite beauty tips, and hear her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. Here’s what she had to say.
What inspired you to start your own business/skincare line?
Renee: As a young child growing up in my grandmother’s beauty salon, I saw early the powerful effect of how beauty was directly tied to how you feel. A woman would come into the salon upset with whatever was going on in her life, and my grandmother’s witty humor, compassionate demeanor and caring touch would improve not only the woman’s hair, but also her spirit when she walked out the door. When you look good, you feel good – it’s truly that simple. This was certainly the inspiration as to why I chose to pursue a profession in beauty, but I went into esthetics instead.
What was the most difficult part about starting your business?
Renee: When starting a business your knowledge and experience is based solely on your past experience and you truly have no idea what is coming. It is a time and process of trial and error and it is very difficult. You try something it works or it doesn’t; you make a decision and either it works or it doesn’t. The challenges, whether they are issues with vendors, employees or anything else that can go wrong, can never be anticipated because you’ve never been there. I consider myself to be a good problem solver, but when you are starting your business, you just don’t have the experience to know if you are making the right decision. I now have 22 years in my current business and 5 years in my previous business and I have gained a lot of wisdom I didn’t have on day one. That wisdom is so valuable.
What were the best strategies you used for getting through difficult times while building your business?
Renee: Never be afraid to reach out for help. In the early years when I didn’t have the wisdom and was faced with new situation, I created a network of people who had the experience that I lacked. Now, I have a great group of colleagues and really successful entrepreneurs on speed-dial and we help each other out all the time. That has been one of my biggest and best strategies – tapping into other people’s experiences and successes, and even missteps so I can avoid similar circumstances. I am also a member of Entrepreneurs Organization in the Austin Chapter for 9 years. The group is comprised of successful entrepreneurs and having that network of support has added a lot of value for me.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Renee: Don’t go at it alone. The benefit an aspiring entrepreneur has is they bring the passion to the table and the necessary hard work, grit and tenacity. However, they don’t always have the wisdom. I would surround yourself with people who can act as mentors. Your friends won’t understand your world so you need to find people that are in your shoes.
“You have to hustle and work hard. You give up a lot in your life when you own your own company.”
Also, you have to hustle and work hard. You give up a lot in your life when you own your own company. There are many sacrifices that are made. You have to be prepared to hustle, because you only get out of it what you put into it. Ideas are the easy part; doing the work is the hard part. Nike said it best you have to “Just do it.”
What are your top 3 favorite non-fiction books?
Are there any business resources you recommend?
I would suggest EOS –Entrepreneurial Operating System. We have run our company on this program for the past 5 years. It has been a big part of why we have such a healthy, strong growing company. We practice those principles.
I also love the emails I signed up for from Harvard Business Review, Inc. Magazine and Fast Company. These email blasts are a great place to learn insightful information that helps you work smarter, not harder.
Lastly, Entrepreneurs Organization is very valuable once you are at a certain level in your company.
Obviously, we have to ask! What are your best skincare secrets?
Avoiding sunlight in airplanes: whenever I travel, I always book a window seat so I can control the shade by closing it. When you’re in an airplane, you may be exposed to the same amount of harmful UV rays as you would be in a tanning bed for 20 minutes. This harmful radiation is responsible for damage to cell DNA, which leads to premature wrinkles and brown spots.
I use an under eye exfoliator. The eye is the first area to show the signs of aging. To combat this, most people know to use an eye cream but what most people don’t realize is that a gentle exfoliator to smooth away dryness will make it work even better. Recommended under eye exfoliator: Overnight Eye Serum
Increasing my circulation: healthy skin has good blood flow. To achieve this, I hang my head upside-down for three minutes per day. This can be done up against a wall, during a downward dog pose in yoga or simply by hanging your head over the side of your bed. After three minutes, a slight redness appears on my skin. In the long run, it can make a big difference in getting (and keeping) my inner glow and looking lit from within. (The reason this works is because blood carries all of the oxygen and nutrients to feed the cells both in our skin and body. Arterial, venous, capillary and pulmonary systems are all avenues through which blood circulates. When capillaries are dilated, the uptake of oxygen and blood increases, ultimately causing the glow.)
Limiting my dairy intake: although there is not much scientific evidence to back it up, I’ve found that dairy causes me to break out in cystic acne. Many, many of my clients have also come to the same conclusion over the years. As much as I adore cheese, especially on my yearly trips to France to see family, I’ve learned to limit my dairy intake because too much will cause me to break out. Keeping dairy to a minimum (plus using Anti-Bump Solution when I flare up) has helped my skin tremendously.
What is up-and-coming for your business? Any new products launching soon or new endeavors?
We are working on some new products to add to our adult acne collection. It currently consists of products like Rapid Response Detox Masque, Triple Berry Smoothing Peel and Anti Bump Solution. I am also working on pushing out more blog posts and creating more content for my blog.