Follow Friday + Nicki’s Personal Updates: 6 Confessions of My Startup Life



Last June [2012], I took a leave of absence from medical school to concentrate on building FutureDerm. I had all of these ideas for skin care products and web applications, and I figured, as a 27-year-old single woman without children, there would never be a better time in my life to focus on making my dreams come to fruition. So I sucked it up, took the leave of absence from medical school, and made the leap into entrepreneurship.

We now have five full-time employees, three part-time employees, six state-of-the-art products in the pipeline, and a brand-new website launching Monday. I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging — I’m very grateful for the people and resources we have that have granted us these opportunities. We’re still small and have a ways to go, but we’re confident. We’ve got our eyes on our goals, and we believe we really can release the best skin care and beauty products and resources for the modern, intelligent, tech-savvy consumer.

That said, I do receive a fair share of emails from other budding entrepreneurs to ask how FutureDerm managed to do so much over the course of 14 months. The short answer is that I am a crazy woman who will do whatever it takes (so long as it doesn’t compromise my morals and values) to get to where we want to be. The long answer is as follows:

1.) I once did 6 months of laundry in one sitting.


When I was admitted to AlphaLab last June, I looked at it like the opportunity of a lifetime. I kept hearing Eminem in my head:

Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted. One moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip? Yo

OK, maybe without the yo. But still.

I also looked at the opportunity realistically: I was from medicine. I had only worked in biochemical laboratories. I didn’t have a clue about anything in business: I didn’t know what a P&L was, I didn’t have a clue how to develop an elevator pitch, and I certainly wasn’t well-versed in investment funding terms.

But I did have one advantage, and that was persistence. I read over 50 books on startups, business, management, and investment. I talked to every AlphaLab advisor who would take a moment to speak with me. And I got the best decent, hands-on training I could while simultaneously running the business.

I worked, and when I wasn’t working, I was researching (passively and actively) how to work better. This, of course, lead to certain things falling by the wayside. Such as laundry.

After our AlphaLab DemoDay in October, I remember looking at my closet and recognizing that it wasn’t even half full. I did recognize that I was buying a lot of underwear, but I had no idea that it had gotten that bad until that moment. I opened the other closet door, where I would thoughtlessly toss in my dirty laundry, and was astounded to find that it was Mt. St. Laundry. A pile up to my head.

Six garbage bags of laundry taking up 10 machines and one loooong Saturday later, I had fresh clothes. I also recognized that perhaps this was not the best move. But, it worked for me at the time. (And, for the record, I now do laundry at least once every two weeks).

2.) I keep heels, a business suit, and dress pants in my car at all times.


A mentor once told me, “Every time you say no, you close a door. Every time you say yes, you open one…Sometimes the smallest key can open the biggest doors.”

If someone wants to meet with me, I schedule a time. It doesn’t matter if it is an esteemed investor or an undergraduate student looking for advice. I make the time.

That said, sometimes my schedule can get a bit frenetic. There are moments when I am rushing from meeting to meeting.

And there are days when I’ll thoughtlessly wear jeans to the office, only to realize my 1 p.m. is an hour away but will require dress clothing. All I can say is, thank God for my car. A quick grab of my duffel bag, I quick change in a bathroom, and voila! Business me is in the building.

3.) During the day, my staff keeps me sane.

I work a lot, and on top of that, three of my closest friends moved to different cities all over the U.S. for residency last year.

But my staff has really helped the transition a lot. They keep me laughing and energizing throughout the day.

Take yesterday, for instance. They half-jokingly decided that they wanted to petition me to get a sloth for the office. The following resulted on my Facebook wall:

Picture 1297Yes, about 15 pictures of sloths. Doing random things, in random positions. Totally crazy. But hysterical nonetheless.

Bottom line: If you start a business, hire a fun-loving (but hardworking) staff. It definitely makes the time go by more easily.

5.) I have gained 25 pounds (but lost 10) since starting the company.

This is how I think of myself:

Picture 1298

This was the photo that made me finally get on a diet:

Picture 1299

I’ve been thin my entire life, but long hours and constant food-centered meetings, paired with weeks at a time of non-exercise, have lead me to gain 25 pounds in a year. Thankfully, I have lost 10 pounds in the past two months, but still find it impossible to fit into 80% of my beloved shorts and jeans.

I’m losing the weight through eating small meals/snacks of 100-400 calories every three hours, for a total of 1200-1600 calories per day, with two cheat meals per week. I have also tried veganism (lost 3 pounds in a week) and The Beauty Detox Diet (same). At this rate, I’ll be back to my normal weight by November. But I’m not rushing it. Just one day, one small meal, at a time.

6.) I wouldn’t change anything in my first year for the world.

Now that the first year is over, I can say with all due honesty I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Yes, there were many sleepless nights, conversations where I sounded dumb (but learned a lot), and a few too many pounds gained, but I’ve learned a lot. We’ve gotten far, and I think the rest of 2013, as well as 2014 and beyond, will take us to really exciting places. Largely due to the effort that was necessary to put in that first year.

One of my favorite words in the English language is “extraordinary.” Looking at it, it is just that – “extra” and “ordinary.” You can’t be extraordinary without the “extra”: extra time, extra effort, extra hard work, extra moments training, extra words to communicate a concept or idea most effectively. Otherwise, you are just “ordinary.” Extraordinary means above and beyond.

But, with that said, I’ve been on a sprint and can’t sprint forever. For the past few months, I’ve been learning how to take it down to a slower but still ultra-effective pace, so I can more fully enjoy my life outside of work. And I think it’s been working. Still ready to sprint when need be, but more sustainable long-term. And maybe that’s the most extraordinary way to live a life. Who knows – I’m still finding my way.

Follow Friday

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  • Candice Hesse, PA-C

    Inspiring! Congrats on your success. I remember our 3rd period Latin at BHS… you’ve come so far.

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