Follow Friday + Nicki’s Personal Updates: 10 Things You Never Knew About FutureDerm

10 things you didn't know about futurederm

Years ago, there was that fun (and slightly narcissistic) trend where everyone went around and wrote a “25 Things You Never Knew About Me” list. I rather enjoyed that trend, though it could create some awkwardness. For instance, I read my boyfriend’s list before he shared some of the information with me in person, and I never knew whether to act surprised (which I’m not good at) or admit each time that I had read it on his list (which risked seeming creepy). Things like that.

Anyway, presuming this doesn’t cause any awkwardness between us, here are 10 things you never knew about FutureDerm:

1.) We are a five-person team.

As far as start-up beauty companies go, we are pretty small and looking forward to growing. We are:

Me. I do content and marketing for the website, product development, and management.

Meredith Komarek. Meredith does the web design and is our art director for all of the design work you see on the products, advertisements, and products. She’s one of the most modest, hardworking, and creative people. Ever.

Erin McCandless. Erin is our photographer and also does design work. She is with us part-time right now, but we look forward to when she can come on full-time. She’s very kind, dedicated, and dependable.

Chris Boris. He does customer service (if you write to support[at]futurederm[dot]com, you get him!) and shipping. He is also with us part-time right now, but we look forward to when he can come on full- time. He’s very considerate, able to empathize well with people, and is one of the kindest people I know.

We also have a part-time Director of Operations, but he prefers to keep behind-the-scenes, and I respect that. He’s extremely reliable, intelligent, and sees things in a completely different way than I do. (Which is spectacular, quite frankly).

2.) This is my first company.

I was a third-year medical school student studying dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. I worked in laboratories as well. On the side, I developed a patent, won a business competition, took a leave of absence, and I never looked back.

This is my first company, and I will tell you, it is the best job in the world. There is nothing like seeing your ideas come through to become actual manufactured products, and then have customers buy them and tell you how much they love them. Nothing in the world like it. I get to do the things I love the most each and every day — writing, product design, product development, formulation, inventing. It’s awesome.

I will also tell you that it is stressful. If you are thinking about starting your own business, I will never discourage you, but do your research. Read books, talk to successful business owners, learn everything you can about products and markets and prototyping, and really think about what you are passionate about.

When you are ready, just dive in. Starting a business is like running a marathon: There is never a perfect time for it, your training is never done, there are always new challenges ahead. But at the same time, you really are proud of yourself for having done it.

3.) We graduated from a business incubator.

Knowing next to nothing about business (I didn’t even know what a P&L was when I started), I went through a twenty-week training program through AlphaLab in Pittsburgh. Ranked the sixth best business incubator in the country, it was one of the best experiences of my life, hands down. I made some lifelong friendships, obtained some excellent mentors, and learned a lot about various aspects of business.

4.) We raised funding last year, and are mostly self-funded now (for at least this summer).

I know I am going to get a few e-mails from concerned advisors: “Why would you put that on your blog?!”

I’m a huge believer in honesty, integrity, and as much transparency as one can without putting themselves in imminent danger. (Like, I’m not going to put my social security or credit card number on here!) That said, last year, I thought I was really awesome. We raised funds from a pool of some amazing investors, hired a bunch of amazing people, and set out to become the ModCloth of beauty.

Except we didn’t. Not right away. Don’t get me wrong: We are doing well and growing steadily, but there have been some growing pains. The numbers I proposed for my first year were simply way too high for where I was as an entrepreneur. I had to take a step back, make some very difficult decisions (including layoffs), and start rebuilding the business, mostly on our own now. Which brings me to #5…

5.) If your order is (or has ever been) late with us, we are working on it. Now.

Probably the hardest part of starting a business for me has been operations. I had no idea about a supply chain, order processing, or inventory when I first started. I’m also a bit of a mad scientist type by nature, so wrapping my head around very streamlined business processes gave me a bit of a headache.

It’s not really an excuse. I don’t mean for it to be taken that way. I’ve stepped up, hired the right people, and have learned/am learning what to do. I probably turned some customers off with extended wait times for one reason or another in the past 18 months, and for that, I am sincerely sorry.

Right now, we are out of eye cream and have been out for several weeks. First it was my fault in not reordering soon enough (I’m sorry), then it was that our supplier was out of pumps, then caps for the bottles. It has been very frustrating, but please, bear with me. This is month 25 of being a company, and month 21 of selling product. We are getting it down, and I’ve put people around me who are much, much better than me at this sort of thing (like our Director of Operations, for instance).

6.) I’m considering doing a Kickstarter in August or September.

I have a couple of innovative beauty product ideas. I’m pretty good at prototyping (I majored in biology and physics and worked in laboratories for eight years, so though I’m more of a creative “mad scientist” type, I’m pretty good with the mechanical stuff). To launch them to market successfully, I’m considering doing a Kickstarter in August or September, but we will see. I need to make sure that my team and I are ready to commit to another product development project entirely before I dare start such a venture.

If you think it is a good idea or not, let me know. 🙂 Either in comments or email. I could seriously use some reader/customer support in making this decision!

7.) Our company culture is pretty silly.

Koolaid Man- FutureDerm's Silly Culture

We work hard and play hard. I think this photo speaks for itself, really.

8.) It took us about 20 iterations to get our labels right.

That was not fun. I totally had the brand in my head, but I am not a designer and could not put the ideas on paper. It was frustrating. But when we saw the ‘right’ design, we knew! One of the best days ever.

9.) We can always use extra help.

Whether you’re looking to write, design, take photographs, do SEO improvements, or code, I’m sure we can arrange for an internship for you, even if you work remotely. (We are based in the South Side of Pittsburgh).

Similarly, if you think FutureDerm products might be a fit for your store, spa, salon, physicians’ office or medi-spa, please, reach out to me at nicki[at]futurederm[dot]com. We are happy to send you brochures and talk through the process. (You’ll also be dealing with me personally, which I’ve found spa/salon owners love, because I’m really passionate about the business. Obviously)

Lastly, if you or someone you know have significant e-commerce or blogging expertise and might be interested in advising or investing, reach out to me at nicki[at]futurederm[dot]com.

10.) I like answering emails and don’t like talking on the phone.

It’s true. If you have a question, please contact me at nicki[at]futurederm[dot]com. If you have emailed me over six months ago, please, email me again. I’ll definitely respond, so long as your email doesn’t contain, like, personal attacks, even though it might take me a little while.

Write to me!



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  • Nicki Zevola — Aww, thank you! I try really hard to keep our integrity front and center. Sometimes that can be trying — I remember getting a few vitamin CE serums that were also great, and being like, “How do I talk about this without deterring our own sales?” — but ended up just being honest about it, and the audience responded very well. So I hope you (and I) are right in saying that we’re onto something great here 🙂

  • Nicki Zevola

    @Mica Oba — Oh wow! That’s so cool! *feels inspired* Thank you!


    I love reading about both your personal updates but also updates on Futurederm and how it is growing/developing 🙂 I’ve been following Futurederm from the very beginning and being a skincare fanatic myself – I just love seeing the passion and honesty in your developmental process. It’s not something we as customers usually see and I think that can be a major plus in getting a very loyal customer base 🙂

  • Nicki Zevola

    @Mica – Thank you so much! I do remember you from Twitter, yes. We should chat more!

    Thanks for the preliminary Kickstarter support. I think we are coming out with a pre-dosed sunscreen delivery system…stay tuned!

    • Your anti-glycation post gave me inspiration to make it my point of focus for my Capstone Project to complete my Master’s in Cosmetic Science at U. Cincinnati. 🙂 Forgot to mention that to you in my previous comment!

      P.S. Yes, we should definitely chat more. I always enjoy the content you put out. 🙂

  • Nicki Zevola

    @leilakas — I’m so glad that you are fan of our approach.

    I definitely don’t want to get away from our core honest approach as we start to sell other brands’ products as well, or just start to sell items in general. It’s been challenging to make sure that we are honest about other products, but we do it, even if it costs us money or a sale here or there (for instance, I still like Skinceuticals and Medik8 products, even though ours are close to them).

    Thank you for the kind words! They really keep me going.

    All the best,

  • Hi Nicki! I’m not sure if you remember me, but we’re connected on Twitter via my account @chemie_lilyxren. We’ve corresponded a few times, but I’d just like to say that I really respect your integrity and honesty in running your company. I’ll keep an eye out for your Kickstarter if you launch it. 🙂

  • leilokas

    Nicki all i want to say is that i love your work. I am a huge fan and have been following your work very closely . I think that i can speak for ALL of us (the fans!), that as long as you keep up with your honesty and doing this for the “right reasons”…Do not worry, the fans got you covered and we are going nowhere!! 🙂 Delays will not keep us apart!! 😉 I was a little afraid when you started selling other products (from other companies)..that you might change…the way you present facts,express opinions and even all those wonderful products suggestions and products combination your articles have. Thank GOD you did not change and please promisse you never will!!! 🙂 I love that in this new feature of your site you say something like “…this does not reflect our opinion about the product…”. Keep up the good work!!!

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