6 Lessons In Building A Successful Company From Nicci Levi
By Megan Bruneau
Nicci Levy has one of those stories that will inspire even the most discouraged entrepreneur:
In middle school, she tried out for every team and didn’t make a single one. Unfazed, she joined the only team with no tryouts: cross country track.
In her mid-thirties, with no business education or experience, she used an online business plan builder—recommended to her by a “guy [she] was casually dating”—to create a category around cosmetic injectables.
With no connections to investors, she received her first check from Toni Ko of NYX cosmetics via a cold reach-out on LinkedIn.
And most recently, she had a baby on her own using eggs she froze in the early years of realizing her revolutionary Botox-meets-DryBar idea, Alchemy 43.
Levy’s fearless spirit led to the success of Alchemy 43, which is slated to have 25 locations soon and is completely transforming the experience of cosmetic injectables; however, Levy shared with me on The Failure Factor podcast how close the company came to failing. She and her team miscalculated how much money they would need to get the business up and running.
“There must’ve been some naivety in thinking we’d open the door and have appointments, and we didn’t budget enough for marketing” she explains. Potential customers were resistant to abandon the familiarity of their physicians and risk a new experience for something as intimate as a needle in their face.
“There were days where we had no appointments,” Levy recalls. “I remember calling my credit card company and saying ‘Hey, can I put payroll on my card?’ Eventually, I had to take out a loan at [a 50 percent interest] rate.”
The loan kept Alchemy 43 afloat just long enough: ultimately, it became a welcomed alternative for patients who couldn’t get into see their physicians for months, resulting in a surge in customer acquisition. By this point, Levy had proved out Alchemy43’s concept enough to catch the eye of Forerunner Ventures, growth has been steady since.
During our podcast interview, Levy gave me insight into the resilience mindset that’s led to her success. Here are six lessons in particular every entrepreneur should hear:
1. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail, and see “No” as a starting point.
Whereas respond to failure or “No” by giving up, Levy sees it as a starting point:
“I’ve had people say No to me more times than I can count,” she says. ““That No inspires me. If I had let myself be shut down by No, I wouldn’t have made it through the first year.”
Levy also advises acknowledging—but not beating yourself up for—mistakes and regrets. “It just makes you more stressed out.”
2. Think about the worst-case scenario.
In our world of toxic positivity, I hear a lot of “Don’t put that out into the Universe or you’ll manifest it!” As a therapist and executive coach, I teach my clients that considering the worst-case scenario is wisdom, not negativity. Once we think of the worst-case scenario and feel confident we can navigate it, we’re far more likely to be able to do the scary thing.
Levy did just that: “Worst case scenario [was] I get a job at Nordstrom at the makeup counter. I live with my dad. I get my coffee every morning. Realizing that is the worst case scenario kind of does give you the empowerment to be like, Okay, I’m going to be okay either way.”
3. Think, “Why not you?”
When I asked Levy to help me understand her fearless mindset, she explained that she was raised by South African immigrant parents who told she could “could have anything she wanted, if she was willing to work hard for it.” And then she said something simple yet profound: “I thought, Why NOT me?”
Women especially tend to assume we can’t do things, yet we rarely actually unpack the reasons behind the resistance. If a part of you is telling you that you can’t, shouldn’t, or wouldn’t be the right person to realize your idea, hear out that part’s argument and consider how sound it is.
4. Understand that nobody knows your business better than you do.
Levy learned the hard way that “Especially in the early days, you cannot fully outsource anything.” Believing she “wasn’t a great financial person,” she outsourced the financial model—which ultimately resulted in the high-interest loan.
“Nobody knows your business better than you do,” Levy stresses in our interview. “I don’t care what aspect of your business you don’t think you’re good at. You know your business better than anybody else and you know your vision better than anybody else.”
Levy went on: “If they’re doing something that relates to your business that you don’t understand, ask them what they’re doing and ask them to explain it to you. There’s no shame in that, there’s no harm in that. You understanding what they’re doing is critical. And make them explain it to you until you understand it, even if you feel like the dumbest person in the world.”
5. Build yourself a support network that includes entrepreneurs.
Levy credits the support of her family and of fellow entrepreneurs as being integral to her success. “[Entrepreneurship] can be a very lonely experience,” she says. “Build yourself a network, go to those networking events and meet those people. Make yourself go and find one person in the room to connect with. Those are the people that get you through this.”
6. Remember that our time here is limited, and go after what you want.
Levy lost her mom to cancer at 25. Although this tragedy was shattering to Levy and her family, it offered her perspective and proactivity most 25-year-olds don’t acquire until later in life.
“You can’t just sit and wait for things to happen to you in life because you never know what tomorrow holds.”
Photo Source: Bradford Rogne Photography