Small Business Profile: Lindsay Knaak-Stuart, Founder of Meant - New York City
Hi Lindsay! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Colorado; attended college at the University of Oregon; and lived in Spain, Hawaii and San Francisco before moving to NYC. I'm married to an Australian, and we live in Brooklyn with our two kids, Ellie (age 5) and Hugo (age 3).
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I studied journalism and advertising in college, which led me to San Francisco to work for big advertising agencies. I always loved the strategy side of marketing and knew working in-house for a brand is where I needed to be. I went on to work in brand management for Gap Inc. for 7 years both in SF and NYC and led brand strategy for Kate Spade New York for 5 years.
When did you decide to leave your corporate career and start something of your own?
I left my corporate career in June of 2015. At that time I didn't know I wanted to start my own business I just knew that I couldn't be the mom and wife I wanted to be working in a big corporate job, and I had lost my passion for what I was doing, which after becoming a mom wasn't worth it and not okay with me.
What led you to begin Meant?
I took the summer of 2015 off to "find myself" and determine what I really wanted to do. I started down the path of interviewing for CMO roles and thought I wanted to work outside of fashion in the startup space. I met with a lot of people and had a ton of informational coffees and ultimately decided that if I was going to be working my butt off building someone else's dream I might as well be doing it for myself instead!
How did you come up with ideas for your products, and how long did it take you to craft a formula you were happy with?
I used my research and brand strategy background to determine where there were opportunities in the marketplace and how I could fill a need. I looked at the white space in beauty, but also what cultural trends and movements were happening. Once I had a fully baked concept I sought out an organic chemist to help develop custom formulations based on my direction. Some product formulas we nailed in the first few rounds, but there were a couple that we had 10+ versions of before we had a final approved product. The Absolute Balm was the hardest to get right as I had a very specific idea in my head for what I wanted it to be and do.
We see that many of your products can be used multiple ways, was this something that was important to you during the creation process?
Multipurpose is the entire concept behind Meant. It's about doing more with less and quality over quantity. If an idea for a product, and ultimately then the formula, couldn't multitask two to four different ways then it didn't and won't have a place in the line.
What are some of your favorite natural ingredients and how do you use them in your products?
Our brand tagline is Simple Does It which we really do live and breath. I didn't want products with a long list of ingredients, and like the tasks they do, I also wanted the ingredients themselves to be multitaskers. When we found ingredients we liked and were effective we used them across the entire line. So you'll see pomegranate extract, argan oil, monoi oil, coconut oil and bergamot oil across all five products. Bergamot is not only a component of our signature scent, but it can prevent infections, improve acne scars and reduce nervous tension, anxiety, and stress.
When creating your business, did you have a clear branding vision or did it evolve over time (your packaging and graphics are stunning!)
Thank you! I had a clear vision that the brand identity needed to be simple, modern, unisex, direct and unlike any other beauty design out there. I have a lot of experience writing briefs, so I wrote a very detailed five-page creative brief that probably scared my creative branding agency, but ultimately led to them presenting a concept in round one that I loved and went with!
Do you have other natural brands that you are excited about?
I'm obsessed with Marie Veronique skin care. Her products have completely changed my skin. I'm an RMS Beauty junkie, and I can't get enough of Strange Invisible Perfumes.
Why do you think it’s important to shop small and support local?
Consumers are savvier than ever these days and they want to know where their products come from and who they're buying from. Small and local embody the authenticity that the big brands just can't replicate no matter how hard they try. Shopping small helps support the business that cares more about their customers than their profits.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
I love building a brand from the ground up, and every time I get an order, a positive product review, or we're mentioned in the press I can't believe that this is my life and I get to do this every day!
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with running Meant?
Being a "team" of one and being a self-funded startup without the resources or funds to do everything I would like to do is a daily challenge for me. And of course not taking a salary has created a financial setback for our family. We are truly living a life with less!
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
Women working together can do pretty amazing things. If it weren't for the support that I've received and continue to receive from my female entourage of friends, old co-workers, business associates and networks I'm not sure I could survive the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
I was really lucky to work with two incredibly talented and highly strategic creative directors during my time at Kate Spade (Theresa Canning Zast and Kristen Naiman). Our relationships were truly collaborative and we worked very well together, not always the case with creative and marketing!
What tools or resources have been most helpful for you in creating/running your business?
I could go on and on about Shopify. It's such a great e-commerce platform and it keeps getting better and better. I wouldn't be able to build a brand on no marketing budget without social media, Instagram specifically. And the social media tool, Planoly helps me to manage Instagram the best way possible.
How do you manage your time?
I live and die by my calendar. Having worked in the corporate world for close to 20 years I'm pretty good at managing my time and having to jump from one project to another, but with that being said, I am finding it challenging to get everything done working from home and in the hours between school drop of and pick up!
How do you deal with moments of self-doubt?
My husband is the one that talks me off the edge. I definitely have those moments where I wonder why I left a good paying job and what was I thinking spending my children's college education to start Meant, and then my husband reminds me that we're building a brand and that takes time.
What are some of your favorite places in New York?
I love Carroll Gardens, our Brooklyn neighborhood, and I'm always game for a Saturday stroll through the West Village or Nolita. My husband and I are big coffee drinkers so most of our favorite places are coffee shops (Happy Bones, Gasoline Alley, Intelligentsia, Stumptown, Cafe Grumpy...the list goes on).