GET TO KNOW WBENC STUDENT ENTREPRENEUR PROGRAM Finalist LISA GUERRERO OF SKINNO
As a chemistry major and undergrad chemical lab researcher, Lisa Guerrera developed an appreciation for the power of chemicals. But she was frustrated by a trend in cosmetics and skincare industry, where confusing scientific jargon, misleading marketing, and overall lack of transparency of ingredients was leading to a rise in “chemophobia,” or a general fear and distrust of chemicals.
After dedicating her senior thesis on the topic, she came up with the idea for Skinno – an app that could scan complicated skincare ingredients labels, translate them into easy to understand language, and help consumers make better informed decisions on products. Today, she leads Skinno as CEO and is working toward a November launch of the full version one Skinno app. (The beta version is now live.)
Lisa was also a finalist in the 2018 WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program (SEP), which took place in June during the WBENC National Conference & Business Fair in Detroit, Michigan. As the premier startup program for collegiate female founders, SEP fosters growth for the next generation of women-owned businesses through a tailored entrepreneurial curriculum, mentorship, and a pitch competition, where students compete for $20k in seed capital. Lisa came in second place out of 22 incredible female founders.
We interviewed Lisa to learn more about the inspiration behind business, what it’s like being a young female founder in the intersection of science, cosmetics and technology, and what’s next for Skinno.
What inspired you to start your business?
In undergrad I worked as a chemistry lab researcher for two years. I realized lab research wasn’t for me, so when I was a senior, I decided to “break the mold” and do my senior thesis on a topic outside of my chemistry major. I wrote about a topic I really cared about, which was cosmetic marketing and how the language used in their marketing can be misleading and chemophobic (promoting the fear of chemicals or chemistry). Through my thesis research I got an idea. If people could just take a picture of ingredients, they wouldn’t be so afraid of the chemicals on the label and could instantly make more informed decisions on products.
What has the entrepreneurship journey looked like for you so far?
It’s been pretty amazing so far. We’re approaching a year since my team and I won our first hackathon with this idea and we’ve won multiple competitions since. There have also been some serious rough patches. For example, during WBENC National Conference I found out my developer and co-founder had to leave Skinno due to serious health issues. My other co-founder, Christina, and I have learned a lot of lessons through our mistakes. But the best part is that we are only coming out stronger each time.
What has been the toughest part of being a young female entrepreneur?
Being a female entrepreneur is hard, but being a young female entrepreneur is especially hard, in my opinion. Most investors are older men, so they may think you are too young, inexperienced, and even call your business a “cute project.” Many fellow male entrepreneurs I know don’t face this same bias. It’s hard for me, specifically, because I don’t have a tech background, but I am going into software with a beauty focus. I face some bias because of that.
What has been the most rewarding part of being a young female entrepreneur?
Definitely the community I’ve gained through going to many female founder centric events. I’ve met some amazing women who have helped me with my business. I feel like I can take risks because I’ve gained a lot of confidence starting my business. It feels amazing to be able to be confident in what I’m doing no matter what, which will help me be a better leader.
What three traits define you?
Thoughtful, focused, and (sometimes) a worry-wart
What is one thing you wish people better understood about your industry or business?
I definitely wish people understood how important beauty and feeling good about your outward appearance is. Beauty isn’t vain; it can really affect how you feel on the inside and can have a profound impact on people’s confidence and mental health.
How did you first learn about the WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program?
My boyfriend actually sent it to me with one day until the deadline. He thought I wouldn’t have time to apply, but I told him he underestimates my power!
What did it feel like getting up in front of an audience and judges to pitch your business?
It was certainly nerve wracking! I’ve pitched in front of audiences and judges before, but never without my co-founder, Christina, so it was all up to me. Definitely my favorite part of pitching is answering the judges’ questions. I love hearing what they think and what they are curious about.
What did you learn during the program that will help you grow your business?
I learned a lot about how retailers can help grow my business. I met with a lot of different big retailers and made some great connections. In the future, I know Skinno can be integrated into ecommerce!
What’s next for you and Skinno?
We’ve gotten a new developer and are moving towards a mid-November launch of our full version one app. In November, we will also be raising a friends and family round to accelerate our customer acquisition post launch. I’ll be taking some time off of my master’s this semester to focus on Skinno.