“You learn so much more at a start-up. I learnt a lot at BCG, but here the learning curve has been much steeper and much more satisfying. You have so much more responsibility, and you learn from that much faster – you have to make decisions fast.”Freddy, Wild Cosmetics
We speak to Freddy, co-founder and CEO of Wild Cosmetics, and Jocelyn, Head of Operations, who Freddy hired on Movemeon.
Freddy, it would be great to understand a bit about your journey to starting Wild Cosmetics.
I was at HelloFresh for 6 years; I joined as the first marketing employee. There was a team of 5 of us and over the 6 years we built a team of 20 people and grew the business to £100m in revenue. I learnt a lot – made a lot of mistakes too, but it was a super exciting journey in a very competitive space.
I left HelloFresh close to 2 years ago. I wanted to start my own business and was interested in the sustainability space – I saw a lot of opportunities there for startups to disrupt. At the same time, a friend of mine – co-founder Charlie – had already been playing around in that space; he had a reusable coffee cup business. We looked at a few areas and saw the bathroom as ripe for innovation – lots of plastic there! So that’s why we started Wild. It’s been a super exciting journey so far.
Wild soft-launched last year and then properly launched at the heart of COVID. We’ve been growing really fast and have just raised another £2m from JamJar and a couple more investors.
Freddy & Jocelyn, could you both talk a bit about the process of hiring / being hired into a fast-growing startup during a pandemic?
Freddy: Jocelyn was our 5th hire [she joined Wild as Head of Operations]. We needed someone who had a broad skill set, and who was up for a big challenge and a steep learning curve.
Jocelyn: I interviewed remotely, during May when we were actually at the highest-level restrictions. I didn’t mind interviewing in that format, but it is an unusual way to get hired! I’ve recently hired an Ops Intern on video calls – so on the other side of the process. It’s certainly strange, but totally doable!
When I started, restrictions had lifted, so I could come in to meet Freddy and Charlie, and through the summer I could also be in and we had a few weeks when everything was relatively normal, with everyone in.
I’d never worked in a startup before Wild so that was actually a bigger change for me, compounded by the startup in COVID scenario. I’m really looking forward to when we can be back together, all in the same office.
Freddy, what was it like launching during a pandemic?
We are very lucky to be a digital-first business, but we are also going into a purely offline category. We benefited from the demand side, but the supply side was challenging – which is why we had to hire someone nearly immediately to help with the operations.
Culturally, it is very difficult – creating a good startup culture when you are working from home, over Zoom, is very difficult. This continues to be a big challenge because I see it as one of the most important parts of launching a new business. I’m really excited for when we can go back to working from the same office – I’m a really big believer in office space culture for an early-stage business. It really helps to make decision-making quicker and to get across to any new hires what you are trying to do as a new company.
Jocelyn, could you talk a bit about joining a growing startup, during a pandemic, from a new hire’s point of view?
I feel like I’ve got fully stuck in. Although I’ve been working from home, I feel completely part of the team, and really involved in all things operations. I think this is probably true of a startup at any time – there’s so much to do, you can’t hide from the work. Even in my second week, we were looking to raise our second seed round, so I was involved in building the business plan and the investment model. You are straight in the deep end, COVID or no COVID.
You learn so much more at a startup. I learnt a lot at BCG, but here the learning curve has been much steeper and much more satisfying. You have so much more responsibility, and you learn from that much faster – you have to make decisions fast. As a management consultant, you don’t do, you advise, and you can hide behind your slides. I’ve learnt so much more in 6 months here than in 18 months at BCG! It’s also been extremely satisfying to own things more – every week, you achieve something at a startup.
If you were to give any hiring managers, or startups in general, hiring advice, what would it be?
Freddy: You always want to be really busy before you hire. A lot of startups hire a bit too early without learning things themselves. As managers, you have to understand the problems of the business, so you have to do the work for a bit first – that way you’ll understand what the new hire will experience.
Of course, the challenge then is that you are busy so you want to hire someone quickly – but that’s exactly when you want to take your time. You want to find the right person, and you want to really test them on the skills they are going to execute. Stepping further back, you also want to have at least a couple of good candidates you are choosing from. If we had a process where we had just one good candidate, we’d probably reset and try again to make sure we get a few candidates to compare.
You can learn a lot about hiring by reading about it, but really you have to just try it, and you probably have to make a few mistakes. Interviewing is particularly difficult because it’s easy for it to not be an accurate reflection of what people will be like in the role. So you have to figure out ways to test whether candidates will also thrive in a startup environment, which takes time.
It’s also important to be really aware of what startups at different stages need – then find ways to test for people’s attitudes and abilities along these needs.
Jocelyn: I think it’s also important to test people’s attitudes – you don’t want someone that’s just attracted by the cool co-working space or the role in name. You need to make sure you really want the exact role.
This is also my advice for anyone hoping for a startup role without previous startup experience – do a lot of research and preparation; show that you really want the role and that you really believe in the company and the product.
Freddy, how did you find hiring the consulting skill set? How do consultants fit into a startup?
Consultants are really bright people; they’ve had a lot of exposure to different businesses, and they have a lot of structure and process. This is just what startups need in certain areas – so you just need to balance that with enough entrepreneurial spirit to move things quickly. (That spirit can also be developed over time.)
How did you find using Movemeon?
Freddy: From the recruitment side, Movemeon is really good. We had 50 applications and 5 really good applicants. We were able to run the whole process in 2-3 weeks — that speed and process, combined with the quality pool, was really important to making the right decision and finding out who we wanted to hire.
Jocelyn: Movemeon was recommended to me by people who’d exited consulting. My search moved really quickly; I had really clear comms from the Movemeon team too.
Jocelyn, do you have any advice for consultants hoping to make an exit?
I read a book I found really helpful, and a lot of other consultants would enjoy it too – it’s called Designing Your Life, written by Stanford professors Dave Evans & William Burnett. It was how I honed in on small startups, so it’s definitely been really helpful.