Courtesy of Free + True
Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs-as well as their quality, handmade goods-and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.
Tami Blake describes herself as a natural-born creator, something that rings especially true when you consider her scope within the beauty and wellness industries: She is a licensed esthetician, spa owner, certified cosmetics formulator, beekeeper, and the CEO and founder of Free + True Skincare. Before the multi-hyphenate got her start in this space, she earned her master’s degree in business to learn the ins and outs of creating a successful brand—but for Blake, the skin care sphere is always where she wanted to be.
The beauty entrepreneur officially launched Free + True in March 2019; the brand is centered on clean products for the everyday woman who doesn’t have time for a complex skin care routine, but demands quality. Since its launch, Blake has created award-winning products that fulfill this mission—however, her journey between discovering her passion and bringing it to life deserves its own spotlight, too. Here, learn about the business owner’s entrepreneurial path and how she created her botanical-based brand.
Blooming Into the Beauty and Wellness Space
Blake knew in her 20s that she wanted to work in skin care, so she took classes in aromatherapy, soap making, and even dabbled in making her own products. “In those early days, I wanted to become a licensed esthetician so that I could create my own skin care line, but opted instead to go to college so that I would have a degree to fall back on—I was a young mom and wanted job security,” she recalls. Fast-forward to 2013: She decided to leave her corporate career as an operational risk manager at a bank to open a skin care spa with her sister. The duo started out by offering sugaring hair removal services, which helped them stand out from their competitors, and Blake soon earned her licensed esthetician certification to create her own sugaring paste formula.
“While in esthetics school, I fell in love with the chapter on ingredients and committed myself to learning as much as I could about formulating skin care,” the CEO says. “I spent hours working on my sugaring paste formula and finally, with the help of my husband, figured out how to scale it.” She rented a 1,000-square-foot production space, hired her first employee, and started to manufacture—and her first line, Sweet & True Sugaring, was officially born. To get her offerings into the market, the entrepreneur went to trade shows, partnered with a sugaring educator, and even began training other estheticians in sugaring while selling her products to them.
Building a Botanical Brand
Blake’s true dream was to launch a clean facial skin care line; she notes that eco-conscious, quality skin care and hair removal alternatives were still up-and-coming in the early 2010s. She learned more about this space by speaking candidly with her customers. “Owning a spa gave me a unique look at the busy lives of my clients, most of whom are women,” Blake says. “They have careers, families, hobbies, and passions that take up a lot of their time.” Her clients wanted glowing, healthy skin via clean, botanical-based formulas, but didn’t have the bandwidth for monthly facials or a 10-step routine. So, she used $20,000 of savings and a $60,000 loan and invested in PR, marketing, and social media to formally launch and spread the word about Free + True, a product line that promotes routines of four steps or less (most of us need just two, she says!).
“Through the Free + True line, I offer a simple, clean, and effective range of products for face, body, and inner wellness,” Blake explains of her essentials, which are all formulated, tested, and approved by her esthetician team. “Each product [like the Free + True “Ramblin Rose” Hydrating Serum ($68, freeandtrueskincare.com)] is uniquely formulated in California using locally grown botanicals and boosted with high-tech, clean ingredients, such as vitamin C, niacinamide, and peptides.”
Nurturing a Community
As clean beauty entrepreneurs, Blake and the Free + True team aim to leave the planet better than they found it. “That’s why we’ve teamed up with Pollinator Partnership, a nonprofit that promotes the health of pollinators through conservation, education, and research,” she says, adding that she’s also a backyard beekeeper. One dollar from every sale of the Free + True “Raw + Wild” Illuminating Honey Mask ($56, freeandtrueskincare.com) goes to the nonprofit.
The brand has also supported and donated a percentage of sales to Inner City Bliss—a nonprofit founded by Andre Humphrey that is dedicated to offering trauma-informed yoga and meditation in person and online to Black and Brown communities in the San Francisco Bay area—for nearly two years. “Andre is the recipient of our first business grant, which is my way of paying it forward,” Blake shares. “In 2013, I received a business grant from a local Bay Area company, which allowed me to start my first business, Sweet & True Sugaring. It’s my hope that these funds will enable Andre to further his mission on a larger scale.”
Enjoying the Journey
Blake tells aspiring business owners to “go for it” if they’re on the fence about creating a brand of their own. “Test out your idea and see how it lands,” she shares. “Know your strengths and weaknesses and get help right away to balance out the skills needed to succeed.” This means getting your finances in order and ensuring that there’s enough money in the bank to live on and reinvest what’s left back into the brand. Mentorship and a support system are also key, in her eyes—having a shoulder to lean on will get you through challenging periods. And lastly, enjoy the small victories: Ultimately, Blake says that there’s no distinct “finish line” when running a business. “For me, it’s about the journey and not the destination,” she says. “I love to learn, pivot, and grow!” Speaking of growth—the CEO and founder says that fans of her brand can expect more body care offerings and specialized products to simplify skin care routines in the near future.