Simi Lindgren is the Founder and CEO of the YUTYBAZAR, an AI-driven beauty marketplace helping conscious beauty shoppers find the right haircare, skincare and cosmetic products based on their genetic lifestyle, environment and preferences. Initially planning on becoming a Forensic Pathologist, Simi studied at St George’s Medical School. She later attended the Saïd Business School, where she studied Artificial Intelligence in Business. Since being founded in 2020, her company YUTYBAZAR has already been featured in a variety of publications, such as Refinery29, POPSUGAR and ELLE.
What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I am a third generation British of Nigerian heritage. A combination of things led me on this journey, I had wanted to become a Forensic Pathologist which led me to studying at St George’s, but also had this passion for beauty despite the samples of magazines never quite working for me. My commercial career within the MarComms Tech within Beauty, Luxury and Fashion in leadership roles informed my decision that I could leverage both my beauty and tech experience to fulfil this purpose of helping people find the right beauty products in a sustainable way. It was incredibly high stakes but having a father who forged his own career within Law driven by entrepreneurialism and my own Grandfather who attended Oxford gave me the confidence to pursue this mission.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
My definition of being an entrepreneur is being mission oriented. To be an entrepreneur is understanding that there is no job specification, this is a journey which you shouldn’t embark on unless you believe in your mission. Similar to being an astronaut, you have goals that take you outside of the Earth’s atmosphere…sometimes the mission may fail, but what you are trying to achieve you want to do so because you believe it will make a lasting impact.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
I realised that the idea was good enough to develop when friends, family and then market research showed that when it came to validating beauty products, it was extremely difficult. 70% of Black and Asian women surveyed felt that the high street did not cater to their needs, there was this overwhelming feeling of being left out of the beauty narrative. But, this issue isn’t exclusive of Black and Asian women, there are many groups of people irrespective of gender, age, race or ability that couldn’t discover, evaluate and validate beauty products and make an informed decision.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Resilience, Communication and Efficiency. Being resilient means that you will be able to handle the journey, that fear of failing, slow progress, stress that comes when trying to do it all. The ability to communicate with not only investors, but the most important people of all your customers, your wider community and network. Being introspective enough to understand that being efficient and growing a business requires more than you, embracing the fact that someone out there could do better and delegating to provide the best product.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
The individuals that inspire me most have displayed immense courage, they’ve been bold and had the fortitude to push through their fears, and do it anyway. They also have this drive for customer centricity, pushing equality through their narratives and ensuring that the customer is at the heart of everything. Elon Musk intrigues me, if I made it into one of his 5 minute blocks, I would like to ask him about 3 times he failed and what he learnt from each failure.
What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
The most satisfying moment in business has been my own personal growth as an entrepreneur. The constant learning that has been afforded me during my experience, launching a business during COVID-19 and navigating the unique challenges that presented, the feedback from our customers and iterating to improve, and of course gaining traction through sales.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
I’m working in multiple time zones. I’ve been working since 5am this morning. So I think spreading myself too thinly has certainly been one mistake. I have this crazy tendency to do multiple things at once, which is neither sustainable nor scalable. I think a mistake that some entrepreneurs make is that they feel they have to do everything themselves, and they end up not doing everything to the best of their ability. It’s important to realise when you’re doing too much and learning to delegate tasks.
How have you funded your ideas?
To launch YUTYBAZAR, I personally financed from savings which allowed us to execute on the big idea so we could secure external capital and we are nearing the end of our pre-seed fundraising journey as we have secured a VC and investors. Black female entrepreneurs receive 0.02% of funding overall, so I was the 88% of Black Founders who financed their own company using my own money.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
I would highly recommend joining a local support group like the Oxford Entrepreneurs society, entrepreneurship can be hard and sometimes you need help, so having the right support system can be a powerful force when growing your business. Other resources would be investing in a project management tool such as Trello, to get an overview of tasks; sharpening your skills if you can’t afford to delegate everything at the beginning can be seriously resourceful and Oxford has many courses to support you on your journey. Keeping abreast of the market, if you have access to a library, I personally use the Bodleian libraries at Oxford which provides access to Market research such as Mintel, and if not for Market research take out a book such as ‘The 10% Entrepreneur’ by McGinnis which helps you understand what you are getting yourself into, and ‘The magic of thinking big’ by Schwartz which trains you to not get stuck in the minutiae, so you can actually do that blue-sky thinking.
Have you faced any challenges as a woman entrepreneur? If so, how have you overcome them?
Launching a business during COVID-19 and being a national lockdown brought about a real struggle. Whilst I share caregiving responsibilities with a supportive husband, mother and sister, managing homeschooling, daily operations and running of the household bought its own unique challenges. Although disruptive, it brings some unique benefits such as extreme efficiency and time management and an opportunity to learn from that growth pushing through any psychological barriers including fear of failure and bias.
What resources would you recommend for other women?
Attending events where you can meet other entrepreneurs is incredibly powerful, entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey especially if you’re a sole founder so being able to find those going through the same will provide you with that support. I am a part of SIE, a community whose mission is to provide access to capital, as we know only 2.3% of venture capital goes to Female founders. SIE also hosts workshops and events that foster education and meaningful relationships.
Do you have any advice specifically for other women who want to be entrepreneurs?
You can do this, don’t let impostor syndrome be a blocker. I remained extremely quiet about YUTYBAZAR, and not telling everyone about your business is a mistake, as they can provide feedback and could potentially be your first customers. Build your network, as there are like minded women out there who can empathise with what you are trying to do and introduce you to someone that could be valuable.
Any last words of advice?
Be yourself. You’re the unique selling point and you’re the person that will drive your mission forwards and that’s really what’s going to help you stand out. Remember why you are embarking on this journey, and set definitive goals to help you succeed. What does success look like? It’s doing your best and achieving your outcome irrespective of whether it’s good or bad, at least you know you did your absolute best. And Fail Fast!