Meet Amy Welsman, the founder and CEO of PAUME, a luxury hand hygiene company. PAUME creates a variety of products including hand sanitizers, exfoliating hand cleansers and probiotic hand balms. Everything is vegan, cruelty-free and plastic neutral.
Even though sanitizer and antibacterial gel like PAUME’s is something we’re all very used to now, the idea actually came to Amy before the COVID-19 pandemic began. She was thinking of the need for a high quality sanitizer before most of us even considered using it on a daily basis. After having her first baby, she became much more aware of how important hand hygiene is. With so many germs and diseases around, she knew she wanted to protect herself and her child. So even though she had no experience in the skincare field she decided to start her own line.
“I thought, maybe there is something here, and maybe there is an opportunity to create not only a product that people will enjoy using, but that also looks beautiful and has these design-driven dispensers that actually look nice in your home,” Amy said. “I just thought, hand hygiene is so important, why not make the process of cleaning your hands when you don’t have soap and water more of a luxurious experience.”
Amy’s journey to entrepreneurship began in 2013, when she left her corporate job to work at Knix, which was then a start-up company in Toronto. She was their first full-time hire and spent around four years there, helping build the brand from the start. While at Knix, she started out working on pretty much everything, and got the experience of helping build a brand from the ground up. Later on her role shifted a bit to focus more on their wholesale channel and building that out.
Eventually, she felt the pull to leave Knix and figure out what the rest of her life was meant to hold. She knew she wanted to start her own thing but didn’t yet know what it was. She took the space and time to travel more, and then had her first child. Along the way she was always thinking about how to create her own company and what it would be. With the birth of her child, and the need she saw for waterless washing, the idea began to really take shape and firm up in her mind.
Although the idea came to her pre-COVID, she didn’t actually start the process of building the business until 4-5 weeks into lockdown. What better sign could there have been that this was the time to create a new hand hygiene line?
The first step was to take her business idea to investors and get funding through seed money to actually create and package the product. Amy said that when she was first starting the process, the temptation was to just hit the ground running, but she also recognized that it was important to take the time to make it right. It still only took about 10 months to officially launch the line.
Having no experience in the beauty industry or hand care industry, she didn’t have any idea of what went into creating an antibacterial gel, or any of the other products. She knew she was passionate about it, but there was a huge amount to learn. Luckily, Amy knew how to be resourceful.
Her best friend throughout the process was good, old-fashioned Google. She researched and researched, learning as much as she could about sanitizers and skincare. With the research also came lots of cold calling to manufacturers and labs. Since the industry was so popular at the time and in such demand with the pandemic, reaching someone was very difficult.
One of Amy’s main priorities in creating the first sanitizer was to provide moisture without using aloe or glycerin, since the efficacy is very low when combined with the alcohol content. To replace those ingredients, she decided to use emollients. Emollients are found in skincare and hair care, and they compliment the alcohol. She brought in a pleasing scent with essential oils. The idea was to create a product that looks beautiful in your home so you really want to have it out and to use it, and for each use to be a moment of indulgence and self-care. And that’s something we all need more of right about now.
Another one of her priorities was to use previously recycled plastic in the packaging. She wanted to create a line that was sustainable and eco-friendly. This brought another hurdle she had to cross: finding suppliers. Finding suppliers for every part of the brand is a journey in itself. There are packaging suppliers, sourcing suppliers, design consultants and many others. Amy also wanted to design the pump from scratch, as she wanted a luxurious, unique look to the product. She worked with a designer who was able to create the look that fit her very specific vision.
In November of 2020, she launched a soft, pre-order campaign. By January of 2021, Paume products were officially selling all over the U.S. and Canada.
One of the hardest parts for many entrepreneurs is getting the funds to create their product. Amy said it is a “daunting experience asking for money.” She knew she needed to get some capital, but from where? She put herself out there and asked friends, family and investors for help. She was able to raise $250,000 Canadian. She realized in January, once she launched, that more capital was needed. So she did a second raise, asking initial investors if they would consider contributing more, and she raised an additional $150,000, plus more later on.
Having to raise funds a second time, was actually a great sign. It meant they were selling and needed to create more product. PAUME secured a large retail account, a Canadian store called Indigo, which placed a large order. PAUME had to quickly double their inventory. This was a huge milestone for the company.
Being on-shelf ended up being a big advantage in the growth of PAUME. They were able to reach many people through that exposure, both in large retail stores and smaller boutiques.
Another way the brand got incredible exposure was through the help of a nail artist who ended up becoming a big fan and distributing PAUME throughout Hollywood. She did many celebrities’ nails, and would give out PAUME products to them. Adele even posted pictures on Instagram that included PAUME on the table at her album release party. It wasn’t a promotional post in any way, just a shot of the table at the party, where she happened to have her sanitizer out and hadn’t moved it for the photos. Talk about that strong, beautiful branding being worth it.
After becoming pregnant with her second child, Amy decided to make her first hires. She knew she needed help, as being a mom is already a full-time job, on top of running the business. The first hire was someone with strong skills in many areas who could serve as her right-hand person. Next, she hired a marketing employee. It’s still a small team, but clearly PAUME is growing and only getting stronger as Amy expands her family and her business.
“It’s all about balancing the really important time of your kids being young, and I don’t want to just see it pass by. I want to be really present. But this business is also my baby and I put so, so much into it the last couple of years, and yes, I’m confident that my team can handle so much and I’m just so grateful for them, but at the end of the day, they can’t do an interview. I am sort of the face of this brand. I love doing this stuff. It’s my passion, too, so it’s not a chore,” Amy says. “It’s, ‘how do I carve out my day and get the help I need and the support I need to be able to sort of balance both,’ but that’s the female founder experience, if you choose to do both.”