Before the craziness of the pandemic happened, Amy Welsman had already thought of creating a hand sanitizer line that’s different. A year after its conception, she released her luxury hand sanitizer, PAUME, at a time when the world needed it. Gentle on the skin, nourishing, and completely ethical and sustainable, PAUME is truly set apart from any other hand sanitizer.
Get to know Amy and her story on being an entrepreneur, how she conceptualized and made her business idea into reality!
Business Name: PAUME
Name and Title: Amy Welsman, Founder & CEO
Education: Queen’s University
Edit Seven: On your website, you shared why you started PAUME. Can you tell us more about the process of how your idea became a reality?
Amy Welsman: When I first conceived of the idea for PAUME, I knew nothing about the beauty industry. My background was in women’s intimates, and I had to learn everything I know today on the fly. I’m a very visual person, so my first step was to start working on the packaging concept and the brand image and tone.
I knew out of the gate that I wanted to create sustainable packaging that was refillable and a totally new and fresh look for both our travel and home dispensers. I worked with a wonderful team to bring the vision to life, and also found a packaging partner who offered PCR (post-consumer resin), as I wanted to avoid using virgin plastic in our travel bottles.
Simultaneously, I started to look for a lab partner who could create our custom formula. The formula brief was threefold: it needed to moisturize the skin, as well as sanitize; it needed to have as many plant-based ingredients as possible; and it needed to smell really good. It took us six months to perfect the formula, and it’s what I’m most proud of. Once we had the formula and the packaging finalized, it was just a matter of coordinating all the pieces to manufacture the final product and plan the launch strategy. Easy, right?
E7: Tell us more about your business and your products. What makes you different or unique?
AW: PAUME is a premium hand care brand that combines luxurious plant-based formulas with sustainable packaging. Our first hero product is our antibacterial hand gel, which is packaged in refillable dispensers for at-home and on-the-go. Our skin-nourishing formula, as I explained above, really stands out in what is now a very crowded category. In fact, one beauty editor for a major publication said it was the best of over 400 sanitizers she had tried this past year. When I first conceived of the product in 2019, the category was quite stagnant and in need of a shake-up. When the pandemic hit, sanitizers were suddenly in the spotlight, and we had to work hard to make our product distinct. Our sustainable and design-focused packaging has really made us shine in what has become a very crowded space.
E7: What is your goal and mission for PAUME?
AW: Our hands do so much—we use them to express ourselves, communicate, and connect with the world around us. They deserve to be cared for. Hand sanitizer is typically an unpleasant utilitarian product most of us dreaded using. But, [PAUME is] on a mission to make cleaning and caring for your hands an indulgent moment of self-care. Hand in hand with this (forgive the pun) is our sustainability mission. In addition to using as much PCR as we can, we are trying to encourage our consumers to refill and reuse rather than replace. We want to make it easy to simply buy one or two dispensers and continue to refill them, minimizing waste production.
E7: Does your company currently incorporate any community-support or sustainability initiatives that we should know about?
AW: To further our sustainability mission, we have partnered with rePurpose Global to help minimize our plastic footprint. We recently announced our Plastic Neutral Certification and, in order to achieve this, PAUME donates a percentage of each sale to fund rePurpose Global in removing and recovering as much plastic waste from the environment as we create. Each donation specifically funds multi-layered plastic packaging recovery in Bekasi, Indonesia. This facility employs and empowers waste pickers to tackle low-value plastic, diverting 2,224 kg of plastic waste from oceans and landfills every year. Now every one of our products carries a Net Zero Plastic Footprint.
E7: Sustainability and environmental responsibility are two of your brand’s missions. Can you tell us why this became your focus and why you partnered up with rePurpose Global?
AW: I think all brands have a responsibility to adopt sustainability practices in their supply chains. This can mean a variety of things, ranging from using PCR [instead of] virgin plastic in packaging, having refillable products, using plastic alternatives when the formulas allow for it, or even small steps like using plastic-free biodegradable shipping materials. Even small decisions can have a big impact.
While we try to do this as much as we can, we aren’t perfect. I always wanted to take our sustainability mission one step further. I heard about rePurpose Global from a retailer called Beauty Heroes, who now carries PAUME, and they seemed like a wonderful partner to help us minimize our plastic footprint and make a difference in communities [that] are so affected by the plastic waste we produce in North America. They have an incredible transparent process of determining your footprint, as well as demonstrating the direct impact our donations are making.
E7: You’ve had prior experience with sales, marketing, and entrepreneurship before you started PAUME. How did your work experience with companies, like Knix Wear, help in establishing and running your own company now? Did having these experiences make the process any easier?
AW: When I joined Knix in 2013 as the first full-time hire, I had three years at a big advertising agency under my belt, and no true understanding of just what it would take to launch a product, build a brand, and be successful. It was an incredibly challenging and exhilarating experience; I’m so grateful to have been part of such an amazing brand in those early years. It prepared me for my next venture in so many ways. Not only with knowledge and hard skills, but it also gave me a deep understanding of just how hard founding a business can be. I was prepared for lots of challenges, roadblocks, mistakes, and disappointment. But [I was also prepared] for the high of the wins and successes. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart, and I’m grateful to have gone through that experience before starting my own business.
E7: What have been some of the biggest lessons and challenges you’ve encountered and learned while running your business?
AW: Doing most of the pre-launch work during the pandemic has been a huge test of patience and persistence. With global supply chains completely upside down, it presented a unique set of challenges that took a lot of stamina and perseverance to overcome. I think the biggest challenge was witnessing the hand sanitizer category literally transform overnight as I was bringing my original concept to life and feeling the constant pressure to get to market as quickly as possible. At times, it felt like a new brand was launching every day. I had so many opportunities to cut corners to save time, but I had to remind myself of my original mission every day and focus on making the best product I could, no matter how long it took.
It took a lot of focus and determination, but in the end, it was worth it. After all, I never meant for PAUME to be a pandemic response brand; it was always meant to have a longer legacy. I had to see the long-term goal and ignore the short-term pressures.
E7: Why do you love what you do?
AW: As I have said many times, being an entrepreneur is a really difficult path to choose. Taking that leap of making something and sharing it with the world is a very vulnerable experience, and the possibility of failure haunts you every day. That being said, when you’re proud of your product, and when you start to hear positive feedback, and people are enjoying what you have made—it is an incredibly exhilarating experience, and it fuels you forward through the challenging moments. The high of making people happy and fulfilling a need are such wonderful feelings. [This drives] my passion and love for what I do.
E7: What is your one piece of advice to someone in your industry who’s just starting out?
AW: Like many product categories, the beauty industry is especially crowded. My advice to a new brand starting out today is to focus on differentiating yourself as much as you can. Whether it’s through your formulas, packaging, branding, or your social impact, you need to stand out to get noticed. With that, take the time to make your product really good. The temptation to rush just to get to market without ticking all the boxes will always be there. But if you want loyal customers, you need a good product. It’s all in the details.
E7: Do you practice a daily or regular ritual that you love?
AW: Recently, I have made it a priority to go for an hour walk every day. It gets me out of my office/bedroom and my head. Zoom calls and solitary working can be really draining. I have come to rely on a daily outing to refresh my brain, get some fresh air, and give my brain and eyes a rest.
E7: How do you stay balanced, organized, and motivated?
I wish I could say I was all those things! I have good days and bad days. While it’s still a work in progress, I really try to take time for myself during the workweek and weekends. Whether that means a 30-minute daily walk with my husband, time in the park with my daughter in the evening, or watching Netflix at night rather than answering all my unopened emails, I try to give myself breaks.
Our society tends to reward busyness. While my job necessitates living and breathing this business, I try to create boundaries and give myself permission to just take a moment for [myself]; it helps to avoid burnout. Lastly, I rely on a wonderful network of people who have supported me on [this] journey—my family, of course, my incredible advisory team, but also some fellow female founders, who I have had the pleasure of connecting with, in the last year. There is such a wonderful community of female founders in Toronto, and they are so supportive and inspiring. I have monthly check-ins with a few in particular, and it’s been a game-changer! We all bounce ideas and rant and commiserate—total therapy.
(Story by Editor-in-Chief, Gracie Carroll)