A former Amazon exec who just raised $4 million for her algorithmic beauty startup explains exactly how she knew it was time to pursue her business idea

jaleh bisharat

  • If you can’t stop thinking about your business idea, that’s a good sign that you should pursue it.
  • That’s according to Jaleh Bisharat, founder and CEO of the clean beauty brand NakedPoppy. She previously worked in marketing at Amazon, Eventbrite, and OpenTable.
  • NakedPoppy also solved a problem that Bisharat had personally experienced: finding clean makeup products.
  • Click here for more BI Prime content.

Jaleh Bisharat never planned to start a company.

For over 25 years, she held executive roles at big-name organizations like Eventbrite and OpenTable. She was vice president of marketing at Amazon in the late 1990s.

But today, Bisharat is the cofounder and CEO of the clean beauty platform NakedPoppy, which makes it easier to find safe, sustainable beauty products, all algorithmically matched to your precise skin tone.

She and her cofounder, Kimberly Shenk, a data scientist and former Eventbrite colleague who has served in the US Air Force, closed a $4.1 million seed round, which they announced in July. The founders just released their first branded product, Naked Poppy Clean Liquid Eyeliner, in addition to the roughly 400 other products they offer on their site.

It didn’t occur to Bisharat until 2016, after she’d left Eventbrite and was considering her next move, that she wanted to launch a clean beauty brand, featuring sustainable makeup products without harmful chemicals. “Where was nothing I wanted to work on more, even though I knew that it’s really a lot of work to create a company out of thin air,” she said.

From there, the decision to build the company was simple, she told Business Insider. Bisharat relied on the same signs that have guided many successful entrepreneurs before her: She kept thinking about her business plan and it was the perfect way to combine her personal and professional experiences.

“I couldn’t let go of the idea,” Bisharat said. “And I knew that meant something.”

Bisharat zeroed in on the intersection of her personal interests and professional experience

Bisharat’s idea for a clean beauty brand stemmed from her own struggles. She’d been using clean makeup and skincare products — “crunchy granola makeup brands,” she called them in a blog post — for years already, but they weren’t always easy to find. “NakedPoppy happened because of a real problem that, for me, had not been solved,” she said. 

And at that point in her career, Bisharat was well positioned to tackle the challenge. “NakedPoppy really is the intersection of my personal passion for clean beauty, for a more healthful way of living, with my professional background in e-commerce, technology, and brand building,” she said.

Bisharat and Shenk created NakedPoppy to make the process of picking out makeup less time-consuming, and less overwhelming. To that end, customers fill out a questionnaire and send in a photo of their wrist, so an algorithm can find makeup that suits their skin tone. (There’s also the option to choose products for yourself.)

Read more: The ultimate guide to figuring out how (and if) you should start your own company

NakedPoppy is designed to solve the problem Bisharat experienced for years

All NakedPoppy products are designed to have minimal environmental impact and have been vetted by scientists to have skin-safe ingredients. And the company has a patent pending on the online assessment that helps customers find flattering beauty products.

“NakedPoppy combines the highest standard for clean beauty with the curated personalized shopping experience that delivers recommendations like we’ve never seen before,” Victoria Treyger, general partner at Felicis Ventures, which participated in the round, said in a statement.

If you can’t get away from the idea, get going on the idea.

NakedPoppy’s origin story recalls advice from Liz Wessel, founder and CEO of WayUp, which is a job platform for college students and early-stage professionals. Wessel previously told Business Insider, “If you can’t do a good job at your job anymore because you’re spending all of your time thinking about another job opportunity” — including being the founder of your own startup — “that’s probably a good sign.”

The fact that Bisharat has a personal connection to NakedPoppy may also bode well for the company’s success. Some entrepreneurs think that founders who have firsthand experience with the problem they’re trying to solve are more successful.

As Hint founder and CEO Kara Goldin previously told Business Insider, it’s a question of stamina. “You start to lose interest if it isn’t something that you really see is truly solving a problem for yourself or someone you really love.”

Bisharat said it helped that she’d found an ideal cofounder in Shenk. It was that combination, Bisharat said, of obsessing over the business idea and “feeling like I had a cofounder and a partner in this that I knew would make it succeed.”

SEE ALSO: The first-time founder’s ultimate guide to pitching a VC

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Slack and Flickr, says 2 beliefs have brought him the greatest success in life