Aviva Kamler is a maven who mixed tech with cosmetics and got a wonderful app called SHELF. SHELF helps women not only organize their products but also helps them understand what is in them. In this interview, Aviva shares how she overcame the obstacles of creating something from scratch and how she built her business into the successful app it is now.
Location: San Francisco, CA
Occupation: CEO and Founder of SHELF Cosmetics
School: American University
Secretly obsessed With: any and all HGTV programs, original corn nuts, trx. and bosu workouts
On My Nightstand: my jewelry holder, my eye mask, fresh flowers (when I can), and my phone charger
Last Thing You Read: Outliers
How did you get started?
I always thought the idea to track your products would be really cool, and helpful, but when Apps started gaining popularity, I had this 'Aha' moment to create an app just for women and the various products we use. The idea to always be able to know what colors, brands, products you love when you’re out running errands is more efficient and saves you time and money. That initial spark is what got me started.
What's the next step for SHELF?
The next step is to let women all over the world know that SHELF exists and is an interactive, fun platform to virtually help women organize nail polish and cosmetic products while also having a deeper understanding of the chemicals and ingredients they contain. We want all makeup products to be cataloged on SHELF, so women can snap, scroll, share, and save their favorite cosmetics with one touch.
Tell us about your daily routine.
My daily routine:
6:00 Wake up, check my email, get ready
6:45 Go to babysitting
7-9:30 Babysitting the two sweetest girls
9:30-1 Check in with my team, Emails, Conference Calls, etc
at my local café
1-2:30 Go to the gym, de-stress
3-8: Strategic thinking, planning, working, etc
What key elements played into your success?
There are many different pieces that have led to the success we have seen thus far. Mostly we attribute our ‘success’ to working hard and truly being driven by our mission, to help women navigate the highly saturated cosmetic industry while easily accessing chemical information.
What’s the best piece of advice you received?
For my first pitch ever, my hands were shaking, note cards crumbled because of the number of times I had rehearsed. Right before we all entered the room, one of my peers, who founded an edtech nonprofit while still in College, and had been through various pitches, said, “Aviva, relax, you are the expert in your space/industry, you are teaching them, you know more than they ever will on nail polish and the beauty industry.” That piece of advice allowed me to realize that the months of research, deep learning and understanding, gave me a certain level of industry expertise. I was now the expert in the field merely sharing with them why they would be lucky to invest in my company; that moment was a game-changer for me.
What struggles did you face getting to this point?
I have faced various struggles in getting to this point: finding money, putting a team together, learning where to start, learning who to take advice from, learning who to trust. I have also experienced the countless nightmares that allow me to imagine SHELF failing in various ways, but with every new struggle, each previous struggle seems minute.
Who was the biggest influence in your professional life?
The biggest influences in my professional life have been my mother and father. A natural leader, intelligent, driven and kind, my mother possess so many of the wonderful and yet necessary qualities women need to be successful in any profession. I look up to my mother each and every day, and hope to embody all of these characteristics as I continue to grow, as a person and as a professional. My father is patient, team-oriented, and a leader by example. His constant effort to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and to be the first one in the office and last one out, has taught me that hard work, energy, and compassion goes a long way.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? When do you feel most successful?
I am most proud of conceptualizing an idea and getting it to market, or in this case the app store. I feel most successful after having a great team meeting or brainstorming session because these little successes and strides allow us to take further leaps.
What advice would you give to girls looking to enter your industry/space?
Don’t give up! Tech is hard, particularly coupled with an industry that males do not inherently understand or are the direct users. This makes it even more difficult to walk into a boardroom full of men, and explain the competition, confusion and oversaturation of the beauty market. My best piece of advice would be to have conviction in what you are doing, and keep going. There are always going to be a few people who do not understand nor believe in what you are doing. Make your case so convincing it is hard for them to turn away from… like showing that the beauty industry is the only industry that has maintained its margins for over 100 years and is now worth over $460 Billion!