How Mirror Exercises Helped Build a Million Dollar Brand
What happens when you combine a chemical engineer a business grad and the problem that high-quality natural skincare was too expensive? You get Three Ships! 100% natural and 100% affordable beauty products created by best friends and co-founders Laura Berget and Connie Lo.
Started with just $4000 and handmade formulations in Connie’s apartment kitchen Three Ships reached over a million in cumulative sales in two years and has been featured in Refinery29, POPSUGAR, ELLE, the social and more.
Learn from Connie and Laura’s the skin care product every woman needs, how they self-care to build a multi-million-dollar brand and the secrets of how friendship and entrepreneurship can go hand in hand.
As told to Ashley Johnson
How did Three Ships start?
Laura: It was actually born out of our own frustrations as consumers. Connie and I had just graduated from college. I had a degree in chemical engineering. She had a degree in business. And we were big natural beauty buffs at the time, loved trying new products and tinkering around in our own kitchens. I was trying to find a natural makeup remover based out of coconut oil because I was using normal coconut oil to remove my makeup, but couldn’t find anything more convenient and affordable.
That really is what drove Three Ships into being. It was this desire to create products that are effective, affordable, and also truly natural. So, we launched in March of 2017, around three years ago. At first it was just a side hustle for Connie. And then in September of last year—coming up on two years now is when we went full time with the business.
Connie: We were introduced by a mutual friend, and from the get go, we found that we got along so well. It’s not often that you can meet someone and in the first 30 minutes you’re like, I can just tell that I’m going to have some sort of special bond or relationship with this person. We are complete opposites, which works really well for a friendship, but also as business partners. We found that having someone who matches you in values, but then also is opposite in terms of skill set in really valuable, especially when you’re just like bootstrapping a business.
What is your favorite product that every woman should own?
Laura: If I had a favorite product, it would be our Purify Aloe + Amino Acid Cleanser. I just find it’s really, really lightweight. It doesn’t overly strip my skin and leave it feeling tight and dried out afterwards. And I’ve noticed a huge change in my skin personally after using that product. Those small, little tiny cogged pores have started to go away!
Connie: My favorite product is our Glow 49% Jojoba Oil Serum. It is our number one bestseller as well. It smells amazing, very citrusy and light and it’s kind of like aroma therapy in the morning when I put it on. And it acts as a natural makeup primer, which is something we learned from our customers.
What strategies do you use to build confidence in yourself and support yourself through challenging situations?
Connie: Something that I recently started doing, which one of my mentors recommended—is called the mirror exercise. At the end of the day, you look at yourself in the mirror and you have to really make direct eye contact with yourself.
It feels a little silly at first but you just kind of roll with that. You talk to yourself about what went really well that day and if you can also tie in how you contributed to those things. And in the very end you tell yourself, “I love you”. It's almost like talking to a friend. And I find that that really helps me with my confidence because I always felt like I had pretty low self-confidence and I didn’t feel the smartest. Through challenging situations, I would always beat myself up over the smallest things that went wrong. But after taking a step back to reflect on what went really well every day, you realize that you are a total boss and you can do things really well.
Laura: Yes, I do something similar, but in the mornings. So I’ll do words of affirmation in the mirror.
I’ve always lived by the philosophy that there’s nothing like a good pair of heels to make you feel really confident. I don’t know what it is, but I know that If I’m going to crush a meeting, I wear heels to it because it gives me that extra pep.
And another thing I do, if I’m feeling more down on myself is, literally just lie down on the couch or in bed and I’ll just lie down, close my eyes, and smile. And I find that it instantly puts me in a better mood just the act of smiling.
What is a daily, weekly, or monthly routine you do to manage stress and provide yourself with self care? And how much time do you spend on the item? How frequently do you do it?
Connie: This could literally be hours of conversation. I’ll try to condense it! Daily, in the morning, I try to do daily meditation. Lemon water in the morning is also amazing for self care. And, an almost daily workout. I spend around 45 minutes to an hour. I find that my daily workouts help me to release a lot of pent up stress.
Journaling has also been amazing for stress management. By putting your thoughts on paper, you’re able to solve some other things that might be stressing you out.
For monthly self-care, I used to do a little quarterly staycation somewhere that would really help to unwind and pretty much do a digital detox. Now, with the state of the world, I’m not able to travel, but I still continue to do a monthly digital detox where for one day of the weekend. I don’t use my phone and I don’t use my laptop. I allow myself to read and walk and do basic things like that, but I find that that disconnect, especially from social media, really helps me with my stress and self-care.
Laura: I’ve actually been dealing with a lot of stress lately, so I’ve worked to become a lot more structured with my mornings because those tend to be the most stressful times for me. I think a lot of us have the tendency to wake up and just instantly feel overwhelmed. It’s really common with people who have depression or anxiety. So, I’ve really made a point to create a structured start and end to my day.
This includes things like turning my phone on Do Not Disturb at night and focusing on a skincare routine. I was meditating in the morning before, and I’ve actually switched to doing it at night because I found that in the morning, I just ended up having lots of scrambled thoughts, thinking that I needed to get my day started. I couldn’t even enjoy the fifteen minutes. So, doing it at night has allowed me to relax much more into it.
And then weekly, I really like getting outside, I’m not much of a city person, so being in Toronto, I really tend to feel super claustrophobic. Getting out in some green space is really important to me to do every week.
And then chatting with my family as well. I usually talk to somebody over facetime every single day, whether it’s my boyfriend, my mom, my dad, my aunts and my cousin I’ve been speaking to a lot lately. I find that keeping in touch with people, even if it’s virtual, is really, really good for self-care.
What specific practice do you do to stay focused on your goals, to help your team, and move forward each day toward achieving those goals? And is there something you do daily, weekly, monthly, to stay organized and on track?
Connie: So the first thing I do is write down three things I want to achieve each month. For example, this month, my three habits are not having my phone next to my bed at night. So, I charge it by my kitchen counter. Writing in the morning is the second one and then mindful eating was a third one. I love to see progress bars, you know, check something off a list or shade in a box for my work goals. But like, from personal work goals, I use a productivity planner, which includes weekly and daily planning.
But for like overall team work goals, Laura and I have a Monday call where we talk about our weekly tasks and projects that we’re working on. And on Fridays, we have a retrospective where we review the big wins. I also love celebrating not just the big milestones, like the company’s birthday, but also little things like celebrating a social media manager’s 100th post. It’s the little things that often get overlooked.
I think that taking the time to recognize people for something that they might not think they would have been recognized for is really motivating. In the end, it has a huge empowering effect for them and really motivates them to continue pushing towards our team goals.
Laura: What I do personally—I’ve always been super goal oriented, just like Connie. We both always come up with goals for the year. And then I’ll refer back to that probably like once a month or so, give or take, just to see how I’m doing and to make sure that things aren’t dropping off. Daily, I’ll set what I call my power list, so it’s 5 things that I have to do in that day in order for the day to be considered done. And once I do those things, I can do whatever I want.
It's also really good to have an organized long-term to-do list so that things don’t fall off because you keep pushing them back to do later.
What decision process helps you most to balance work with the demands of having healthy relationships? How do you know when to stop working and focus on your loved ones?
Connie: It’s tough for me. Again, I’m very process driven. So, there was a period of time when we were hustling with Three Ships that I kind of completely dropped a lot of my friendships. And I realized over time that, that wasn’t healthy for me, and it was stressing me out to always be working. It took me a while to figure out how to juggle this and it’s helped to have two really in depth and long phone conversations with different friends every week. This gives us the chance to really connect on another level and understand what’s going on in each other’s lives and how we can help and to share things that are going on.
And then for my relationship with my significant other, we really try to block off days where we know we’ll have a date night or a date day. And I think during the lockdown, it’s almost even more critical because you can get so used to being comfortable with them. I live in, you know, 700 square foot apartment with my partner. And like, we see each other every single day. So having some time to reconnect on a more personal level is really important to how I manage work and relationships.
Going back to your question about how do you know when to stop working? During lockdown, I’ve realized that I need to set a schedule for myself to stop working. It’s really easy to lose track of time when you don’t get those social cues from the office that the day is done.
Laura: For me, I really try to have at least one really deep connection with a friend when I can. I might not see that person very often, sometimes only once a month, but that makes it feel more meaningful when we do get to catch up.
I don’t tend to have to struggle too much with knowing when to turn work off because I can tell when I’m starting to burn out. It becomes very obvious to me. I get really, really tired. My thoughts just never stop or turn off, which I think most entrepreneurs have to a certain degree. But it can kind of get to a point where it’s like unhealthy. I also make sure that I pay attention to my own body and wake up when I need to, rather than just waking up at 6am because it’s what some YouTube guru said I should do. I think it’s really important for people to listen to what really works for the morning person or bit of a night owl and not feel guilty.
Tell me about a time in your business where you failed and how did you move forward from this situation?
Connie: Well, we don’t really often use the term fail for something that we’ve done with work, and we don’t really have too many examples. One that I can think of has to do with an event we put on with one of our retailers where we were teaching customers how to make serum based on their needs.
During that time, we had someone work on our team in marketing who was really enthusiastic about event management. So, we let her take over the project and I took a step back because she was really excited about this. I didn’t want to be breathing down her back or anything.
But what ended up happening was the retailer said that they had gone back and forth and agreed to have the event run for an hour but that we didn’t provide enough information about the skincare. I really wanted more from that employee. As a result, the retailer no longer wanted to run events with us. And you know, it’s a small, small loss in the grand scheme of things.
And we did try to make amends, but it was something that I learned to be like, okay, even though you want to make sure that you’re empowering people and giving people autonomy when someone’s trying something for the first time, it’s good to have some oversight. And moving forward, we have a whole process for local events and we also run through everything that we’ll talk about in the discussion points and send that over to our retailers. It’s been a really great learning moment overall.
What is your favorite pair of Mohalas and how would you style them?
Laura: My favorite—and they’re all so beautiful, I love the concept. I wear four different shapes. I love Lana in Fireside Tortoise. And I just personally love anything that’s cat eye and a little oversized. It’s a classic. And that I find, that’s the best frame for my face type. I love oversized and they remind me of Audrey Hepburn, very chic, and that’s exactly how I’d style them now. Maybe with an oversized dress shirt that you can kind of wear as a dress with a little belt and those sunglasses with little booties. I think it’s really classic. But also effortless. And that’s how I’d describe a lot of what I wear, just chill.
Connie: Pikake in Amber Tortoise. I love that. It’s slightly feminine with nothing over the top. And I also have a longer face. So, these sorts of styles. I really like darker frames because I have really olive skin. Those look better than something that’s gold or super sparkly. And then in terms of how I would style it, I really love wearing like dresses or long skirts, especially in the summertime, because in Canada we really only get so many times a year that we can wear dresses and skirts without freezing. So, I really take advantage of that. I’d style this like a long maxi style skirt with some really cute sandal shoes and then a crop top.