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How to Build a Company Where People Actually Want to Work (2023)

Usually, the reaction to face blemishes is to cover them up or make them disappear. Starface went against the grain, building a successful business that aims to highlight imperfections, not hide them. The brand’s popular star-shaped acne treatment patches make a fashion statement on the faces of customers everywhere. 

Since launching in 2019, Starface has sold more than 77 million acne stars to date. That’s 49 sold every minute! One of the ways the brand scaled so quickly is through partnerships with properties like Hello Kitty and SpongeBob SquarePants, allowing Starface to reach new customers and change their skin care attitudes. 

Kara Brothers, president of Starface, shares how these incredible partnerships came to be, and how integral team culture and positive work environment are to the company’s success.

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Defining communications styles and tools 

Kara was the seventh employee to join the team, and at the time, Starface had already found product-market fit, but the company was still missing something. 

A model poses with two blue hydro-stars + salicylic acid.
Starface’s core product—star-shaped acne patches—found its audience among bold, fashionable young people. Starface

The internal organization was so new and fresh, Kara explains, that it was her responsibility to define the company’s communication styles. “What that means was bringing out some very bare bones communications practices, so things like all-hands [meetings], Slack, Dropbox, and Google Drive,” Kara says. 

Her overall priority was clear from day one—to organize a set of systems to make everyone’s job a little bit easier. 

Hiring intentionally 

Finding people with strong communication skills is vital to the continued success of Starface. Kara has found it best to hire slowly and intentionally, with your company’s values top of mind. 

Kara asks a lot of tough questions during the hiring process to ensure she’s selecting the best candidate for the job: How do you manage teams? How do you like to be managed? How do you work well with peers? How do you work through disagreements?

This intentionality results in her employees staying with her for longer periods of time, and reaching their goals quicker and with less stress. 

Hydro-Stars + Big Yellow box open, next to a Hydro-Stars + Big Yellow box closed.
Big Yellow acts as a character for the brand and plays into its marketing and social media content when creating assets for new campaigns. Starface

Embracing transparency 

In many workplaces, it’s common for staff to guess what their leaders and peers are thinking, and what their goals are. This adds a lot of unnecessary anxiety. 

Kara leads with transparency so people can feel at peace and understand what’s being asked of them at all times. “As much as possible I try to speak the truth and the facts as they stand today, reiterate goals, explain why certain decisions are made, where we need to be, where we aren’t right now, and that helps provide context for a lot of the decisions,” Kara says. 

When her team is on the same page as her, they feel better—and ultimately perform better too. 

Black star pimple patches floating in front of a rainbow background, surrounded by large and small hydro-stars in black.
Starface diversifies its product offering to reach a wider audience. The dressy black star pimple patches are marketed as an accessory for a night out on the town. Starface

Having a clear vision others can follow 

Approachability and playfulness are two of Starface’s core values that determine the right partnerships for the brand. “You can’t get a more iconic character who exudes those same values as Hello Kitty,” Kara says. Because of this alignment, the process to create a product with Hello Kitty parent company Sanrio was a huge success.

Baby star Hello Kitty compacts with four acne patches inside laying in rows side by side, with some open and some closed.
The Hello Kitty collaboration featured the iconic Sanrio character with stars for eyes to represent the Starface brand. Starface

“To have a clear vision, it takes a lot of daily intentionality even going into specific projects or meetings, [so you can] keep your core values in mind,” Kara says. But the payoff is worth it every time. Because the Starface community loved the Hello Kitty collaboration, the team was inspired to partner with other playful characters, like those from Sesame Street.

Asking for support in order to lead fearlessly

Kara doesn’t shy away from asking for help. “Whether it’s paid help through career coaches or reaching out to someone I admire on LinkedIn, building that community of people who are there for [me] has been really helpful,” Kara says. 

In order to lead the company as best she can, Kara continues to dedicate her time to furthering her leadership skills and learning new techniques from other successful entrepreneurs she admires. 

Creating a product that stands out is amazing, but giving your team the tools to market and sell your products can be the thing that takes your business to the next level. No company can thrive without a healthy and happy team of employees. And, finding ways to grow as a leader and a collaborator will help you not only grow and expand your brand awareness over time, but also generate more sales and revenue. 

Listen to the full Shopify Masters episode to discover more details on Kara’s team-building strategies, and different ways you can guide your company to success.

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