How An Abusive Past Inspired My Ecommerce Beauty Business

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cat janisko
Team Size

Just me for now! 🙂

Revenue

Not Disclosed

Location

Philadelphia, US

STart Date

October 2019

Today my inspiring female entrepreneur is Cat Janisko, a founder and CEO of Catsy Lu Beauty.  Cat founded an eCommerce beauty business inspired by the importance of mental health with a mission to simplify the art of makeup and skincare through basic education. Cat is incredibly driven, an inspiration and has achieved a lot. It’s a story you don’t want to miss.

INTRODUCTION

PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND THE BUSINESS YOU STARTED.

Let me start from the beginning… If you’re starting a business or thinking of starting one, you’ll want to read this.

cat janisko ecommerce beautyIt all starts with my small-town roots. I was born and raised in Johnstown, PA, a city in Western Pennsylvania that sits about 70 miles East of Pittsburgh. Way back when, Johnstown quickly became known as a central hub for immigrants from Hungary to Italy to Poland and Slovakia; hence where my last name “Janisko” (originally spelled “Janiscko” in Slovakia) derives. I’m getting to a point with my history lesson, I promise! 

What my ancestors went through after they immigrated to my hometown in the 1800s was, for lack of better term, horrendous. Young and old worked highly-dangerous, physical jobs at barely-liveable pay. They were treated as peasants by the wealthy in surrounding affluent areas and were shown very-little-to-no respect for their consistent hard, grueling work day in and out. 

For those who aren’t familiar with Johnstown and its history (not that I expect you to be), it’s best known as “Flood City.” This nickname came after three major floods that resulted in severe damage to the face of Johnstown and its economy. Johnstown was the original Steel City (prior to that title going to Pittsburgh) and was well on its way to becoming the nation’s largest steel producer… 

Until the Great Flood of 1889 that killed over 2,000 people. It was the first, and most, devastating historical flood and is ranked as one of the top 10 natural disasters of the world. I still get teary-eyed when I watch the same flood documentary I’ve watched for decades and always feel a deep connection to the emotions members of my family from generations ago must have felt. 

Mind you, the Great Flood of 1889 happened because of wealthy members of a nearby hunting and fishing club, who improperly and ignorantly constructed a dam that eventually broke, thus killing thousands of innocent lives. Frustration doesn’t even begin to express the feelings I have towards the event, as it changed the dynamic of my hometown for centuries to come.

Because of my hometown’s history, people were forced to work harder in the decades to follow, with a lot of passion at that; just like their ancestors. My parents were those people. My siblings. My aunts and uncles. Myself. Johnstown has tried to rebuild itself ever since the damage the floods left behind (as if the Great Flood of 1889 weren’t enough, there were two more in 1936 and 1977), and, though it doesn’t house as many lucrative businesses of those in its past, the hard-working passion of its people has never strayed; At least these are my feelings.

Growing up, things were never handed to me on a silver platter. You can call me a “boomer,” Gen Z, but I take that as a compliment in this regard. When you have so many dedicated, genuinely passionate people around you growing up, you tend to become what you’re surrounded by. Fortunately, that was also the example of those in my family unit. My mom worked a nine to five job as a nurse at the local hospital while pursuing her Master’s Degree, all while parenting a 16, 12, and 5-year-old alongside my dad. That’s Superwoman status to me. 

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My dad worked full time as a lineman for the local phone company, which is a physically demanding job that he genuinely LOVED waking up to every day. This was a great example for me as a kid. His father, my grandfather, worked as a crane operator his entire life, and I feel that’s where my dad gets his handy, special talents. By trade, my dad is also a woodworker, just like his dad was. He’s helped build every house we’ve ever lived in with his own bare hands and, despite the frustrating moments, put a lot of love into the process. 

Family was, and has always been, a priority for my parents and those in my hometown… So has genuinely loving what you do in this life, and the beauty brand I’ve built is no exception. I’ll get to that in a minute. I’m so glad to have had the influence of hard work and passion growing up, as that mindset alone contributes to any success I’ve seen in my adult years.

In high school, I was heavily dedicated to the performing arts. My parents nearly had heart attacks when I came home one day from school and told them I’m quitting sports so I can focus on marching band, theatre and music. You would have thought Hell froze over. But, they eventually embraced the fact that I was different from my brother and sister, the ultra-talented athletes. I, on the other hand, found my place of acceptance in the band room and on stage.

Living in a small town meant studying in a small school, where everyone knew everyone’s business. I always compare it to the best-of-the-best, classic 80s films… Except, unlike Samantha Baker in Sixteen Candles, I was never cool enough to land my dream guy. Girls were mean, and, often, for no valid reason. 

I’ve always been creative, ever since I was a kid, so it was only natural for me to fall in love with the art of makeup in this time of my life. Every week, I would take the $20 my parents gave me for gas and use half of it (if not all of it… Sorry, Mom and Dad!) for makeup I purchased after raiding the aisles of Walmart for hours on end. 

I fell in love with the textures, the colors, and the confidence I felt while wearing them. It became a form of therapy for me. As a persistent rule-abider back then, I loved even more that there were no rules with makeup. It was an intensely creative outlet for me as a teenager that, eventually, became my superpower and upper hand against all of the people who made fun of me. From that moment on, I loved the way makeup made me feel, the compliments the art form warranted, and the confidence I gained. I feel the same way about makeup now than I did at 17.

As for my college years, I started my journey in Nashville, TN, where studied vocal Jazz performance for a brief two years. Eventually, I learned that, though music will forever run through my veins and Nashville will always hold a special place in my heart, I needed to make the switch to something I was still passionate about that offered more stability. 

So, I moved back to my roots to study Broadcast Journalism at Penn State and graduated in 2013. It was, hands down, one of the best educational decisions I could have made for myself. If you’ve never been to Penn State Main Campus, please go. And, have a Bar Bleu fishbowl on me!

Shortly after graduating, I moved to upstate New York (can you tell I love to move?) to work as a television news anchor and reporter, which gave me the opportunity to connect with the community around me every day. That was, by far, my favorite part of the job because I’ve always loved helping people and sharing their stories. We all have a story to tell, and I find people so genuinely fascinating, which made for an amazing experience.

After working in TV news, I was given the opportunity to present on Live national television for a major electronics brand at America’s number one home shopping network. It was an experience I couldn’t pass up, so I moved to the Greater Philadelphia area with absolutely no regrets. This experience awarded me a new, uncharted challenge in life, and I loved it.

During this time, behind the scenes, I was (barely) navigating the waves of my personal life in an emotionally abusive relationship. Eventually, every day turned into a living nightmare that launched me into the most severe depression of my adult life. Each venture I attempted to take on individually, for the sake of my happiness, was vetoed by the very human being who was supposed to, by all rights, support and love me to the fullest. 

This person’s insecurities resulted in many missed opportunities and, worse yet, me completely losing my sense of self and even one of my best friends. It’s one feeling to lose a loved one, which is difficult enough. But, to lose YOU is a new level of sadness and confusion. I felt lifeless. On a daily basis, this person routinely lectured me on how worthless and unattractive I was; how I had no ability to “properly” communicate with people around me. And, after so much mental conditioning, I started to believe him. I had to do something to lift myself back up again, as impossible as it seemed at the time.

That’s when I launched a beauty blog called Catsy Lu Beauty, inspired by the timeless beauty of my grandmothers Catherine (Catsy) and Lucille (Lu), both of who I’m named after. I desperately needed a positive distraction, so I started getting back into the creative artistry of makeup and, thus, felt a familiar confidence to that of my high school years. It wasn’t long after the launch of my beauty blog that I left the abusive relationship I was in for good and never looked back. 

Makeup saved me from a terrible situation. It gave me the courage to leave and start anew, and I wanted as many people around me going through similar experiences to feel the same liberation and confidence through beautiful, quality products. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough to make that happen through my blog alone.

In October 2019, I turned my blog, Catsy Lu Beauty, into an e-commerce business, which has become a source of soul enrichment that I can’t even begin to describe in words. Of course, the name is inspired by family, which is so special to me. But, my mission of mental health awareness is what truly drives me every day in getting Catsy Lu on the map and comes from a deeply personal place. 

Because of my passion for people, my favorite part of what I do in business is those I get to interact with and help every day. The Catsy Lu community (AKA – Catsy Luties) is full of the most kind-hearted, wonderful humans. That, alone, keeps me humble and makes this opportunity from the universe worthwhile. 

Without these special people, I don’t think I would have the right level of motivation, patience, and gratitude to carry on each day. Though Catsy Lu is all of six months old, I feel, deep in my soul, it will one day become something bigger than I can conceptualize in the present day; all because of the small-town heart and goodness behind it. We carry powerful, good-for-you products with an even more powerful message, and the reward of my position as CEO and founder of Catsy Lu will forever outweigh the risk.

WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE AND HOW DO YOU STAY PRODUCTIVE?

A typical day in the life as the CEO of Catsy Lu Beauty is a ton of fun because I make it that way. This, to me, is the best part of starting your own empire.

Every morning, after brushing my teeth and doing my simple skincare routine, I turn on whatever music genre I’m feeling that day (it’s usually Motown because it’s an instant mood boost) and pour myself a cold brew coffee over ice (with cream and a couple drops of Stevia in case you were wondering). Yep, I know. I’m basic! It is what it is. Between Motown and the caffeine dream that is coffee, I am completely in the creative zone.

Each day involves a very intentional set of social media updates on all platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tik Tok, etc.) and growing the Catsy Lu community, which is of the utmost importance. Creating quality social content is usually done in the evening hours of the day, but, sometimes, that varies. Most recently, Pinterest has become a big focus of improvement as have email campaigns. I also reserve plenty of time for relationship building on social media and making sure Catsy Lu followers have a shoulder to lean on, as mental health is the focus of the brand.

Outside of social media, research and analytics are huge. Whether it’s watching makeup videos, reading about the latest trends in beauty, learning more ways to improve mental health, or looking for new-and-improved packaging ideas, I am *constantly* educating myself and constantly keeping tabs on Catsy Lu social analytics.

Because I run and operate 100% of the business on my own, a lot of my day involves tracking and packaging customer orders from catsylu.com and connecting with micro-influencers on social platforms for Catsy Lu promotions.

If need be, I work with my amazing graphic designer for new website additions and any graphic-demanding work. I also have pop-up opportunities in the works, which I’m so excited about! Stay tuned!

In addition to coffee and music, personal health also keeps me motivated. I, very unintentionally, intermittently fast, and I swear by it if you’re looking for new ways to focus.  I don’t know how it works, but it does! When things wind down in the evening hours, I occasionally pour myself a cup of sleep-inducing tea (seriously works) and listen to a hypnotherapy sleep meditation on YouTube from my phone that sits on my nightstand. From someone who normally takes 20 minutes to fall asleep at night, this is a miracle solution. You’ll be out in five every time!

ecommerce beauty Catsy Lu Beauty

THE JOURNEY SO FAR

PLEASE DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF LAUNCHING YOUR BUSINESS.

Catsy Lu Beauty e-commerce launched in October 2019, but, before that, it was never intended to! I actually was working on opening my own brick and mortar store in a small borough of Southeastern PA, which ended up falling through, but I believe for the better! 

I had a business plan centralized around brick and mortar and planned on housing major, high-end skincare and beauty brands that I was in discussion with at the time. Having my own cosmetics line and e-commerce biz was an afterthought/down-the-line venture in the overall plan. But, in hindsight, I’m so glad the universe worked it out this way because there’s virtually no overhead in e-commerce, and I can work my business from anywhere in the world.

The inspiration for the name “Catsy Lu Beauty” comes from my own name, which is inspired by my grandmothers, Catherine (who was known as Catsy) and Lucille (called Lu for short). The message and mission behind Catsy Lu comes from an abusive relationship I was in years prior (see story question #1) that I know so many can, sadly, relate to.

Because I already had a solid business plan developed for brick and mortar, I definitely had to make a lot of changes to the model and vision when transitioning to e-commerce. But, I wouldn’t say I started from scratch for that reason alone. However, prior to launching Catsy Lu, I never had experience in running a business solely on my own, so it’s been a tremendous growth opportunity in which I am over-the-top grateful. 

I started investing in Catsy Lu back when Catsy Lu was a blog. It was then I met my now graphic designer, Vic, who is an absolutely amazing talent. I hired and worked with Vic on Catsy Lu logos, branding, and overall vision for the blog site. Some of those visions were carried over, but we’ve made a lot of branding and design changes from blog to business. 


It’s been such a fun part of the creative process, and I love supporting a fellow female-run business through Vic’s beautiful work. She captured the essence and vision of Catsy Lu as a brand perfectly. Vic’s work has been one of the most well-worth-it investments I’ve made.

Outside of my investment in graphic design and website design, the bulk of my investment definitely comes from product itself. Because Catsy Lu products are manufactured in the USA and are packed with quality ingredients, they are, of course, more expensive than if I were to go through a warehouse in China. I know a lot of big brands that manufacture products in foreign warehouses, in turn, putting a tube of lipstick on the market for $10 vs. $30. The price looks nice, but the quality is severely sacrificed and the ingredients are questionable at best. I refused to go this direction with Catsy Lu because I knew I wanted high-end, quality, USA-manufactured formulas from the get-go.

I keep an open mind in life and in business, so I, naturally, did take into consideration the idea of a partnership. However, the more I looked into it, the more I realized I’m better off running the show solo, at least for now.

ecommerce beauty
Catsy Lu Beauty Launch Party

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT AND YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE SINCE YOU STARTED YOUR BUSINESS?

Biggest Achievement: Simply starting was, by far, my greatest achievement. There were so many personal and financial fears that played a role in me almost not launching my brand.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome is hard to say because there were (and still are) several. Frankly, there always will be. I’m still new to the world of online advertising but, have since, enlisted reputable help where help is due. It’s been somewhat of a challenge because it requires A LOT of patience. But, I love working with and learning from people who know what’s up.

WHAT STRATEGY DID YOU USE TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS? AND HOW?

There’s a lot of strategy that goes into the growth aspect of Catsy Lu Beauty, but one area I’ve heavily focused on (because of the past experience I have) is brand building by way of social marketing. I can contribute a lot to these areas strategically and creatively due to past work experience; Therefore, it makes sense that it’s my focus. It also, analytically speaking, brings in the most traffic to catsylu.com.

I actually don’t believe in setting sales goals because I find them to be counterproductive, at least in this stage of the game. That’s not to say I don’t write any goals down on paper, but those that I do make note of revolve around brand building, product development, and relationship building; not necessarily numbers.

Catsy Lu Beauty ecommerce

WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF BUSINESS?

Catsy Lu is growing in every way I want it to right now. It’s not a multi-million dollar brand at the moment, but, I believe one day, it will be. I live and breathe my business and this brand, and I have every intention of seeing Catsy Lu products on an elevated, global platform.

The immediate goal is to continue growing the Catsy Lu community, both on and offline. It takes patience, desire, innovation, and gratitude, all of which play a major role in running this business.

Because I’m a huge fan of teamwork and the idea that two brains are better than one, I might look into hiring a social media intern in the future for a different perspective. If I’m the CEO, so are those I hire. I’m not better or smarter than you, and I’d be grateful to work for, and with, any brilliant mind I hire down the line. There is no seniority at Catsy Lu, only support.

RECOMMENDATIONS & FINAL THOUGHTS

PLEASE RECOMMEND ANY RESOURCES AND TOOLS THAT YOU USE TO RUN YOUR BUSINESS.

Shopify for e-commerce,
ActiveCampaign/MailChimp for email marketing,
Google SEO tools,
YouTube for research.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE BOOKS, BLOGS OR PODCASTS? 

PODCASTS
Anything Gary Vaynerchuck – He’s got the right attitude and mindset about quite literally everything
The Dave Ramsey Podcast for sound, research-backed financial advice
Goal digger Podcast with Jenna Kutcher
The Ed Mylett Show
Phil in the Blanks Podcast – Because I love Dr. Phil
Real Magic Podcast with Ezra Firestone
The Tony Robbins Podcast

BOOKS
Get Over Your Damn Self: The No-BS Blueprint to Building a Life-Changing Business” by Romi Neustadt
Whispers from My Heart: Learning to Quiet the Noise” by Tony Garcia – AKA, My Life Bible

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER WOMEN WHO WANT TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?

 

Do it, but do it with DESIRE! Make sure you can answer very clearly how you want to help people. Because, at the end of the day, your business isn’t about you. It’s about what you can do for people.

If the desire isn’t there, it’s never going to work, and you’ll lose a lot of money on something that was just an idea without any sort of plan. I’m not saying everything needs to be planned from A to Z because things always change as your business grows, but, without desire, intention, and the fire to HELP others, your business is just an idea.

Also, do NOT run from an idea or opportunity because you think it’s already been done. It most likely *has* been done already. But, it hasn’t been executed by YOU. Embrace that your story and the way you execute will be unlike any other, and run with it.

I lived for free advice when I started and still do, so, if you’re looking to start an empire of your own, text me at 267-521-1464. I’m glad to help in any way I can!

WHAT BUSINESS IDEA DO YOU HAVE THAT YOU ARE WILLING TO SHARE WITH OTHERS? 

I would love an inexpensive, all-in-one machine that does a simple makeup application without any of the leg (or arm in this case) work. Literally pop your face into a box, and let the magic unfold as you sit in place, never moving a muscle.

Even though I prefer the control of traditional/manual makeup application, I still think this would be something cool and futuristic to see. If this exists, let me know where I can buy it!

Violeta Semenova

Violeta Semenova
Founder
theBizLadies

Welcome to the Biz Ladies interview series!

If you’re new to these series, I interview women entrepreneurs on how they started their business, what was the idea behind it, how they got where they are, the struggles, the reality and more.

By sharing their stories, we want to inspire other women to get started.

If you are interested to share your own story on the Biz Ladies LET ME KNOW!