Cynthia Rowley CEO left her job to start a business during the pandemic: It was 'personally and professionally quite risky'

"I raised my first round of capital when I was eight, nine months pregnant."

I left my corporate job to start a million-dollar skincare business

Shortly after the pandemic hit, Allie Egan took a leap of faith: She left her full-time job as CEO at women's apparel company Cynthia Rowley to launch her own business with $30,000 she'd saved. It was a bold move to make during a time of economic uncertainty, especially because while Egan had a unique business idea for a skin care and health testing company, she didn't yet know what its product would be.

Today, her company, Veracity, offers an at-home hormone test kit to measure five key hormones and PH; customers receive personalized skin care recommendations of hormone-disruptor-free products. The company's medical advisory team also offers resources to treat the root health cause of a skin issue.

Leaving her full-time job at an established company during a pandemic to launch a new endeavor was, as Egan puts it, "personally and professionally quite risky." But having a strong personal alignment to Veracity's mission made those risks she was comfortable taking.

Here's how Egan turned her dream of a skin care company into a reality.

'I was doing all the things' for skin and health improvement — without results

It all started with dry skin. While she was a Harvard MBA student in 2014, Egan noticed dry, flaky patches on her face. Egan then spent years trying "everything you could imagine" to resolve the condition. She visited a dermatologist. She changed her diet. She tried new skin care products — even leveraging her career stops at Estee Lauder-owned skin care brands including Clinique and La Mer.

Nothing worked. 

She didn't find the root cause of her dry patches until 2017, when "something [she] thought was completely unrelated" happened: fertility issues. Routine testing indicated Egan had a thyroid problem called Hashimoto's disease. One of the autoimmune disorder's tell-tale signs is dry, flaky skin patches.

It was her first "aha" moment: "I was doing all the things you think you should do to be able to get your best skin, figure out your health, all these things — and I wasn't" getting results, says Egan. "I didn't get answers, and it had repercussions not only for, you know, my face, but also for my broader health." 

Egan knew she wasn't alone in starting a personal health journey based on a change she observed in the mirror. Armed with that seed of a business idea, she reached out to dermatologists, obstetricians, endocrinologists, and other doctors to see if there was a way to connect diagnostic tests to beauty and skin care. 

Pandemic lockdowns created business challenges

Despite the onset of the pandemic, Egan was determined to see through her plans to start Veracity. She left her role at Cynthia Rowley in March 2020.

She initially invested $30,000 in her fledgling idea because she didn't know what the product would be. Her earlier conversations with physicians and customer research provided enough "proof points" and insight to raise money and create a product.

Egan knew going into the already crowded market of skin care and beauty wouldn't be easy. Pandemic lockdowns created new challenges, including supply chain problems. Conducting product meetings via Zoom meant shipping multiple samples to her team, adding to costs and complicating logistics. 

But lockdown also allowed Egan to continue working while pregnant: "I raised my first round of capital when I was eight, nine months pregnant and I don't think I would have been able to do that had I been having to run around town to 50 different meetings."

By August 2020, Egan and her team raised $900,000 in pre-seed funding, or funding used to get businesses off the ground. In Veracity's first round of seed funding in June 2021, it raised $5 million. Veracity began selling its hormone test in February and new skin care products in June. 

I raised my first round of capital when I was eight, nine months pregnant and I don't think I would have been able to do that had I been having to run around town to 50 different meetings.
Allie Egan
Founder and CEO of Veracity

Leaping without a backup plan

The skin and health test Veracity created is something Egan wished she had back in business school. She is, in a way, proof of concept: Once she started treatment for Hashimoto's disease, the root causes of her dry patches, the patches never came back. 

Still, leaving a job as a successful CEO to launch a new company during a pandemic isn't easy. Egan didn't have a backup plan, if Veracity didn't succeed.

Still, her experiences at several different businesses, some thriving and others declining, taught her that companies can fail for many reasons. She knew what warning signs to watch out for: "For me it was to give myself enough time to say, 'Is this going to work?' and measure early signs along the way to say, 'Yeah, I'm still doing the right thing.'"

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