Executive Q&A: Leila Kashani Manshoory

The inventor of a unique portable razor, Sphynx CEO Leila Kashani Manshoory aims to make shaving a little more convenient for busy women everywhere.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and forget to do part of your morning routine–such as shaving. Leila Kashani Manshoory, the CEO and founder of Sphynx, recognized that she wasn’t the only woman with this problem, so she created a three-in-one portable razor with a built-in spray bottle and a pre-shave bar as the perfect solution for shaving on the go.

While developing the razor, Manshoory gave some prototypes to friends, and one landed in the hands of a buyer at Ulta Beauty. On April Fools’ Day, Manshoory got an email from Ulta asking for a meeting, which she at first thought was a prank. “Ulta ordered the product and I started the assembly of packaging in my living room,” she says. One year later, Manshoory’s company has 10 full-time employees and her products are available across the country in stores like Sally Beauty, Riley Rose, Forever 21 and over 200 more. We sat down with Manshoory to talk about how it all started and the future of Sphynx.

Beauty Store Business: How did you enter the beauty industry?
Leila Kashani Manshoory: To be honest, I got into the beauty industry by accident. I was creating concepts for a toy company, and many were becoming top-performing products. One day, my husband said to me, “You need to create your own products and go into business for yourself!” I couldn’t get that out of my head. That very morning, I had a huge meeting with the folks from Target to pitch some new ideas. The day was crazy and during my high-pressure presentation, I realized none of the buyers were listening to me anymore–they were literally staring at my unshaven armpits! Of course, as I had done many times before in my life, I had forgotten to shave. I played it off with the buyers and made a joke about being so busy prepping for the meeting that I had forgotten to shave. They laughed, the presentation went great, and I went home that night and started prototyping an on-the-go razor concept. I also started asking around to friends and family to see if this was a problem others had–and it was. The idea was born; the Sphynx became a reality.

What inspired you to create the Sphynx razor and when was the brand founded?
It really came down to a very basic solution to a common problem–sometimes you just need a razor when you least expect it. Countless situations in my life have led to the creation of this product. I can remember back when I was 16, at the beach, and realized I missed a whole patch of hair on my legs (mortifying for my teen self)! As it turns out, I’m not the only one who could use a razor anytime, anywhere. Once I realized that other people wanted an on-the-go razor, bringing it to market made total sense. By far, my favorite part of creating the Sphynx portable razor is the way it has made peoples’ lives a little easier. Hearing “finally” or “where has this been all my life?” is the best validation for me.

What was the formulation process like?
The honest answer? Long and hard. In terms of the shea butter bar, finding a formula that wouldn’t melt in the sun, you can leave on your skin, isn’t sticky and won’t clog the blades took me almost a year. Testing and prototyping was long and hard. Every little detail on the Sphynx razor was thought through. From the click when it snaps into place, to the holes on the side of the product to let it breathe and the material type of the razor, all were carefully thought out and reworked until absolutely perfect.

How is the Sphynx razor unlike anything else on the market?
The design for sure is a key factor. I wanted it to be fun and cute to show off, not something we needed to hide in our bag. It’s also the first razor to include everything you need to shave on the go, in one package: Water, pre-shave bar and a blade (and even a back up blade in case you don’t have a chance to clean the first one).

What are some of your goals for the company?
We are excited to launch more items for the girl on the go, making life more convenient. All of our products will help ladies achieve more freedom and comfort for a more efficient, fun-filled life. We’re all about easy-to-use, compact, discreet and portable products. We strive to sim- plify life’s stresses and provide security and freedom for all women.

“By far, my favorite part of creating the Sphynx portable razor is the way it has made peoples’ lives a little easier.”

Describe the Sphynx customer.
The Sphynx customer is the girl on the go who is always ready to tackle her day head on. She is someone who is confident, social and very creative. The Sphynx girl is young, optimistic and comfortable in her own skin. Her bold personality along with her powerful aura of confidence is inspiring not only to her self but to those around her. ... She loves her body and encourages others to! She loves to live in the moment and make as many memories as she can. The Sphynx girl loves to travel, hang out with her friends and is all about the things that make her life (and skin), go smoothly!

Tell me about being a “SHE-EO” and what that means to you.
SHE-EO is a title I gave myself to empower myself to be bold, be smart and be a leader everyone can look up to. Being a woman business owner has its challenges, but also gives me the unique opportunity to be a role model for the young women on our team and teach them that hard work isn’t so hard when you are having a blast doing the work. I love being a CEO, even when the time and energy needed to drive a business can be exhausting–especially now as I am pregnant with my first child, so energy is hard to find. But doing what you love makes it all worth it and helps me stay motivated even on days when I need a nap!

What can fans of the brand expect to see in 2018?
New colors, new patterns, collaborations and new product launches. Lots of fun to come!

What have been some of the highlights during your time as a CEO?
When we get in a new retail store we started doing this thing where I make the team stand up and we do the hokey pokey. I’m for sure still a kid inside. That April Fools’ email from Ulta will go down in history for me. My favorite part for sure is building within. I love when I get the chance to promote someone from the team; it’s really the best feeling.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
I’m easygoing–sometimes too easygoing. I’ve put too much trust into manufacturers and team members too early. As a manager, it’s a fine balance between empowering your staff and suppliers and still being involved in every detail, and I’m still learning it.

What advice would you give to beauty entrepreneurs?
Test your product on all skin types. Testing is one of the most important parts. What works on your skin might not work on someone else’s. Also, some days will be really hard. But at the end of the day, go to bed remembering something you have gratitude for. I remember a really hard time when things just weren’t working. My husband had to pull me out of bed every day because things were getting so hard. I was focusing so much on what wasn’t working, rather than what was. So now every night, I tell my husband before I go to bed one to two exciting things that happened that day–even if all I can think of is the office dog did something funny.

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