Bassima Mroue is the CEO and co-founder of SkinTē, the first-ever collagen sparkling tea positioned at the intersection of beauty, food and wellness.
Lebanese-American, Bassima grew up in West Africa before moving to Canada then the US. Working at a variety of companies, including most recently at Nike and Spanx, Bassima always had incredible drive and a true entrepreneurial spirit.
It took a personal health scare for her to discover the benefits of collagen, and that in turn led her to meet her two co-founders, Amy and Elizabeth. Together they launched SkinTē and haven’t looked back!
Our Founder, Emma, had the pleasure to speak to Bassima about her entrepreneurial journey, about overcoming challenges along the way and about her commitment to self-care.
Talk to us about SkinTē
SkinTē started with three female founders and we were all in transition. It was really those tough moments that brought us together.
I was at Nike and towards the last few years, not many people know, but my body was breaking down and I ended up with stage 4 endometriosis and I also needed to get back surgery, so I just walked out even though I had a great career at Nike.
It was interesting because I decided to do nothing but focus on my health and have the surgery and that’s when I discovered the power of collagen and what it can do for you, as my surgeon recommended it.
That leads me to Doctor Amy Bader, who's my naturopathic doctor. She was newly divorced and trying to up her game and age more gracefully, so she was also consuming collagen.
And the third partner, Elizabeth, has a very tragic story as her daughter passed at 2 years old.
It was very big healing time for all three of us. I walked into Dr Bader's office and was talking about how amazing collagen had been for me, but that I wanted better options that were more fun or easy to consume, as there’s only so much white powder or bone broth you can consume in a day. Amy said that she and Elizabeth had been combining collagen with teas and herbs. She wanted to give me the recipes so I could make it, but I said, there’s no way, “can you make it and I’ll buy it?”
It ended up with me offering to put together a business plan pro-bono, but they wanted the three of us involved, saying if they were going to do anything it would need to be the three of us women.
So that’s the story, really, about three women in transition coming together!
How do you define yourself?
I’m a true global citizen, and that’s what grounds me. I grew up in West Africa and Canada and I’m Lebanese by origin and definitely entrepreneurial. I come from a family of hustlers. We weren’t privileged and my parents were very poor so entrepreneurship has been embedded in me since a young age.
What's your greatest accomplishment? What are you most proud of?
I would say that I’m most proud of the relationships I’ve built over the years. Nurturing those relationships without expectations has been unbelievable. The result is that I feel really proud of my network, and I feel I’ve earned it rather than being born into it. I’m also most proud of my resilience and ability to adapt. Having health issues and going from corporate to entrepreneurship, is what I’m really proud of.
The reason I say that I haven’t achieved my greatest accomplishment yet, is because I’ve always been purpose driven. I love making money, but to me the money doesn’t matter if I don’t have a purpose. Learning from Richard Branson and Sara Blakely I’ve realized that I can do both. I’ve always had it in my mind that I would have some sort of impact that’s structural, and by that I mean it’s some kind of model, put together globally that has an impact on how people work together and collaborate. I think one of my biggest strengths is to get people to collaborate, so I don’t know what that is quite yet.
Through SkinTē we talk about our mission as unleashing health and beauty from the inside out and that’s a true mission for me around wellness, but how do you take that mission to create truly global impact? That’s what I’m thinking about and that’s what’s still to come!
How do you express love to others?
I think the biggest way people feel loved by me is my compassion. I’m really good at having empathy which I think feeds into being a 'global citizen' piece. I’ve experienced so many things in so many different forms that I can have compassion for someone whatever they are going through. I think one of my biggest strengths is being able to see their potential, in a way that they don’t see themselves.
How did you overcome obstacles in the past to get to where you are today?
I grew up in West Africa where I was confronted by the gap between rich and poor very early on and I saw my parents go from being really poor, with no education, to being self-made and giving back so much to their kids. I’m always channeling their struggles. I also came from a war-torn country. So Lebanon had 15 years of civil war, but the Lebanese break down and they build back up. I think there’s a resilience that comes from that global experience, and I know that whatever situation I’m in I’m going to bounce back. I do know that.
How have any self-limiting narratives kept you from your greatness?
I have the resilience and I know I’m super confident to everyone on the outside, but on the inside I have anxiety and I have huge fears and I sometimes definitely feel like an imposter. As an entrepreneur, people say “I’m investing in you” and then you don’t want to let anyone down. There’s a self-limiting narrative that questions “am I really good enough to do this?” and what gets me out of that super-fast is the incredible examples I have like Sara Blakely, Founder of Spanx, and Leslie Blodgett, Founder of bareMinerals, who both had fears but didn’t let their fears limit them. I learned so much from them as well as the likes of Nelson Mandela, and Oprah – incredible achievers despite all the odds being stacked against them.
What does your self-care ritual look like?
It’s a great question, as both you and I have overcome major health issues. Through all that I’ve found that self-care and time out for myself is the most important self-care ritual for me. I can’t tell you how critical it is.
For me it’s a hot bath, with Epsom salts and lavender essential oils. I’m not a great meditator (even if I like to pretend I am!), I live in LA so for me it’s those quiet moments in Epsom salts (20 mins 4 x per week) that really work for me.
I had a conversation with Arianna Huffington and she talked about the Entrepreneur Myth, and this idea that it used to be that you were working in your garage, drinking coffee and never sleeping…which is what I sometimes experienced at Nike – with those all-nighters – and that it’s not the most productive approach. What I’ve done so differently, that I’m really proud of, is that I get 8 hours of sleep no matter what. I’ll literally cancel meetings, if I’m not going to get 8 hours' sleep. It’s that important to me. And the hot bath and the exercise, because I don’t want to burn myself down to only spend my money on my health later. I think because it happened to me young, I have that perspective that it’s not worth it, which I think has been huge.
What would be your top three tips for staying fit and healthy?
1. Drinking lots of water, clean water, every day. It’s funny how not drinking enough water can give you all these other symptoms that you would deal with by taking a pill or something to deal with it.
2. Weight-lifting has been huge for me because I had hormone issues, and I lost a lot of muscle. I think cardio is critical, but I focus on weight-lifting so I’m really pushing myself 3 times a week. Something Leslie said to me really stuck, which was “strong body, strong mind”. I find that weight-lifting helps with my anxiety and when I’m feeling stressed.
3. Food is important as well. I now know what my body likes and doesn’t like. So listening to your body is important. I don’t think there’s a set formula and that you just have to experiment with what works for you. Of course SkinTē is a big part of how and why I stay fit and healthy. The SkinTē formulas are so important because we use the best, highest quality collagen, but the four super herbs are what makes it really special and we’ve been so thoughtful in what we’ve included. For example, hawthorn berry was used in ancient times to heal a broken heart, and it’s used for depression; things like passion flower are very grounding. So the herbs we include in our formulas have an emotional, physical or spiritual component to them and I think that’s what makes them special. It truly is self-care in a can!
What impact do you want to leave on the world?
I think a big one for me is seeing a Lebanese girl, who didn’t come from privilege, and was able to still follow her heart. I didn’t get married really early at a young age, I got an education. All those things I hope inspire.
I get a lot of calls from women just saying “how did you leave Nike?” or “how did you start a company?” or “how are you able to deal with everything?”. I’ve also had a lot of body image issues, because of my health challenges. I love that I’m able to inspire and help other women have a different perspective, even though I still get insecure – we’re all human! But I know that when it comes down to my true essence, that I’m really not. I’d love to inspire young women not to worry as much the way I did when I was younger. I think that beauty from the inside out is really important for me. If you’re taking care of yourself, you just look better, you feel better.
What three things would you tell your younger self?
1. Take care of yourself first…your body, mind and spirit. I was not this person, until I turned 37, and that’s when my back really started to really hurt me. I don’t care how selfish it sounds, but I wish that I knew that, lived like that when I was younger - but I put everyone else before me.
2. Postpone the worrying. I do worry and I do get anxious, but I’ve realized that “I can worry about that later” can help a lot. I took this huge risk with SkinTē, I put a lot of my own money into it and I had no security blanket. I remember at the time, I said to myself, I’ll give myself six months and worry about it then. But until I gave myself that time, and postponed the worrying, I was having anxiety about taking the risk. You know, all those questions: 'am I going to find a guy? Am I going to lose the weight?' All those different things, you can let go of them a bit, and find that they work out in the end.
3. Embrace your failures as much as your highs. Right now we are on a high with SkinTē but when I look back at the last 18 months, it was during the crashes that I was my most creative, my strongest and my best as a leader. I think we like to sugar-coat things sometimes, but to say we F’d up is okay, and what happens from it is that we learn and next time you’ll do something differently.
What are you most excited about?
I’m excited to see what the impact of Coronavirus brings to humanity. In a very weird way I’ve welcomed the quarantine. There’s something about humanity and about how we treat each other and what life really means, and what’s important, that’s so grounding. So I’m most excited to see what innovation comes out of it. Also on the SkinTē side, we are paying attention to the impact Covid is having, and thinking about that for R&D. I think a lot about humanity at a global scale and I’m very excited to see what comes out of Covid relative to that. What shifts.