Past Lives: Bill Baker of natural company Consonant Skincare
'Past Lives' is an ongoing column about the past careers of entrepreneurs and business leaders. The column recounts each person's experience in various industries, from finance to sales, or simply, the nine-to-five grind. More than anything, 'Past Lives' is a story about how one person has reached their potential, and cut themselves loose from what was expected.
Written by Amanda Scriver
When I first graduated from school in 1984, I worked in consumer packaging at Bristol Myers on an oven cleaner you likely don’t remember called, ‘Mr Muscle’. I remember sitting in our brainstorming sessions...We were developing different sales tactics to help us grow the product, and one day it hit me: This light went off inside my head and I thought to myself, “I don't care if we ever sell another can of Mr. Muscle again.” And that’s when I quit and pursued a job in advertising account management.
I'd always seen how much my friends, who were already working in advertising, loved their jobs. Between 1989 and sometime in the mid-90s, I found myself working for some of the greatest advertising agencies in the world, including Saatchi & Saatchi. But working in the industry was totally different than what I'd expected. It was definitely dynamic, but I thought the work I would be doing would be more interesting—more creative. I thought account management was very left brained. It was rewarding, but if you're doing well that's always rewarding. And I was doing very well, but at the end of the day the world of advertising just wasn't exciting to me anymore. I didn't feel like I was thrilled to get up in the morning to go to work.
It wasn’t until 2007, when I found myself working at Publicis, another agency in Toronto, that I considered going into skincare. Every so often, there was a woman at the office who would sell some natural soaps that she was making at home. To be nice, I bought some, but I didn’t think too much of it. Throughout my entire life, I have suffered from skin care issues. When I started using the bar of soap I purchased from this woman, I was surprised to see how much my skin cleared up. I am not exaggerating when I say this, but my skin cleared up overnight.
I always would carry a tube of cortisone cream around with me, just to help with my symptoms. It wasn’t until I found out I had contact dermatitis, a common skincare issue, that I started looking more closely into natural skincare as an alternative to the conventional products on the market.
For the next two years, I set out to learn the truth about the ingredients in personal care products. I became an evangelist for less toxic choices in skincare, which is what our customers at Consonant are passionate about. When it comes to a facial cleanser, a moisturizer, or a serum, if it gives you results and it improves your skin, you'll never stop using it. Not only do customers stay loyal, they become a brand's biggest evangelist.
At Consonant, our mantra is "all things skincare." If we have made any mistake over the last few years, it has been introducing more bath and body products. Sure, they’ve done okay for us, but what we really want to do is focus on all things skincare, all the time. That’s really our main focus now.
Everything I did in my past life: marketing, branding, and advertising—all of those things are really helpful to know when you're starting your own company and trying to launch a brand.
We took a very strategic approach to how we manage our business. We have a lot of smart thinking in place that actually does guide how we move forward. We actually have a product roadmap, so we know what products we're going to be introducing down the road. That's important to understand, because it can also help us position a product that we're launching now and how it's going to sort of support the introduction of that next one down the road. I think having a strong product roadmap has made a really big difference for us.