“Covid was the push I needed to start my business”: This ex–marketing pro launched a line of artisanal hand sanitizer during the pandemic
Amy Welsman got the idea for a luxury hand sanitizer brand when she became a new mom and found the drugstore brands didn’t cut it. When Covid started, she turned that fantasy into Paume, an environmentally friendly, heaven-scented sanitizer. Here’s how.
—As told to Andrea Yu
“I always knew I wanted to launch my own business. I just didn’t know what it would be. From 2013 to 2017, I worked in marketing and sales at the intimates brand Knix. I was their first hire, joining right before they launched their Indiegogo campaign. I spent four years helping the founder build the business from the ground up. When I left, I took on freelance work as a sales and marketing consultant while I figured out what to do next.
“In April 2019, my partner and I had our daughter, Eleanor. At the time, I was using a lot of hand sanitizer—I had so many visitors at the house, and as the mother of a newborn, I became very aware of germs. I used the drugstore stuff, but the formulations were too harsh, and the packaging wasn’t particularly appealing. I thought to myself, Maybe there could be something better. I came up with the idea for Paume, a hand sanitizer that would feel luxurious and look beautiful. I figured if using hand sanitizer was more pleasant, people would do it more.
“I created some mood boards and thought about the design and branding of the product, but I didn’t get much further. Once Covid happened, though, it was the push I needed. Hand sanitizer was suddenly in the spotlight. I put together a business plan, did market analysis and created a marketing plan. I started off with a $30,000 investment from my savings, but I figured I would need about $300,000 to get the project off the ground.
“I incorporated my business in April 2020. It was a real, tangible sign that my plan was moving forward and that I couldn’t go back on it. Soon, I found a Canadian manufacturer that would produce my vision: my formulation had to be alcohol-based, but good for your skin, with plant-based emollients and a gorgeous scent. And it had to be silicone-, paraben- and cruelty-free. Meanwhile, I started reaching out to investors in the summer. I did an initial round of friends-and-family funding, and reached out to associates, colleagues and other people from my network. I was able to raise $275,000 over three weeks. That covered most of my costs. I haven’t hired any staff yet, but I have a great team of contractors and freelancers. I also put together a team of advisors—fellow entrepreneurs who have experience starting and running businesses.
“There were a few hurdles. I wanted our packaging to have an earthy clay tone, but that colour is really hard to work with. I probably picked the worst colours for doing remote colour-matching. I wanted the packaging to be made from sustainable materials, too, so we ended up using recycled resin for our travel bottle, which was also a challenge colour-wise. We went through so many samples: there were days I was like sitting in my living room, surrounded by Pantone swatches and hating my life.
“In August, the product was finally finished; we designed a travel bottle, a pump and a refill bottle. At first, we planned to sell only to consumers through our own website. Then one of my advisors introduced me to someone at Indigo. They were already looking for a sustainable Canadian hand sanitizer, and they loved my product. We launched with them nationwide in February and couldn’t be more excited.
“I think I would have started my own business eventually, but it would have taken me longer to get there. When the pandemic came, it sort of pushed me off the fence. It was a chance for me to take that next step.”