The stars just seem to align for some entrepreneurs. But look closely, and you’ll find that their success is no accident; what might be mistaken for good luck is really a confluence of hard work and careful planning. Kristen Flaharty knows. Before launching Trilogy Laboratories, a boutique skincare product manufacturer, she spent 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry. During that time, she came to know skincare product manufacturing intimately, because her husband, a plastic surgeon, wanted to create his own line of custom skin care. Flaharty carefully researched the market, and after working with a small-batch manufacturer in Fort Myers, she purchased the company in 2014 and renamed it Trilogy Laboratories.
Over the last seven years, the company has continued to grow. In its first three years, Trilogy’s revenue grew by 150%. In years four and five, the company grew by 47% and 43%, respectively. And in 2020, when many of Trilogy’s salon and spa customers were forced to shutter, the lab still managed to grow by 17.5%. “We’ve seen really nice, controlled growth,” Flaharty says. “We haven’t gotten too busy too fast, which means we’ve been able to come through on all of the promises we make to our customers.” This month, the laboratory is expanding from its 2,500-square-foot space in Fort Myers to a neighboring facility with 8,000 square feet. The new space will have a larger manufacturing floor, plus a corporate office and showroom.
Trilogy has also extended its product offering since its founding, updating its medical-grade skincare to include botanical ingredients. Its product portfolio has gone from 58 initial products to more than 250 products. Trilogy sells many of its formulations through private labeling—the laboratory’s own skincare compounds that it then custom bottles and labels for different outlets. In addition, the laboratory also offers custom-blended skincare products according to the specifications of its clients.
Though Flaharty’s company has seen impressive success, she admits it hasn’t been easy. The most important lesson she’s learned in business is to stick to it, no matter what. “Just keep swimming,” she says. “It’s all about effort over time. Even when you make mistakes, you just learn from them and move on.”
What’s been key for her as an entrepreneur is a peer group of other CEOs. Flaharty belongs to Vistage, a CEO coaching organization that meets once a month. Its members come from a range of businesses and experience levels, and the group serves as a peer-to-peer advising network. “You can feel very alone when you’re an entrepreneur,” Flaharty says. Having a peer group to bounce ideas off is invaluable. “It’s comforting when someone who has been in the business for 20 years says, ‘This, too, shall pass.’”
The most important lesson she hears from longtime CEOs is the same one Flaharty finds herself telling new entrepreneurs: “I’ve been there, and it will be OK. Just keep going.”