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Beauty industry startup benefits from competition process and McKinsey consulting package

Interview with Nuniq founders, Carmen Escaño Serrano and Silvia Marquez Calvet.


NUNIQ founders explain how winning the 2020 >>venture>> competition provided the support, network, money and validation to bring their direct-to-consumer personalized and sustainable hair care products to life.


Q: How did Nuniq come to life?

A: When we met each other, we knew we wanted to build something together. We felt we had compatible experiences and made a good team. We also felt that we were sitting on a great opportunity living in Switzerland because it’s honestly one of the best places to start something. We were both dreaming of bringing a project to life, but weren’t completely clear on what.

Before we had that “aha” moment, we decided to look for the different types of support we could potentially receive from the Swiss startup ecosystem. We first heard about >>venture>> during Global Entrepreneurship Week in Geneva in 2019. Then, we attended the >>venture>> Kickoff, and after that, everything started falling into place. Thanks to the >>venture>> competition, we were able to put our ideas down on paper, vet them out, and learn how to put together a business case.

Both of us knew we wanted to focus on beauty and personal care because we are consumers of our products. Tired of compromising efficacy for clean and green labeled products, we knew we wanted to do something about it. We started looking at other industries and saw cleaning products were offering waterless, green solutions and no one was doing that for haircare. So, we’re making it happen.

When thinking about going green and reducing plastic, everyone always looks at their kitchen. But our bathroom is the main source of the problem, and we’re tackling it without compromising on our guiding principles: honesty, sustainability, innovation and responsibility. We’re doing what others are afraid to do. Being a startup, it’s our job to challenge the status quo. That’s why it’s our mission to bring our customers beauty without guilt.


Q:What has been your biggest, unexpected challenge?

A: Everyone tells you that starting a business is going to be a full-time job, but it’s much more than that. It’s very time-consuming. You hear all the benefits about being your own boss, the autonomy, the flexibility, but there have been many sleepless nights, and it’s just the beginning. Although, we have to add, that despite having started this business in the middle of a pandemic, we manage to keep ourselves motivated, happy, and determined. We’re pretty positive people and there’s two of us. So we split the role of picking each other up when needed.


Q: What has come the easiest for you?

A: In all honesty, our relationship is easy. Everyone cautioned us about choosing the right business partner, to draw up a signed business agreement because things could get ugly. Although we’re not always aligned, we’re both on the same page about our business and we’re also at the same stage in our lives so we understand each other quite well.


Q: How has participating in >>venture>> impacted Nuniq?

A: In everything. Seriously. We had an idea floating around in our heads, but with >>venture>> we were able to formulate it, make it tangible, and clearly communicate it. We don’t think we would be where we are without >>venture>>. With every step of the competition, and every contact we’ve made, whether through the pitch training, live pitches, mentor sessions, or our meetings with McKinsey & Company, our idea has been refined at every step into something we’re really proud of.

We can’t stress our gratitude enough for all the contacts we’ve made through >>venture>>. There have been so many experts that have donated their time and expertise to see us succeed. Additionally, the prize money we received will allow us to finance our MVP next year which we’re incredibly excited about!

Lastly, on top of providing an incredible amount of support, we received something that money can’t buy. We got what we refer to as “emotional endorsement” from our families as soon as we won the competition. Our family and friends supported our startup idea, but they warned us that it might be too risky and encouraged us to go the safer route and seek a corporate job. But winning >>venture>> gave us validation as well as the reassurance we needed to keep going for ourselves and for our families. They’re true believers now.


Q: As the winner of the Retail & Consumer Services vertical, you received a business consulting package from McKinsey & Company. What has that experience been like for you?

A: This has been the most amazing part of our experience! We have had weekly meetings for 2 months with senior executives and partners at McKinsey & Company where they share everything they can to set us on the right path. It’s been a very smooth collaboration from the beginning. We identified the areas where we needed most help, and they’ve jumped right in connecting us to both internal and external experts. From industry partners, digital marketing, regulatory, and consumer good experts, we have made inroads with people we never imagined we could have access to.

It’s incredible how supportive they’ve been. They have helped us structure our ideas, define KPI’s, create a roadmap that makes sense for us, and best prepare for our upcoming challenges. Working with the McKinsey & Company team has kept us on a steady timeline and always moving forward. It’s been great having their point-of-view, because we feel more confident in making our own decisions.


Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: We’re just so grateful to >>venture>>! The >>venture>> adventure doesn’t stop after you win the competition. We’re still involved with the organization with different opportunities. It’s been overall a great experience, from all the events, the network and the support.


We want to give a very special thanks to:

Our >>venture>> Mentors: Veronique Stephan, Luc Gerardin, Markus Hofer and Simon Widmer

Our McKinsey & Company Support Team: Marco Ziegler and Andreas Glinz