When choosing a perfect time to start a business, most people probably wouldn’t select the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as ideal. However, for Dr. Sajani Barot, founder of TheSkinConsult, the pandemic shutdown gave her time to focus on her burgeoning business and to add to her young family.
“As a new mother and someone starting a business, I basically gave birth to three babies,” Dr. Barot said, laughing.
The launching of her online marketplace and the worldwide shutdown came about at roughly the same time, creating a unique situation for Dr. Barot. Like many entrepreneurs, Dr. Barot approached her business idea with persistence reminiscent of the age-old mantra, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” The pandemic put an extra level of complication on the plan, but it also gave Dr. Barot something many business owners dream of: more time.
“If anything, the pandemic gave me time to start the business, not that we need to be thankful for it. It gave me some resilience. I thought, ‘if not now, when?’”
The Entrepreneurial Journey
At the end of 2019, Dr. Barot gave birth to a son. Then, in September of 2023, a second son came along. In the middle of it all, she was also pursuing her entrepreneurial dreams: a skincare company that merges eCommerce’s ease with medical professionals’ expertise.
Dr. Barot’s journey with skincare started in 2012 with a move from the blustery, often cold climate of Chicago to Jackson, Mississippi’s more humid, tropical-adjacent climate. The drastic climate shift resulted in some new skin issues for Dr. Barot. After several fruitless attempts to find a skincare solution, she decided to strike out on her own for answers.
“There was no methodological way of building an evidence-based skincare routine,” Dr. Barot said. “Despite visiting local dermatologists and a couple of med spas, I did not get the help I needed, nor was I able to find the personalized concierge skincare education and consultations that I was seeking.”
Dr. Barot realized something that many women struggle with: there are precious few resources for people who want to speak to someone knowledgeable; someone who could create a personalized skincare routine for them.
That’s when she realized there was a gap in the industry that she could fill. Dr. Barot saw that social media overwhelms consumers with skincare options. Yet, everyday consumers are typically not skincare experts and may not understand what options are the best for them. It can become even more difficult to discern what skincare options are best in our current influencer marketing-heavy landscape. By and large, most influencers are merely being paid to promote products that they are unable to scientifically analyze or explain; they are not skincare or medical experts who can best recommend products to their followers.
“So many influencers have become skincare experts without proper training or knowledge of how ingredients work, pharmaceutics, product formulation, skin science,” says Dr. Barot.
With the idea sparked, Dr. Barot, who has a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, got to work building the framework for her new business. She began giving free consultations to her friends and — around the time the pandemic was taking hold — developed an online software to be used by vetted skincare professionals. The new marketplace allowed these professionals to list their profiles and give virtual, video-based consultations. This virtual, AI-driven connection to people seeking skincare answers came about at a time when the pandemic was forcing people to develop relationships with service providers virtually.
Dr. Barot brought a data-driven recommendation platform to the skincare world, creating a program that allows people to find the right answers for their unique skin situations. And she was doing it in a way that hadn’t been done before.
Motherhood, Pandemics, and Business Building
The time of the pandemic has been some of the most arduous few years our country has ever collectively faced. Much has been written about the pressure put on mothers, especially amid shutdowns, health concerns, school closings, and work interruptions. According to the NY Times, roughly a million mothers have left their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic. The loss of maternal income has led to a trickle-down effect of food insecurity, stress, and depression. Dr. Barot nearly became a case study for pressure, taking on motherhood and a new business in the middle of pandemic uncertainty.
“Taking the journey of an entrepreneur while pregnant was hard in terms of figuring out ‘where do I put my energy,” says Dr. Barot, “I have so much going on, I’m a human being, and I have limits to what I can do.”
As she navigated the rocky road of building a skincare business, Dr. Barot found that her own self-care went out the window. When something had to give, she found that, like many of us, her own needs came last.
“What time I had was for the business or for the kids,” she explains.
Dr. Barot found that one of the most challenging aspects of initially building her business was her role as the sole founder. With co-founders, there are people to bounce ideas off of, but without that support, she sometimes struggled with the solitude.
“I was always in my head, trying to make important decisions,” she remembers.
She recognizes that the pandemic’s forced downtime gave her some decision-making clarity. While it was a stressful time, in order to succeed she had no choice but to keep taking steps forward. Because of the timing and perseverance, the business had space to grow and evolve. Now, as we continue emerging from the worst the pandemic had to offer, Dr. Barot’s business and family are both thriving.
Tackling Overwhelm and Helping Others With Self-Care
Having weathered business building, motherhood, and a historic pandemic simultaneously, Dr. Barot is recognizing that her new endeavor is actually a meeting point. By giving consumers access to medically-informed skincare experts and top-of-the-line skincare options, Dr. Barot is tapping into an overwhelming self-care need. Something that many people, entrepreneurs or not, have neglected since the start of the pandemic.