Today’s interviewees started out running a popular jewelry boutique when they realised a dreadful leniency in trade regulations and how this impacted not only the quality of their products but also people with allergies. Here comes the science part – where Tarnish-Me-Not’s CEO, Tatiana, worked tirelessly to crack the formula that would stop all this, hearing plenty of ‘no’s’ on the journey but ending up with the perfect product and a case study in a popular Start Up business book.
Lead image: (Left to Right) Tatiana Tara Arslanouk, Sina Mamkegh, Tina Mamkegh. Wearing Tux Couture by Yansi Fugel.
HOC: Let’s start with the tricky stuff! What’s your elevator pitch for Tarnish-Me-Not?
Team: Tarnish-Me-Not is dedicated to providing revolutionary solutions that lead industry expansion, while positively impacting the lives of others through philanthropic efforts. Our patented formula replaces generations of jewelry care products with the most effective, accessible and affordable solution to preserve your jewelry against tarnish, while protecting your skin from irritation.
Dermatologist tested and approved, Tarnish-Me-Not is highly recommended for those who suffer from mild to severe skin allergies caused by Nickel. Spray Tarnish-Me-Not directly to jewelry for long lasting protection and a flawless finish. Tarnish-Me-Not is a proud partner of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, to which we donate $1.00 for each unit sold – all year long.
HOC: Tell us about your journey to be running this business? We understand you used to run a jewellery boutique?
Team: Yes, we did! It’s surreal to think about how our journey manifested into all of this. In 2010, we were creating handmade jewelry, headbands and jewelry boxes in our parents’ basements. Six months later, we opened the doors of our first business, Eye Candy Boutique. In 2011, our CEO, Tatiana Arslanouk was nominated as one of the ‘Top Six Young Entrepreneurs in the Country’ for Ernst & Young’s GSEA competition. The business was growing at a rapid, yet healthy pace. All was right with the world.
At Eye Candy, we carried unique statement jewelry, many of which, were hard to come by. In such a saturated market, our competitive advantage was our devotion to going above and beyond for our customers, in every way. However, it became increasingly difficult to satisfy our customer-centric standards when facing the inevitable issues related to metals. Jewelry is highly susceptible to tarnishing and discoloration due to various uncontrollable factors. More importantly, the most common metals found in jewelry are notorious for causing contact skin allergies and discoloration (i.e. irritation/redness/green-tinted skin). As terrible as this all sounds, we weren’t so worried at first. We always find a solution to help our customers, and this would be no exception to that rule. This was all true until we did some digging and realized that the problem was much larger than we thought.
Turns out, regulations of the global jewelry industry were nowhere near the standards we expected. Manufacturers and retailers can legally label their jewelry as ‘Nickel-Free’ if the item contains less than 5% of Nickel. Well, that 5% is more than enough to cause some allergy sufferers (like our COO, Sina) to break out in hives. It wasn’t just us; this was a problem that was affecting a billion-dollar global industry.
[Fast forward to 2013] We just returned home from a shopping trip, and Tatiana was trying on a brand-new set of rings that she just purchased. After stacking the rings across all her fingers, she held her hand up in admiration of the pristine condition that we all knew would not last. Tatiana sighed and said, “I LOVE these rings but it’s such a shame that they’ll be completely tarnished and turning my skin green in a few days. How is there no solution for this, yet?!”
…And that is the day that Tarnish-Me-Not was created! It’s been almost six years since, and Tatiana still has her perfect set of rings; all sprayed with Tarnish-Me-Not and looking just as they did the day she bought them. As for Sina, her severe Nickel Allergy qualified her as the perfect candidate to test Tarnish-Me-Not; needless to say… she can finally wear all the jewelry that she wants.
HOC: So fascinating! How on earth do you go about formulating and patenting something like Tarnish Me Not?
Team: I didn’t have access to a laboratory, a patent lawyer or the capital to attain them. Most of all, I didn’t have the patience to wait for these resources either. I always had a strong passion for Chemistry, so I wanted full involvement in formulating the product.
I filled my days and nights researching and teaching myself about metals, chemicals and patents – everything that I would need to bring this vision to life. I must have contacted over 50 chemists, including my college Chemistry professor; all of whom, could not create the formula we were looking for. While some didn’t have the capabilities, others flat-out said that it was impossible. Hearing the word ‘no’ quickly became a part of my daily routine.
I continued my research, regardless of the negative feedback. With all the extensive knowledge I gained, I was able to come up with three formulations that could produce the results I was looking for. I brought my findings to an incredible laboratory that helped create our prototypes, conduct testing and narrow it down to one formula. Finally, after years of research and development, Tarnish-Me-Not was born.
During the formulation process, I had studied hundreds of patents, consulted numerous lawyers and ultimately wrote the Tarnish-Me-Not patent. As the daughter of an engineer, I grew up watching my father turn his ideas into reality. He holds over 10 US patents, so I guess attaining my first patent was one of my ‘girl boss’ moments.
HOC: Your first patent definitely qualifies as a Girl Boss Moment! We heard that your start up story was featured in a business book, can you tell us more?
Team: Donatas Jonikas (Ph.D.) contacted us during his research for the upcoming book. In order to write the “Startup Evolution Curve,” he did a global research on startups surveying 1,447 startup founders and running close to 500 additional in-depth interviews. Being a scientist, a marketer, and a military commander makes him an extraordinary coach and mentor for startups where so much uncertainty exists in every step.
During our research and development phase, we quickly realized there were no existing market/industry reports available for our specific niche. However, this initial research is vital to ensuring that we’re addressing these significant problems with the right product offering. With great power comes great responsibility, right? We were creating an entirely new niche in the market, which means: if the research and data does not exist, then it’s our job to gather it.
Our team conducted our own primary market research study over the course of six months. During this time, we surveyed 6,000 women using a systematic sampling technique, asking them three conclusive questions. Through our study, we were able to measure the addressable market, market opportunity, and the impact the product would pose on other markets.
Donatas was impressed by our company’s approach to market research and overcoming a common obstacle that startups face in the research/development phase. After completing in-depth interviews with Donatas, he chose to include Tarnish-Me-Not as a successful case study in his book. It is such a rewarding feeling to know that our work is serving as a guide to help other entrepreneurs. It is also a reminder that we can all learn something from each other’s experiences – no matter what stage of business you’re in.
HOC: On top of this amazing start up experience, you’ve also partnered with Breast Cancer Research foundation through this business, what does that cause mean to you?
Team: When I was thirteen years old, my mother was diagnosed with stage four Breast Cancer; while she was pregnant with my younger sister. At that impressionable age, my world was falling apart. I watched the most beautiful woman I know, fight for life and struggle to feel beautiful. There are no words to describe the toll that cancer takes on a family.
Today, I am incredibly blessed to say that my mother is a cancer survivor. Cancer research saved her life; it saved MY life. That experience lit a fire in my soul, and it opened my eyes to all the ways I can contribute. When I chose the path of entrepreneurship, I was certain that I would dedicate my success to helping others. By partnering with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, I am able to support an organization that was such an influential part of my journey.
HOC: Very inspiring and what a fire for your onward success. What’s your vision for Tarnish-Me-Not?
Team: We’d like to improve on the lenient standards of metal manufacturing. Through government implemented regulations, manufacturers will be required to apply a coating of Tarnish-Me-Not on to their metal products. In our utopian jewelry industry, metals last longer and Nickel allergies are no longer a concern.
HOC: What advice would you have for our readers wanting to start a business but hearing a lot of ‘Nos’?
Team: “All you need is passion, and the rest will fall into place.” This has been our motto since the beginning of our journey – and we’ve consistently recited it through every ‘No’ and every hurdle. Entrepreneurship is one of the most challenging paths you may ever embark on – and for very good reason. Each day, your commitment, patience and sanity will be tested. Build a strong team with the kind of passion that does not take no for an answer. Whether, you are innovating old practices or presenting new ideas, there will always be someone uncomfortable with change; and they will try to tell you it cannot or should not be done. Take the constructive criticism and be on your way. You’ve got more important things to worry about!
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe
HOC: Can you give us an example of a ‘Girl Boss Moment’ you’ve had; a time you really felt you were in your element?
Team: Every day is filled with these moments that are constantly reminding me I was made for this. Being an entrepreneur is more than owning a business. You can be a business owner and still follow a set path that was carved out by someone before you. Entrepreneurship is setting your own path. Controlling your own destiny. Taking FULL responsibility for every aspect of why you are where you are. It’s unpredictable and requires your undivided attention. But you are rewarded everyday with knowing you aren’t living by someone else’s idea of what life should be. Feeling that freedom and independence is me constantly being in my element. I push myself harder than anyone could ever push me. I am by biggest critic. So, from the moment I wake up to the second I go to bed, everyday is a ‘Girl Boss Moment.’
HOC: Who / where do you get your inspiration from?
Team: It may sound cliché, but we definitely have to say our mothers are a huge source of our inspiration. We were raised by such powerful, headstrong women that it was inevitable for us to turn out the way we did! They’re also best friends; and when they team up for a project, they’re unstoppable. Truthfully, they have always been a constant reminder to own who you are, don’t take shit from anyone, and always do what you feel is right.
Our company follows one internal ‘law’, and that is: Our customers are the innovators; We are the executors. Every choice we make is inspired by the needs and ideas of our customers; and we wouldn’t have it any other way. The most rewarding feeling in the world is to hear about their experiences with our product and how it has impacted their lives or business.
Last but not least, our team. This journey truly began over twenty years ago, the day we met. We became best friends in kindergarten, and from that day forward, we were always on a mission. Our friendship is the infrastructure of this entire business and the reason that Tarnish-Me-Not exists today. There is nothing greater than the joined forces of three, tenacious, and powerful women working towards the same goal. We look to each other for support, inspiration and drive each and every day.
HOC: If you ever have a hustle block / funk; how do you get yourself out of it?
Team: Drive! One of our longest running traditions is our ‘Collaboration Drives’. We get in the car, and just go. Sometimes with a destination in mind, and sometimes without. We spend our time in the car just collaborating on any and every topic that comes to mind. Sometimes working in the same traditional manner or place every day can drain your creativity. If we ever find ourselves in a hustle block, we like to change up our environment to get inspired.
We each love to be creative in our own ways and that’s what gets us back into our element. Sometimes we’ll do a joint project, and other times we each do our own. Tatiana is always writing, researching and designing; Sina loves to paint/sketch; and Tina assembles etched models. Regardless of the art, its always so inspiring to be surrounded by each other while we create.
Find our more about Tarnish-Me-Not over at TarnishMeNot.com
Follow the team on Instagram @TarnishMeNot