Featured Founder: Ali De Sousa of Calma
Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Ali De Sousa, Founder of Calma, a sustainable self care subscription to help you take care of yourself and the planet.
What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?
Right before I launched Calma, I worked freelance doing graphic design and illustration. At the time I was very focused on becoming an established graphic designer and desperately needed to build my portfolio, which happens to be the reason I started Calma. I was passionate about the idea, but wasn’t sure I could start a company, so I decided to create the branding as a portfolio piece for my website. In a way, I sort of tricked myself into starting Calma. I took the pressure off, and it gave me the confidence to build it as a business.
What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?
Self care has become a buzz word in the past few years, which has resulted in an oversaturated market that ensures you that if you do this treatment or buy that product, you’ll achieve your wellness goals. It all felt complicated, confusing, and incredibly wasteful to me. Calma strips all of that back and gives you only what you need, while providing the smallest carbon footprint possible. Our focus isn’t solely on the products themselves, but on what they add to your life.
Sustainability and wellness are starting to converge and it’s exciting to be a part of this shift. I’m also always inspired and motivated by the small, like-minded brands I work with. There are so many talented female makers and I’m glad I can be a platform for their products.
Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?
At the beginning, I really struggled with perfectionism. I didn’t want to share anything or pursue partnerships until everything felt perfect. I had to learn that doing something to 80% is okay, because it’s more important to push forward and learn what works and what doesn’t. It was difficult to learn how to not get in my own way, but every time I pushed myself things got easier. I also had someone to tell me that I needed to get over it and just do my job, and that was surprisingly helpful.
Where do you see your company headed next?
Right now we only have one seasonal subscription, but we’re working towards expanding our products. Offering boxes for different stages of life and at different price points, so that sustainable self care is as accessible as possible. I would also love to eventually start a social responsibility project to give part of our revenue each season to causes that align with our values.
Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.
Don’t be overly influenced by startup culture. There are many different ways to build a business, and try not to get caught up in what others are doing. You know your company best, so do what feels intuitive and right for you. If you’re struggling with confidence around your decisions, do your best to fake it and eventually you’ll realize that you don’t have to anymore.
Keep up with the latest in Tampa Bay startup news, local talent interviews and founder resources.
Delivered to your inbox every Thursday.