Felix Palafox of Adonis Arcana: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

by Christina Gvaliant
Felix Palafox of Adonis Arcana: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur  we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Felix Palafox.

Felix Palafox is the Founder of Adonis Arcana, a Men’s Cosmetics brand from Boston, MA. Born and raised in Mexico, He comes to the world of Personal Care with a unique vision and insight. Through makeup and skincare, he is taking up the challenge of breaking down the traditional understanding of masculinity: evolving it into a more inclusive and healthy vision for a new age. To see what the brand is about, visit www.adonisarcana.com.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Felix Palafox: Hi everyone! My name is Felix. I was born in Mexico, the oldest of three. Growing up I was a very shy kid, a trait that has followed me throughout my life. I will admit, I was bullied consistently through middle school and high school for being gay. Being LGBT in Mexico is hard, even for an 11-year-old that has no idea what is happening. Thankfully, nothing ever turned physical, but it all made me feel like an outcast. Moving to Boston when I turned 18 felt like a fresh start. It truly was! College was amazing, and I could be myself more freely.

I came across the field of makeup by accident really. I was out at a local bar one night while job hunting when the bartender told me his day job was hiring. I figured why not. Less than a week later I was hired by a large Beauty retailer as a cashier. 10 years later I realized I was in love with the world of Beauty, having worked up to becoming a trainer and educator, mentoring other artists, and giving classes around the city. Seeing the power of makeup in action is inspiring: you see how it lifts moods and makes bad days better. Seeing how just a few things here and there could completely change not just how a person looked, but how they themselves looked at the world. It has been something that captivates me every time. Discovering makeup and skincare helped me overcome my shyness, grow as a person, and gave me the strength to stand in front of crowds, helping lift other people up.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Felix Palafox: Working on the retail side of the beauty industry I came to fall in love with the promise and possibilities that cosmetics offer. I knew from day one that I was in the right space. Once the beauty explosion happened on Youtube and then Instagram, different voices became relevant bringing with them an entirely new set of beauty consumers. I saw the effect this had on male presenting individuals, inspiring them to explore and dare a little bit more than before.

The issue there was that the male consumer has an entirely different set of challenges in this space: Mainly, they could not relate to the products and marketing, the process was complicated and the techniques that the average artist uses were developed with feminizing ideals in mind. It all resulted in the guys simply leaving without the same sense of fulfillment their female counterparts received. Having faced these same challenges in my own discovery, this spoke to me. It inspired me to develop the skill to translate “Beauty” to a masculine voice. From the success I was having on a one-on-one basis, I realized I could make a bigger impact as a brand: sharing the techniques, the knowledge, and controlling the message.

In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?

Felix Palafox: I believe entrepreneurial thinking Is inherently human. We all have the potential to see improvements in how things are done, imagine products or tools that can make projects easier, or ways to make an impact on the world. Having said that, following through on this drive is a different concept altogether.

Bringing ideas to life requires resilience and will, both of which are skills that we develop throughout our lives. The challenges of entrepreneurship are many: some that you can prepare for, most of which will be a surprise. Quickly adapting to change and responding efficiently are skills that one must purposefully develop to successfully walk this road.

Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?

Felix Palafox: There has been much help from many people in my life. Most of them probably are not even aware of how much they have helped in inspiring me in creating Adonis Arcana. We are all surrounded by inspiration every day in one way or another. There are two people that I will specifically mention though.

The First is my Mentor Elizabeth. Meeting her was a key moment in the creation of the brand. Having a business professional, outside of my immediate circle be excited about the possibilities of Adonis Arcana, and see in me the potential to bring this brand to life helped me see that I could make this dream a reality. Getting feedback on ideas and even just pointing me to resources to explore was essential. Checking in with her really has allowed me to keep things in perspective.

My partner Thomas. Being in a relationship with an entrepreneur requires an insane amount of patience. Hearing my rambling on about a cool idea, brainstorming with me different ways that we could get just a few more dollars from the budget so that I could afford the equipment needed to make test batches, and yes, even playing the role of a test subject.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Felix Palafox: We know the struggles that our customers face when entering the beauty space. We know this not just from research or insights on an app, but from personal exposure to the field — having gone through the journey ourselves. It’s this reason why I personally make myself available as much as I can. My favorite moments have been guiding clients on how to best use the products through video calls, answering their questions, and receiving constant live insights. That personal connection being readily available is something I am immensely proud of.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Felix Palafox: The most important trait is honest Self-awareness. As an entrepreneur we must wear many hats, many of which can be foreign to our own experiences. I went through this by realizing that I have always been a creative individual. An artist at heart. While I have an analytical mind that can see different perspectives, I will always go back to the creative. This is not a great combination for the more practical aspects of a business. Budgeting, finances, and spending plans were my Kryptonite. This is an essential part of any successful business though, so I knew I had to find someone that could balance the scale, someone that would compliment my skill set. Without that self-awareness, it would have been easy to say: “ill figure it out later,” eventually leading nowhere.

Authenticity is another. Being yourself is the best way to get the right people on your side. When making connections, it is tempting to go with “what they want to hear,” especially when it comes to investors or business contacts. The result of this however is a lot of wasted time, both for you and the people you connect with. If the relationship is based on an act that you put up, the trust will never be built. Maybe you will attract fewer people by being genuinely yourself, but those that you do connect with will prove to be much more invested and connected to you and your cause because they really know who you authentically are. As they say: Quality Over Quantity.

Finally, Determination. You will come across many challenges in an entrepreneurial journey, and determination will be the only constant trait that will see you through. It is the root of innovation and creative thinking. In my journey, I will confess the hardest obstacle I came across was funding. While building this company, I was working in customer-facing retail. While my income was enough to get by, it certainly was not a job that left much extra to start a cosmetics company. Doing the math to see what investment would be required was heart-wrenching: I would have had to work for 10 years, not spend a dime and have it all in a savings account with a fantastic interest rate. I did not grow up with money and I don’t know any millionaires. Determination drove me to learn, develop skills that I would have had to outsource, gain insight as to where to meet mentors and guides. Eventually leading to the successful launch of Adonis Arcana.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

Felix Palafox: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

It is a very well-intentioned piece of wisdom that works well on the surface. Unfortunately, this does not quite express the subtlety of interpersonal relationships. Especially as someone from a different background, I can say that we do not all value things in the same way.

Throughout my career, I regularly made it a point to approach those in my team and verbally congratulate them for doing a great job. It felt right since that is exactly what I would want my bosses to do. Thing was, not everyone responded well to that acknowledgment. It took a particularly disgruntled colleague to point out that she considered the verbal praise to be “the bare minimum — empty words.” As it turned out, she valued the gift of an extended break much more. This led to my inquiring with members of the team to figure out what each person valued so that I could then “do onto them as they would have done on to them.”

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?

Felix Palafox: Your team is everything. It is our responsibility as leaders to make them a priority.

Get to know your colleagues as best you can. Every mind is a universe of its own, so there really is no “one size fits all” solution for avoiding burnout. Find out what motivates your team members, what their strengths and weaknesses are, as well as what their goals and fears may be. This will give you incredible insight as to what you can do in your organization to support the team in a way that feels right to them and what they respond to.

What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?

Felix Palafox: Authenticity is key. Keeping your message consistent is incredibly important if you are to build credibility in the industry. Getting your name out there regularly can be a self-perpetuating habit once it gets going, but it is the consistency of your message and personality that people can truly connect with. Holding back parts of your personality or message that may disturb the status quo can be tempting, but it is these are the differences that will keep you memorable to your audience. Neither trust nor credibility can happen unless those in the industry remember and understand who you are.

Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?

Felix Palafox: The need for Authenticity goes beyond industry and business relationships. In fact, it is a factor that weighs heavily on the consumer and their choices. They are extremely tuned in and aware. Constantly exposed to brand partnerships on social media, ads in the videos they watch, ads where they scroll, ads where they buy food… They are blessed with the gift of choice, and will immediately dismiss anything they feel to be artificial. Inconsistency in message and vision leads to confusion in the audience, making them think you are not being genuine. Consumers have come to value authenticity more and more as time goes by. The best way to ensure consistency is to simply be yourself.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Felix Palafox: Creating a business is an emotionally charged journey. As founders, we put countless hours into shaping a perfect vision in our minds and do everything possible to build exactly that. Once The business is exposed to the world, however, we must realize that the company will now have a life of its own. We may have given the initial spark, but we do not always choose how the fire moves. The experiences the company will have, the customers that you reach, and the way times may change will shape the company in unpredictable ways. Resisting these natural changes in favor of what we want is a sure way to stunt growth and harm the business.

Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?

Felix Palafox: The reasons that there always will be highs and lows when being an entrepreneur are the same for why it is such a rewarding endeavor. When you are starting a company, you are all in. You are financially invested sure, but also emotionally and in a way socially invested too. The business you are creating takes a lot of your time, as well as a lot of your emotional and physical energy. You feel every shift, every sale, and yes, every return. When the winds are in your favor it is exhilarating. Like the universe is on your side and you can’t help but fly. When they are not… you feel that just as strongly.

When holding a regular job, these shifts do not really affect your day-to-day in the same way. You clock in and no matter what happens you work your shift, and you head out. If you have a particularly successful day, it feels awesome, but you know the ultimate benefit won’t be yours — and so that feeling can fade pretty easily. On the other hand, a slow day can almost feel like a blessing. If things are particularly bad, you can generally feel it and start searching for your next move. There is safety in holding a “regular job” that simply doesn’t exist when walking the entrepreneurial road.

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

Felix Palafox: The first time I saw someone I did not personally know rave about our products and recommend it to their friends. It was an intense feeling! It is easy to explain away when close connections give you a compliment. Easy to think: “well, he is a friend, maybe he’s just being kind.” But when I saw that first review from someone I had never met, sharing on their Instagram stories how amazing the products were and giving all this love… you cannot explain that away. That is someone connecting with our vision and being inspired by something we created.

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

Felix Palafox: This is an interesting one. Doing something like men’s makeup, you come to expect certain things. A narrow-minded comment, the hateful defensiveness that comes when masculinity is threatened, and all the ways that can show up. I knew to prepare for that, so when it happened, I was ready. What I was not ready for was the responsibility I would feel being a spokesperson for the men’s makeup movement. I remember a talk I was in a few months back, joining other speakers whom I have admired for years. It went well overall, but I had not prepared for a particular question that was thrown at me, implying I was being too limited and too conservative. I was so thrown that I just could not come up with a coherent response, that was the opposite of what I had prepared for! Of course, as it always happens, the perfect words come right after the session ended. I mulled it over every free moment I had for a solid week.

Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?

Felix Palafox: Honestly, it was my partner that knocked the sense back into me there. Using my own words against me no less! He reminded me that it makes no sense to dwell for the sake of dwelling. To analyze the experience, learn, and act. So, I formed a plan: Reach out to the speakers and maintain that relationship; now that I had the perfect words, to use them and make my stance clear.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Felix Palafox: 

A Support System: You need someone there to share successes and challenges with. Business partnerships can be amazing in this way, since everyone in the partnership can understand each other and what the group is going through. Be it good or bad, they are there with you riding the same wave. If this partnership is not available to you, family, spouse, and friends can certainly fill this role: just be sure to give as much as you receive.

A Mentor: Connecting with someone more experienced than you is invaluable. A great mentor will never make a decision for you, but rather will walk you through possibilities and help you find your center again. This is someone that you can bounce ideas off and get honest and insightful guidance and feedback, encourage connections, and in a way, be accountable to.

Time Away: It is tempting to spend every waking hour on the job. Especially as a Founder or CEO, if the business is running, we feel like we should be too. The problem is that when your company or business becomes your entire life, then you are left at the whims of the business. Seek to have interests and hobbies outside of the business you have formed. Develop friendship or personal connections that do not work for/with you, but that you enjoy spending time with. Having that time away from the business is important, it will allow you to recharge your batteries so that you can come back and truly give your all. This will be like a grounding rod: keeping your feet on the ground while the energies are high and giving you the chance to step away and recharge when energies are low.

A backup plan: No one wants to think of a business failing, much less one that you have dedicated all your time and energy to. This piece can be difficult but plan what to do if the business fails. It does not have to be a detailed plan, it just has to be a solid idea of what life would be like in the worst-case scenario. It is a rough mental exercise but having this plan can take a lot of pressure off the extreme lows. Knowing that no matter what happens you will power through because you know what to do is a powerful thing. This plan helps keep the high emotions in check while keeping your head clear and making the best decisions when the lows come.

Meditation Practice: I know, it sounds a bit out there, but this has been an invaluable tool for me. I do not exclusively mean the incense, chants, and music scene that we have come to picture, but rather quiet contemplation: Thinking of nothing but your own breathing for 10 or 15 minutes, with no other stimuli. Being able to stay in that mode is a powerful skill that comes in very handy when emotions run high. With enough practice, you can conjure a sense of calm to any stressful situation.

We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Felix Palafox: Resilience has long been understood as being able to go through the struggle and not flinch. A superhero-like quality that makes one bulletproof and unaffected by adversity. Ultimately though, that view is unrealistic. Resiliency is not about never being torn down at all, but more about learning, healing, and growing from each “defeat.” It is a quality that we develop throughout our lives, with every small experience eventually adding up to greatness.

I find that resilient people have a passion that keeps them going, a reason to get back on their feet and keep going. Speaking for myself, that is an honest desire to change the way we think of masculinity. Having personally suffered the effects that toxic ideals have had on us has imprinted in me the need for that change. That is my spark. Finding and Connecting with yours will give you no choice but to be resilient.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?

Felix Palafox: We moved a fair amount when I was younger. The first 6 years of my life happened in Mexico: important years where we learn how the world works. That all changed when my father got a promotion that sent us to live in Florida. Overall, it was a great move but moving to another country as a kid can really shake you. Not only did I have to deal with new friends, new teachers, and a new school, but an entirely different language and culture! That move was an early test of resilience. Moving back a few years later was the next… I had gotten everything in order and even had secured a rare spot at a prestigious school. I was on the way to becoming an Astronaut! Giving that up was difficult not just for me but for my parents as well. Going back was rough, not just for having to start over yet again, but for having to give up such a huge dream. By the time the opportunity came to move to Boston though, I was ready. I knew what to expect. In contrast to the previous moves, I found myself excited and ready to make what I knew to be a great move. It was the safety and consistency of home that was able to get me through it all. That’s the secret to resiliency really, having a sacred space to retreat to that will promote your own healing and set you up to start again.

In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?

Felix Palafox: I have to say that I do. That is one piece of my personality that I am proud of. I see every difficulty as a learning experience, as a challenge to overcome. If I’m being honest, there have been times when things felt hopeless, but allowing myself to experience the feeling instead of repressing it, riding that wave for a day is sometimes necessary. It sounds a bit backward but, going through the difficulties and processing the feelings that they bring up, shows you that there is another side at the end of that low feeling. Going through it enough times, I learned to see the world as a collection of cycles, where every low will inevitably be followed by a high. It is exactly this view of the universe that keeps my attitude positive in the face of difficulty.

Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.

Felix Palafox: Most visualize a leader as being on top, upon a stage, at the head, on the top floor of the skyscraper. Truly a leader is the cornerstone of the building, the glue that holds the organization together, the foundation upon where we can build up. This makes the leader an integral part of the entire structure. As a leader, you inevitably affect the culture of your company. When it comes to human relationships, “like inspires like.” The qualities you display as a leader will act as an aspirational baseline for everyone in your organization.

2020 proved to be one of the best examples of how positive and negative leadership can have a viral impact. In this day and age, you are not just leading your company, but you are being identified as a leader to the entire world thanks to the power of social media. We were all witnesses of the many examples of tough choices being made by companies across the globe, with many of us working from home, going on furloughs, and unemployed. If we look at the leaders that made these choices and how these were communicated, we find that those who received the news from supportive and empathetic bosses were more likely to hang in support of the company and did what they could to power through as a team. In contrast, those who received the news from a defeatist and uncaring superior immediately searched elsewhere for opportunities and dissuaded their contacts from reaching out to their employer as well. While some of these empathetic companies did not make it through the year, you can be sure that those relationships will continue to be supported well beyond the life of this pandemic.

Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?

Felix Palafox: “Be yourself, everybody else is taken.” — Oscar Wilde

Especially in a world where we are all connected and everyone has a voice, standing out can be difficult. Chasing the cool new thing and the new trend is incredibly alluring and can be rewarding for sure. The issues come when this “Newness” does not align with who you are as a founder, or what the brand represents. If Authenticity is lost, the message gets muddled. This awesome piece of wisdom applies to every aspect of life too: It is a constant reminder that while others may have a sharper skill, have more experience, know more people… there is no one quite like you.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Felix Palafox: I am always a DM away on most social media platforms @Adonis_Arcana or through the support portal on our website www.adonisarcana.com. To learn more about our products and our vision of masculinity, tune in to our Instagram on Thursdays at 6 pm EST, where I talk live about everything from cosmetic ingredients to application techniques, or have chats with interesting people reshaping the way we view masculinity. It is always an interesting time.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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