meet annelise hillmann

The CEO and co-founder of Frontman who believes when starting a company, it’s not going to be perfect. The way that you create your company is going to be completely different from anyone else. So you have to be true to your personal boundaries and expectations for yourself.

Annelise Hillmann x and repeat mental health

How does your morning routine set you up for your day?

I recently started riding Citi Bike to work every morning. I moved to a new apartment that was slightly farther away from my office than before and usually, I walk, but now I’ve taken the opportunity to go and use the bikes more. And it’s actually quite nice in the morning to ride, especially through some of the plazas. It brings me back to when I was little and riding bikes around my neighborhood. It’s a great way to start your day because it gives you that little bit of fun.

Annelise Hillmann x and repeat mental health

What or who grounds you?

My boyfriend is my number one rock that I lean on for my mental health, for better or for worse. We’ve been dating for almost three years now and throughout that time, I’ve definitely had my ups and downs with my mental health. 

“When we first started dating, I had a pretty bad episode of depression and throughout the pandemic, it’s also been hard dealing with the outcomes that we didn’t expect.”

So he is the one that I turn to every day for support and for my mental health. He is quite good about talking me through situations, almost in the way that therapy generally does, in addition to my therapist. But he is in tune with that side of things and is really helpful in talking through more of the day-to-day stressors.

Annelise Hillmann x and repeat mental health

How has your mental health been lately?

It’s been better because I’ve sought help. I have my therapist and we meet weekly, which is great. In the beginning, especially during the pandemic, it was really hard because I was tempted to work all the time and not think about anything else, as I’m sure many people did. That was definitely unsustainable and I was heading towards burnout. Now I make sure to take time for myself. I don’t work weekends and I try and turn off the computer at a reasonable hour every day.

I’m trying to manage my expectations for myself and my company and where that’s going to go over the next year. I’m also trying not to compare my brand to other brands and people around me. That’s been the largest mindset shift and what has been really helpful to get to a better place for my mental health.

Annelise Hillmann x and repeat mental health

Is there anything that you hold in shame or feel stigma around?

Stigma is something that I think about a lot, especially with my company, given that we are destigmatizing cosmetics for men. It’s a conversation that we have a lot about gender identity and where culturally we have come from in order to get to the place we are now and what has affected everyone’s behaviors. I’ve always believed that you should do what you want to do. It’s all about you at the end of the day and your relationship with yourself.

“I’ve tried to separate myself from any kind of stigma or shame that might surround me.”

There are definitely expectations and pressures of being a consumer founder and a personal brand that is public and front-facing. There’s always a script for how to be the perfect person, the perfect founder, the perfect girlfriend, and something that we have to come to terms with, especially when starting a company, is it’s not going to be perfect. The way that you create your company is going to be completely different from anyone else. And so, you have to be true to your personal boundaries and your expectations for yourself.

Annelise Hillmann x and repeat mental health

What was the impetus to launch your brand?

I met my co-founder back in college. I’m a brand designer and that’s what I’ve done my whole career. I personally find a lot of interest and passion in designing for behavior and cultural change. So how do you get people to make something part of their routine or change their viewpoints on something like makeup for men or cosmetics or skincare for men? That was an interesting challenge for me when I met my co-founder because we realized that we had polar opposite experiences growing up and dealing with acne. My mom is a dermatologist and I grew up with all of the skincare advice you could ever want. And my co-founder Nick had the typical guy experience, which no one tells you anything. You don’t really know what you’re doing. You kind of freak out every time you have a breakout and you don’t have any immediate solutions. Your solutions are traditional skincare that takes a while or Acutane or things like that.

“There’s a cultural and societal stigma around using things to make yourself look better, to make yourself feel better, especially if you are a man.”

And so when we started talking about all of those things. As creatives, it was the ultimate way to affect our culture and to hopefully change our generation’s thoughts around gender norms and consumer products. We saw a need to have a brand that actually spoke to gen Z, that spoke to guys across the whole spectrum of gender identity and give them real solutions that are both short term, cosmetic, and long term. It shouldn’t be tied to a lot of the hyper-masculinized viewpoint that the grooming industry has had for the past 20, 30 years. So we’re hoping to reimagine the grooming industry and give guys a vision of what masculinity can look like in 2022.

Annelise Hillmann x and repeat mental health

You’re an entrepreneur, so I’m wondering how that impacts your mental health?

One of the biggest things that people don’t talk about is the mental impact of starting a business. There’s a lot of methodology around foundership now. People are very hesitant to give their real experiences and the stress it takes on. So for me, my anxiety started when I started my company. It’s very hard to put personal space between you and your work and criticisms feel like criticisms of you.

It’s a catch-22 because when you’re creating something that’s meaningful, you hope it’s going to be impactful. It has to be personal. It has to be meaningful. It’s necessary to be that close to it, but also it’s necessary to step away. That has been very difficult for me from a creative perspective, which is why a lot of my stressors are tied to being an entrepreneur. Being a founder, I’m trying to do things that have not been done before and lean on the resources and the people that surround me to get through it.

Annelise Hillmann x and repeat mental health

How does intimacy and relationships impact your mental health?

I’m an introvert. I’m not the person who has 30 friends and they all come in and out of my life. I hold them at arm’s length. I’m definitely the person who builds more intimate friendships with a handful of people. I’d say I have a very core group of people that I lean on and can be vulnerable with, including my boyfriend and best friends. It’s really important for me to make sure that I’m maintaining and building those relationships and keeping them strong. There are only so many people you can go to when you are having a bad day. So making sure to have those people around me all the time is really, really important so that I don’t lose my mind.

What’s your take on medication, like antidepressants, and supplements?

Medication is great when you can find the right one. I’ve been through a few different ones and it’s always a trial and error kind of process to figure out what works. There are definitely things that help the medication work better holistically, like exercising. I do hot yoga and try to do it almost every day because that’s been one of the things that I’ve found to help me. And so the medication helps, but it’s also making sure that you have a practice of exercising or eating right. Fostering your relationships, spending time with yourself, spending time with other people, all of those things really do help and boost the efficacy of the drugs. It’s a constant trial and error of figuring out what is affecting you to hopefully gain some balance.

Is there anything that is an ongoing stressor or makes you anxious?

Almost all of it is work-related. But in the beginning, I used to worry about people beating us to market, trying to do the same thing. And then I realized that no one is going to do it. We’re going to do it. It’s a unique perspective that we’re coming from. 

That doesn’t stress me out anymore. What does stress me out today are the things that I can’t control, like a global pandemic and supply chain issues. Those things only stress me out because we have pressures and expectations from people around us and society at large. So those are the things that concern me more these days. But what has really helped is making sure that we’re having fun with it and creating things that are cool and interesting and worth putting out into the world.

When do you feel most at peace?

In yoga.

When do you feel your body tense up?

Thinking about deadlines.

What gives you serotonin?

Spending time with the people I love.

What does your body language say about you?

It usually tells people what they need to know.

When do you speak your mind? 

Most of the time same. I’m a pretty straight shooter.

next story — maryam ajayi