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Speak To Me launches another amazing season starting with three groundbreaking entrepreneurs who will share their stories of hard-earned business success while building passion driven companies. Join Christin Powell (EVER Skincare), Pamela Marcus (Lifefactory), and Pamela Giusto-Sorrells (Pamela’s Products) as they talk about determination and the desire to create a happier, healthier world. Learn how each of them persevered through challenges and stayed true to their vision.
I'm extremely excited to share an exclusive interview with Christin Powell, entrepreneur and beauty expert, who has spent the last 17 years developing award-winning skincare for Juice Beauty, Perricone MD, and EVER Skincare. She is one of the three guest speakers kicking off the next season at * Speak To Me * on October 27, 6:30-9:00 pm at the Mill Valley Community Center.
When you were young, did you aspire to be in the cosmetics field?
Growing up I wanted to be a writer and was interested in stories, literature, and art. Beauty, whether it be physical beauty in nature or having beautiful things intrigued me. I’ve always been visually oriented.
Why should women spend time thinking about what they apply to their skin?
When I was 26, the woman giving me a facial suggested I get a mole on my face looked at. It turned out to be skin cancer. This was a major turning point in my life and woke me up to the high rates of skin cancer, especially amongst younger people. That led me on a passion quest to look at labels, evaluate the unregulated ingredients we apply to our skin, and I wondered if they even worked. That shocking experience led me into a 20 year career developing skincare products that are focused on being good for you, clean, and performance oriented.
Who were your biggest influencers?
I grew up with a single mom who was a teacher. She loved being a teacher. I’m so lucky having a mom who role-modeled a passionate working mom.
Then when I was living in Mill Valley, I would dive into the book section at Whole Foods about skin care products when I discovered the book, “Natural Skin Care” by Joni Loughran. It had great recipes and that’s when I first became fascinated about making my own products. I met Joni and she introduced me to the chemist who made my first round of products. It was very fortuitous.
Other people I greatly admired in the industry include Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, a pioneer of natural skin care and activists who campaigned for better products and Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Aveda, and what he was doing to raise awareness of ingredients and aromatherapeutic effects of essential oils. He was really ahead of his time. I met him too.
What was it like meeting the people that influenced your life?
Every time I met someone it opened doors. It was like being in school and getting a masters on starting a skincare company. I felt grateful for their time and absorbing all the knowledge they had. It was daunting at times because I didn't have a clue how to do this. But people were aligned with my mission, so supportive, and gave me a lot of their time. Because I was clear and passionate, they helped opened doors for me. It was a confirmation of goodness in people and how they want to help entrepreneurs succeed and 'pay it forward.'
Are you 'paying it forward'?
I talk to entrepreneurs when ever I can. In fact, I just met someone in New York who has a great concept but has never created a business before. I suggested, “The One Page Business Plan” by Jim Horan. Jim was another influential person to me when I was starting out. This book was profoundly effective for me because I found it overwhelming to write a whole business plan and it helped me define my idea, vision and strategy into a one page summary. Then it’s just one day at a time and if you're passionate, committed, tenacious, and you want it bad enough, it can all happen.
In 2000, you co-founded one of the first organic skincare lines right out of your home. What inspired you to start Juice Beauty and why was it important to you?
I knew I needed to start my own business. I was never a good employee. I always wanted to set my own income, manage my own time, and set my own success meters. I was always confused why more people do not define success in their own terms. I was ready in 2000 to leap out and start something but didn’t have the concept yet. When I was diagnosed with skin cancer and began diving into ingredients, that was my ah-ha moment.
There are TONS of cosmetic products on the market. Four years after starting your organic skincare company, it was selling in Sephora, Nordstrom, Whole Foods and across the globe. What made your brand stand out from it’s competitors?
I saw a gap for something that was truly natural, certified organic, and high end. I observed the product packaging in Whole Foods and it wasn’t pretty. I’m passionate about branding and how it impacts the world. Plus my missions of being the first certified organic product made us stand out. It's a brand name people associate with fresh, clean and good for you combined with beautiful packaging and it had a strong story behind it. I believe in order to create change you need to create a movement. For me, that was something I use every day on my skin.
What was your first big break?
Getting into Sephora was the game changer because it has a national distribution with its own marketing engine. The credibility of being in Sephora opened doors to other places such as QVC, Nordstrom, and international department stores. We were in Pharmica and Whole Foods which gave us credibility as an organic line of products. This multi-channel strategy differentiated us from a distribution perspective.
After this, you did some consulting and became head of Research and Development for Perricone MD, where you launched some of their most successful skincare products. What inspired you to leave the company you co-founded?
I left when I had my first child. Then I started to get antsy after eight months and wanted to get my hands into something again. I met Dr. Perricone and the company offered me a position as head of R&D. That's when I became a formulator of hard hitting anti-aging products. This was crucial experience to learn from a scientist about how to use certain ingredients and be on the cutting edge. That was a wonderful experience to take my career to next level.
What led you to EVER Skincare?
I was approached by Stella & Dot to start a new skincare line. It was a start up opportunity within a bigger company that is well backed so I didn’t have to raise money; it was founded by Jessica Herrin, a woman who is incredibly mission driven; and offers flexible entrepreneurship supporting women. As a mom I was looking for flexibility for myself. Women need this, especially in U.S. where we do not have adequate maternity leave. I was really drawn to not only work with an amazing executive team but to create a new, high-end, luxury skincare line that worked and was good for you. It was that perfect blend between good-for-you and high performance that needed to happen and everyone was aligned with that vision. It was a real creative time figuring out what the products were, who would use it, what ingredients to use, and we created something groundbreaking with our LSR10 formula. We were three years in the making and launched in February 2015. Its been an incredible opportunity to share with women. Conscious beauty and paying attention to the ingredients we use.
Your products went from traditional brick and mortar retail sales to direct selling. Was this a natural progression?
The way I started was important to learn about the beauty business. Having different distribution channels in places like Sephora was an education. In 2002, online marketing and ecommerce wasn't that big. It’s still not as big compared to the retail counter. You had to rely on third parties for distribution and marketing to sell your product. Today the market and people have changed dramatically. It’s so much easier to sell and speak directly to your consumers. That's an empowering place to be whereas working with distributors you rely on them to show your product and educate your customer. I prefer Stella & Dot’s business model because I feel the direct empowerment and impact.
Any advice you can share with other entrepreneurs?
My best advice as an entrepreneur is to stay committed, focused and keep your chin up. It's a roller coaster ride to start a business and I see a lot of people getting discouraged and afraid.
The biggest factor in people not succeeding is fear. I always felt that if fear is the only thing in my way then I have all the chances in the world to be successful because I live in Marin County, I'm educated, creative, smart, I have a great support network….there’s no reason I shouldn’t be successful. I just need to stay committed, focused, and not let fear sabotage my dream. The root cause of every issue in the world is fear. That’s the only thing in our way. Whether it’s our thoughts or ambition or confidence or other people telling us things that we can’t do.
How do you balance your family and work life?
It’s all a balancing act whether you are home or work outside the home. Juggling responsibilities and where you choose to spend your time is important. The conversation I would love to spend time on at the Speak To Me event is how we spend our time, whether on your work or with your children. You need to choose and embrace that. Don't look to the side and say, 'I wish I was doing something else.' You make that choice, you need to accept all the consequences from that choice, and you’re fully present in your choice.
What makes a brand great?
I feel strongly you that you need to find the emotion to connect with people. Especially in this world of high tech and low touch, we're missing a lot of emotion in digital branding. The best brands to me are the ones that have high touch packaging that is unique, that speaks to me personally, meets a need, cares about me as a person, is mission driven, and draws me in from an emotional perspective. Great storytelling is the key to amazing branding in a powerful, compelling, and startling way.
Trends are constantly changing. How do you stay innovative and stand out?
It takes fresh thinking about how to get above the noise. Social marketing is the new way to reach people, especially the millennials and women in their 30’s. You have to communicate your unique differentiation in a clear, compelling, and visually dynamic way. Branding is key to delivering a heart centered message and you can rise above the majority with visual storytelling. We use video to communicate and emotional quotes about how to lift people up. I’m in an uplifting business and I think our consumers want to hear uplifting stories and be apart of a community. We do a lot through our Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram channels.
If you could go back in time to when you first started this business, what advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to not be afraid, watch the fear, and not react. As a young entrepreneur, I reacted too quickly instead of waiting as long as I could for the answer. I would get more counsel by my board of advisors for big decisions from bringing in investors to giving away equity, and have more representation. Most of all, I would tell myself to hang in there and it will happen time. It may not happen in the form you think it will. It's an unknown when you set out on an entrepreneurial path. There is no playbook, you're creating it. If someone told me how hard it would be I wouldn't have done it BUT if someone told me trust that it will happen, just stay the course, keep focused, don’t let fear get in the way then I think I would have gotten there sooner.
What were the most important lessons you learned when you launched your cosmetics lines?
A big one is having a solid financial plan and an understanding of the costs of investment to start a business. Having back up plans, hire a good financial advisor with start up experience and good legal council (a top firm is not necessary but a good attorney focused on you.) When you partner with someone, hire an employee, bring on an investor, take time to get to know that person for as long as you can before moving forward. Ask a lot of questions and get it all out on the table. You're essentially marrying that person so make sure you have a contingency plan for when things go wrong and how you’re going to handle it, that you are on same page emotionally before signing the dotted line before establishing a partnership. That’s at a high level but there’s a lot of little things too.
What are the causes that speak to your heart?
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, they have done amazing things raising awareness about ingredients and toxic chemical in our environment.
Along with Stella and Dot, we support Every Mother Counts, which focuses on women in Tanzania who are at grave risk during childbirth.
And The American Cancer Society because of rising rates of skin cancer in the world. They publish excellent information on skin cancer, preventions, effective sunscreen especially in school, and more.
What are your favorite things to do in Marin, CA?
You can always find me hiking on the mountain with my kids (8 and 6), yoga, experimenting with cooking, and shop for organic food. I’m constantly exploring ways to feel and look better and improve my health. I love all the music options such as Jazz by the Bay and outdoor restaurants. My favorite is Le Garage in Sausalito.
I’m writing a book about entrepreneurialism and what is take to be successful while focusing on traits of entrepreneurial women I’ve admired over the years. I've had great mentors that have led amazing lives. I want to write about what has inspired them to become who they are. And I'm focusing my energy to grow EVER Skincare because the time is right, it’s the best work I've done to date, and we have a lot of new products due out next year.
Learn more about Christin Powell at the next Speak to Me event on October 27th. To purchase tickets go to Speak To Me and use the code RAL10 for a 10% discount on single or season tickets! Don't wait - tickets will sell out!