Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer, Credo Beauty
Superpower: Relentless determination.
Since founding Credo Beauty in 2015, chief executive officer Annie Jackson has learned that slow and steady wins the race.
“We have had very measured growth at Credo, and I look back at a few different things, thinking I’m so glad we didn’t do them,” she said. “When you feel like you’re onto something, you want to go fast. What’s hard is keeping your vision your own, and not letting the competition influence you.”
Credo now has more than 130 brand partners and a list of more than 2,700 prohibited ingredients, and has also banned single-use products. Jackson sees more room to hold beauty manufacturers accountable.
“There is still a complete under-regulation of the beauty industry, down to the ridiculous claims on packaging and having a complete lack of transparency, which is such an old dinosaur way of thinking,” she said. “Clearly in the scientific community, the debate around whether certain chemicals are impacting our health or the health of the environment isn’t new.”
Part of that accountability means approaching social media with a healthy skepticism. “What’s been a negative of social media is oversimplifying science, and that’s where the debate on clean beauty comes from. But why should the beauty industry be precluded from asking questions about if a product might have better or different ingredients to use? Thinking this way and encouraging brands to think this way is a positive, and not a negative,” she said.
“Questioning if we can prevent certain exposures from, let’s say, endocrine disruptors and products — can we together make decisions as an industry? Let’s do it. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?” she continued. “We’re moving in a very positive direction, and there is a very aspirational and new and conscientious generation of indie brand founders out there who are creating products in a totally different way.”
Working to Jackson’s advantage is that “clean” beauty has become associated with a health-conscious lifestyle. “I see many partnerships and functional wellness or nutritional healing, and beauty products that work in those combinations, with this more inner-outer wellness aspect,” she said. “Clean beauty is squarely in that lifestyle.”
She sees lots of progress to be made in inclusivity as well. “I see a really positive change that we’ve all seen as a continuation of growth in brands celebrating real beauty, versus covering up the real person,” she said. “We’ve spent so much of our time around inclusive beauty and inclusivity in general. I hope that continues to be a really high priority for brands, not viewing underserved people as a niche. Investing in every person — that’s how it should be.”
Cofounder, Thirteen Lune
Superpower: Authentically creating community.
When Nyakio Grieco founded her namesake beauty brand Nyakio in 2002, it was to share the beauty secrets of her family in Kenya.
“When I started my journey, I quit my job to make my grandmother’s coffee scrub, and I did that because it gave me this connectivity to my roots I hadn’t gotten to experience so much,” she said.
With her latest venture, Thirteen Lune, which she cofounded with 11 Honoré’s Patrick Herning, the mission isn’t about familial ties, it’s about helping as many Black-owned brands as possible.
“Through my journey as a founder for 20 years, little did I know all of those ups and downs would lead me to living in my purpose by creating Thirteen Lune,” she said. “I always thought I was going to be one brand-specific, or about product, but the industry became a place for me to live in my purpose as well as to amplify and elevate and celebrate people who do the same things as I do, but in a way that is meant to get them to success way quicker than I ever did.”
During her founder days, Grieco’s biggest hurdles were finding the right distribution partners. To that end, Thirteen Lune’s self-imposed stipulations — 90 percent of the brands it stocks are founded by people of color, while the other 10 percent are “allied brands,” Grieco said last year — aim to catapult brands into its flywheel of distribution, which will soon shops-in-shop inside J.C. Penney.
“Thirteen Lune was the first of its kind, and I don’t really want to see it as a white space. I want to see it as an opportunity to further make this industry even more inclusive,” Grieco said. “The opportunity to bring more brands to shelf that may not have otherwise had the opportunity in a very authentic way is something that I think will go on and on, but when I look at our 90/10 rule, it’s a rule that could span across many industries. It goes back to the connectivity, opportunity and universal beauty of the industry, no pun intended.”
Relatedly, connectivity is one thing that initially surprised Grieco when she started working in beauty. “One thing about beauty that nobody tells you is that it’s actually one of the most supportive industries, in terms of how people truly want to help people and encourage one another,” she said. “The industry has a stigma of superficiality, but beauty is universal and one of the greatest ways to connect. We shop our favorite beauty brands because our girlfriends or guy friends tell us to, right? This is often a divisive world in terms of strife and economic downfalls, but lipstick always brings joy.”
Virginie Courtin and Prisca Courtin
Managing Director and President of the Supervisory Board of Groupe Clarins, respectively
Superpowers: Sharp focus and inside-out knowledge of their family’s business.
Virginie Courtin and Prisca Courtin, first cousins and granddaughters of Groupe Clarins founder Jacques Courtin, have lived and breathed their family’s beauty business from Day One. They’ve also had hands-on experience inside the group — which is the premium skin care leader in Europe that generated estimated sales of 1.68 billion euros in 2021 — working in different operational capacities while rising up through the ranks.
In mid-February it was announced each was taking on elevated roles to lead Groupe Clarins, becoming the third generation of family members to do so.
Virginie Courtin now works alongside Jonathan Zrihen, president and CEO of Groupe Clarins, and her uncle Olivier Courtin, who is also a group managing director. She had served as company deputy CEO since 2018.
In her new role, Courtin said her first focus is “to continue to work and work and work.”
As a member of Clarins’ board since 2018, she has actively participated in developing the company’s strategy.
“I fully intend to take Clarins to new heights, all while pursuing the rollout of our ambitious CSR road map. This means: Strive to remain an undisputed leader in the cosmetics market, continue to expand worldwide, particularly in fast-growing markets, and make sure that CSR is present at all levels,” she said.
Prisca Courtin has succeeded her uncle, Christian Courtin, father of Virginie, who stepped down from the chairman of the supervisory board position that he had held since 2011, after leaving his operational role. Prisca Courtin also runs her family’s holding Famille C, which recently acquired Ilia Beauty.
She explained her priorities as: “It is important for me to focus on Clarins’ productivity and make sure that my family group outperforms in the next decades. We are very ambitious, and I am confidant that surrounded by the women and men bringing their own expertise we will reach our goals.”
Courtin added in her new position, she is to oversee the company’s proper management.
“This mainly consists of validating budgets and ensuring that strategic decisions are well-implemented for Clarins,” said Courtin. “This financial role is to ensure that Clarins keeps its profitability by allocating the right resources.”
“I will contribute to my family’s entrepreneurial story and instill in Clarins the agility and innovative mindset it will need to stay ahead of the pack,” she continued. “My ambition is to build the future of Clarins, while remaining true to its values. Finally, reaching gender parity in the supervisory board is also important to me. This is why my first focus was to name Virginie Verin, as a member of Clarins’ supervisory board.”
Founder and CEO, Mielle Organics
Superpower: Genuine consumer connection.
Monique Rodriguez may now have a robust business, but she came to the industry from a nursing background.
“Learning the basic fundamentals of managing profitability and understanding your profits and losses statement, as well as understanding the retail landscape and how to negotiate your contracts: those were all very steep learning curves for me,” she said. “When I first started the brand, I was using food molecules, and I had to learn that actual food molecules don’t penetrate the hair shaft. I had to learn how to work with a chemist and extract nutrients, too. Starting this company was a big learning curve as a whole.”
Rodriguez had no problem bringing herself up to speed, as evidenced by Mielle Organics’ roster of investors. Richelieu Dennis’ New Voices Fund invested in the brand in 2020, and last year, Berkshire Partners bought a minority stake in the brand. Terms of that deal were not disclosed, but it was a major one — Berkshire Partners typically invests between $100 million and $1 billion per deal.
Mielle Organics also aims to reinvent the shopping experience for textured hair. “Even though some products are called multicultural, it labels you as in the ethnic outfield,” Rodriguez said. “There’s so much opportunity to just talk about texture, because textured hair has no culture. Textured hair can be for caucasian, Latino or Jewish people. There’s a lot of white space to speak to textured hair as a category, and not a segregated race or culture.”
Rodriguez also sees room to better represent the breadth and diversity of her core consumer, and not put all of her core consumers under the “textured hair care” umbrella.
“There needs to be representation of what we look like as a whole culture of Black women, and not just segregate based off of skin tone and hair texture,” she said. “I try to be sure we’re very inclusive of speaking to all different hair types.”
She went further to call for inclusion outside of the hair care aisle. “When you think about Hollywood, the red carpet, it’s still a lot of women who are conforming to European standards of beauty and there’s not a lot of representation of natural hair,” she said.
“I would like to see the direction move to where people of influence are showing that it’s OK to wear your natural hair, it’s OK to be who you naturally are in a state of professional environments, and when you’re on TV. They’re the ones who set the trends and have influence. Then, it changes the narrative of young girls who are growing up and seeing that it’s OK to be who I naturally am when I’m going on a job interview, or when I’m in a board room. I can be my natural self and it’s acceptable, and it’s still considered beautiful,” she continued.
Founder and CEO, Saie Beauty
Superpower: To see around corners.
Laney Crowell is no stranger to the opportunities in the unknown.
The blogger, also an alumna the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., knows how to arrive early to a trend, and for her latest venture, that started with makeup. “I started working on Saie and was interested in clean beauty before it even had the word ‘clean’ attached to it, and before wellness had a whole industry attached to it,” she said.
Crowell’s prescience led her to found Saie in 2019, the clean-minded beauty brand that just expanded with Sephora and counts Unilever Ventures and Gwyneth Paltrow as investors. The brand’s offerings, which combine functional skin care benefits with color cosmetics, seem to be resonating strongly. What guides Crowell, though, are the brand’s key pillars.
“We call them the feel-good five: they’re the lenses we look at everything through,” she explained. “Clean, conscious, luxury, award-winning and new. That is how we keep this interesting for everyone involved.”
Part of the “conscious” pillar includes sustainability, a cause Crowell champions with the brand. If she had her say, “there would be no plastics used in formulas, and we would collectively start moving away from plastic in our packaging,” she said of the industry.
“Our mission is to make beauty better. A huge part of that is being earth-friendly, and how we make huge strides for the climate and for sustainability. I would like all of us to become activists, not just advocates. And what’s exciting about the beauty industry is that it has a lot of power.”
Saie’s products claim to be free of neurotoxins, environmental stressors, allergens, endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and phthalates. The brand is Climate Neutral-certified, Leaping Bunny-certified and certified Plastic Negative. It also partners with TerraCycle to recycle beauty product packaging. The message seems to be resonating: the brand has grown 300 percent since entering Sephora last year.
With that in mind, Crowell is always evaluating new frontiers to bolster the brand’s ethos. Last year, Saie introduced Saie Vintage, a virtual activation which includes a rotating assortment of vintage clothes for sale on the brand’s website.
“When it comes to opportunities, we evaluate them and first ask if we have seen this before. If so, we rule it out,” Crowell said. “We definitely are dedicated to being outside-of-the-box and remarkable, all while being true to ourselves. That’s a really important lens for us.”
Following intuition is also key for Crowell, who doesn’t spend too much time looking at her competition. “My biggest learning has been to not look at other people’s learnings, and to do what feels authentic to us,” she said. “That’s where you get that really sticky magic that people can’t look away from.”
Superpower: Range — from biotech to brand building.
Although Jasmina Aganovic’s knowledge of beauty is rooted in biology, her approach is anything but technical.
“What people don’t realize is the immense amount of creativity that happens at all stages of beauty. It’s not just in the positioning and the creative, but a lot of it takes place in the science and technical development, especially if you are going to try to do something new,” she said.
Arcaea, which Aganovic founded, counts Chanel, Givaudan and Olaplex as investors. It uses everything from DNA sequencing to fermentation and bio-engineering to bring new technologies and products to market.
For Aganovic, running her own company means straddling research and development and product marketing all at once. “My background is technical, and during the early stage of my career, I believed if you delivered something that has really great science, then obviously people will see that and they will come. I realized that actually, how science is portrayed and how it is positioned has an immense influence on the amount of resonance it has with people,” she said.
“That is actually the most important part, figuring out how the work you do connects with people. It’s the biggest area to pay attention to, and it’s actually a continuous piece of learning,” she continued.
Although timely issues like sustainability are shaping Aganovic’s work, she thinks of them outside of a problem-solution framework. “A lot of white space is driven by problems and challenges the industry is facing, such as the sustainability concern,” she said. “The biggest opportunities exist if we focus not just on solving these problems, but thinking past those problems about what are new things that are possible outside of those constraints.”
Aganovic thinks product marketing could also use a reframe. “Claims shape how products are marketed to us, and they are directly tied to methods we use in the lab,” she said. “Claims are rooted in shame and negativity, like something is wrong. I’m not discounting that there are really skin issues people are uncomfortable dealing with, but I think there is so much opportunity to create a positive claim space so the industry is less rooted in shame and more rooted in opportunity, expression, self-love and comfort. We’re already seeing that people want that from the industry, and it’s coming through, but the claims haven’t changed yet.”
Similarly, she does think the market is vast enough to benefit all of its players, she said. “I foundationally believe that this industry can be a win for all businesses, that it can still be wildly successful from a financial perspective, and that it can serve a really positive place in consumers’ lives, and it can have a positive impact on the environment,” she said. “All of these things can be positive rather than feeling like we need to take from different elements.”
— With contributions from Jennifer Weil
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