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Female Disruptors: Robin Tolkan-Doyle of Beautyologie On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

“Learn from others about what does not work.” There is just as much value as learning what works in business as what does not work, even more so when you’re just starting out and you have a limited budget to work with. One wrong move and it could cost you your business.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robin Tolkan-Doyle.

With 25 years of professional experience in the beauty industry as an editor, publicist and entrepreneur, Robin Tolkan-Doyle knows her way around the beauty space. Upon researching brands for an article on fair trade beauty, she noticed a void in the market for this category and felt like it wasn’t receiving the attention it deserves. So, she created Beautyologie.com, the first fair-trade and ethically sourced beauty marketplace dedicated to promoting brands that all share the same ethos, which is to employ the beauty industry as an agent toward social change.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Robin! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I started off working in editorial as a beauty editor for a teen magazine where I tested and wrote about every product ever created at the time. But it was the opportunity to interview so many inspiring beauty professionals that sparked my inner entrepreneur and led me to create a hair accessory brand called Wrap Star, which garnered a decent amount of fame in the pages of national magazines and the shelves of well-known shops on Fifth Avenue and Robertson Blvd.

Ultimately, my sweet spot in this business journey was handling the public relations and marketing and upon the advice of a friend, I decided to create Charmed PR, a boutique agency focusing of beauty and fashion accessories. Over the last 15 years that I’ve been running Charmed, I’ve had the good fortune to work with many amazing brands that have been created and run by smart, wonderful people.

While beauty has always been at the forefront of my professional life, I noticed in the last couple of years that my interest shifted from the products I was promoting to the intention behind them. This is what eventually led me to create my latest business endeavor Beautyologie.com, a fair trade and ethically-sourced beauty product marketplace. My goal is to enlighten consumers, not just about the ingredients in their beauty products and what they do to their skin, but to spark a conversation about the origin stories behind the ingredients in the products and the producers sourcing them from disadvantaged countries around the world.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I don’t believe there is another beauty site out there trying to do this. There are many popular beauty online shopping sites and blogs out there offering the cleanest, most sustainable, “greenest” or “bluest” beauty products in the marketplace, but I am honing in on the stories about the human connections to these beauty products. Are they truly ethically sourced? Are the people sourcing the ingredients being taken care of?

This ethical conversation has been happening for a while in the fashion industry, thanks to Fashion Revolution, the non-profit organization created after the collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013 when more than one thousand garment workers in Bangladesh died.

This conversation is only just starting to happen here and there in the beauty industry by brands who take the time and energy to discuss it. True Moringa, Tierra & Lava, Terres D’Afrique and Katari Beauty are some of the brands doing this on their own small scale. I want Beautyologie to be a marketplace for all of these small brands so that they can get their message out to beauty consumers as a collective. We all have the same mission, which is to use the beauty industry as a vehicle for social change, empowerment and sustainability. Without the hard work of these producers in Africa, South America, India, etc., your body cream or face serum would not be possible. I want beauty lovers everywhere to understand this. They need to realize that the vanilla, for instance, in their lip balm, may have been sourced by a 12 year old. It’s scary what we don’t know about the products we buy every day.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve been on an App learning spree lately and let me tell you, I sometimes wish I could go back to using a beeper. One of the platforms that I have a love hate relationship with is Planoly for Instagram. I still have trouble sometimes figuring out how to schedule the posts. One time, I accidentally let a couple placeholder posts post to my feed. There was nothing on them, but it was mortifying. The woman who I took a social media class from happened to notice them and texted me to let me know I needed to delete them asap. Thankfully, she caught them pretty quickly and had my back so I didn’t look too dumb!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I am so inspired by one of my first PR clients Rahama Wright and her brand Shea Yeleen. Rahama employs more than 800 women in Ghana who produce the shea butter in her skincare products that she sells in the United States. While most beauty consumers have heard of shea butter, they don’t realize the correlation that African women have to the ingredient. That got me thinking about all the other ingredients used to create beauty products, where they come from, who is sourcing them and how they’re being treated. I can say this played a huge part in my creation of Beautyologie.

I’ve also learned a tremendous amount from Murphy Bishop, the co-founder of The Better Skin Co. and one of my longest running clients. He is just such an inspirational business person and has been super generous with sharing his insight and knowledge about the industry.

Then there is my dad, who is the ultimate entrepreneur. He’s been creating and running businesses ever since I can remember. He’s had amazing highs and really low lows, but he’s always weathered the storms that come with working for yourself and wouldn’t have it any other way. Working for yourself just feels right to me, and I’m sure I get that trait from him.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

In my situation, I believe the “disruption” that I’m trying to create in the beauty industry is incredibly positive. Consumers are going to consume, that will never change. But I want consumers to become more thoughtful with what they’re consuming, what they’re spending their money on and how it makes a huge difference in the grand scale of things.

If you’re reading this, try to remember the next time you need to replace your face cream to not just purchase the cheapest product you can find (more often than not, from a from major corporation with a murky supply chain based on making a profit over taking care of the people sourcing the ingredient.) Instead, do some research on finding a brand that is ethically sourced and maybe even formulated with fair trade ingredients. If you do that, than the disruption I’m aiming for worked.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

The first one that I play over and over in my head every day is “Have patience.” As someone who likes instant gratification, it’s definitely a challenge to stay focused on my long term goals and not get discouraged when things don’t happen as fast as I would like them to.

“Learn from others about what does not work.” There is just as much value as learning what works in business as what does not work, even more so when you’re just starting out and you have a limited budget to work with. One wrong move and it could cost you your business.

“Follow your passion and you’ll never be unhappy.” It’s pretty generic, but for good reason. I feel that Beautyologie is a culmination of everything I’ve been working towards in my life professionally and personally. Between my experience in the beauty industry, in editorial, marketing and PR, in my travels and interactions with cultures from around the world, I believe I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be now, which is creating Beautyologie.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I would love Beautyologie to eventually encourage more beauty brands to band together and start a movement to formulate with fair trade and ethically sourced ingredients. Obviously, not all ingredients in beauty products come from nature (there is a balance of science involved), but there is no reason, other than for sheer profit, that brands should be formulating with cheap ingredients that they can’t source back to its origin.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Women are often generalized as being too emotional. Sometimes we’re even referred to as “crazy” or “angry” when we show our true feelings whereas a man would simply be labeled passionate and determined. I think it’s up to us to embrace these labels instead of being offended by them because I don’t think they’re going to stop anytime soon.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

I’ve been following CauseArtist.com for the last year. The website features a continual stream of articles highlighting social entrepreneurs from around the world who share valuable insight. The founder, Grant Trahant also conducts an ongoing podcast that I listen to on my hikes around my neighborhood. He has a series called Tools for Scale that I’ve taken plenty of mental notes from when forming my business.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

There is so much excess in the world, especially in the beauty industry. This question really goes back to my goal of Beautyologie, which is encouraging existing beauty brands and future ones to look to the poverty stricken regions of the world where there are abundant crops ready to harvest for beauty ingredient sourcing and put those communities to work. Uplift them, empower them and give them the tools to prosper.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Maya Angelou said, “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.” There’s nothing that makes me feel better than laughing. I can’t go to sleep at night without having a good laugh sometime during the day. Being married to a comedy writer for the last 21 years, I have learned that having a sense of humor is the only way to keep your sanity.

How can our readers follow you online?

Beautyologie.com and on Instagram at @Beautyologie

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.

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