Randi Shinder Of SBLA Beauty: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder
If you know you are on the brink of a big idea — keep it to yourself! Flesh it out, work through it, make sure you are ready to go, support it with infrastructure and come out swinging. Go big or go home!
As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Randi Shinder.
Randi is the founder of many innovative and successful independent beauty brands including Clean Perfume, Dessert Beauty with Jessica Simpson, Lip Fusion, which was the first ever lip plumper based on science, which became a brand called Fusion Beauty, I Smell Great with Sophia Bush and SBLA Beauty, which is scientific beauty all about the intersection where science meets beauty. She has remained a leading contributor and disruptor in the beauty industry and it is this mindset that guided her entrepreneurial endeavors which have led her to create some of the most groundbreaking beauty brands and products within the world of fragrance and clinical skincare.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My Grandmothers played a critical role in introducing me to beauty. My paternal grandmother would look after my siblings and I as children when my parents travelled. She had a full regimen of skincare that she would bring with her when she would come to stay with us. My Grandmother taught me how to cleanse properly, to never use a towel to dry my face but just a clean tissue and that I had to use a toner before I apply moisturizer. I never even wore makeup at the time, but we went through the whole nightly regime together every night. I can still remember her bottles, it was Orlane, which was at the time considered a very prestige brand. She had every single product available. Her skin was like porcelain, and she never exposed her skin to the sun.
My maternal Grandmother just had a very innate sense of style. She worked at Holt Renfrew, which at the time was owned by Neiman Marcus, and is a prestige department store in Canada. She always dressed well and was well put together. Her makeup and her hair would always be perfect. Interestingly, both of my grandmothers, up until the very end, had perfectly manicured nails. Always! I never saw a chip!
My Mother collected perfume bottles and that, I know, played a role to some degree with my foray into the world of fragrance. When I used to babysit my younger siblings, I would sit at my mother’s vanity and reassemble her perfume jars. She had a huge selection of fragrances; I remember the original Estee Lauder blue bottle and many others.
This is how I was introduced to beauty and my current career path. I have two different passions: clinical beauty, as well as fragrance and I remain committed to creating in both areas. It all began with fragrance. I always look for what I can’t find and then I create it. It started with Clean Perfume, which was based on the fact that I didn’t like to wear fragrance and I just wanted to smell soapy shower fresh and clean all the time. I felt that there had to be a million me’s that felt the same way that I did. Turns out that there are way more than a million me’s who feel that way. My first brand, Clean Perfume, was created in 2002 and is still available for purchase worldwide today.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
In the beginning, the hardest times would be first understanding the industry. I am not really
someone that believes in barriers to entry, so I had to research everything on my own. At the beginning, I didn’t have a mentor in beauty that walked me through this. So, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to preview my product at a Grammy depot, so some celebrities and editors were able to have a look at it, and that is why it became so sought after.
Back then, I had no carton; I had no points of distribution. I had a fragrance and a stock bottle with a dip tube and a screw-on cap, but knew nothing about how high-end fragrances should be created, so I had to figure it out all of it on my own — and I did. I put up a web page, took people’s email addresses, and buyers began calling me because people were running into stores asking if they had Clean Perfume in the stores because of all the publicity it garnered from the concept itself.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
The drive to continue is something that is either in you or it isn’t in you. I think the best advice I could give anybody who is looking for life to be easy is: don’t become an entrepreneur. I don’t think you become an entrepreneur, you either are or you aren’t one. I have had to do a lot of keynote speeches where I must deal with this topic, but I always say, being an entrepreneur is like being a fireman — you are putting out fires all day long. Whether you are successful or not, the fact is big business means bigger issues. You are still going to face challenges being an entrepreneur with a small niche brand. The world right now is facing supply chain issues, and these are outside of our control, but entrepreneurs persevere. If it was easy everyone would do it.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
My initial success came quite a while ago; my big liquidity event was in 2006, and the second one in 2009, which was not as significant. I had a non-compete, which, quite frankly, was more challenging for me than all the work I had because I didn’t really know what to do with myself. When I came back into the industry, it was a little bit challenging because I had to figure out what was happening. It wasn’t about print ads anymore; there were not even digital ads. It was just a new world. I understand a lot more about it today than I did then. I have lived two lives in my chosen industry. We had success, and it was very rewarding, and we have success again, and I suspect it too will be very rewarding. Your question is right on. It is about grit and resilience. I mean, some days, it is exhausting, and you just want to give up and get back into bed, but it’s not an option. I always say you build brands and figure out your marquee brand — your golden goose, and you focus on it, build it and scale it, but it must be methodical and thought through. I have learned a lot — I have learned how to do things carefully, and I have learned how to challenge myself and others to create the best products and fill white space and bring things to market that have never been seen before.
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 can go back to that Grammy Depot; I had labels that were peeling off because the alcohol was leaking from the bottles. They were put all over the W Hotel in Times Square where they were debuting the Exhale Spa — the Grammys were being held in New York that year. To be honest, I had no clue what I was doing. That kind of speaks for itself and speaks to how much determination you must have to succeed. I have always said this is probably the most competitive industry there is, at least that I am aware of, and I have been in a couple. I see myself as a marketer that creates products that I think meet my standards, fills white spaces, and performs. Even when I sold Fusion Beauty, it was time for me to leave because there were things happening that had nothing to do with me — and I wanted my legacy to be the products that were the best of the best and that we are still talked about today. The funniest was the peeling, clear labels — Clean Perfume by Delish Fragrance. Delish Fragrance came and went in five seconds. The lessons learned from that are understanding just how to properly market within the industry and how to create a product. I was paying so much money to have things hand-filled and packaged — I didn’t even know how to do it all. I knew very little. Everything sorted itself out pretty quickly.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think what makes SBLA Beauty stand out is that we have created interesting, targeted technologies that combine a device with a topical application that includes actives that have never been used before in proprietary formulations that offer results to the consumer. I think that when people can see results and that when you are offering women and men in our demographic a solution to age beautifully at home on their own terms and empowering them to age as they see fit. Not necessarily to have to do things that feel invasive or uncomfortable or have downtime. And even if people do choose to do things that have downtime or require them to see their dermatologist or another expert — you still need good skincare, and things to enhance the benefits of everything you have done. People can have a facelift or eye lift or whatever they choose to do, but our products are meant to be used on women who choose not to go that route or to enhance the results of what they have done to make themselves age on whatever terms they choose.
Our product return rate is 0.7% — so we have learned that it doesn’t matter what anybody says or what we read; we know statistically it has never exceeded 1.6%. We know that we have a very, very large, active database of customers who love their wands and come back and buy them repeatedly. We have 55% of our customers that are repeatedly buying — that tells me everything I need to know. That’s why we are so excited about our new launch, as excited as we were with our last launch. We offer different scientific technologies, and we take it a step further than other brands — because I demand results. I drive my labs crazy, and I drive my partners crazy, but until it is perfect, it doesn’t get released.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Things are more challenging right now than ever because of a pandemic that we can all say is ending, but realistically seems never-ending right now. It has been challenging to build proper infrastructure. For our company, and I think other companies would agree — a lot of what would normally be in-house is outsourced. I don’t know if the world is going to go back to the way it was or if things are going to stay this way. I think the more you can depend on whatever it is you need in terms of agency assistance — and there are all different kinds of agencies now, we are all dealing with digital media agencies, creative groups, in house people working from home who could be in another country or city from you. I have found that by hiring young people who really want to enter your chosen industry, even if they don’t have a lot of experience but are eager to learn, I often see the best results from people like that. I enjoy working with them, and I am motivated to work with them and teach them. It has always been that way, even when we had 63 employees in an office — I was always hiring the same kind of people, and they stayed in the industry on their own even after I had left, and I still speak with most of them.
As for not burning out, I don’t have a lot of great tips where that is concerned. When you start something from the very beginning, and you build it, and you scale it, and you watch it grow. I have children, I am not going to compare it to a child, but I throw my heart into my work, so I don’t really think about burnout. I complain a lot about being tired and needing a break, but I rarely take one.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have definitely had a little help from my friends, and I can’t really just speak to one person. If we are talking about today, I would say my business partner Robert Koyman and I — we are together in every aspect. He acts as the Chief Operating Officer — he came into the industry a lot later than I did but he is catching on quickly. I understand the recipe to success and Robert understands how to take and harness the ideas and get them to where they need to be to get into production and market.
Of course, if I go back in time, I had a great partnership and relationship with Sephora — a very unique one actually. David Suliteanu was the CEO of Sephora at that time, we worked very closely together. They were very important partners for my brands, Clean Perfume, and Dessert Beauty — they had exclusivity for Dessert Beauty, and for Lip Fusion they had exclusivity for each new product. We were partners. I had the first ever 10-million-dollar brand at Sephora and I had the first ever 50-million-dollar brand at Sephora. I always say I did really well with Sephora and Sephora did really well with me. We worked more as partners than as merchants and vendors. That was a relationship that propelled my brands and my place in the industry forward.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I would like to think that I have, yes. First of all, I have raised two children who I believe are beautiful human beings inside and out. Second, I have my chosen pet charities and causes. I have significant issues with animal cruelty and factory farming. I spend most nights, believe it or not; you will find me on LinkedIn pledging to try to rescue dogs from shelters. I will make multiple pledges every single night. I believe that in doing so, I am happy to say every day of my life, I at least save one life. I believe that in giving, you get. And no one will ever change my mind about that.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. The lead time for the components and raw materials you need for any product are quite extensive. Planning out the inventory is an incredibly complex and crucial part of running a beauty brand.
2. The beauty industry has a significant marketing component to it. I would make sure that I understood that I have 3 to 5 seconds to engage my customer and make them understand that they want to see the rest of what I have to tell them about my product. Effective marketing makes for effective campaigns, makes for new customers, and great top-of-funnel customer acquisition. Of course, great efficacy in your products means they come back and buy your product again and again and again.
3. You must have a solid marketing budget; this is the most competitive industry out there.
4. You must make a name for yourself — but keep focused on your own self. It’s a competitive and challenging industry. Keep your head down and don’t worry about or engage in the drama.
5. If you know you are on the brink of a big idea — keep it to yourself! Flesh it out, work through it, make sure you are ready to go, support it with infrastructure and come out swinging. Go big or go home!
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
Some of the emotional highs and lows of being a founder ultimately, and I don’t know that everyone understands this, but that as a founder, everyone is working on something that is your intellectual property. It came out of your brain; whether it came out of your brain in the middle of the night or like a lightning bolt at some point during the day — it is something that you created. Only you can picture it and see it, and everyone else either has to understand it and believe in it, or they can’t be a part of your journey. There is a lot of emotion in that — it is something that belongs to you in a sense. Everyone places a tremendous value on intellectual property. I guess every day, you have a little bit of that struggle because people have different ideas, and you must trust people to take care of your very personal intellectual property. That is why there is an emotional component to being a founder. And then, the day comes, potentially, if you are lucky where somebody buys your intellectual property, part, or all of your business and suddenly you are not just selling your product, you are not just selling something that you grew and scaled, but you are selling something that was yours in every sense of the world. I know some people would say: “What do you have to complain about? You got all this.” Well, I’m not complaining, but it is emotional…yes. For me, it was, and I am sure for other people it is not nearly as emotional. For me, when I had my first major transaction, I sat in my lawyer’s office; not a lot of people know about this, but I sat in my lawyer’s office sobbing. And he looked at me and said, “What’s wrong with you? Most people would be celebrating right now.”, but nothing was wrong with me. I was happy, but I did realize a few things — I was still going to live in the same house, I was still going to drive the same car, I was still going to travel, and I was still going to do nice things for my children and with my children and they were going to live a good life. I was still going to be able to live exactly how I lived, what was going to change were the lives of people that I had loved, and I guess the way I was viewed or my future — I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly. I guess you get used to it.
A lot of these things become very public, so you do somewhat become a little bit more guarded. There is an emotional aspect to all of that and to let go of something that you worked so hard to create. You can’t imagine that when you are really looking forward to it — and I am not going to pretend I don’t look forward to one day having a liquidity event for SBLA Beauty with the right partner that makes sense. One that I can work with or sell to a company that will build it and turn it into something even bigger than you could on your own or with your team — that would make me feel better. Either way, I still think it would always be hard for someone like me — I do put a lot of emotion into my work, and that is the honest answer.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. :-)
I’ve taken the time to reflect about how much has happened in my life, and I appreciate how far I have come. I make my best efforts to determine what matters the most. I’ve worked hard and had the opportunity to create and build ground-breaking beauty brands, Clean Perfume, Dessert Beauty, Lip Fusion / Fusion Beauty, I Smell Great, and SBLA Beauty. I have worked with amazing people, and I have raised two children who I adore and who are now young adults defining their respective life’s paths. When I look back and read articles, keynote speeches, awards, and my life experiences, it seems a somewhat surreal glimpse of what really is a part of my life. After being a closed book throughout all of my career, I think I am ready to share many of my experiences with women who find themselves in unique spaces and places where we are creating lives that include taking care of our families, house- holds, and businesses. I would like to help and mentor women who are looking to expand their professional lives as well as their companies and destinies. To me it is about finding that sweet spot to balance it all. In the future, I’d like to consider myself a source of encouragement, support, and inspiration to master personal journeys through my own personal lens and real life experiences.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!