Why We Started a Clean Beauty Company – With a Tech Twist
Feb 25, 2018
Here’s the story of how our little company began.
I sometimes joke that when Whole Foods started carrying clean beauty products, I was their first customer.
It’s not far from the truth.
I’ve loved organic, nourishing food for as long as I can remember. It made sense to me that over time, what I put in my pores, near my eyes and on my lips could also have a cumulative impact on my health.
It also concerned me to learn that the FDA barely regulates cosmetics in the United States. While the European Union bans more than 1,300 known or suspected toxins, here in the United States we only restrict 30. So, about 10 years ago, I started buying some pretty crunchy granola makeup brands. In the beginning, people were probably too polite to tell me I didn’t look terribly glamorous. But I enjoyed peace of mind.
Then, something magical happened. Products started getting better. Recently, I found a clean mascara that worked just as well as traditional mascara!
I became obsessed on two fronts.
First was the idea of starting a company that makes clean makeup easy to buy online, so that many more women could enjoy good-for-you cosmetics.
Second was the conviction that a data science leader was necessary to make it work.
And not just any data science leader. There was exactly one person on the list. I’d worked with her in the past and her name was Kimberly Shenk.
Kimberly is a natural leader with qualities that are almost impossible to find in one person: fearlessness, brilliance, tenacity and a humble, joyful personal manner that can only be described as radiant.
The problem, however, was daunting. Kimberly had a big job running product management at a hot San Francisco technology company. I pictured her adoring employees, hanging onto her every directive. If everything went well, I figured it would take a year to pull her in.
So, in the desire to kick off the year-long recruiting effort, I invited her to “catch up” – armed with the idea, but no money, technical skills, or product.
Most people are shocked to learn I was an officer in the U.S. Air Force. I’ve been told it’s because I don’t look the part.
What they don’t realize is that after nine years of wearing a man’s uniform, makeup was the only thing I could put on that made me feel like a woman. In a sea of camouflage, it was my armour to stand out and build my professional presence.
I also love problem solving. I think it’s my superpower. This is because I will keep working at something until I figure it out. Tell me it can’t be done, and I’m even more excited to solve it. This is why I love the tech industry and data science. It’s meant for problem solvers.
I met Jaleh for breakfast. She reached out to catch up and I was delighted. I viewed her as a mentor and a woman who had seen great success during her long career. Someone you can learn a lot from.
Jaleh won’t tout her accomplishments. She has been at numerous companies in their very early stages, shaping them to be what you know and love today: Amazon, OpenTable, and Upwork to name a few. She has a gift for building brands from nothing, which is why companies all over Silicon Valley relentlessly seek her out for advice.
I had a lot of advice to ask. But instead, she told me about her newfound obsession. She would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it. The more we talked, the more it clicked for me.
That weekend, I started waking up in the middle of the night.
I thought I was dreaming when I woke up to a Sunday morning email from Kimberly. Squinting into my phone, my heart started pounding. She had decided this was her calling.
Within two weeks, we both dropped everything we were doing to start NakedPoppy.
In our minds, failure is not a possibility, even if it should be.
We’re just a few months into our journey. You can follow it here.