Dorian Morris' Undefined on working with female & minority owned factories & thoughtful partners
Updated: Apr 7, 2022
Today on the show we’re learning from Dorian Morris, the founder behind Undefined.
Undefined is on a mission to “undefine” and destigmatize plant-based solutions through an unapologetic, uncompromising, unfiltered approach. Dorian is focused on democratizing plant ingredients like adaptogens and infusing social impact in the process with a collection of plant-based skincare and wellness products.By tapping into purpose-driven, conscious capitalism, Undefined Beauty seeks to celebrate the beauty of choice over conformation.
In this episode we’re chatting through her blueprint in building this business, how she moved from CBD to adaptogens, and how she’s grown the brand by creating something that’s truly purpose driven and has a positive social impact in the world.
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Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Hello. I'm so excited to be here. Me too. I'm jealous that you're in L. A. Though. I feel like I'd love to switch the London vibes for the L. A. Vibes. Yeah, but you're probably not jealous of our $7 gas. That's not so fun right now. You know, I was in new york just recently and what was it? It was like when you went to book an Uber, it basically said there's a fuel surcharge now and it was like crazy, crazy, crazy the world is a weird place. Yeah, it's definitely unique time and inflation. I was at target the other day and I'm like really toilet paper is.
00:03:30Edit $35 gasp. But you know it's a unique time they were in. How Much toilet paper are we talking about here for $35. Oh this is like a big role like the 2024 Pack, Which as a single lady, I probably do not need 24 rolls of toilet paper. I love that we're starting our episode with toilet paper. I'm Still kind of surprised that it's $35 even as a 24 pack. Like it still seems really high and I'm going to get back to you and what it is here in the UK. I was shocked and did not buy it so low. You don't love that for, you don't love that for L. A. L. A. In the toilet paper. I'm not into it. But we do have the sun and the waves and I was a mermaid in my previous life. So I'm in my happy place. I love that. I reckon I probably would have been a mermaid in my previous life too. That's so cool. Love that for us, introduce us to your brand. Who you are. What's a bit of the ethos for anyone who might not know what it is yet. Absolutely. So Undefined is clean conscious inclusive.
00:04:33Edit Plant magic. My mission is really to democratize beauty and undefined what the beauty and wellness space looks like because historically she's had one face and that face no disrespect with skinny blonde, affluent white. And I believe we all deserve access to high quality products that don't cost your firstborn child. So I created undefined to really bridge that gap by elevating, you know, beautiful plant wisdom, but accessibly priced as well as giving a nod to inclusivity which comes to life via my packaging as well as my supply chain strategy. So everything is very intentional. Um I live at the intersection of beauty and wellness because I have both injectables as well as skin care and some other really exciting developments and innovation and other categories coming down the pipeline. But ultimately at a high level undefined is really giving people tools to really tackle modern day stress, which shows up, you know, on your skin as well as just your internal well being. So it's all about giving people the right tools to empower them to live their best lives.
00:05:36Edit I love that. And I particularly love your packaging. When I was looking at all of your products online. I was like, wow, I feel like there's a story with the packaging because it's just so different. So, this new collection that launched last fall is called the R and R collection. So it's focused on the benefits of adaptive genic mushrooms to rescue, repair and reset and replenish your skin barrier. So at the end of the day, it's all about skin health and I chose inclusive illustrations that actually tied back to either the ingredients story or the end benefits. So for example, this little baby here, the cleanser. It has this beautiful asian american illustration because the ingredient story has green tea, go to cola shiitake mushroom, which has its heritage and traditional chinese medicine. So I wanted to give a nod to that cultural context that elevated these ingredients and almost de colonized beauty. Um, and then on the flip side, my best seller day serum has this beautiful african american goddess because the focus is hyper pigmentation and brightening and the more melanin you have in your skin, the more risk you are for hyperpigmentation, although we all want bright healthy skin.
00:06:43Edit So it's really a universal need state. But just giving a nod to that community that could use it the most amazing, incredible. It looks super, super cool. And yeah, I haven't seen that. I wouldn't say at all on packaging is really different love. Yeah, I think um undefined was probably one of the first brands to embark upon this, you know, diversity and action, I like to say. But honestly it has been so heartwarming because I constantly get DMS of people that discover me at whole foods or target and it's like this is the first time they feel seen and you know, representation matters and seeing is believing is becoming and so I do think there's power in these small decisions that can really, you know, change the beauty landscape 100% and I really think it's like you know the kind of thing that catches someone's eye when they're walking past you in the aisle and immediately understand what it's about. You know like there's no kind of like having to research first, it's like oh yeah I think I've got what's going on here, like pick it up and then read the backstory and be like oh yeah yeah. I mean the packaging is really an education tool to because it kind of talks through what are some of the plant magic that's in the formula.
00:07:47Edit So people can start to understand that even if they don't buy my products, Oh licorice root does this nice cinema does that. And so I really want to you know, be inclusive. And for me, inclusivity is not just about the color of your skin, it's about bringing people into the conversation That have been historically left out maybe because they don't know where to start. So it's an information gap and so the education piece is important or it's you know, they can't afford it. So there's the economic inclusivity and ensuring that everyone has access because this collection is priced under $30. Oh my gosh wow, amazing. Let's rewind a little bit too, you know why you were getting interested in starting your own brand and what was leading to that moment. Yeah so I am a beauty and wellness veteran. So going back to the beginning of time um I started my career in retail. So I guess before that U. C. L. A. Undergrad. Go Bruins, hopefully we'll make it all the way in the final four. I'm kind of a sports nut. Um And so while I was an undergrad I did all of my internships in advertising and a little stint in music.
00:08:50Edit Um So I thought I was going to launch my career is just like high power advertising executive. And then I realized that advertising didn't pay any money. So I made the decision in my senior year to kind of switch gears. And I started in retail at the executive training program at this company called Robinsons May which rest in peace. Robinsons May doesn't exist anymore. Macy's acquired it probably six months after I started. So I moved on to Macy's really understanding how to build assortments, um think through product planning. Um Then ultimately from there I went to business school. So I really wanted to get back to the consumer piece of like you know, I'm a very curious person and so I like like problem solving and connecting dots and I find that marketing is kind of a key area for that. So I went to Harvard business school um really learning kind of general management and then I went to general Mills. So a large food conglomerate here in the U. S. In Minneapolis Minnesota and I was there for a couple of years working on some really amazing brands like chex mix um as well as your play.
00:09:51Edit I really missed you know the tanja bility of beauty. So I had interned to J and J beauty, working on hair care, used to have a lot of hair, so hair care is a very special place in my heart and I've done some internships in business school, also working in beauty and so I had this amazing opportunity that fell into my lap at this company called kendo and at that point no one knew what kendo is, people still might not know what kendo is, but I don't know what kendo is, please tell me. So at the time it was the division of Sephora Sephora right, got it. Yeah, okay, so it was a division of Sephora creating their white space brand. So marc Jacobs, kat von d now Fenty and so it was this little incubation engine within the larger LVMH family and that's really where I learned all things beauty and how to really win within the prestige landscape. So I did that for a couple of years and you know when I joined, I think there was maybe 30 people when I left, it was about 250.
00:10:52Edit So super high growth, very scrappy, you know, roll up your sleeves, it was a GsD culture gets it done like that was the mindset, it was like we are going to take over the beauty world, you know pick names and you know DST and so did that for a couple of years. Then I went to sundial which at that point was a black owned family owned company. Um Shea moisture was the largest brand and I came on board to essentially do what I was doing at kendo. But for Madam C. J. Walker, which was this new beauty line that was taking the rich heritage of Madam C. J. Walker herself, which if you're not familiar, she was the first self made black millionaire in the U. S. In the early 19 hundreds. So this is before women had rights before black women had rights, she really built her empire, you know really through word of mouth and she was the mary Kay before there was mary Kay um and so the goal was to take this heritage of this icon in the black community and bring her to the modern day curly girl.
00:11:56Edit Um and then I went to cover girl cosmetics briefly didn't necessarily enjoy that role but learn something from it. And from there I launched undefined, so I've been kind of a cross corporate beauty roles um but this entrepreneurship journey I will say is very different because you know in these larger corporations, there's teams, there's money, there's support um and I am a bootstrap team of one currently. So it's definitely been a fun journey and roller coaster to really do things differently and take a very different approach to brand building holy moly what a journey! So much experience, definitely like a veteran in the, in the beauty industry. Gosh, wow! Yeah, I've had multiple lives. How do you sort of think about like you, you had all this experience, you knew the, like the blueprint of building a brand within those walls of having, you know, funding and team and all the bits already kind of figured out when you were starting to launch your own brand, what were those early steps, what did you need to do to get started as a woman of one?
00:13:03Edit Yeah, so as I was thinking about, you know, my next steps after leaving cover girl, I was actually a, it's working for general Mills again as an internal consultant and that's where I started to radiate. It's like, okay, Dorian, you've now built brands for other people, it's time to build one for yourself and really taking kind of the toolkit that I've learned kind of across each of those different roles because they were all very different and added something very different to like my learnings and ultimately, I think, you know, entrepreneurship is about leadership and leadership transcends, you know, individual roles within companies. And so as I was thinking about kind of how I wanted this to come to life, literally had a ginormous posted note with my best friend who she was also in the beauty space and we're like, I? D 80 names and concepts and I'm like a big idea person and will say sometimes I need to corral the cats and get a little bit more focused. And so there was a couple of different, you know, areas that I wanted to play. I also like because I take a step back, it was almost like building this umbrella idea and I had multiple little like collections within this broader vision which came to life is undefined, which is nice because it's all about you know, breaking the rules, you know, not following a playbook and doing things very differently.
00:14:23Edit So I think it gave me the legs to do things, you know, unconventional. Um and so where I started was I dating a name and then making sure that I had the ability to have a U. R. L. And instagram handle. Um I then started embarking upon kind of the product development journey and really thinking about what I wanted to bring to life and how I'm going to be differentiated in this space. This was 2018. So very different, you know, space than we are now. I actually started on the CBD side of the business. And this is right when CBD, which is one of the major cannabinoids in cannabis, became legal in the US. And so I was an early mover in that, you know, the Wild West will call it a CBD but the one thing that I noticed as I was thinking about this space or looking at the space. Um, is that a lot of the brands were either a very expensive or be crunchy granola. They looked like they came out of an apothecary. And I felt that there was an opportunity to kind of elevate the conversation and demystify the plant magic, but also do so in a way that's fun, fresh, unapologetic.
00:15:29Edit At the end of days beauty, it's, it's not, you know, it shouldn't be so serious. And so that was the angle that I took. And I launched at Indie Beauty expo in fall of 2020, And I haven't looked back since and I will tell you my little secret, I actually made the decision to launch less than a month before the show. And so it was, it was not a, you know, this grand vision, it was, I was at Cosmo Prof, which is a big trade show in Vegas, you know, looking at suppliers and vendors and I met up with Richard Dennis who was my boss at sundial. He was the founder and Ceo of sundial. And he's his visionary, like he basically grew sundial to this, you know, multimillion dollar company, bootstrapped in a very different context. And he was also breaking rules and really his thing was with the right word desegregating the hair care category because historically it was like, here is your black ethnic hair care and here's your other hair care.
00:16:31Edit And he was like, no, that's segregation, we should normalize hairs hairs hairs. Um so met up with him and he gave me the feedback that I'm never gonna be ready launch and no matter what, I'm going to learn something. And so it was really this lightbulb moment that you know what, I'm going to jump off the cliff and I'm gonna build my wings on the way down and guess what, I can evolve. I can pivot How I, you know, launch day one doesn't have to be how the brand looks and feels a day, 365. And so that has always been my mindset that I will test and learn and I will, you know, use these learnings. So then continue to grow and evolve listening to my consumer until I can find, you know, a product market fit and so you know, coming out of Cosmo Prof, which was july, I launched in august, which meant doing things very scrappy. So literally in my mother's garage filling products, labeling products, creating very scrappy visuals for my booth.
00:17:36Edit And so it definitely was an intense month. And I big, big thanks to uh this guy named Orlando who was my creative visionary who I still work with today because it wasn't for him, I would not have launched or my family who was literally helping me fill bottles in the garage. This is crazy. I have so many questions. So you launch in the, in the august was it? Or the september at the expo August 22, 2018 Which is actually an important date because 22 is a very important number to me, I'm kind of witchy and spiritual, so 22, it was the perfect stars aligning and when I signed up for the show I was the last booth in the very back corner and so the universe had my back and knew that that was kind of the moment for me to kind of birth the brand and coming out of the show, I was voted one of the consumer favorites, that's amazing, which was like you know, a shock and surprise, but it really gave me the fuel to say okay people are watching and they're digging what I'm doing.
00:18:38Edit So it gave me kind of the momentum to continue and evolve. I love that when you say you launched within a month, just so I'm clear, do you mean like you've already gone through product development with a lab, you already had products or you literally would you just developed the products in your garage and then you were taking those X number of products to the expo and like that was like launching it to the world. Um So I had already worked with, let's see, I had started working on undefined in february of 2018 and so I had this grand idea of having this multi skew collection, solving these key pinch points and actually one of the products is still in development because it's taken that long because it's such a tricky category and hopefully, you know, not on what it's gonna launch this year, but so there's multiple products that I was working on and there was only one that was close enough and because I made this decision to launch, I literally couldn't get on the production line. So they're like, hey Dorian, we believe in what you're doing, We will Basically batch some bulk for you.
00:19:44Edit You can pick up these gallons, like 25 gallons of bulk which I literally picked up in my car and hand filling because I bought like a filling. Actually at that point I did not have a filling machine, we were literally hand pouring these into bottles with a funnel. How many how many bottles are we talking about? I think for the show, because I was testing out the right sizing and there's two different sizes, It was 100 ml and a 50 ml So I think in total we had filled maybe 500 bottles and it was messy everywhere, we were covered in, it was, it was called global elixir. And so we smelled like roses and geraniums were definitely my family was like, if I smell this again, I'm gonna kill you. But yeah, we're filling it in my mom's garage um and Labeling it and boxing it and getting ready to pack it in a suitcase so I can ship off or fly out to set to new york. So it was definitely a adventure. I think that's what they call elbow grease, but in your scenario it was elbow rose and geranium Greece.
00:20:47Edit Yes, but you learn so much by getting hands on and as much as it was a painful experience, I think it helps me on my journey Absolutely for sure, getting involved in the action. Gosh, I want to spend a little bit more time in this phase of building the business to understand the money piece of the puzzle because we love to talk about money on the show, love to understand, you know, how much you spent to get started and how you are financing it and how you were thinking about the money piece, like obviously building a CPG brand requires working capital. Let's discuss. Yeah. So, um I'm currently self funded. So every, you know, from the beginning of time it was Dorian's investment, luckily I've worked across these large companies and I've always been very frugal. My friends would call me cheap. I called frugal. So I had a mask. The savings just from, you know, working, I started working when I was like 14. So I've always just been kind of uh, you know, I've got to stay busy and a lot of times my business and equals money because I'm creating, I'm doing.
00:21:55Edit I was a waitress for a long time, which I really loved um and so that you know, put money in my pocket and so when I launched, I want to say because I've always done A, I think a good job of mitigating risk. So I will do things in small scale. I mean I only made whatever the 500 units or whatever it was that show because that was the minimum of the bulk requirement, like the 25 gallons or whatever the minimum was. And so I worked with, you know, buying glass off the shelf local here in the us. It was all of these little things that I did where I was, you know, being very conscious that I will probably evolve and I don't want to have so much inventory that you know, is a waste. Um, and so I probably spent for launch. I've actually never calculated it. But back of the envelope, I probably say $6000 but half of that $6000 was actually the booth fee for a diy beauty expo is a very expensive show.
00:22:57Edit And so like the actual products themselves, it wasn't that expensive because you know the labor, me and my family, I don't know if I paid them, I paid them maybe in hugs and love maybe like, I don't know brought them some pizza. I'm the oldest of eight. So I have a lot of siblings that, you know, pitched in to help and friends, if any of my friends listen, thank you friends for helping the poor products back then back in the day. Um, and so it wasn't a very expensive execution. It was really, lets you know, invest a small amount of money and then every dollar that comes in from a profit standpoint, I'm investing back into the brand and now fast forward, you know, three years later I'm still so funded. I don't actually pay myself so everything has been a labor of love and everything that I do. I pour back into this business. But luckily, um, I've had the, I guess privilege and opportunity to win some amazing grants, um, that have given me equity free money and that has been kind of the economic engine to help fund, you know, inventory and I wouldn't even say marketing because actually all of my growth to date has been organic.
00:24:06Edit I actually haven't spent any money on marketing outside of like these events that I've done, which I guess they are a form of marketing, but I haven't done traditional like performance driven, You know, I haven't done facebook ads or anything like that. But it's also because when I started on the CBD side, there were so many handcuffs. So I actually couldn't, so I had to actually build the business very different. And it was this, you know, I'm going to build a slow and steady foundation so then I can, you know, have this, you know, foundation to then grow upon. I think also, and I've never actually talked about this, but reflecting on some of the decisions, some of my business school classmates had taken to like raise a bunch of money and then you get on this hamster wheel. I think I might have had a little bit of like, what is the word when you're like traumatized by something PST PST Yes, I think I had like PTSD through watching their journeys, that I knew that I didn't want to do that.
00:25:08Edit I wanted to have the flexibility to pivot and I felt that if I had raised money, I then would have this monkey on my, on my shoulder dictating decisions. And so I chose the path to grow definitely slower, but you know, slow and steady wins the race, you know, they say. Um, so it was a very different approach and I do think that ultimately I probably will have to raise money. I hope that now that I've actually shown there's traction, I have, you know, large retailers and some exciting stuff coming down the pipeline that will also make me a bit more valuable as I embark upon fundraising. Um, and the other piece in it's something that I think it's probably not talked about a lot, but being a african american woman and there's not that many african american women that have raised a lot of money. I also felt that because representation matters, I wanted to make sure that this business was going to be successful before I go out and ask someone for money because I felt that if I was to fail and knock on what I'm not going to fail.
00:26:11Edit That's then going to reflect negatively on the next entrepreneur behind me. And so I wanted to be very conscious because you know, my decisions matter to the broader ecosystem of just entrepreneurship and black entrepreneurship. Yeah, I understand that. Unfortunately. I wish it wasn't that way. But yeah, unfortunately is. Yeah, I see where you're coming from. If you're on the lookout for ways to make your business sail smoothly from one quarter to the next look no further, hubspot helps your business get shipshape with an easy to use crm platform that aligns your business and delivers a seamless experience for your customers. Other serums can be cobbled together but hubspot is carefully crafted in house for businesses like yours, its purpose built suite of ops sales and marketing tools work together seamlessly. So you and your team can focus on what really matters your customers plus with helpful educational content, a supportive community and access to hundreds of app integrations, hubspot all in one platform is built to grow with. You learn how to grow better by connecting your people, your customers and your business at hubspot dot com.
00:27:24Edit Are you a founder that's been trying to relocate, meet with investors or participate in accelerator programs in the US. Traditionally the work Visa application process has been time consuming, complicated and quite frankly, frustrating legal pad is changing that legal pads specializes in the sought after founder friendly 01 Visa for individuals of extraordinary ability. Now this may sound intimidating, but it's just a fancy way to describe someone at the top of their field. Many founders qualify entrepreneurs engineers, scientists, graphic designers and researchers can all qualify with the right accomplishments. Curious how legal pad can help you Get in touch for a free consultation and get a $500 credit for female startup club listeners when you tell them I sent you find more info in our show notes. Gosh, okay. I have so many questions because we've covered like a little bit of the beginning, but like a lot at the same time. So I just want to keep on this early. Like you've done the booth, you've done this. Like it's a trade show called Expo West. Is that what you said?
00:28:28Edit Um, Oh no, so expo West, which is in a lovely trade show, is not where I launched was called Indie Beauty Expo, it's no longer around the beauty expo Okay, they were the owners of Beauty Independent, which is a trade publication and they used to have these amazing events. I actually, you know, visited a bunch before I launched an after because it was just this community of like indie brands that are like scrappy and like supporting each other and they're still friends to this day that, you know, we're constantly helping each other that I had met at the straight shows and so rest in peace. I wish they would bring them back and they're not going to. But if I hadn't launched there, I honestly don't know where I would be because that was like the first piece of coverage that I got from like a press, it was, you know, an introduction to retailers who chanced upon my booth and you know, kind of watched my journey and so I'm a strong believer that everything happens for a reason and it's this beautiful spider web of life that you never know who you're gonna meet, that's gonna open up a door.
00:29:28Edit And so yeah, if I hadn't launched their, who knows? Well, I think you would have crushed it regardless of where you launched truly. You're amazing. Thank you. If You had to kind of break down how you got your 1st 100 customers after the expo and then how you got your 1st 1000 customers, what were the kind of key things in those early days that we're kind of getting you traction after the expo. Yeah, because I didn't have the ability to do traditional ads. Everything was driven by word of mouth and the word of mouth was actually driven by events. So I would do a lot of these local events that were like, um, not flea markets, but like craft fairs, but that doesn't sound sexy. Like they're sexier than like craft fairs. Um, West Coast craft is a big one. Renegade craft. And so I would do these shows across the nation, so Chicago new york, I did south by, they have like a little wellness expo and so I would do these events and people would chance upon my booth and I actually would use these opportunities, that a consumer insight tool to understand, you know, what is stopping you?
00:30:39Edit So one do you know, CBD and the benefits, what's stopping you from actually trying? And so like, it would be a learning opportunity for me and then sharpen how I tell the story and how I educate just around the plant magic. And as I would meet people at these events, it was like this word of mouth, you know, evangelical experience, where then that's how people would find out about the brand shot me, you know, on my website. And so it was really grassroots boots on the ground, you know? Word of mouth. Oh my gosh, but that's but that's crazy. I'm still like, but how, like, what else? Like how do you get to having this huge brand just by 1-1 conversations? Like, what were the milestones that kind of leapt you forward? I've actually never really thought about the milestones, but it was honestly these events, which again, that's not necessarily scalable because it meant me traveling across the nation myself and I normally would be the only one at the booth setting it up working the booth, breaking it down. Um while I'm trying to like, you know, manage everything else within kind of the, you know, entrepreneurship journey.
00:31:48Edit And so yeah, I didn't really sleep a lot, but you had nice products, Look, I'm not only the founder, I'm also a user of the product, my 38 year old skin, so because I was a team of one, I was extremely flexible, I didn't have to be accountable to anyone. And so like if I was exhausted one day, guess what, I'm not gonna work, got it. And so it was actually, you know, very interesting time and then later in 2019, which actually this is another key milestone. So I'm always thinking about how can I solve a problem, I'm a very like problem solution person and chatting with another entrepreneur friend who went to undergrad with me at U. C. L. A. She also had a beauty brand and she had a physical brick and mortar store and we were at, I believe like um there's a platform called Hello Alice, which is all about connecting women business leaders and we're at this like Hello Alice uh event, which was really amazing and she basically was like, she wants to focus on her brand and get rid of the store and I was like, hmm, I actually could use a store to use it as a a standalone space to tell the story and educate because the CBD category needs so much education, this is 2019, so this is before it was a commonplace and so we basically struck up a deal where I was going to take her space and I would keep her products in the store and then I realized that you know, undefined at that point had to scoot, I wasn't gonna build out of a store for two skews.
00:33:21Edit So undefined collective was born which was a multi branded retail platform. It was 50 brands focused on conscious capitalism. So all brands in the store were female founded, minority owned L. G. B. T. Q. Local or CBD. So half the store was with CBD and broken up by category. So it was like beverage edibles, skincare tinctures and so it really was your one stop shop to come in and get educated around CBD and other conscious brands. I even had a tincture bar which I equate it to like a wine bar so you can come up for free taste, the different tinctures which were all female founded because they all had a different, you know cannabinoid ratio or different taste profile and you know where the hemp was farmed, you know, changes the experience and so it wasn't artisanal, you know experience, but also a tool to educate around CBD and in the process, I also just met some amazing people that are still on my journey today because they were part of my collective and it's so amazing to just, you know, watch some of these brands blow up.
00:34:27Edit In fact one of them was on shark tank last week and I'm like thinking about her one little deodorant skew that was on my shelf and now she's like killing it brand. Yes, I saw her instagram post today and I was like, yeah girl, love that carrie was one of the brands on my non CBD side of the store. And so again, this was also an opportunity that came to life in about a month. And so I found out I had the space literally had to paint build up fixtures, build an assortment. I think what I'm learning actually is that I work well under pressure and so I kind of need these like burning platforms and like deadlines to kind of keep me moving. And so it was like an idea and then we launched on summer solstice again because I'm kind of witchy and it was a beautiful opportunity and my family worked the store. So again get my family involved. My mom who was one of the first black female sergeants for the CHP, which is the California highway patrol.
00:35:27Edit So like our policing system. So like you know, I grew up in this just say no to drugs household, she was like literally the store manager and so she was this like ex cop turned CBD evangelist managing this store. That sounds amazing. Does the store still exist? No, so this is a yeah, so I had the store for about three months, four months in this location in Oakland which was an amazing location, very well trafficked. It was a great, you know, growth engine both from an economic standpoint, but also just elevating the other brands because again, one plus one equals five when indie brands come together and that was the whole promise. It was like join my platform, you can do free events like let's all win. And um did that for a couple of months and the plan was to actually take that concept and do it in L. A. So I moved to the art district which is this kind of cool funky area in downtown L. A. I got a live work space. So I built out a full show room downstairs. I lived upstairs and then Covid.
00:36:31Edit So yeah, I built it all out and then unfortunately couldn't open because this was literally right when Covid started. And so I ultimately made the decision to like let that concept go. But also as a team of one, I recognized that I only have so much mental bandwidth and I was starving undefined beauty in order to allocate so much time to undefined collective. So it's served its purpose. I met some amazing people actually again the platform and the retail experience actually informed by innovation pipeline because at that point I only had topic ALs and I recognized that wow ingestible. That's really where people were gravitating towards because it's the most common use of CBD. And so it informed my development of glow bars which were my vegan CBD chocolates as well as glow drops. It's a beauty tincture. And so it was really solving the pinch points that I recognize when people are coming in the store. Um and so like infusing other functional botanicals check, making sure it doesn't taste like dirt check, making sure that it's priced under $50 check.
00:37:35Edit And so you know that experiments into retail informed, undefined beauties evolution as well. It was like your focus group but like supersized. Yes. Yes. It's always about learning. I feel like as an entrepreneur, nothing is a failure. It's all about just learning. It's just all about learning. And so it's kind of like reframing you know what failures air quotes can be. Mm Hmm. Yeah. We hear that a lot on the show. 100%. It's a it's a it's a moment to learn. It's the moment to grow. What's working for you now. You know, since you had to close these doors, you have to then realign focus launch new products. What's been kind of the last two years. Yeah. So I think what's unlocked a lot of growth for me was actually shifting away from CBD. So because unfortunately the category still has a lot of regulatory hassles. Um I made the decision last year to embark upon this new collection when you see behind me the R and R collection. And actually the impetus started as I was working on glow bars which were my vegan chocolates because I wanted to make sure they were infused with adaptive gens.
00:38:41Edit So, I partnered with this um female chocolate here in the bay Area and we're literally like in her kitchen, like mixing powders and potions to create these chocolates. And as you know, we're building these out like, hey, why don't we create two that don't have CBD. And so we did these recipes and we launched them. And that was kind of the first step towards the R and R. Collection, which is focused on adapting magic mushrooms, sands CBD. So, no CBD because actually a lot of benefits of these mushrooms can have mirror a lot of the same things that CBD does as you think about the ability for it to, you know, rebalance the homeostasis within your system. Like that's what adaptations do they adapt to what you individually need. Um and so it was kind of this little moment again, like, hmm, let's do some development without CBD. And I was meeting retailers at events. And like Dorian, we love the brand. We love you, but we can't take CBD let us know when you, you know, when you have something not CBD.
00:39:44Edit And so that was kind of also in the back of my head. And so I embarked during Covid on development of the R and R skincare collection, which is a full line. Um there's a cleanser and a serum and night serum, a moisturizer and exfoliator, a mineral miss and now an SPF. So it's kind of your full stop from a skincare standpoint. It's really about, you know, simplifying your skincare regimen. It's not about, you know, 20 step korean skincare routine. It's about how can these individual products solve multiple skincare concerns and easy to understand. Easy to affordable, easy to afford way. And so by launching this new collection, it actually unlocks a lot of growth. So I launched the collection in guests. So yeah, I guess around like my anniversary of the brand. And I also launched nationwide with whole foods. So that was kind of a My first big retail partnership, you know, in 500 stores. Oh my gosh! And I know that you're in like Target and all these other cool stores.
00:40:47Edit What is your kind of like key piece of, you know, advice or insight into getting into those stores? Like obviously a lot of people listening into the show are kind of building brands. They're looking at those retail retailers and being like, oh, that's my dream. I want to get into Target or I want to get into whole foods. What's your key piece of advice for those folks listening in. Yeah. In terms of getting in the door again, it's these events I had met Amy jargon who's no longer at whole foods at indie beauty expo and so we had met at this trade event and you know, we became friends and you know, she was following my journey and she was, you know, one of the people that wanted to take a risk on undefined, you know, as an indie brand who has no marketing budget, you know, team of one. And so it was really the relationship that allowed her to have faith in what I could build. Um, and then for Target also events. So I guess my first interaction, well, maybe not the first, but one important interaction was well to interactions uh, through undefined collective.
00:41:53Edit We would do a lot of events together because it's a shared resource and allows us to kind of peacock and seems like we're bigger than we are. Um, I was that beauty con and so I had a booth of Beauty Con, I believe it was like five, five brands. Um, and one of the buyers from Target approached the booth and I was like, I've been watching you, I love this, let's stay in touch. That would have been, I don't know, maybe summertime. And then I ended up doing another event in Atlanta that Target was sponsoring with essence. So essence is a large, they do a lot of events at the magazine. And so I did the essence Target Pop up, which again, was sponsored by Target. I also did a pitch competition. So I won some money, which actually funded the booth, which was nice win win. Um, and you know, it was just engaging with the target buyers that ultimately landed me in the target takeoff program, which is the accelerator, which gave me kind of a peek behind the curtain and you know, really gave me the tools to launch successfully target. I'm only a month in but off to a great start actually my new products son serum is actually sold out in my inventory.
00:42:58Edit So I had to like cut cases. So it's like a blessing and a curse I guess. But it will be back in stock in a couple of weeks. I can fulfill orders to target and hold my gosh, congratulations. Thank you. That's so cool. And so the advice I would actually give is be very thoughtful on one how you're building your business because as you think about retail, it's an expensive proposition. But it could be powerful to building, you know, brand awareness, which is kind of how I think about retail. It's like I can't afford a billboard or tv commercial so that the shelf and you know, those walking the shelf that is my billboard. And so it's, you know, that's how I kind of think about wholesale, but it's a very expensive proposition. So making sure you're building Enough margin into your cost of goods. So that way you can fund retail because of course every Taylor's gonna have different kind of margin expectations, but at a high level it's typically 50%, so if you don't have enough cushion within just your cost of goods structure, it's going to make it very difficult to launch into retail.
00:43:59Edit Um and then also just be very thoughtful and who you decide to partner with because undefined is a very purpose driven approach and I didn't, I didn't mention this, but one key pillar is called conscious capitalism, which I evolved from the retail concept, which means across my supply chain, I partner with female founded, minority owned an L. G. B. T. Q. Businesses because as a business owner, I can empower other like minded business owners through my voting with my dollars. So like my warehouses, female founded my contract manufacturer is minority owned. And so it's all of these little things behind the scenes that is really focusing on doing good and doing well at the same time by elevating other communities, you know, that have been historically, you know, not given a seat at the table. And so I've also taken that lens as I think about my retail partnerships because I want to make sure that they also have similar values because for me it's not just about profit, it's about doing things the right way. And so target as a good example, has made a big commitment to really helping bridge the gap within the black community and and helping to support black owned brands as well as um just local initiatives that they do to, you know, invest back into the local communities.
00:45:11Edit And so I wanted to be very thoughtful about who I decided to partner with. Same with with whole foods, they do a lot from a local standpoint to uh amplify local brands. I love that. That's so cool, wow, you've, you've all the things are going on for you right now. Holy moly Yeah, and there's so much more like, because the brand is really about democratizing beauty and wellness. Again, being very thoughtful about who I'm partnering with, I just announced today that I launched with vitamin shop. So I'm in 450 vitamin shops across the nation. So as people are going in to buy their supplements, so that way they can focus on their wellness journey, They can also walk on over to the skincare aisle and pick up their adaptive gin infused skincare. And so that was also being very thoughtful. I'm also going on air with HSN in two weeks, so that'll be exciting to really tell the brand story to a very different audience who's married, Maybe not so skincare savvy and so it's going to be around educating normalizing and demystifying some of the plant magic. So excited about that too. Holy moly you just have a million pats on the back.
00:46:15Edit That's crazy how many stores are you in in total across all your retailers because, and I'm just like asking this as a fact of like for someone who is bootstrapped that is like beyond that's huge. And actually let me do that. I'm doing the math. I've actually never calculated this before. So drumroll please. I'm in 1235 stores. What the Maki, that is crazy. Holy good. I'm gonna write that down. So that way I remember, Oh my gosh, wow. That I'm just like, yeah, mind blown. I imagine there's a, but are you still a one person shows that I am and I have the great show for it. Well, so I think where it gets tricky is that because there's so much to do, recruiting takes time. And so like I just don't have the mental bandwidth to say, okay, I need to focus on recruiting and so I end up on this, you know, slippery slope. But I recognize that now is the time I must bring on support or else I'm gonna, you know, I want to make sure I'm maximizing these opportunities and I need to build marketing.
00:47:25Edit So because everything is today that's been organic now is the time that I have these retail channels to really invest into core brand building. So that way there is brand awareness because it's not going to be a situation where you build and they're going to come and within these channels, although I talk about being accessibly priced, it's still a, I'm still a high price within the channel. So like within the whole foods, I'm in the natural skin care set, which I think I might be the only independent black owned brand in the natural skincare set and it's, you know, $28. And so compared to the other, you know, your vino, 10 dollar moisturizer. So there is a premium so I really need to justify the cost, which is, you know, it's a beautiful ingredients. It's the conscious approach. And so there is the storytelling that's necessary um to ensure people understand, you know what I stand for and how I'm really un defining the space and doing things very differently. Mm hmm. Yeah, absolutely exciting times for you ahead with all of this growth and adding fuel to the fire with marketing and team and all that kind of stuff.
00:48:31Edit I'm going to be excited to watch you go from here. Yeah, I mean if there's anyone listening that you know is loving, my vision, wants to come join team undefined, definitely reach out. Love that definitely reach out. Thanks for listening to this amazing episode. We are testing out something new here for the next while and we're splitting up each episode into two parts, the main interview part and then the six quick questions part to make them easier to listen to. So that's part one done.
So question number one is, what's your wife? Why are you doing what you're doing? Being in the industry for a while? I've seen a lot of the areas for opportunity and I think that undefined can do things different and be an example and pillar to other companies to change their mindset because you know, I am a small player, but if the Loreal Estee lauder's of the world were to invest in conscious capitalism, that will be a game changer for small business, women owned business, black owned business, L.
00:01:16Edit G B. T. Q. Business, like it can change the economic landscape and so although I'm starting, you know with one brand, one vision, I think there can be a trickle down effect across the industry and give people access to high quality products, like we all deserve it. Yeah, we do. We all deserve that question. Number two is what's been your favorite marketing moment so far? Well, I mean there hasn't necessarily been marketing moments because I haven't necessarily marketed. Um so that's a tough one. I think it was really exciting to see my brand on shelf at target. Um, and interestingly enough, so in a lot of the stores they target on their own accord, not related to me whatsoever, they create these little light boxes that have my products and Shea moisture products, which feels like a full circle moment because that's who I used to work for at sundial. So it was like I used to be an employee of this company. Now my products are merchandised right next to them at shelf at target.
00:02:23Edit So like that is kind of powerful as well. That's so cool and I don't really ever talk about this, but coming out of business school, I actually had a job offer at target to be a beauty buyer and I turned it down for general Mills. And so it's also kind of a full circle moment um that you know, now I am pitching to and doing business with the people that wanted to employ me. Love it. Love it. Number three is what's your go to business resource in terms of a podcast or a book or a newsletter. Actually well, so I, again, I'm very curious. So I like to read a lot. I think I follow beauty independence daily releases because I think it does, they do a really good job like Rachel and team, She's the editor, a really distilling what I, as an indie beauty entrepreneur need to understand in terms of trends. Uh, what other businesses are doing, what's happening in the retail landscape. They create original content, but they also consolidate content across the space.
00:03:27Edit And so that has been an invaluable resource and they also have a weekly, um, it's not really a podcast, but like a weekly webinar where they bring on leaders across the industry to talk about specific topics that I find those really valuable. That's amazing. Is it a free newsletter or? Yeah, it's uh, so they have, well, yes or no. So the premium free, it's freemium, I think you get like, I don't know, five free ones a month, um, that you can access and then there's also a paid portion. Um, the weekly webinars are free like tomorrow, it's every Wednesday. Um, and they're actually kind of fun because Nader their founder, he's kind of a corn ball and he's very like, uh, well, he's kind of an acquired taste. He has unique humor, which can be kind of inappropriate, but I kinda like it. And so next, tomorrow, it's focused on like the evolution of retail. So they'll have people talk about, you know, what's happening in retail last week. It was how to drive business via Tiktok, which is a very, you know important channel for beauty.
00:04:31Edit And so if these, it's, these topics that are actually really important and they bring really cool people to really tell their brand story. Um also I hope it's not going to get me in trouble for saying this to your point about, is it free? My little hack for those that are, you know, scrappy practitioners like myself for platforms that have a freemium, open it in a private browser because then they'll never know how many you've seen. Mhm good little tip there for everyone listening. Don't tell anyone, don't tell anyone, don't tell them. Don't tell them. I told them tell them. Yeah. Question number four is how do you win the day? What are your AM or PM rituals that keep you feeling happy and successful and motivated? Yeah, So I would say the ritual that has been a game changer is my gratitude practice, which I've been doing for a couple of years now and the way the practice works is either in the morning or at night, I typically do it at night.
00:05:34Edit I reflect on what I'm grateful for for the day. Um and I actually keep a running, you know, list on my phone and it actually changes your mindset and reframes how I think about life because I'm looking for things to be grateful for because your thoughts determine your reality. And so that has been amazing. It's also like my diary because because I have a note tracker on my phone, I can scroll down and be like, what was I thinking about three years ago today. And so it will give me kind of a snapshot into like what was going on in my life. And it's not just business stuff. It'll be like personal stuff and like yesterday and I have an accountability circle that I shared with some of my sorority sisters and my best friend and it'll be little things like, oh I'm grateful for the last kingdom because the main character is sexy. So like it's little things like that or business stuff. But also if I do this morning it'll help frame me up for the day. So I haven't done it for today. But if I had, I could have been like today, I'm grateful for clear articulation so I can nail this podcast.
00:06:35Edit And so it will help you know, prime me for what I need and it will help me manifest it because again, I'm very spiritual. I also listen to a lot of tarot and astrology which is my guilty pleasure. Like that's how I unwind. I love that. I need to get onto this like grateful gratefulness in my phone situation because I want to look back. That's that's really cool. Very good idea. Well, there's something to writing things down either in a journal or like, you know, in a digital context because I think you solidify it when you actually see it. I agree. I agree. 100 Question. # five, What's been your worst money mistake. Mm hmm Okay. I think early on in my sourcing strategy, a lot of the manufacturers that I would engage or actually other brands who I would meet at trade events. So, um, I was at, I think, I don't know. It's renegade. Maybe in san Francisco and the neighbor next to me had these soap brand and her soaps were like flying off the shelf and I'm like, let's partner and create a CBD soap.
00:07:43Edit Cool. I've done that same thing with a manufacturer out of Brooklyn. I was doing a Brooklyn event and my learning was be careful who you partner with because they tried to extort me and it was like this very strange situation where they wouldn't give me my empty packaging and so I think just be careful and like read the signs like the red flags in terms of who you partner with because you know, it could have downstream effects. Oh my gosh. And what was the kind of like if you had to put a number on the loss, what was the loss? So it wasn't huge. I ended paying them, but it was like, okay, you're extorting me for like, I don't know, it was like $300 just to get my inventory that I shipped them because we weren't gonna do any additional runs because there was like a product issue and so I'm like, we can't continue. Um and like, oh, if you want your, you're in your packaging, give us money and I'm like cooperates like that. But I recognize that karma is a bit much so that's not how I choose to operate and the universe will, you know, do it.
00:08:50Edit The universe does. If you don't, you know, ask professionally, Gosh, holy moly last question, question number six, what is just a crazy story? You can share good or bad from your journey in business. Crazy story. Oh, I don't know. Ah well, I mean, I think I, I think I've had a, you know, crazy journey. I will say one crazy good thing. I operate by closed mouths. Don't get fed. And so there's this amazing influencer, dermatologist called dr dre and I follow, you know, I'm not listening to my astrology and Tarot Youtube's, I'll watch her Youtube's because they're very informational about, you know, she gets down like the nitty gritty and skincare. And so I saw in one of her youtube that she had like a P. O. Box and I'm like, I'm gonna ship her some products just blindly. And so I shipped this product and she fell in love with sun serum and like posted about it a couple of times has now had over 100,000 views and that's what drove basically in my inventory to be in the situation and so It was random, it was free and you never know.
00:10:02Edit So take those shots because you're always, you know, you're going to, what is that saying? You're going to Miss 100% of shots, you don't take it. So just do it. Love it. Dorian thank you so much for taking the time to come on. Female startup club and share your journey and all your insights and learnings. I'm so stoked to see what happens next for you. Thank you so much.