In this episode with Kerry Benjamin we’re chatting about her journey to where she is today growing the business from the ground up completely self-funded, what’s working for her now and her top advice for women.
This is the story of a woman who went through a major career change in the pursuit of happiness, found her focus and became an expert the second time around.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Let's jump into this episode. Female Startup Podcast, Let's get started. I'm super excited to talk to you today. I'd love for you to start by telling us what StackedSkincare is in your own words, stacked skincare is the company that I founded. So I left my former career and became an institution because of my lifelong struggle with eczema. So I'm pretty chronic and severe eczema and a lot of health issues as a result of it. And so I really wanted to, I wanted a product line and I wanted a brand. But really what I felt like was the most important thing to do was to start from the beginning and solve my own problem and also try to help other people. So I decided that for me, the best way to approach that was to become an aesthetician, really understand skin and skin issues and how I could help myself and through that journey and launching a skincare practice, I developed this methodology in my spot where I combine or stack various methodologies and procedures for maximum efficacy and so what I did was that I took that same methodology and built the consumer line off of it.
So it's peels serums and tools and it's combining or stacking those three modalities um and and products to get you the healthiest skin you possibly can. Yeah, and I also saw like aside from the spot and the skin care line that you have, you also have an academy that you've started up as well, I'm working on it, um you know, one of the things that I'm really excited about is to be able to share a lot of the knowledge that I've gained through this experience of becoming an entrepreneur, My business background is in high tech and digital media, I spent almost 14 years in that space working for Microsoft and double click, So I have a tremendous amount of business experience and then being a self taught entrepreneur, I have a lot of information that I would love to share, especially with my fellow beauty professionals and really help them to understand how they can go out on their own and you know, be their own boss is too. So um that course is in the works right now, I'm really looking forward to look hopefully launching it in the next few months. So yeah, look out for that.
People can go to stack skincare academy dot com and sign up for our emails and they'll get notices um when we get ready to launch it, but it's going to be focused on branding, uh finance content. Pr and influencers, there's a there's a bunch of different modules so they can go and check it out there. That's so cool. And is it self paced, or is it kind of like, you know, you have to sign up by a certain date to be in that batch of, you know, people, you know, it's like, you know what I mean? You know, that's a good question, I haven't really thought that out yet. One of the things that I think is really going to be cool about this is I am obviously like, most people will do facebook live events where I'll be mentoring people, but I'm also going to be pulling in people from my team or people that work with me that have helped build this company, so we'll have actually industry experts as well as myself, so I'll have our head of Creative come in when we're talking about branding and, you know, our copywriter when we're talking about content and our Pr team when so I'm also going to be there to mentor people, but I'm going to bring in people um that they wouldn't ordinarily maybe have access to.
That sounds so fun. That's amazing. Yeah, you know, it's interesting. I started this project a while ago and it's a lot of work, it's a lot more work than I had anticipated, but I'm such a, um, I just wanted to, I want to do it right, you know, and I want to make sure that we get the right content out there and that our students get the most value out of it. So I'm taking a lot of time to really, but it's like a puzzle, putting all this together and I've never taught a course before, so just working through it, Hey, hey, you're just learning to. Exactly, I'm learning how I love that. Um I want to go back to sort of the beginning around when you decided, yeah, I'm going to switch careers and I'm going to study with the intention of starting my own business and what the steps were to launching your own business. I guess you're going to be telling us what you're teaching in your academy kind of, um, you know, one of the things that I always say to people is the best thing that ever happened to me was I couldn't find a job. And so I've always wanted to go in this direction and have been starting to move in this direction really since like 2007, when I got really sick with a few Mersa infections, uh, several Mersa infections and as I said previously I've struggled my whole life With Eczema.
And so, um, during the 2008 financial crisis, um, I had gotten laid off, I was in san Francisco and I moved down here and be with my now husband. And so back then there was no Silicon Beach, there were no jobs down here. And uh, so I took that opportunity to become an entrepreneur and that was when I really was like, you know, I'm just not gonna try to find another job. I was really, I went through a lot of struggles because I was trying to find a job in an industry I didn't want to be in and I really wanted to do this. So it kind of pushed me over the edge. So I had that little gentle nudge. Well more than a gentle nudge. It was really like, you know, I had to go and figure it out. This is a single swim. Yeah, so figure so I was like, you know, I'm just not going to ever depend on somebody else to give me a paycheck again, I'll figure it out myself. And when, as I said earlier, I really felt like for me it was really important for me to become an institution in a skin care expert. My philosophy was slow and steady wins the race and crawl, crawl walk one and for me, if I really wanted to build a product line, I felt like I had to start with, you know, the beginning, which is what is skin, how do you take care of it?
Um, so it was a huge transition going from, you know, working from Microsoft to like touching people's faces. Um, but I'm so glad I did it the way that I did it. I wouldn't change anything. Um, I love being a sedition. I love the way that I was able to not only help myself and help so many of my clients and it was one of the most rewarding things I think I've done is being able to have somebody who would come into my spa, you know, with makeup caked, Don pretty insecure. And I understand that I'm very empathetic. You know, I always had exam on my face and on my eyes and so I always kind of grew up thinking I was ugly and so being able to like see that transition and help people to, you know, you know, a few months later than walking in my spot and like no makeup on and just have like a whole different persona and just feeling really good. Um, and then being able to take that concept and being able to, you know, scale it so that we can sell it to people all around the world and really get people, um, to achieve the results for their skin has been, has been really, really rewarding Yeah, to help people with their confidence everywhere around the world, that must be a really nice feeling.
You know, it's really hard to be uncomfortable in your own skin and like I said, I'm super empathetic to that because of the struggles that I've always, I've always dealt with. Yeah, how you're saying like you started really early on like 2000 and eight around that time, like the internet was only kind of like new around then, right? So like how did you learn what to do? I feel like you can't just google everything, well you probably could google things, but like you couldn't google everything the way that you can now the, you know, now if you wanted to learn something, you have a million podcasts, you have a million books, you have a million resources, but back then, what did you do? So, um Well, first of all, I um I started in digital media in 1998, I was one of the very first people at Microsoft Monn Division. So I've been in the digital space for a really long time before launching this company. And then in 2008 was when I had, It was really getting sick and had gotten laid off and that was when I really decided I wanted to move in this direction. I didn't actually launch the company, I went into a static school in 2011, I launched the company in April 2012 um, but you know, just figuring it out, you know, I'm a self-funded entrepreneur.
I've I've just had to figure it all out on my own. It's, you know, one of the biggest uh challenge. One of the biggest challenges is my biggest asset and that is that I'm self funded. I own the company, we're profitable, but I've never had a mentor, I don't have a board. So as we grow in scale the company and at every level I'm always having to figure out um what to do, you know, and how to do it. Um which I love and I like, I like solving problems. I'm, I'm a good problem solver, but uh, you know, I mean you just figure it out, you get online, you research it, you talk to people trial and error, you make mistakes, you learn from them and you move on. Yeah, for sure. Gosh. Um do you want to share some of the mistakes that you've kind of like learned from over the years Or even just one um trying to think what a good mistake, not a good mistake, not a mistake, but you know what I mean?
Um I can come back to it, I guess I can circle back. Yeah, let me think, you know, I think it's kind of a generic um thing to say, but it is true. Uh one of the hardest things I think to do is hire people. Um And I've learned through uh some of that how to how to who not to hire if they're not the right fit, how to get rid of them more quickly, whether it's a consultant or you know somebody who works full time for the company. Um So I think that that's that's it's a it's a challenge and it's something that you hear a lot about is you know finding the right people, they're smart, they have to be a good cultural fit and they have to be self motivated. You know we're a small team, I'm not a micromanager, I need people to just like you know I hire people that can you know come in here and do the job that's expected of them and and I think that they flourished that way too. You know I allow I really want my team to own their job and feel like they can grow. Yeah and I imagine um you know in a small business you don't have the luxury of being like yeah this is our HR department who are going to take care of this who were trained and skilled in finding the right people, you have to basically, you know upscale yourself.
I mean I guess you've been doing that since the very beginning to get there. Um I want to talk about when you launch the skincare line and you started um you know moving into the e commerce side of things and scaling that side of the business. I imagine you had lots of contacts in the industry. So when you were ready to get started on the skin care, you, you would have had people to go to, but what was the next sort of step on on launching that and kind of expanding it outside of your spark customers? So the first thing I did was hired a lab and I started working on product development with them and you know about my e commerce site together. So I don't remember what platform we first went to was really small and got the products developed, I started very small. I had three products I purchased very small quantities. I was willing to give up profit to not put myself out, you know, too much. So I knew that once I could start scaling the company and purchasing at scale that my profit margins would increase. So I started really small.
You know, I was in the spot, like I said, I've self funded, so I would be in the spot all day with clients, then I would go into my other office, pack up boxes at a shipping center out of my house. Um and then I would get on email and then I would get up and do it all over again. I was sort of on this, you know, it's just kind of grinding it out for a while, but you know, first I found a spot, I found a lab that we would work on product development, so because I had spent so many hours working on clients and thousands of people, I really had a very good idea alright, specifically of what I wanted in my product line, um so it was very different, I didn't, you know, I didn't just kind of slap a label on something, I was very specific about what I wanted and why I wanted it because I knew what things that was going to address specific ingredients or you know, types of products. Um then I hired a designer to help me design some labels and I just use stock packaging from the lab because I couldn't, I couldn't afford, you know, anything else I tried, you know, I wanted to look as best as I could um you know, I think it doesn't have to be perfect, it has to be done.
Um and so I obviously wanted it to look the best I could with what I could afford, so I got a lab, I hired a designer to help design some labels and some graphics for our website and um you know, like I said back then in digital media, I was specifically within e commerce, so I had a really robust e commerce background um when I was at Microsoft, my clients were like Sephora, you know, frustration hardware, like you know, really huge companies that were just getting into e commerce. So again, fortunately I had a really solid background and understanding that aspect of the business, what I really had to learn was skin skin care product development operations and all that kind of stuff, wow, it's really exciting and when you started, you know, once you had done those early rounds of the skin care products, how did you start to kind of expand it out of your clients that you had at the spar to grow the brand and kind of get it more like globally recognized. One of the things that I did when I was still full time in the spot and I didn't have a product line was I started inviting editors into the spa um and I started and I again, because of my media background, I understood the importance of working with publications and I understood it was very symbiotic, so, and especially for like you know digital publications, they are like you know, content factories, like these editors have like so many, they're responsible for writing so many stories, this is actually something to teach them one of my courses, but um so I understood I could invite them in for a facial, I could give them a lot of great um you know skin care tips and I was coming at it from such a fresh angle because I was brand new to the industry and so um they would come in and you know, they would get my sack skincare facial, which was also really unique and then we would always just inevitably wind up talking about, you know, different topics.
And so I had formed this really great relationship with the press and I was very supportive for them, right? Because I would I would basically help them, right? But I would help them come up with ideas and I would help them write articles and so and so they would also, you know, for my benefit, then they would, you know, link my name and you know, talk about um stack skincare. And so this was when I was just doing treatments. And so it was a natural thing for me when I launched the product line, I had already had these relationships built. So a lot of the editors were very um uh kind to try our product and um are my product at the time, it was just me. Um and and so, you know, right away that what really helped launch the company was Birdie Unbeknownst to me in March, I think it was March of 2015, I woke up one morning and there was just like all of these orders and they had written a feature about our, our new little company and they featured our micro roller and our serum and repeal that I had launched with, which is the, you know, the philosophy.
And so that was really what helped get it kicked off. Um and so I think the press has always been a really, really important partner to me and I hope I have been to them as well. How exciting! That must have been very thrilling to wake up um and see this thing that you didn't expect. I was like what's happening? Like what happened and then what happened here? And then I saw that was responsible for this. Uh and then I've always had a really, really tight relationship with Birdie and they've been super supportive as well as a bunch of other publications and so that's how it sort of started and then, you know, and then we continue to get more press and you know, I wouldn't have just been constantly reinvesting back into the company. So you know, as I had more money, I would spend money on advertising and just, you know, partnerships etcetera. How do you like in today's age, you know like 2020 or 2019 it's a saturated market right? There's loads of brands out there. There's lots of indie brands coming into the market is that there's a really well known brands.
How do you differentiate yourself and stay kind of like or get the press to write different angles about you? What do you do that makes you stand out in this crowded market. Um it's a great question and it's, it's um I think I'm lucky when I launched because I think it has gotten even more saturated, but I think that I have a few things that are very unique um when I have a very personal skincare story, which is why I launched this company to, I became an institution and a skin care expert. Um so there's somebody behind this brand that has, you know, really fundamental knowledge where it wasn't like, you know, I just went, you know that a private label and slap the label on a bottle um everything in the product line is for a specific reason and it's been proven to work based on my experience and our customers. Um and then I think I have a really unique angle. Like I, I can't really point to one company that's doing exactly what we're doing, especially, you know, peel serums and tools, which is really what my, what my philosophy is, So derma Planing and Micro Needling.
You know, I've been talking about them well before I even had the product line and so I think the combination of those things really make us unique and I try to always stay on brand. You know, I'm not trying to launch a new product, you know, every six months. You know, I am very specific about what we bring into the product line and how it works with everything else and why we're bringing it in, you know, what is this going to help, how is this going to achieve somebody's skincare goals, whether they have acne dark spots, aging, you know, etcetera. Um so really staying focused on, on the results for customers and I just think like I said, being an institution, having that personal story and having a unique philosophy of, you know, this stacking methodology. Yeah, that's so cool. I really love those. Um the, I forget what the word is. Crip. No crying, no therapy. The cold. Yeah. How does that work there? The best. Um I started talking about those like Back in 2015 before I had my product line.
Um the ones that we have right now is basically just their little gel things in water wrapped in a stainless steel barrel. Usually leave it in the freezer. They are so great for de puffing. Their amazing if I get eczema around my eyes or anywhere on my face or anywhere on your body. Um they just, you know, instantly, you know, de puff calm inflammation. Um yeah, it sounds like a dream. Yeah, we're actually um I am super excited. We're we've designed a new one that goes very similar to like our, our other tools that, you know, I've designed or german planning and micro needling tool and I'm hoping it's a really cool design. I'm excited to bring it out. It's very innovative and unique and I'm hoping we can get it launched this year. So wow, I'm gonna stay tuned. It sounds like you're really busy. Um do you want to hear a funny story is that actually before this podcast was scheduled? And before I I had researched you, I had come across that photo of Haley Bieber using the um thing and I was like oh I really wonder what that tool is.
And I sent it to my girlfriends and then when I started researching you and I saw that photo I was like oh my God, this is what it is, It's it's this yeah, this cool therapy thing. Like I had no idea what it was before that, which I thought was really cool if you're suffering from, you know, puffiness or if you have like eczema or rose asia um psoriasis is are so great at just calming down that inflammation and redness and it just feels good. Um The one that we're designing is going to be specifically for the face and it has a really cool um interesting shape. Um and so do you just design these things yourself? Like you come up with it like out of out of your mind or you hire a product developer to kind of work on how these actually come to life. So I have two product developers, one is for the tools, so he's more of an engineer. Um and he designs the tools and works with like you know I basically come up with the ideas so when I had what I wanted to do or Micro Needling and our derma Planing tools. He flew down here and I invited some clients in for the day and he literally just watched me like because in a professional treatment use a 10 blade scalpel.
And so he just like watched me Derma planing micro needle people all day and um then he went and sketch stuff out and we, you know, we go through like iterations and then we go into prototyping and then into production um for the skin care. I have a product developer who's a chemist and so he and I worked closely together on that type of product development um going back and forth. Um and then we send that to the lab to do production, wow, that's very exciting. Am I right in thinking that the e commerce side of the business would be obviously the more scalable side and the side that you're able to continue to grow and you know, become really globally recognized for Yeah, you know, again because of my e commerce background um I always wanted to build a direct to consumer brand, I wanted to be in control of our own destiny. Um I understood e commerce, I knew that having been worked in it since 1998 that this was the trajectory, so that's where my focus was always um and yes, that is that is the majority of it and then um and uh 2018 so far I had contacted us, so I think at that point we had gotten, you know, enough recognition and we're making enough inroads in the market.
Um, so were sold in Sephora online. Um we're also in Neiman Marcus, I've been very selective about the wholesale partnerships that we take on because I really don't want to take my focus away from the direct to consumer brand and our own website and I don't want to compete with myself, you know, in online marketing. So really the three main places that's toxic in here is sold is number one on our site, number two on Sephora. And then also on amazon. Yeah, so basically leveraging, you know, the credibility of Sephora and maybe the shipping and quickness of something like amazon. Yeah, I mean we're quick if you purchase before 11 o'clock pacific time, we'll ship same day. Um and then, you know, obviously not on the weekends, so so we get orders out, we're actually really, really quickly. Um we have a great fulfillment center and, but yes, you know, there's, it's just interesting. I mean, some people want to shop on amazon, some people want to shop through us. So we have, you kind of have to be on amazon and then, um, I think so forward to your point does lend a lot of great credibility to the brand.
So they're a good partner. Um and uh, you know, we like seeing, we like seeing our name there and our brand are on their website. Do you guys do many partnerships like with other brands to leverage each other definitely and I think it's a really, it's a great strategy and uh, we, we do sometimes we'll do different giveaways, like we just did a big giveaway with a bunch of different brands, you know, sometimes we'll work with, I mean like fitness people is a great fit for our brand too, so it doesn't necessarily have to be beauty or makeup, like we can do something like that, but even like, you know, Athleisure wears break, but even like we've partnered with some influencers like in the fitness space that's been because that's really important to me and I think it's just, you know, overall health and wellness. So partnering with different brands has been incredibly beneficial, especially for um growing your instagram following and you know, finding like minded communities and sharing those. So that's been yeah, it's been an important partnership. Yeah, bringing a new audience into your final, essentially.
Um and I saw on your instagram you had a photo with a quote from Kristen Bell, That's really cool. Yeah, I can't, I feel like she used our Micro Needling tool trying to remember what that was, I think it was a little while ago, but yes, I think she said something about, she can't live without it. So love that, Love that for you, I agree. Kristen everyone to be using Micro Needling Derma Planing, I've never tried it, I need to try that, I'll get that, We'll have our teams to anyone. Oh wow, thank you. Um What advice do you have for women who want to launch a business in the beauty industry? What's your top tips? You know? I think the biggest thing is find your focus become an expert, you know, find that niche, figure out what it is that you're doing while you're doing it and how you can be of service to your customers um and your clients and and you know always put this especially in the beauty business right?
Like you always have to roll in anything really is like you have to put your customer or your client first and really understand who that person is um what do they need and how can you provide that for them? That's what I always, you know, I knew what my focus was and I built from there, you know I launched this for a very personal reason and I was able to um expand you know, but just always staying focused in that specific um more like results driven kind of medical type facial, you know, I wasn't doing massage and you know, things like that. So I think really, you know finding your focus becoming an expert, really zoning in on your niche, really figuring out who your customer is, what they do and how you can be of service to them um is going to help you to be able to continue on in figuring out your, you know your marketing and branding strategy Yeah and and truly having an impact on the customer and not kind of being something that, you know, I might not actually do anything.
Yeah. You know, I mean everybody's got to kind of find their tribe, right? So um maybe I'm not for everybody and they're not for me. So I think again, really just finding your focus on your niche. You're going to be able to find those people, You can't be all things to all people. And so I think that would probably my number one advice, I have a follow up question to that. How did you, you know, you obviously would have started out thinking, hey, this is going to be my target client, this is gonna be my target customer. Did that change when you actually, you know, did go after your customers. You talked about in the spot, my my clients in this bar. Either the Spar or the or the e. Com business. Like did it differ from who you thought it would be? Not really a little bit, but I mean one of the things that I really became known for, especially in the spot and also just in our product line, I was really good at treating acne and solving um solving that problem and really the foundation. But it's interesting, you know, there's a lot of adult acne that people just don't realize.
Um it's highly 20% of um you know, people suffer from adults suffer from acne for reasons we could get into another time, but so, but then there's also, you know, so I was wound up sometimes I was treating the kids of the cloth of my clients, but you know, I was also teaching, you know, treating women who were suffering from acne, but also like college students. But for the most part because of my price ranges, which was in the spot and also on the product line, it tends to skew a little bit older just because of our product, um the price points that we have, but because of our tools and our tools are very affordable, um we have a pretty broad audience in terms of an age range, I would say you can go anywhere from, you know, like 28 to 65 but really our core audiences in that like mid thirties to mid fifties range. Yeah. Yeah, wow, cool. Okay, well, we're at the part of the episode where I ask you six quick questions, ready to go, yep. Okay, number one is what's your y eczema?
Um so, understanding how hard it is to struggle um in your own skin, Number two is what's the number one marketing moment that made your business pop? Well, I mentioned this earlier, but in March of 2015 when Birdie featured us um in their publication is when we really took off from there. Yeah. Key piece of press. Love it. Number three is where do you hang out to get smarter? I would say my friends and husband my team. Um I also am a part of different social networks online and taking other online courses and reading. What are you reading at the moment? I just read information. I'm not really like a book reader just reading information online all the time. It's like just I don't know wherever I'm you know, I couldn't give you one specific place that I'm reading but I'm just constantly researching and reading stuff. Yeah. Number four is how do you win the day and that's around your AM and PM rituals that keep you feeling happy and productive and successful.
I like to get up in the morning and I've started this new ritual since um quarantining um where me and about five of my girlfriends I'll get on zoom together and work out. So I've never been a morning workout percent but I'm loving it. It's really helped me like start my day. I'm feeling so much healthier. Um I used to just like roll out of bed at 7:00 AM and like just start right away. So now it's like I roll out of bed and I you know I go back and work out um if I can get a nice walk in with my puppies and you know grab a dinner with my husband and some friends and just get a lot of work done. You know during the day in between that I consider that a good day. Yeah. Yeah. I mean it's funny how we see all these um you know these we've been socially distanced from everyone, but we're finding these ways to keep socially connected in all sorts of different aspects and I just I'm so there for it. It's so great. I feel like you know, I moved from San Francisco down here 10 years ago. I see my girlfriend's more now than I ever have.
I'm like we've had this capability forever. I'm like why why was I using the phone? So that's been really nice to just actually kind of spend more time with my girlfriends. Yeah. Yeah. I found like we've gone down the route of like playing games over zoom. We've done birthdays on zoom, done the workout thing. I really love sometimes I'll just pop like sometimes we'll just cook together. Like you know the computer screens just up and I'm just like I'm over here like cooking stuff and we're just like, you know like making pasta together. Okay, you know, hanging out. Yeah, exactly. So that's been fun. Um Sorry, I got off topic there. Number five is if you only had $1000 left in your business bank account, where would you spend it pr you know good pr has, as I've mentioned been invaluable to me and my company and aligning with the right publishers and driving qualified traffic to our site. Not only gives us a ton of credibility, but then we can leverage that by, you know, retargeting that traffic and then we also, um, you know, if the publisher signed up for affiliate network, it's really a win win win all around, right?
So they're gonna, they're helping us and we're helping them with content and then in return they're also, you know, can get an affiliate commission from us. So I would say that $1000 in pr we go the furthest and then we can also leverage that in our in our marketing, right? So in our ads, but one of the things that we found is, you know, featured in blah, blah, blah, you know, birdie vogue, what have you? Is it really even though people are consuming more and more social media, they still trust editorial more. Right? So, and I also find like I often see brands that are boosting or sponsoring those articles and so, you know, as the, as the consumer or someone that's seeing that post, I'm like, oh yeah, like I can really see that article, I can see the proof. It's even more social proof than just as seen in kind of thing Already. Question # six is how do you deal with failure? It can be like personal experience or it can also be um, just your general mindset and general approach to it.
00:35:46Edit You know, my, my general approach to it is we all make mistakes. I'm a self funded entrepreneur. So I learned quick because you know, it's a lot, you know, sometimes mistakes can be very costly, so I learned from it and then I move on and I don't do it again. So, you know, I try not to dwell on things, you know, mistakes happen. Um if people make mistakes in the company, you know, I just, it's like you just let them know and you're like, don't do that again and then you move on. So that's how I handle it. I, I just, I don't tend to dwell on it. Um I learned from it, I learn quick, especially if it's expensive, definitely if it's expected. Well, thank you so much for being on the podcast today for being with female startup club. I've loved chatting to you and learning about your brand. Thank you for having me. It's really, really been a pleasure and so nice to meet you and uh I'll be listening for your podcast now, I'm excited to uh hear from other female entrepreneurs.