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Pioneering I-Beauty and creating a brand rooted in culture and heritage with Aavrani's Rooshy Roy

On today’s episode I’m joined by Rooshy Roy, Co-Founder of An Indian inspired skincare brand called Aavrani.

A first-generation Indian American, Rooshy grew up around her family making ancient Indian skin care treatments using ingredients like turmeric and almond oil, and through a chance encounter at business school on her second day there, she started her entrepreneurial journey with Aavrani.

Named as one of Forbes 30 under 30 for retail and ecommerce in 2020, Rooshy has secured around 2m in funding and has developed a brand rooted in Indian culture and heritage, with a purpose to inspire and empower women around the world through ancient Indian rituals.

I can’t tell you how much I loved this conversation, Rooshy is so profoundly real and raw, and she shares so much of herself throughout the episode. We talk about the importance of pioneering I-beauty and why it’s crucial that more women launch brands inspired by Indian beauty and continue to show up for south asian women around the world, finding the strength to shut out the negative talk that stops women from pursuing big ideas and the beauty of storytelling from the heart.

Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!

Of course. And thank you for having me doing and for reaching out to a brownie. This is one of the first podcasts that I'm doing. So I'm excited to spread the word and then, of course, help and inspire whoever wants to start their own business because it's so possible. It's just a matter of community and networking, which we'll get into in a bit. Oh, yeah, I'm so honored. So let me start from the beginning. Yes. So I was born and raised in Detroit. My parents are immigrants from India, so they immigrated in the late eighties and then I was born in nineteen ninety. They came from Calcutta and were.

Trying to preserve basically whatever culture that they knew and they grew up with in Michigan, so I grew up in a very in a very interesting upbringing, very fortunate, where I had one foot in two different cultures. We had Midwest, Americana, where it was 90 plus percent white people around me at school, sports activities. And then in terms of our immigrant Bengali community, we had a very tight knit group of families that essentially became our extended family in the US since everybody really left their left their families behind in Calcutta. So it was a beautiful experience. But as a child, it was very confusing for me, I would say mostly because I didn't quite feel like I fit into either. And it was a little lonely in the sense of, OK, well, where do I fit in if I'm if I don't have the same sort of values or interests that are Prix's in the Indian community, I don't feel like I belong there, but I don't look like any of the people that I talk to about sports or at debate camp or when I play basketball. It was this interesting experience where I really needed to figure out who I was. And the best part or the worst part, I guess, was that I didn't even realize how much I had left behind or that I was unaware of myself until I started to Ronnie and I prior to starting, I pursued finance.

I worked in investment banking and private equity for six years in New York. Then I went to business school to basically figure it out. It was the most risk averse, but also bold thing I could do at the time where I'm like, I can't do this anymore. But also I don't have the balls to just quit and figure it out without, you know, being able to tell people what I'm doing with my life, if that sort of makes sense. So going to Wharton was an opportunity for me to really step back and figure out, like, wait, OK, I did the thing where I worked as hard as possible in an environment that was competitive. I am comfortable with that. I don't need to continue trying to validate who I am or my competence anymore. And that sort of inflection point gave me the freedom to explore what I do care about. And so when I got to Wharton, interestingly, I was already a little sort of discouraged by my peers in the sense that I didn't really realize a lot of people come to business school in order to get a very specific job afterwards. It's one of those things where you come in, you start recruiting right away, and then you're off into a new career track.

For example, someone could come in from, let's say, a corporate job at a Fortune 500 company, UTS Business School, as a platform to pivot into investment banking or consulting something entirely different. Meanwhile, I had no idea what I wanted to do, and it was almost like I was watching all these people who were so sure about what they wanted and that lonely feeling started coming back. But instead of letting that sort of bog me down the kind of way it had my whole life, it was kind of a it was a freedom like, wow, this is this is a good thing. Maybe it is good. I'm not thinking in this way because I've done that. I've left that like this is a real opportunity for me. And the second day of business school, I happened to meet my co-founder, Justin Silver. He's a white guy from Long Island. And just the most opposite of me, as you can picture, both physically and in a personality sense. And when he introduced himself to me and we had both worked in finance as well, a lot of people at Wharton do prior to starting, I was almost already bored by the conversation. Like, I know what you have to say.

I know like the whole charade, like whatever. I was kind of dismissive. And he was so energetic and was starting to tell me about the things that he worked on in finance with such passion in a way I never seen, like I didn't care at all about the clients I was working on in the sense of like what is what's their mission, what are they trying to do? Meanwhile, he's just so excited about telling me about building another skincare brand through the private equity firm he was working at. And I was like, wow, how did you do that? We started talking in the sense of the same questions you asked me in the beginning how like how did they get from ten orders a day to twenty to thirty it? So hard and he started talking to me about it and I'm like, wait a minute, I have never been this excited about a conversation before ever. And I don't know if you can tell us about me. I've I've adapted myself. I would say I'm still working on it, but I'm quite introverted and reserved. It takes a lot for me to sort of offer up information or sort of divulge myself right away, but I couldn't even help it with him.

I was like, let me tell you all about this skin care from my culture. Like I grew up making turmeric mass. My grandma would put coconut oil hair mass in my hair, almond oil on my knees and elbows for hyper pigmentation.

All these sorts of knowledge and beauty secrets that I was privy to growing up, I didn't even realize was special or unique in the context of the world. And because I had sort of isolated myself from Indian culture, all the good stuff like these ancient rituals that are so sacred and still so renowned, I sort of left behind as well. And so through that conversation, he started getting excited. He's like, what do you mean you can't get a ready made turmeric mask? Why would you make them? The idea of creating your own skin care, even from a cultural perspective, is very different when you want to indulge or self care these days. It's a really expensive spa day, right, with the high end technician s aesthetician, mazouz, whatnot. In India, it's a very personal and community driven effort where you're creating these treatments with the women around you, cutting the turmeric, you know, really distilling the oils to a point where you're appreciating the treatment for what it is and not just trying to consume it. And in a pocket of time, the way beauty traditionally or as I've seen it in the US. And so we were talking about it. We were so excited and he's like, we should start a company. And it was one of those things where, you know, when you say, yeah, we should fly to the moon and you're like, yeah, that'd be awesome. And then you enjoy the conversation for a little bit, you know, that it's not going to happen and it's not reality.

And Justin just had this way of following up with me. He's like, why? Why is that unrealistic? Why do you think? And I kept coming up with problems. I'm like, well, where would we start? Who would manufacture the stuff? I don't know anything about skin care. I've never worked in a consumer product, anything. All I know are the knowledge from making this stuff growing up and like, is that enough? I have no idea. And then not to mention that idea of like, well, if this was a good idea, someone else would have done it by now. Right. There are so many beautiful, amazing, accomplished Indian women out there. It couldn't be me who introduces this thing, who never wears makeup. I just told you, I haven't showered since Saturday. Like, there's no way that this person is going to be pioneering a beauty or Indian beauty. Right. And there's that a disconnect we can get into later as well. But that conversation really was the first inflection point of of Ronney where we decided to do it. We literally took all the cash that we were going to spend on business school for tuition that we had saved, put it in a joint account to get an LLC and took out student loans and started right away. This was September twenty seventeen. And the very first thing we did and first thing I did actually was Google Skincare Manufacturers us. And so just to reiterate this idea of not knowing enough or not being enough to start anything is a complete facade.

Anyone can do anything. Information is so democratized these days and I'm realizing more and more, especially for women, we are the only things in our own way. You know, the idea of, oh, I don't have the experience, like, what if you just started doing it? You suddenly have experience. Right now I'm able to say I have three years of beauty experience, but what does that really mean? Technically, women who engage with beauty have a lifetime of experience, right? They know what works for them, what mixes together these kinds of things. You don't put on a resume. Right. But they're just innate to our womanhood and our livelihood and what makes us confident and happy and the idea that that is enough and enough expertise, enough experience, enough to relate to another woman to sell a product is preposterous. Right. But at the same time, it's so true. It really is so true. And I think that's the biggest lesson I'm still learning today for the first year of business school, by the way, I know I'm when we decided to begin the first thing after we identified all the manufacturers in the US. Who could make skincare products? It was a filter system of, OK, we want the highest quality clean ingredients, and since we're not chemists, that's not something we can necessarily skimp on. We want to we'll pay the premium on that.

So we diligence over 50 manufacturers in the US to ensure that they were using the right ingredients, that they were all sourced sustainably. They were using eco friendly practices and materials, basically, so that we wouldn't have to worry about it, if that makes sense. And then once we enlisted the manufacturer, I was able to work with the R&D team in the sense of giving them the ingredients that I knew from growing up, like turmeric, neem, honey, chickpea flour, coconut milk and water, all these things that I knew, I told them here, this is what works. I need you to translate this into a shelf stable format. I don't know what additional stabilizers we need or what kind of natural preservatives we can use. That's their job. But I was able to basically take the things that I learned from my grandmother, my aunts, my mom, and transform them into a product. And that was the most special experience because that was the first realization of like, wait, I can do this. I can do something here.

Yeah, you're doing it. You were in action.

And that I mean, that's the other thing. Sometimes you don't realize you are doing it while you're trying to do it, you know what I mean? Yeah, I guess just like making plans in life. Right. So in the summer between business school, we launched, we self launched the website running dotcom, I had four products created.

They were clinically tested and proven at over 90 percent of women agreeing with the claims we were making. I was very meticulous about product efficacy and quality once again, probably because I was so insecure about not being a chemist or having that experience beauty experience myself. It was the priority, ultimate priority, and at the same time coming from the world of finance and then also not appreciating what brand or marketing really means. In my head, I thought, OK, if you have a great product and it works, it's off to the races. I'm done. Right, right. Yeah. But then as you alluded to in the beginning of the conversation, we launched the website, went live June 1st, twenty eighteen. And just now was sitting there staring at our computers on the Shopify back and waiting for all these orders to roll in. And it's just frozen like I think at one point actually my computer was frozen and then just in open Shopify and his phone to double check. If our desktops were frozen, like we were like, what's happening? Where are all the sales? We literally thought there was a chance that we would sell out because, of course, every single person we ever knew or came into contact with would support us. Right. Like, that's the that's the assumption. I mean, while my mom didn't even buy until day three, she was like, oh, yeah, I just got to it like this one day, you know, like you don't realize how much you have to do once you have the actual thing you're trying to sell. So that summer was like a huge just wake up call for me, having spent basically all our savings up to that point to get the products made. We not only had to market the product now and I had to basically start learning social media and all this stuff that I wasn't familiar with before.

But we also had to start fundraising because in order to sustain growth and to get the next order, we needed some money and had no no idea when that would be or how long that would take. So we started fundraising basically as soon as we launched, which as I'm learning now, in retrospect, you're never going to have things lined up perfectly where, OK, once you have all the money now, you can go invest it in your company in a perfect sort of linear progression. You kind of have to assume you're going to be dope and sell out and you're going to need the money right away. So preemptively start pitching to people so that by the time you do sell out, you have the money, you know what I mean? And it's it's a really interesting dissonance in the mind where I have to sit across from someone and tell them how awesome we are when I have nothing to prove for myself. It's been two days, right? In July, they're like, how are your monthly sales? I'm like, it's not even been a month, but I promise it's going to be great. And that's all we're trying to pitch. And that became an entire learning process in and of itself. I mean, fundraising. Again, I thought I came into a pretty cocky I was like, I know what this is. I came from finance. This is my thing. Meanwhile, Justin and I are walking into rooms. People think I'm like the person that's going to get them water and asking Justin about, oh, my God, how how his experience in in skincare is going to make this a billion dollar company.

And I'm like, where am I? Are we with the right people here? What's what's happening? Is this what fundraising really is? And when people are asking me, like, why do you think this is going to be great? Why should we invest in you? I didn't realize how much of my own heart in my own vision. Was critical to that decision. I thought that if I gave them numbers and stats say the US skin care market is growing exponentially, the global clean beauty market is growing. At this rate, we can capture X percent of the total addressable market. What not? I thought those are the things that they're going to hang on to. Right. Meanwhile, they're just grilling me on all these questions that I'm answering, but then also have no real data to back up because we're not even really launched. We don't have any growth or anything to show for ourselves. So is this interesting catch? Twenty two. We ended up closing on a friends and family round that year in twenty eighteen at around two hundred and fifty, and that was enough to get the next production order to sustain growth. Then in twenty nineteen, Justin had graduated from business school in May and moved back to New York here in this lovely room slash headquarters and once again had to start fundraising and twenty nineteen. Last year's fund raise was a insane period of self discovery for me, I think not just because of fundraising, but also because I'm out here now as an entrepreneur. I don't get the headline of business school to fall back on when I'm too shy to say that I'm a CEO, I'm starting a company.

When I would go back home, for example, in between business school, there are those certain aunties and uncles are like, oh, what are you up to? They're so proud. I'm at Wharton. I'm not about to tell them. I just dumped all my savings in a in a beauty brand. Right. They're just going to be like what? So I'm exploring. I'm seeing my passion that I didn't even have the confidence to own it myself. And even as I was sharing what I was doing, I was like, but what do you think? Like, do you like it? Like, would you use it? It was very I was very much asking for permission to own what I wanted to do and moving back to New York and no longer being in business school. And on my LinkedIn, having entrepreneur, I mean, my my heart was just racing. What are people going to think of me? They're going to be who does she think she is to go out and do this? Well, all these people are working their butts off from where I came from and still trying to get to the next level. Like, how could it possibly be that she thinks you can start a beauty brand and be herself, you know what I mean? And so last year through fundraising, it took us a year, a full year to raise, my God, nearly two million. But that's what we needed once again to capitalize that next level of growth that, by the way, we had no idea if it was going to happen.

So, again, I'm trying to also grow the team. We're in hiring mode. We're trying to scale our operations. I'm trying to step back from measuring labels and aligning vectors to networking and meeting people in the industry and asking about going to panels, talking on panels like all the kind of stuff that I never thought I was good at and the kind of things that I think would have made me shy away from doing this thing in the first place. But by the time push came to shove, it was like, OK, either you're doing this or you're not. For me, there's no half assing anything like I need to give it my all or not. And which is why I, I really can't focus on too many pillars in my life. Like literally there was my husband and of Ronnie in twenty twenty. And if anything else happened, like it went in one ear out the other kind of thing, like I had to be so hands down and. Yeah, I mean, I think now we're at a place where I'm I finally feel like I can stand in front of you and say, you know, I am the founder and CEO of a RONNEY, an Indian inspired skincare brand. We are pioneering Indian inspired beauty. And by the way, this is awesome, because this is the thing that I needed to feel beautiful and confident growing up. And I don't really care if it resonates with you because I know it resonates with me. You know what I mean?

For sure that so I am like cheering up a little bit, but.

I, I just this is amazing, just sitting in front of you and having you tell me about all these amazing entrepreneurs that you've interviewed and to decide that you belong in that bucket. That's a mindset that you have to work on every day.

Well, I think it's so cool what you're doing, and I think the brand is amazing, the story is just so beautiful and it's so special. It comes obviously from deep in your heart and deep in your soul and deep within your culture, which it just must be so thrilling to see that come to life and see all of your hard work really becoming this huge thing.

And like you said, pioneering eye beauty, like a category that hasn't formally like it.

You know, it's all about beauty. And that's also just such a really exciting movement to be at the forefront of.

Absolutely. It's it's exciting and it's terrifying at the same time, because because the category doesn't exist, it's a lot to imagine that we could create it. And therein lies like another distinction, I think, from other founders or early stage brands. I love when I hear other Indian inspired brands coming out the market. Intuitively, it's it feels competitive, like, oh, no, someone else is doing this, but I threw the last year, I realized that the more of us out there doing this, the more attention we bring to these rituals and practices. And then the category can even be created if we think about even beauty. It wasn't until 20, 30 brands came on the scene where at least here in the US we were like, wait, this is a thing. What is this Korean approach to skin care that we've never explored before? Right. But that conversation doesn't get started until there are enough brands and companies out there making noise and making people want to talk about it.

Yeah, and I think the other piece to it is also having younger girls and younger women having different role models to look up to and to be able to be like, yeah, I want to be part of that.

I can see myself that that's what I want to strive for. That's what I want to be part of when I grow up. I think that's super important.

One hundred percent. And I would say even on that front when I started initially, I. And this is. Peak, I would say Instagram influencer sort of arrow with so many influencers are emerging and the power of influencer is just unprecedented. And I'm sitting there thinking, OK, we don't have that much money to market. How do I get the word out? It's got to be through free platforms, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit. Now we're exploring Spotify. We're exploring now, but. There's no one quick fix or channel that's going to get you to grow if you just sort of need to be authentically putting yourself in the channels that make the most sense to you. So in the beginning, I thought we need to do every platform and I need to go all in everywhere. But as I told you, from my personality perspective, I, I couldn't focus that hard. I was doing everything at 50 percent of the way instead of two things at one hundred and ten percent, which is how I prefer to operate. And that's what made me realize, OK, I need to be a lot more intentional about the way that I'm marketing this brand, the way I'm talking about it and doing it in a way that's actually authentic to me. So get hopping on YouTube and doing a tutorial in my bathroom. Oh my gosh, it's a nightmare. I can't even tell you. There was one night I spent the entire night, eight hours. I had a ring light attached to my mirror. I had this other device trying to hold up my phone in like the perfect angle, like looking skinny, beautiful, the whole thing. Hey, guys, this is the product.

And I that's literally how I was talking. And then I would watch myself like, who are you? What are you doing right now? You just spent so long just to say, hey, guys, swipe up to this thing. But that's all I saw on the market. Right. Like other beauty brands, if you're not a big brand and you're going out there on your own, you've got to have a personality. You have to be relatable. And I thought that that was the only way then for me to succeed. How do I become this amazing on camera personality who can put her mascara on perfectly to a hip hop beat in the background? Right. Like that was just not me that's going on me. And so, again, it was when I stopped trying to do that, that more of my authentic self. And the rationale behind why I'm doing this resonated with people because it actually came out. And the thing is. Yeah, yeah. When you're trying to match someone else's best or what you see someone else doing, the best you can do is second best to them. Right. You're not going to be better than them being them. And that was the thing that really struck me over and over again to the point where I almost had no choice but to just be like, OK, what do you got now, Rucci? Like, who are you? What is your thing? Like, figure this out because you don't want to be second best either. Right. And what's the point of taking this leap if you're just going to try to do what everyone else is doing?

And I think it's so funny, A, that in the beginning when you were saying, you know, you're typically someone that's more introvert in this kind of thing and then bringing that forward to what you're saying now about the Instagram stuff.

Because to me, when I when I now have been watching your Instagram and especially the behind the scenes and the story highlights that you have, I think it's so beautiful. And I like really connect with the brand. And I'm like, yeah, I totally get it.

Especially seeing you have such powerful storytelling to show all of this the lead up of the how and the why and why that why the blue and why the pink and all those little bits of information that you don't in and how you talk to the camera.

I just think it's so good. I think you're really actually quite a powerful storyteller.

It's so funny that you don't think that that dude, you're going to make me cry.

So, you know, when I was in high school, like, if I had to do public speaking, I would have to be in the bathroom, like in a store by myself just reiterating things, because that is how terrified I am at talking to people who don't know me. It just it's this wild thing where I'm like, I don't want to be judged. I don't want them to think I'm any one thing. Right. And I think that I guess it leads me to the new brand or what inspired me to create a brand centered around reality. It's not just about my Indian American Indian ness and American this duality like that's. Obviously, and that part resonates through the brand down to the actual products where we're basically creating shelf stable versions of something so sacred and homemade and handcrafted, the real duality, I feel that I think actually a lot of women could resonate with is this idea of having to fit very neatly into a persona. So as. A woman trying to build something, there are certain expectations of you, right, of, well, first, if your skin care founder. You better not have a single blemish because then you don't know what you're doing. Second, it's you have to speak well, be able to to put your products on, explain the products. Well, there are certain things that are just you have to do and there are certain things you can choose to want to do. And one of the things I chose not to do was doing the YouTube tutorials when I realized that wasn't my forte. But this idea of duality, meaning when you are across from me today, I don't want you to also think that I'm not humble down to earth. You know, I cuss all the time. I'm trying so hard not to us.

By the way, you can do I speak as you wish. No, no.

This is a this is a practice for me. I almost feel like when I'm speaking as CEO founder, I'm undermining the real Rucci. Right. And I don't want to appear phony. I'm terrified of appearing phony because that's the exact thing I'm trying to fight against. So then I'm struggling to be like, well, how do I articulate myself? What is the right way to be? And the whole irony of this whole thing is when you stop asking that question of, like, what do they want from me? What are they expecting or what is the thing that's going to get the check or the thing that's going to drive growth? That's when your best work and your most authentic creative self comes out when you stop asking those questions about everyone else.

Yeah, and I think it's about realizing that being vulnerable and allowing yourself to just be like who you are and not having to try to be what people want you to be is when the best of you shines out anyway because you're like, well, I'm only going to be appealing to, like, this person and not that person.

And that's OK. I don't need to be for everyone.

It was one of those just like, all right, but if you don't like me, I'm like, it's OK. That's all right. And exactly the funny thing is, like as we're talking about it and again, I'm saying this specific to women, because it's just the way that we're almost socialized as a society, we don't feel like we're allowed to be certain things like loud and direct and strong willed. And that debilitates are so much more than sometimes we realize. I didn't even myself realize I was doing that when I was walking into rooms with Justin until I took the moment to be introspective about why I'm struggling to reconcile who I am in a fundraising meeting and who I am on a panel. When I walk in with Justin, it's almost like, OK, everybody knows and expects this accomplished white man to do this thing. So I'll let him do the talking. I don't want to interrupt him. How does that make me look like? They're going to think who is this woman who can't control her? Right. Like, I don't know what they think. I'm making this up. I'm not in their head. But all these, like, whatever, second guessing myself and all that stuff, it was just like, why am I doing that? And then suddenly when. They asked about the numbers in one meeting and Justin was like, you know what? She built the model. She loved to tell you about how we expect to grow in the next three years. I suddenly felt so empowered, like, yeah, I can tell you about this thing. So well, because I built it, I just need to stop thinking so much about what you want from me and just it's just been so amazing in that to because he's realized a lot about gender dynamics and social roles and constructs through working with me, too. And we're both, because we're so different, are able to kind of see things now from each other's perspective in a way that we wouldn't have necessarily entertained if we didn't trust each other. It's just opened my eyes to how much more we can do if we just believe we can do it.

Yeah, it's like you're empowering each other as well through these learnings and through these this weird life experience that you're going through together.

It's really remarkable, I think it's absolutely.

Absolutely. And I'll give you a quick example. Early on when we started working together, we had this one plan for how we were going to approach approach something. I think it was like a pitch competition or whatnot, and something had not worked out or there was a hiccup in the process. And so right away, I sent them an alternative document or alternative deck that I had created. And Justin was like, did you have that already? Why did you make that? And I was like, because I had a feeling that this first thing wasn't going to work. So I made this so that we wouldn't be scrambling. And we had this amazing conversation where we both realized I have plan A through K in my head already when I'm pitching myself and talking about myself to Justin. If Plan A doesn't happen, he's incredulous is how is that possible? I he he's indignant almost to the point where I realized that when you believe in yourself that much, there is only one plan. It's the nature of creating all these backup plans that sort of inhibits us from going all in on our actual self and our actual idea. But for me, is my self like being risk averse. As I told you, I went to business school to begin with. That was so uncomfortable for me. Oh, my gosh, if this doesn't work, we're just free falling. Like, what if what if we fall? What if we fail? What happens? Just it's like we'll figure it out.

Have you lived your life this way? Like your whole life has been like this? This is awesome. And I would never have even had that level of. Conversation with someone that this seems so innocuous, but we don't even really understand each other's lived experiences until we're compelled to really get it for a reason, and I really needed to understand where his headspace was, because to me, I thought it was negligent to not have several backup plans. And to him, he thought it was negligent to do that because then I'm not putting my heart into what we actually want. And little things like that are so profound and helpful. I think it's, again, that vulnerability that you had brought up earlier that really can drive the growth. Once we admit we're not perfect, we don't know everything. The only way to go is up through being vulnerable. Like what's the worst that's going to happen? We tend to like, imagine worst case scenarios, like I even would think about if this thing fails in business school, what's going to happen? Am I going to be homeless on the street? No, I'll just go back to where I used to work and what an amazing backup plan that is. Right. And such a privilege that a lot of people don't have. So why am I so worried about going for everything set up for me now if I don't go for it? And that's just me not betting on myself at this point.

Yeah, absolutely, for sure, for sure. I really want to get into talking about your marketing in the early days and talking about how you sort of found those first customers three days in after your mom bought and getting from that stage of, like your first hundred customers, your first thousand customers, like how you actually did that and what strategies you were using to get the.

So I'm going to be totally honest with you. You know, we were pulling out all strings, just trying to see what works. So I started practicing on the Instagram in January of twenty eighteen. This is pre current of like overly planning, risk averse Rucci. I was like, I need to get practice with this interface so I know how to launch the brand in the best way. Meanwhile, the interface is predicated on authenticity and not manufacturing your stuff. So I'm like Google imaging beautiful honey dripping. Right? Like it was one of those things where I'm like, what am I doing right now? Is this adits? Is this Value-Add right now? But I didn't know because I saw on Instagram how successful brands like Vlasta and, you know, a ton of other brands that have really capitalize on the user generated content and community building is like we have to do that exact thing. And so I was determined to basically replicate glossaries model three years later with just myself, you know what I mean? And so I started posting a bunch of stuff on that. I wrote all the email newsletters where I would break out the ingredients, the story, history behind it, like I didn't know what people read and cared about. So I started learning that, oh, there's a thing called a conversion rate, a click through rate, a bounce rate. Oh, if I send an email that's shitty, I risk people unsubscribing.

Like I shouldn't just send an email just to send it. I should say stuff. I should want to say something. These sorts of things were just happening in real time. I would say the first month I think we had less than 50 orders. So that was one of the inflection points, again, with Justin, where it was like we have to separate where we're at now with where we're going. And it was hard to not get bogged down in the lack of success. When you're reading about beauty brands from the early days and the apartment selling one hundred orders a day, they can't keep up. She's sleeping on all her creams. There's no room in her for all these amazing things. And I'm just like, all right, can someone order? Like, Mom, can you order again? Like, what is happening here? It ended up being. The women, the Indian American women, basically me five years, 10 years younger than me, who latched on to our brand immediately on social media, and here's where I think I what I didn't realize. I thought that they loved it because I was doing such a good job. Right. I'm working all of these social media channels. I found the perfect photo of honey. And that's why they love this brand when really because they were so fucking excited to see themselves celebrated and beautiful and showcase and highlighted that they didn't even care what I was posting about how like amateur the packaging looked.

We had plastic with labels. I was I was measuring the diameter of the basis of these to put the labels on, like that's how low key, professional, non sophisticated this thing was. And when I realized that it was the celebration and oh, they're really being seen, it has nothing to do with me or the work I'm putting into it. That's that was another milestone for me to lean into that more as opposed to trying to replicate like a glossier model and whatnot. Because we have a different customer. We have people who. Have not necessarily been told that they are the standard of beauty, right in Indian culture and I'll speak for myself here. Mostly it's we are even in India, aspiring to Western standards of beauty, even in our own country. How we look is not aspirational. So imagine in the US when. That's the culture your parents were brought up in, and then you're surrounded by all these beautiful, blond haired, blue eyed women such as yourself, and you're like, wait, my, my, I just have pupils. What's wrong with me? Like, I wish I could get highlights. Like blonde hair would look so awful on my skin tone. I wish I was lighter. And it's like one of those just spiraling things that when you're not. Not the standard of beauty, if that makes sense, it's harder to understand you can walk into any beauty store and you will find your shade.

You will find someone who knows what color of eyeshadow will make your eyes pop and how to make your bushy eyebrows look chic and whatever. Right. And meanwhile, we've had bushy eyebrows this whole time and we've been trying to twist them into little sperm looking things on our face. Right. Like we're constantly looking to others to tell us what is beautiful and to have a brand out there that's like, no, you are beautiful exactly the way you are. And by the way, the things that make you different are the things that make you so fucking special. Like if you have a big nose, if you have a unibrow. My ears are great. You see how they stick out. They're so asymmetrical. I would not put my hair up for years because of it. And my husband thinks it's like the best thing about me. And sometimes it's like we we don't believe those things are like, no, no, no. But I want whatever. I literally I was saving up for a European back surgery. If it was a school, it was cheaper, but it's. It's just when you're asking how did you get those early customers, how did you get that momentum? It was not on purpose. It was almost like an accident of. Me be on my way to finding myself and kind of bringing people along with me.

Yeah, it sounds really special and it's really, really cool. It's really nice. I love it.

Thank you.

I want to talk about the letter that you wrote to yourself the night before the Forbes 30 under 30 was announced. And like that time in your life.

Oh, wow, you've done your homework and how you felt and what was happening and how how the Forbes thing came about. What was that time like?

I think so, as I mentioned, 20, 19 was a crazy journey for me, I think the end of twenty nineteen was when I was starting to. Really internalize the fact that things were actually falling into place. There wasn't a need to be so anxious and worried all the time because I could start trusting myself and my team, it was. Ironically, like the Forbes thing was, just because of the timing was such a relief, well, all this year of work like. I don't even know what they wrote on the thing, like if they acknowledged any any of the work, but it almost felt like I was recognized or rewarded and sort of some sort of ancillary way. So it is very overwhelming to me because. When I sort of train myself. To deal with rejection on an hourly basis, almost right. I I was very overwhelmed by the Forbes thing, and so that's why I wrote that letter, because I had gotten so just trained and comfortable with. All right, before you get back up, before you get back up, and how do we make this a little bit easier on you? Over time, it can't be socially and so devastating every time the first time something really bad happens or, you know, you I don't even know we had like four dollars left in our bank account when we were trying to apply for this loan for something.

And I was like, what's the point of anything anymore? Like, let's just whatever. I just needed to train myself to be like, no, you can because you think you can. And the worst that you think isn't actually so bad. And it was almost one of those things where I took the version of myself that I love the most, that super confident, that super like, OK, if they don't like you, fuck, then move on. Like, just the badass version that I'm like that I look up to, like, what would she say to me right now to your dumb ass sitting on the couch whining about maybe you'll get caught, like, who cares? You got your round. You have an amazing team. You have the man of your dreams like sitting across from you. This is the kind of stuff people spend their whole lives searching for. And you have it all in front of you. It doesn't matter, this doesn't matter, it'll be a nice to have it's not a need to have. So that sort of mindset training is basically what you saw in that letter of me having to sort of isolate my best version of myself from the version I am in that moment.

Yeah, yeah, I love that you shared that, and I think that goes into your storytelling of how powerful it is where people can really see this like real, authentic side of you, which a lot of brands don't really share that that intense those intense kind of moments and those intense like role real feelings that brand owners and entrepreneurs experience really often.

And on a daily basis of that, am I good enough, the self-doubt? What are people going to say? Yeah, it's really special to share that kind of thing.

Thank you. Thank you. I think I. I realized that it was something I needed to do because. Of what I was looking to build, so at the end of the day, I'm creating a beauty brand and if I really thinking about what is beauty, it's so much more than how we look like. Right. If we are not speaking to ourselves kindly. If we're not. You know, calm or if we're getting too hard on ourselves, letting self-doubt overtake us, we don't feel beautiful. It doesn't matter how great you look in a photo or on your Instagram, it's you're miserable. And I, I know that because I live that way. And that idea of showcasing your. Like a facade of your life that felt inauthentic in the context of building a beauty brand, because that's not what beauty is, and I think that's where the duality comes in from a literal perspective of what you eat, how you sleep, how you rest. You know, the friendships you have that makes you just as beautiful as the cream you're using, the sunscreen you put on the mask you wear. Both have to coexist in order for you to actually feel like you're thriving because there are too many people who are physically beautiful who just don't even feel it. And then it's like, what's the point?

Yeah, for sure, for sure. What advice do you have for women who have a big idea and want to start their own business?

I used to the advice I used to give is just start, which I will stick by in the sense of you're never going to have a perfect business plan, you're never going to get everything in order before you begin. As you even said, you're doing it before you think you're even doing it. It's the same sort of thing as as a woman. It is harder, I think, to say I have this big idea and I'm doing this because we just don't have enough role models are enough precedents for that to be normalized. So we're a little shyer and we want more information and everything to be ready to stand by a statement like that. But the biggest thing I learned through Justin is you show up and then you figure it out. You say who you are and then you become that person. That's the only way it will ever work, because, as I said, we were all constantly learning. Nobody's perfect. So, yeah, if you say you're I'm a skin care expert now than I am we we are what we say we are. So I would definitely say still start. But the first step before starting, I think is to network is to meet and reach out to other women who you look up to doesn't even have to be in your own field. A lot of the female mentors that I've come to bring into my circle don't even work in beauty.

It's just their mindset and their approach to life that I'm trying to emulate, which is being authentic, being intentional about what we're doing with our lives. It doesn't even have to do with the product. So the more you can network and talk to other women who are excelling in what they do, the more comfort you can get around, hey, I can do that. I'm just like her. Oh, she said she didn't know what she was doing either. Then I can do it. I don't know what I'm doing. I can start it with you. You need to hear that a few times before you're like, wait, what about me? Right. It's only when we see it around us that we feel like we belong in that. And so I think the first step before starting is to reach out to if it's not even conversing with, it's just reading about following, looking, looking up their stories so that you know that they're not perfect. And that's a big reason why I want it to be so open and brutally honest on Instagram so that if anybody comes on there, they know that this isn't just like some overnight Willy Dilli idea. This is my blood, sweat and tears into this thing that I'm still not sure about. But I'm trying my hardest. And they can do that, too. Right. And so I that would be my advice to young women.

That's so true, that's so true. I love that. Thank you. We're up to the six quick questions that I ask to every woman that I speak to.

Question number one is, what's your wife?

My wife is I want to live out the truest interpretation of myself, and I think that's what most people want out of their lives to be their truest version of themselves. And I think or I know that's what Ronnie is for me. It's my outlet and channel to be Rucci exactly who I am. No Conn's, no other brands are doing that. Other brands, like whatever I don't give a fuck of Ronnie is my thing and it is who I am. And it's my outlet and. Sales growth, whatever is gravy, it's just. My anchor to stay true to who I am, that's my.

I love that question number two is what's been the number one marketing moment that made your business pop?

Well, to answer that question, I would have to concede that my business has popped, which I don't know if it has yet to be clear, we did just launch like two weeks ago and I'm literally crossing my fingers like we'll see. But assuming it did pop to the degree it has so far, I would argue that there is no one big moment. I have not yet been in a magazine or been covered by anyone like noteworthy. And I say this in air quotes. I have to mention that this is a podcast noteworthy in the context of other other people's standards. Right. So I've never had that sort of pop moment. It was always a bunch of little things that in concert helped elevate our brand and bring awareness to it. And I would I would also say that it's the things that you don't expect. So that's why it's so important to do things with intention, because if you're pursuing anything, marketing, hiring with or focused on a specific outcome, like I am going to work on this thing so I can be on the cover of Vogue, then it's not going to happen, then you're just sort of doing that thing of what do they expect, what do they want from me? And then everything gets clouded to just pursue the goals across all of those streams. Marketing, especially with intention, the world will see it. It will come through. People like doing will reach out to you and ask you to. It's really it's so true. It's the universe has a way of supporting your purpose.

That's true. Question number three is where do you hang out to get smarter?

You know, I'm going to say lately it's been Twitter, I've been following very specific people who I actually disagree with a lot from a political sense, just because this this whole year, among a bunch of other lessons learned for everyone has really shown me that. We just don't have enough empathy for each other in terms of understanding where people come from and there's this insane polarization happening and that's just not humanity like we humans are made to want to love and love in return and be understanding. And all the chaos and craziness happening right now encouraged me to want to expand my mind in my imagination into a different way of thinking. And it's been really, really hard because, of course, there are things that are straight up disturbing, violent, upsetting to my core. June was a really tough month for me because, I mean, I couldn't even. Really focus on the company because of everything going on, especially in the US, where was I even going with this? Yes, so that's where I'm trying to get smarter. And I think I would encourage others to follow or read up on things that they don't naturally gravitate to either. I don't think we realize how much of an echo chamber we can get into by going towards things that are comfortable and things that we like. It's only when we talk to people from different experiences and actually hear them out that we can open our own minds to, you know, getting stronger as people. So I would I would say that's where I'm getting smarter. A little unconventional. Have an answer. But quarantine.

I love that. That's so cool. Really interesting.

Question number four is how do you win the day? And that's around your AMPM rituals that keep you feeling happy and successful and motivated.

I love that morning I started last fall, I started this, I do a seven minute meditation. I am the type of person who wakes up. I'll read emails in my bed. I already start getting anxiety because by the time I'm in the shower, I'm like, I have to respond to this person. I need to make that call. I need to pick this up. And that sets off the day in. Like you can't win in that kind of day because you're you're in a cycle. So taking a moment to breathe and remember where you're at, center yourself. And just set your intention for the day. So one thing that would be great for you to accomplish and that one thing may not even be tactical and may be I really want to have a healthy lunch today. I don't want to just pick up Taco Bell again. Please don't pick up Taco Bell again. And if I do it, then I've won the day. It doesn't matter if I didn't finish the 16 other things on my to do list. It's all about it's all about mindset. So I would encourage that. And then before going to bed, obviously do your skin care, don't go to sleep in makeup. But if you do, it's not the end of the world. And and just remember that one thing you set in the morning. Did you do it? Yes. You're a winner. It's like it's really as simple as it sounds.

Love that, so good. Question number five is if you only had a thousand dollars left in your business bank account, where would you spend it?

So, I mean, that's that's right. And if that has happened. So I think this question is what you're trying to get at is what is the most important thing? Right, because I think this is a thing where I constantly just assumed we'd be able to fundraise to to do our next big investment later in the company. So I guess from a mindset perspective, I only had a thousand dollars left. It would be around. Ensuring the product is. Highest quality, I think at the end of the day, your product has to be as awesome as you say it is, and it can only be that if you invest in.

Fishell. And question number six, last question, how do you deal with failure?

I think we talked about this in context of that Forbes letter, I, I deal with it in now, preemptively addressing it. So when I sense and a big thing coming, like a decision being made or I find out about something and I'm anticipating it, those are my worst nights or lead ups where I just inundate myself with self-doubt and the what ifs and what could possibly happen. I think isolating who you are in the moment between who you know you can be is just critical to dealing with that failure because that failure is no longer a failure. It's a lesson. It's a pivot to where you're supposed to go. What makes you an even better, truer version of yourself. And you don't even see it as a failure anymore. So I would also argue that we should take that sort of connotation out of that word. It's it's pivoting. It's not failure.

Love that. Thank you so much for being on the show. I have absolutely loved talking to you today and learning all about of Ronnie and your story, and I can't wait to see how the brand goes and what happens next.

I know I can't wait to stay in touch. Dude, I need to send you some products. I mean, obviously, once you figure out where you're going to be next month. Thank you. Please, let's stay in touch. This was so, so special to me, especially since you reached out to us like you have no idea how much that means to me. So thank you. This opportunity was amazing.



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