Are you on the lookout for a new podcast to listen to. Being boss by Emily Thompson is brought to you by the hubspot podcast network and something I love about this show is getting the chance to support my community of fellow creators and business owners. Being boss is an exploration of not only what it takes, but what it means to be a boss as a creative business owner, freelancer or side hustler. And I know it's going to resonate with so many of you who are listening in. So if you like female startup club, trust me, you're going to love being boss. This is Hillary Peterson for female startup Club. Hey everyone and welcome back to the show. It's dune here your host and hype girl today on the show, we're learning from Hillary Peterson, the founder of True Botanicals, True Botanicals is a natural biocompatible skincare brand on a mission to deliver luxurious, clean products that are clinically proven to work at the highest standards while also using the most innovative sustainable practices. Hillary started this business after going through thyroid cancer and needing to change what she put into and onto her skin.
In this episode, we talked about her journey since 2014 what it means to be a sustainable and clean brand. The difference between what it means to have independent clinical studies verse within your own lab and what the cost is to do them and why she's always prioritized brand building and storytelling. Overpaid acquisition. While I've got you here. If you've been loving the show and you want to support us. The best way is to leave us a review. You can leave a review on Spotify or apple podcasts or if you've purchased the book, a review on amazon is music to my ears. I hope you're keeping healthy and happy. Thank you for tuning into this episode. This is Hillary for female startup club. If your marketing and e commerce brand, you already know that data changes everything more data means more power and if your email or sMS tools can't handle all that data, they're probably holding you back and that's where Clay Vo comes in. It's top notch personalization and segmentation.
Help you send the right message at the right time, guided by unlimited real time data from your online store and tech stack, request a demo at Clay Vo dot com. That's K L A V I Y O dot com. Email startup Hillary. Hi, welcome to the show. High dune. Thanks so much for having me. I'm excited to be here with you today. Where are you calling in from? I am calling in from mill valley California where it's a very sunny windy day. Oh, you stop it. I wish for a sunny windy day in London. It's like a gray windy days all the time. I don't know if you actually heard about what happened in London last week but we had this crazy storm and when I tell you that garbage bins like full on wheelie bins were up in the air, I am just like not kidding. I looked out my window and I saw a carpet flying through the air and it landed on this building and I was like this is I mean a Aladdin happening in real life but also be this is crazy.
It was so intense. I've never seen anything like it. Okay so I was in London on sunday, I left on sunday. What what day was the storm? I think it was thursday on a thursday or friday and it was just a nightmare. Well, I'm glad I missed it. Do you come into town often? No, I was just there for a video shoot. So it was my first post covid trip Actually that international trip like that. Oh my gosh! Amazing. Well let's move into talking about your amazing brand. Tell me about true botanicals and the ethos behind the brand. So true botanicals is a brand that makes natural biocompatible skincare that works. So our products are clinically proven to outperform conventional brands. But without the toxins. And um we're really excited to be showing that beauty products can be effective and luxurious and that toxins aren't needed for that.
100%. That's so interesting. You know, something just before we go into a bit of your backstory. A lot of brands can claim being clean or sustainable. But obviously everyone kind of has a bit of a different understanding of that. What does that actually mean for true botanicals. So we hold ourselves to a very rigorous standard And that has a lot to do with the fact that I came to beauty following a cancer diagnosis and understanding how the toxins and personal care products can not only impact human health but also the environment. So we really take a 360° approach to sustainability and health and wellness. We look at how our ingredients are farmed, We make sure that every ingredient and sub ingredients in our products is safe for people and the planet. So it's not only how the products impact us, but also how do they impact terrestrial and aquatic life when they wash off?
So that in the end our products have a positive impact all the way around. And then also of course recyclable packaging, you know the most recyclable packaging possible. I think that packaging needs to continue to evolve and we're doing the best that we can. And we're always keeping our eye out for new innovations on that front. Hmm that's so interesting. And it comes from such a personal place for you. I'd love to rewind Back to you know, pre 2014 way before you launched kind of to understand your journey in building true botanicals. Absolutely. So I was a young mom with baby twins and I was recovering from thyroid cancer and I discovered as part of my focus on health and wellness, that there were toxins in my personal care products. And I just couldn't believe it, what, you know, how would there be toxins in something that's supposed to make me look and feel my best. And so I looked for products out in the market that would be as effective and luxurious as I expected to find.
You know, my goal has always been to have products that work and that offer luxurious experience. And in the end, I just didn't find anything that met those expectations. And I realized that if I after what I had been through, wasn't that interested in using clean products, then really who would be interested in using clean products. And so I set out to create a line that would be so effective and so luxurious that even people who weren't interested in clean beauty would want to use our products. And you know, I'm really excited to share that. That's what's happened. And I believe that's how you change an industry. Mm Hmm. And when you say you started to like look into how you could create those products, what does that actually mean? What does that look like in 2014? So it means that I'm a seeker. I'm somebody who's always really been interested in learning. And so I looked at the science of aging skin and through understanding what skin loses over time and what contributes to cellular health antioxidants, anti inflammatories.
I searched the world for the most potent ingredients and developed products that I thought would have the biggest impact, consulting leading scientists along the way and ultimately clinically tested some of our core products to make sure that what we thought was happening was happening for the skin. And so that was really the journey. You know, it's interesting in a lot of ways. I often say it's so logical how we've approached skincare and you know, logical and leveraging leading edge science. When you say clinical testing, what does that actually mean? Like what is a clinical test? How many people have been tested on? Like how do you prove that your hypothesis is in fact correct. That's such a good question. Because a lot of times clinical testing can just mean tests within a manufacturer's own labs. And what's always been very important to me is independent certification. I feel that today's consumer needs that kind of authenticity and transparency to trust what a manufacturer is saying, what a brand is saying.
And so for us, whether it's the safety of our products with made safe, that's an independent certification that looks at every ingredient and sub ingredient that's not us self certifying the safety of our products. And then with clinical studies as well, we contract with independent labs to come up with statistically significant analyses of our products and a lot of times we will study them in comparison to leading conventional brands because it really helps us to show that we're exceeding consumer's expectations without toxins. So that's basically what it looks like. And one thing that I found really interesting about doing that relative to the clinical trials is, You know, not only was that a really important consumer data point, but it really helped us to get the attention of thought leaders, beauty editors, influencers, celebrities because like, wow, if this works better than the product I've been using for 10 years and it's made without toxins, then why wouldn't I use it?
So it was a really great turning point for us. It made a huge difference in terms of consumer perceptions because when I started the brand there was this misperception that if something was clean then it wasn't going to be as effective. I mean that was across the board what people believed and it's really exciting to be a brand that's busted that myth. And I don't think that's the perception anymore. That is so cool. When you do one of those tests, like per product, for example, what is the kind of cost you're looking at and like how long does it take to go through that process? It usually takes, I would say about three months and the cost starts at 50,000. It's it's an investment and and actually it's probably even more than that now because I now have a team that leads that for us and so I haven't been as closely connected to the costs, but that's what it cost me a long time ago. So it was a leap of faith for sure And when I was waiting for those results to come back, you know, I was on pins and needles and it was very exciting to see that we have already heard from our customers, these products work better than anything I've used before, so we definitely knew that that something was really working with the products and so to prove that quantitatively made so much sense.
But you know, that's a big leap of faith for sure. Without risk, there is no big reward. I think that's what they say, I've skipped a bit ahead of myself. So I want to go back a little bit earlier than pre you getting to the point of starting to do those certifications. How much did you need to invest to actually get started in getting the kind of like formulations and getting your first round of product and like your website like ready to go, like you're kind of like launch capital. So that's a really interesting question. I was very scrappy And you know, I've often wanted to go back and look at exactly how much that cost, I would say around $100,000 and what I was able to do is to do that over time and that's the beauty of the Internet. I mean, I feel that it really has allowed for more brands like ours too, come to fruition because you can start with the Shopify platform and build my son when he was in high school, he started his own skateboard company without any capital investment except for you know, each skateboard he would make so it's amazing what you can do.
Um but in order to isn't it incredible? And at first we had glass packaging with labels, you know, there's a lot that you can do to minimize the risk. And then as we grew, we continue to evolve. And one of the most exciting things that's happened for me recently is we're finally a size where it was cost cost effective to create really beautiful packaging and that's, that's been so much fun. I always envisioned that we would have gorgeous custom packaging and that we do. Oh wow, that's crazy. It's a, it's a long time coming, I love that for you took some time, but you got there. Cool. Okay, so in those early days, how long did it take you to develop the brand and launch? So it was about six, I mean it was years of research and then once we knew what we wanted to be making, it was about six months and we started with a very core offering Um and one clinical trial and then we expanded from there.
And what was the launch, like how are you getting the word out there and kind of introducing this brand to the world. I come from a marketing background, I worked at levi Strauss and company and I was very focused on first and foremost, beautiful products and you know, I did a lot of local, we started locally, so we built a huge bay area following and I was literally, you know, at friends houses sharing products and talking about skin care and new ways to think about nourishing your skin. And I had a fantastic pr agency that was led by a woman who had been in beauty herself and it was a combination of word of mouth and her pr efforts that really helped to build this cult following. She was a really important part of the launch. And is this like 2014 still? Or is this around 2015? Well, so Officially we were up and running in 2015, so this was 2015, 2015 And if you were to kind of like, I mean, what are we seven years later now, seven years on seven years into the journey, Love that for you.
Also love just back to the packaging comment for a second, it's like, where you start, isn't where you finish and like, it takes time to get there. Like, you know, these days, it feels like a lot of people have this pressure to like, launch everything super perfect when it's like, you can start scrappy, like get there in the end, kind of thing, you'll get there in the end. Absolutely. And the key is to build off of a model that's profitable, you know, that's self sustaining and so we were able to to grow very organically and without too much pressure without a huge upfront investment, which was, I really enjoyed having those first few years before we took on investment to get everything to a place where we felt very comfortable with how we were scaling and we were sort of ready for the next jump in those first few years pre investment. What were the kind of major milestones or moments that were kind of leading you to be able to get out there and go for that investment?
Well, certainly the clinical trials that I mentioned and gaining traction with beauty editors, you know, it was really exciting for instance, to learn that the vogue beauty editor was taking our products with her on the road, which is the ultimate compliment, you know, the first thing you need to do is get it out of their desk drawer into their homes and then, wow you're traveling with our product, that's fantastic. Um so I think it was building that cult following and getting the recognition of being a brand that was authentic and transparent one that people really trusted, but also that was offering results that were really making a difference and having expert voices sharing that information and we started to see that celebrities were using the products and that's when I had this Aha moment of okay, well they're using the products but they can't talk about them because they have beauty products, but they were calling and saying, can you please send me this, can you please send me that because they had beauty contracts.
I meant to say yes, right, yeah, maybe I should back up and say that. So it was so great to learn that celebrities were using and loving the products and I had this aha moment of oh they can't talk about these products because they have existing beauty contracts. Well what if we could connect with a celebrity that was really interested in growing such a thoughtful business and who felt as passionate about the health of people on the planet as we do and who could grow with us. So that was a big transitional moment for us as a brand and that was part of what inspired us to go out and raise money so that we could make that happen 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. 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, That is so interesting. And I was going to ask you about your celebrity kind of ambassadors because you seem to have so many and so many good ones. Olivia wilde Brooke shields, Laura Dern, like so, so many good ones. So that was all kind of organic, they were already using the product, you kind of knew about it because they were calling stuff in And then do you think about getting funding first or do you immediately reach out to sea like is there an opportunity to work together? How does it actually look to work with a celebrity like that? Well we were really lucky with Olivia wilde who was our first, we call her our chief brand activist. We were so lucky with her because you know, she has this a nonprofit that she's working on conscious commerce. She's very focused on what we can do to support the health of people on the planet. And so she immediately connected with what we were doing.
And I think she had a lot of confidence in the fact that together we could do something to really grow true botanicals, which turned out to be absolutely true. And so she was excited to come on as a part owner of the business. You know, she got involved with equity as a significant part of our agreement and that was really exciting because I think she was equally motivated to do the things that would really help us grow and it had an immediate impact. That is so cool. So does one day she just kind of like send you an email and be like, hey, I'd love to be involved or like do you casually bump into each other and just have a conversation like how does it actually look like to have this kind of moment of being like, let's work together? Well, so she tried and loved the products and we knew that. So actually we talked to her agent and then her agents set up a meeting and and we met her in new york for coffee and it was just an immediate connection.
She already loved the products and I think that she, she mentioned to me years later that she felt very connected to the sincerity behind what we were doing, she really trusted that we would deliver on our commitment to the health of people on the planet while continuing to make products that are really transformative. So we decided to work together and in the case of Laura Dern, her makeup artist was using the products on her on the set of Big Little Lies, and she actually sent me an email, so I had an email in my inbox from Laura Dern, I love your company, I love your products, they made such a difference for my skin. And then when I found out about your commitment to sustainability, I realized I just would love to work with this company if I could. I was pretty blown away when I got that email, it was quite exciting and positive, so that's just sort of how it's continued and you know, we have people Ariana grande posted about us because she, I loved using the mist Lizzo has posted about us, um it's been really completely organically, you know, it's just been really excited.
That is crazy, That's so crazy having that, you know, true authentic connection to these people who are obviously superstars, wow, that's amazing, this is probably a stupid question, but like for example, in the case of Olivia, you've worked together for a few years, what is the impact of working with someone like that? Like how do you kind of measure what it's been like? You know, I've heard so many different opinions about working with celebrities on a brand like ours, it works, it doesn't work, you know, my background feeling has always been that celebrities have helped to build this multibillion dollar industry and I do feel at this moment in time the impact can only be as significant as it has been for our brand, if it's a truly authentic partnership, if there is true authentic passion behind the products and the mission of the company. So, you know, in terms of measuring it, it's so complex, but we do know that them sharing their passion for our products, absolutely spreads the word And brings more consumers to the brand.
100%. One of the number one ways that we reach new customers, it's amazing. What year are we talking about, that you kind of start developing these relationships and then start going into the fundraising kind of section of building the brand. So that was 2017 when Olivia came on board. So it had been about two years And then from there, the cadence was we then in 2018 we did a really beautiful awareness campaign with Inez and Vinoodh. um incredible fashion photographers and that also built a lot of awareness because there was a lot of press surrounding that because again, it just sort of pulled us out of that sort of crunchy clean perception around products not being particularly luxurious or effective. The fact that they were involved with the campaign made a huge difference for us. So that was 2018 2019 Laura Dern got involved. So we've had this cadence of exciting awareness building initiatives and then um we're always very focused on product oriented storytelling to support that.
To really to back it Up and what happened for you during the pandemic, like 2020, obviously the world changes. A lot of brands have different things that happened to them. They go in different directions. What was the kind of response of the pandemic for you? Well, it's interesting because I always feel humbled to say this because I have so many friends whose business is really struggled during the pandemic and you know, for us as a direct brand focused on self care, it was a very, very big growth time for true botanicals. People were online, they were having more time to take care of themselves. They weren't able to go and get facials and we have products that you know, really support skincare from every direction. And so we were really able to connect and support our customers through the pandemic in a way that really deepened our community and supported growth. Were you in retailers and like building out a retail strategy for the business at that time, like in the lead up to the pandemic in the lead up to the pandemic, we had decided to really focus on our direct business.
And the only thing we have done is open up our own flagship store and early on we decided that we should let that go for now and not put time and energy into the store and really focus on our online business. I'm so glad we did that. It was one of those hard decisions but it made a ton of sense. And we have recently started some incredible retail partnerships as we look at how we'd like to grow in retail. So we're now in Nordstrom which is a really great partner for us. So it's actually we've gone into retail during the pandemic, which is unusual. Yeah, we've been dipping our toe in and it's it's been very positive when you say you let go of the retail space. Was that pre pandemic that you made that decision? Or because of the pandemic? Because of the pandemic right at the beginning, I got it. So you kind of were able to foresee this might take a little bit of time. Let's just right exactly. Looking at the time and the money that goes into that, it was already hard to, you know, hiring is tough in the bay area.
It's really tough and knowing that was the case going into the pandemic, we just realized in the midst of all of this, did we really want to be running a store. It just didn't feel like the right place to put our energy and I have a very decisive um strong ceo, she's fantastic and she felt that very strongly and I was completely supportive and it was definitely the right decision. Love that, love someone that's very decisive. I don't have that strength. I don't always either. I'm an optimist. Me too, me too. What is working for you now and what's kind of not working or what are things that you've tried that hasn't panned out besides the retail store at that time? So in terms of what's working for us, I would say it's just continuing to focus on effective, luxurious products and making sure that we're meeting consumers needs from all angles. So we've been filling in the gaps on products. For instance, some people really prefer a cream moisturizer.
So we've just launched a beautiful cream moisturizer made without waxes um which was something I felt really strongly about knowing how waxes are very supportive of skin health in terms of congestion, but also keeping all of the incredible nutrients stuck on the surface of your skin versus absorbing to where they need to be. So we continue, yeah, it's not wild, it's just an example. We continue to focus on innovation and filling in the line, which has been really exciting. I would say an example of something that hasn't worked that well, we were really interested in CBD because of its anti inflammatory qualities and what we found is it was just too much work. You know, it's hard to advertise with CBD products, there's a lot of regulations around that. We couldn't have people check out from the same basket and we just realized now is not the time to do that. So again, back to my incredibly decisive ceo she's like, fine, let's let that go that we have so many things working for us right now, we shouldn't worry about a product that's so much extra work.
So that was something we let go, I would say coming out of the pandemic, something that I'm hearing from a lot of brands is that sourcing is a real challenge. And so we've needed to be very proactive around our sourcing strategy and you know, we're holding more inventory than we would have before. So that's just the way it goes. You know, it's it's meeting the moment in the smartest way that we can and there are always challenges. I mean that is one thing I will say that, you know, is so clear to me is there will rarely be a week without challenges and so not letting them get you down and get in the way I think is one of the number one things that has served us so well because they ultimately, you know, I think it is true they ultimately can become opportunities at and at a minimum, you know, you can find a way around them and not focusing on them too much and continuing to focus on the opportunities that we have has definitely been a really important philosophical aspect of our exact team and our business.
Do you have any real doozies that you can share? Really big challenges that you've had to overcome? Really big doozies? I love that. I'm gonna I'm gonna have to think about that. I mean, hmm, isn't that funny? It's sourcing, I mean, I think the sourcing challenge has been probably our biggest challenge, just making sure we have what we need to make the products. I've heard that across the border as well, that a lot of people really have been struggling with packaging, glass bottles, alum in ium everything. And then obviously raw ingredients as well, which is, you know, a disaster for a lot of brands. And the fact that those boats are all like I see them in the bay area, we see boats lined up coming into the bay area and that's a real, it's real, there is stuff on those boats that we need. My God, it's crazy. It's really interesting, very crazy. What's the best and worst business advice that you've received and can pass on, interesting.
I would say that the worst business advice that I received was uh there was a time when I was encouraged to really focus heavily on acquiring new customers through social and well, I think that's really important and it continues to be an important part of our mix. I don't think that brands should ever lean on a lever at the expense of the brand. I think building a beautiful brand that people connect with is number one always and then acquisition methods should support that. So that's probably, I'm really glad that I stuck with my instincts and never lost sight of the importance of brand building because I think it's what offers a built in resiliency that we all need from time to time.
I mean who could have foreseen that Apple would initiate all the privacy work that they did, but I can tell you when that happened, the fact that we had a fully integrated marketing program and that we had always relied on supporting this brand as our most important pillar. It was essential and it made it possible for us to wade through that time comfortably. Absolutely. I think now more than ever storytelling and brand building and educational content is how we should be building brands that are truly authentic to the consumer and actually what the consumer wants, finding brands that they actually want and love versus just being sold to write. 100% 100% you said that so well, thank you, thank you. And then the best advice that I have received actually was from a friend, it wasn't necessarily business advice, it was life advice, but I think it really applies to being an entrepreneur, which is a friend who was at the end stages of a terminal illness said to me, you know, you never know what life is going to send your way, and so I've learned, you really need to keep your knees bent and as an entrepreneur, um I'll catch myself sometimes locking up, you know how you just have your knees in a locked stance and and um you know, finding a moment of resistance and I'll just catch myself and say keep your knees bent, you know, whatever it may be, bent knees are always um I think essential to finding an answer and staying in the flow of um what it means to be building a business that you care this much about.
So yeah, it was great advice and it has served me very well because there is no question that you know, building your own company involves a lot of flexibility and creativity, I love that advice. Keep bendy, keep bendy, Yes, 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, tune into part two, to hear the six quick questions, hey, it's doom here. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Female startup club podcast. If you're a fan of the show, I'd recommend checking out female startup club dot com where you can subscribe to our newsletter and learn more about our D I. Y. Course the ads, N B A. I also truly appreciate each and every review that comes our way.
It might seem like such a small thing, but reviews help other heirs find us. So please do jump on and subscribe rate and review the show. And finally, if you know someone who would benefit from hearing these inspiring stories, please do share it with them and empower the women in your network. See you soon. Mhm, mm hmm.