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Danielle Gronich of CLEARSTEM Skincare: “Your business partner is your new spouse”

Your business partner is your new spouse. My life is completely intertwined with my business partner. Luckily that has worked beautifully for us, but that is not always the case. Imagine being in a marriage of sorts with your partner, because legally, you kind of are. That relationship needs just as much work and open […]

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Your business partner is your new spouse. My life is completely intertwined with my business partner. Luckily that has worked beautifully for us, but that is not always the case. Imagine being in a marriage of sorts with your partner, because legally, you kind of are. That relationship needs just as much work and open communication as any other.


As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Danielle Gronich.

Danielle Gronich,The Acne Guru™, is the formulator and CEO of CLEARSTEM Skincare, a breakthrough clinical skincare line whose formulas are all anti-acne and anti-aging at the same time. Danielle studied cellular biology and genetics throughout her education and has had a passion for solving acne as she consistently struggled with her own skin for over 10 years, despite going through three rounds of accutane and multiple laser treatments. She took a leap of faith and decided to leave the corporate world, dove into clinical research, and went back to school to find the answers for herself, earning her license as a clinical esthetician and launching San Diego Acne Clinic in La Jolla, California. After years of evaluating the skincare market she saw that acne products cause premature aging while anti-aging products caused acne. As an expert formulator she created a line that targets both concerns simultaneously and with zero toxins.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After years of struggling with acne and seeing more than 10 dermatologists, I finally got fed up with the traditional western ways of treating acne. The only real solutions offered were antibiotics, hormones modifiers, and Accutane, which is incredibly toxic. I knew there was more to the biology of acne that wasn’t being discussed, so I set out to figure it out! I left the corporate consulting world and opened San Diego Acne Clinic after doing field research and working with other skin professionals. I was able to identify all of my triggers and create a playbook to evaluate and show others their triggers (sometimes up to 10 at once!). The clinic grew rapidly, and shortly thereafter I started doing product development with a reputable lab. I made an anti-acne stem cell serum and partnered with a clinic patient to create a skincare line (CLEARSTEM Skincare). Because many people with acne don’t want toxic products that age them faster, we created a line where the formulas are simultaneously anti-acne and anti-aging! It has been a complete breakthrough in the industry and we are strong educators healing acne holistically when prescriptions have failed. The need to help others avoid what we went through is what motivated my partner and me!

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

The hardest part was deciding where and how to spend my time. I was at capacity at one point seeing 10 patients a day, and I just didn’t have the help or bandwidth to maintain my personal life the way I used to. I worked on Saturdays and until 9:30pm most nights, and trying to hire was an extremely difficult learning curve that created even more work and stress when it didn’t go well. Hiring was for sure the biggest challenge, but thankfully I have that dialed in now!

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Creating major change for people always kept me going, I love it so much. I struggled for years because of my skin, so I am continually motivated when I am able to help a stressed out bride before her wedding, help pinpoint a major internal issue for someone and send them to the right person, or have someone hug me with tears of joy because they finally have their mental health back. I get to be a unique aid to people at a very vulnerable time for them, and I take that responsibility extremely seriously. Seeing the results come in after a couple weeks and knowing that I am helping people with their overall health in a holistic way that they didn’t have before is what has kept the fire going even when I was dead tired. Also, not reporting to a boss was the sweetest thing and its own motivator.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Things are going fantastic now! COVID aside, both businesses are thriving and CLEARSTEM is growing leaps and bounds! My partner and I work so well together and we have grit like no other. We have had major learning curves, gotten through them as a team, and we always show up stronger and more focused each week.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake in CLEARSTEM’s early days was when 2,500 bottles arrived from overseas with pink metallic labels. Our labels were white and blue. We had no way to reverse this and the company had an 8 week lead time, so we just had to roll with it, and, luckily, people went nuts over it!!! They loved it and still ask for it sometimes!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We stand out because everyone who works with us started as a patient at San Diego Acne Clinic. We have all lived the struggle and have overcome the depressing side of acne to turn it into an empowerment anchor!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Eat right, eliminate toxic relationships immediately, be unapologetic with your boundaries, have boundaries, stay focused on your personal emotional growth and make time for nature. I walk nearly every morning and it grounds me before things get intense at work.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I am grateful to my ex-boyfriend who was also an entrepreneur. He helped me think bigger and take notice of my limiting beliefs and always stayed supportive when I needed to work late or had a stressful event. He taught me that business can be described as moving from problem to problem with no loss of enthusiasm and I remember that attitude to this day!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We are saving people’s mental health by helping them feel confident in their skin again!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Immediately get out of any contract or relationship that isn’t in your favor. We got ripped off by a website company and shipping company that took almost all our profit. We stayed with them WAY too long and should have cut ties months sooner.
  2. You will be ridiculously judged. The perks of being a CEO come with major pressure and constant self-scrutiny. Before you can feel good about your leadership, you’ll go through rollercoasters of emotion wondering if you’re doing things right.
  3. Your business partner is your new spouse. My life is completely intertwined with my business partner. Luckily that has worked beautifully for us, but that is not always the case. Imagine being in a marriage of sorts with your partner, because legally, you kind of are. That relationship needs just as much work and open communication as any other.
  4. Make sure you have mentors that intimidate you. I like being thrown into the mix with the big companies. You learn a ton from the leaders who have built empires. Being shy about where you are is normal, but it also ignites a fire and shows you what the next level will look like.
  5. Make time to travel. This is super important to plan out. Some owners rarely let themselves take a break and I know I function better when I get to take a couple weeks off, explore other countries and completely change the setting. Time far away makes you come back with so much renewed energy and keeps the passion alive.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A movement idea is National No-Makeup Day! Celebrities and models included. It would inspire everyone and connect us all in such a powerful way!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow my personal Instagram account @danielle.the.acne.guru and also @clearstemskincare and @sandiegoacneclinic.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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