Brook Harvey-Taylor: “Don’t talk over people”

Listen. Don’t talk over people. JUST LISTEN. You will learn so much. I spend as much time as I can listening and learning from people. Your buyers have so much to say and share, your customers have so much to say and share. I am always surprised at how little people actually listen. So much […]

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Listen. Don’t talk over people. JUST LISTEN. You will learn so much. I spend as much time as I can listening and learning from people. Your buyers have so much to say and share, your customers have so much to say and share. I am always surprised at how little people actually listen. So much of the inspiration behind our innovations comes from our fans and what they would like to see from the brand. Building a strong community and brand fans is crucial to making it in this industry. But you have to listen!

As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brook Harvey-Taylor.

Brook Harvey-Taylor is the Founder and CEO of Pacifica Beauty, a 100% vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand that has been leading innovation in clean beauty for nearly 25 years. From the brand’s inception in 1996, Brook has been dedicated to building an inclusive and authentic community, giving back to meaningful causes while always listening to the consumers’ wants and needs. She believes clean, non-toxic beauty should be available to all at an accessible price point, and is committed to producing efficacious products in sustainable packaging that do right by both the community and the planet. Brook and the Pacifica Beauty team make all decisions around four brand truths, what you know you can count on from the brand: Clean Ingredients, Always Cruelty-Free and Vegan, Better Packaging and Social Justice. To this day, Brook conceptualizes and creates each and every product in the Pacifica portfolio with these core values in mind.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up on a little cattle ranch in Montana. We really lived with nature. Our eggs and milk came from our neighbors, we grew a huge garden and all of the feed for our livestock. My mom was an early adopter of natural products due to an autoimmune disease. She was a member of our local food co-op, and my sister and I worked there as teens to get our discount. This was my first exposure to natural beauty — or lack of it. I would stock the shelves and think about what I would make when I had my own beauty company. This is the same reason our company does not use animal ingredients and is vegan. There was a moment that I realized I was raising and falling in love with animals that would get eaten. When I connected the fact that I was eating my pets, it changed my life.

Perfuming and my love for nature intertwined when I was apprenticing to become an aromatherapist. I found myself obsessed with how the essential oils smelled. And while I was studying the benefits of the oils, I couldn’t help but begin blending them together as perfumes — seven of which became Pacifica’s first scents. Enter my now husband, Billy Taylor, who convinced me that this could be the real deal. I created our first seven scents in my kitchen and we took them to a trade show in San Francisco, packed up in our VW van. The response was incredible that when we came home, we set up a factory and started creating the first Pacifica products. Whole Foods was one of our first retailers. Pacifica started as a line of perfumes (with a hidden aromatherapy agenda) and moved into skin care, makeup, hair care and wellness.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The one thing that I find interesting is how MUCH things have changed in such a tiny window in the beauty industry. What I would say was once an “acceptance” of clean beauty met with skepticism, has now turned into a desire. What used to be more niche is now super mainstream and there is a race for brands to be clean. Personally, I think that the definition of clean is a really wide net, too wide for my taste, but I do love that the beauty industry is cleaning itself up. And the same goes for packaging. It was literally less than 10 years ago I walked into a beauty packaging supplier and asked what they had that was recyclable. They showed me two things: one was plastic covered in paper and one was a glass jar. The sales person told me “The consumer doesn’t care about recycling and this paper one feels kind of green.” How ridiculous, right!?. Because guess what? The consumer DID care, and now cares even more than ever! I have been planning for this moment my whole career! And with Covid, the consumer cares even more about clean ingredients and less waste.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

Wow, this is a hard question! It wasn’t until recently, like two years ago, when Jenny Fine, the Executive Beauty Director at WWD introduced me as the “godmother of clean beauty” when I felt like I finally had made it. Like the last 25 years of working on better formulas, pushing for better packaging options and trying to convince retailers that clean beauty was coming to all categories finally was paying off. I am generally a behind the scenes person. And that has not changed. But one thing that I had started to do differently about 4 years ago, was to get myself out in the world more. I have always been really low key and I haven’t been much of a networker. But once I started getting to know other founders and CEOs, I really learned a lot. I made friends that shared similar experiences and I found a new level of support and some mentorship that I have really valued. I always just thought I was too busy and I didn’t take the time to get to know others in my industry. But I now see that these connections have made me a better leader. I also love that even though we are in the same industry, we can support each other and cheer for each other even if we are competitors. (But maybe that is because a lot of us are women and we just do that).

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

My husband and co-founder, Billy Taylor. He was my biggest champion and truly believed that my passion could be a business. I feel really lucky that I was able to do this with a partner, and that he always trusted my gut. But I always recommend seeking out mentors. There is something really special about connecting with someone who has been where you are about to go, who can help you see around corners and give you insights. I have been lucky enough to have had a few amazing mentors in my career. And when the chips are down, it is nice to call on someone who can help you suffer just a little less by reminding you that this will pass.

The global beauty industry today has grown to more than a half a trillion dollar business. Can you tell us about the innovations that you are bringing to the industry? How do you think that will help people?

We have always pushed really hard to be innovative, around ingredient forms, sustainability and formulas. It started with fragrance for us. We have a line that is 100% natural origin perfume in corn-grain alcohol for an affordable price point. This wasn’t easy to accomplish, but cleaning up fragrance has always been super important to me. Fragrance has gotten a bad reputation, but it is what moves so many of us. We also custom make all of our bottles without crimping caps so they can be recycled curbside or repurposed. And we have pushed for PCR content in tubes and bottles for years. In the last year alone we were able to remove over 500,000 of virgin plastic from entering the waste stream by migrating to PCR and glass containers. And when we launched color, we developed the first all paper eye shadow palette using FSC paper and now it has a window that slides out so it can be recycled curbside. This means you don’t need to buy a big plastic palette that will turn into garbage with no chance to ever be recycled. And we have some exciting skin care launches planned for the remainder of 2020, that I am personally so excited to share with our Pacifica fans. But, long-term, I want Pacifica to be an evergreen brand and provide clean, affordable beauty products for another 25 years in sustainable packaging. I think that supporting wellness throughout people’s lives is really important for a brand.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?

  1. The Consumer: The consumer has changed so much and will continue to change. They are diverse, they are inclusive and they are big thinkers. What they value, how they see the world, and what they expect from brands is so exciting to me. I have three kids, 20, 18 and 10 and I am so amazed at how they see the world. This age group is going to save the planet, and they expect brands to help them do it NOW.
  2. Ingredients: The future generations are so into what ingredients are in their products and that will be so impactful on driving this industry forward. Natural ingredients inspire me so much.
  3. Sustainability: Consumers are demanding that brands follow sustainable practices and that is so killer. Nature is Pacifica’s muse. For the last 24 years, we have strived to do right by our planet, from the ingredients we source to the packaging we create. We are always on a mission to find ways to responsibly package its products in sustainable bottles, tubes, and jars. This begins with our PCR (post-consumer resin) packaging and robust recycling program.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to improve the industry, what would you suggest?

  1. I find it concerning that clean beauty looks like an exclusive offering. Better ingredients shouldn’t be just for the wealthy. Many natural beauty brands on the market charge a premium for clean ingredients, but that doesn’t sit well with me. I grew up without much, but I knew what was good. When I started Pacifica, I wanted to create products at an affordable price point without consumers having to compromise on quality. This doesn’t even address safety or the planet. I think that clean, safe and sustainable beauty should be for ALL.
  2. How can you be cruelty-free and use animal ingredients? Many brands are cruelty-free but not 100% vegan and to me that just doesn’t make sense. If you want to remain 100% cruelty-free, then creating vegan products is the only way to go. Pacifica was an early brand to use the PETA Certification logo on our packaging and we are proud to continue to do so. PETA changed this industry as far as I am concerned.
  3. It’s becoming more commonplace, but, up until a few years ago, there was this perception that natural products don’t work and aren’t going to function as well. For example, customers don’t trust that natural mascaras won’t flake and deliver the same results as others that aren’t natural. At the core of everything we do is making amazing, natural products that are authentic and honest. I don’t want to create something that doesn’t work as well just because it’s natural.

You are a beauty expert. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can utilize “to feel beautiful”?

Happiness, humility and gratefulness. Those are the most beautiful things any person can radiate.

Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry.” Please share a quick story or an example, for each.

  1. Stay political. Stay engaged. Everything is political, there is no way around it. Today, brands are expected to stand for something. Don’t be afraid to be clear about what your brand stands for and then never veering from that no matter what challenges you face along the way. We have lost followers on social media, and likely customers, because we are clear about who we are and what we believe in. And we are ok with that.
  2. Don’t take things personally. It is NOT about you. This is a really hard thing to grasp. If you need help understanding this, I recommend reading: Everyday Zen: Love and Work by Charlotte Joko Beck. I have a copy at my desk. Taking things personally only causes suffering and keeps you from doing your best work.
  3. Listen. Don’t talk over people. JUST LISTEN. You will learn so much. I spend as much time as I can listening and learning from people. Your buyers have so much to say and share, your customers have so much to say and share. I am always surprised at how little people actually listen. So much of the inspiration behind our innovations comes from our fans and what they would like to see from the brand. Building a strong community and brand fans is crucial to making it in this industry. But you have to listen!
  4. Stay curious. I have a quote on my wall from the book Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins that says, “Stay curious and eat your beets”. (Great book, btw and also an author who needs to be rediscovered). Curiosity is what creates true innovation. I believe it is what keeps people happy and youthful.
  5. Finally, don’t believe the BS about the work-life balance. I’m a business person and a mom, and some days I’m really good at running a business and I feel like the worst mom. Or the other way around. Women have to take it easy on themselves and stop worrying about being perfect and finding a magical balance. We have to start forgiving ourselves for our failures and accepting not being perfect and getting through this world without beating ourselves up. Maybe we don’t get to have it all. And that is ok. That is the real balance.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂

I would inspire a compassion movement where every single act, everything that was made, started from a place of compassion for the earth, animals and humans. This is our brand value. And that really is why. I hoped to inspire something bigger. And, right now, the world could really use a movement like this.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Let this beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” –Rumi

My husband had this engraved on a necklace for me about 20 years ago. I have thought about the meaning of this quote so much. To me, this means love what you do. Be grateful. There are hundreds of ways to be grateful, hundreds of ways to do your work and your service in this life. No matter what you do, choose to love it.

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