Community//

Dr. Kan Cao: “Kindness can take us all a long way”

As a woman of color myself I would love to encourage more POC to join the small business space. Part of the challenge is that black, brown and individuals of color are not getting the support and exposure that they deserve and this needs to change. I hope that the recent events around the country […]

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As a woman of color myself I would love to encourage more POC to join the small business space. Part of the challenge is that black, brown and individuals of color are not getting the support and exposure that they deserve and this needs to change. I hope that the recent events around the country have awakened our senses to being more supportive, loving and open to helping individuals of all backgrounds. Kindness can take us all a long way.


Ihad the pleasure interviewing Dr. Kan Cao, Scientist & Founder of Bluelene.

Dr. Kan Cao is a renowned scientist, anti-aging authority and professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at the University of Maryland. Dr. Cao has been studying human aging and in particular the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying Hutchinson Gilford Progeria syndrome, a premature aging disease that claims most victims by age 13.

Since completing her PhD at Johns Hopkins in 2005 to her current tenure as a professor at the University of Maryland, she has become one of the world’s leading scientists in anti-aging research and she recently published one of the biggest discoveries that the field has ever seen.

A common dye, Methylene Blue, was found by her lab to have incredible anti-aging properties for human skin. From extending the life span of individual skin cells to providing heightened wound healing abilities, Methylene Blue is sure to set a new standard in the anti-aging department.

In 2019 Dr. Cao introduced Bluelene, a scientifically based, results driven skincare line created with all skin types in mind.


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

I am a scientist who has focused on human aging for my entire academic and research career. At NIH I chose to work on Progeria, a childhood disease that kills its victim by age 13 of accelerated aging issues. I discovered quite by accident that Methylene Blue is able to reverse skin cell aging and repair some of the DNA structures. This promising research intrigued me and I began research on human skin of all ages. I discovered and patented Methylene Blue as a new super antioxidant that is able to repair cellular skin health and launched my skincare line Bluelene. You could say I am quite the accidental founder of a fast growing skincare start-up.

Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?

After I published my findings in Nature Scientific Reports in 2017 my phone rang off the hook with inquiries about a product based on Methylene Blue. My report has received coverage in over 40 countries. I did not have a company or a prototype ready to take advantage of the publicity. In 2018 I teamed up with my CEO Jasmin El Kordi and we were able to commercialize my discovery. I wish I had been ready to seize the opportunities in 2017, but everything happens for a reason and we find ways to make up for it. Since launching Bluelene we have received fantastic press from national publications including: New Beauty Magazine, BYRDIE, MSN, Martha Stewart, Parade and more.

What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?

I chose a business partner who shares the same values and complements my skill set beautifully. Together, we from a thoughtful, agile team that executes at rapid speed.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.

1. I didn’t realize how much energy and time I would need to start a company while attending to my full-time professorship and my two teenage children. Luckily, my husband has been incredibly supportive. My advice is to prepare yourself to drink from the fire hose and make sure your significant other is prepared to be the firefighter at your side.

2. Selling your product on digital platforms like Amazon is very challenging and emotionally taxing as you watch sales skyrocket and plummet. My advice is to plan to start on at least two digital channels and build a portfolio of different platforms and retailers so you are not dependent on any single one channel.

3. Lead-times were a bit of a shock to me in the beginning when doubled and raw materials had sudden shortages. We built a great redundancy plan after several high stress scenarios, but my advice is to work with multiple suppliers for everything so you have rapid pivot options.

4. Our legal costs for patents and trademarks were far higher than I had expected. I learned the hard way that one of you business plan elements will always have a big cost overrun and that cash flow is everything. Plan for the unexpected and aim to have 6 months of working capital on hand at all times.

5. I did not expect how fun and rewarding it can be when customers email me and share how our products improve their skin. This has been such a rewarding aspect of building a skincare brand.

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 would like to give my special thanks to the CEO and co-founder of the company- Ms. Jasmin El Kordi. Before she joined Mblue Labs (Bluelene) as the full time CEO, Jasmin had extensive experience in sales and marking, thus, we two have complimentary skills. But more importantly, we soon found out that we share the core values as business partners, friends and mothers.

What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?

I want to see my company grow to become an important player in the industry; I look forward to Methylene Blue becoming a household name like retinol and I would like to see Bluelene become a well-known brand. Personally, as a first generation immigrant, mother, scientist and entrepreneur, I am hoping my experience will encourage female students.

What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?

Beyond improving the health of the skin I hope that I am able to inspire other women to follow their dreams and be an example that you really can do it all.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

As a woman of color myself I would love to encourage more POC to join the small business space. Part of the challenge is that black, brown and individuals of color are not getting the support and exposure that they deserve and this needs to change. I hope that the recent events around the country have awakened our senses to being more supportive, loving and open to helping individuals of all backgrounds. Kindness can take us all a long way.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

On Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @getbluelene and our website at: www.bluelene.com

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