I had the pleasure of interviewing Janine Labaqui, CEO & Co-Founder of Rugged & Dapper, she is the driving force behind the business-side of the no-nonsense men’s grooming line, handling everything from creative branding to operations, sales and marketing. Alongside her husband Ryan Labaqui, they are hoping to grow Rugged & Dapper into the go-to grooming line for men and an internationally recognized household name.
What is your “backstory”?
As a teenager in Los Angeles, my two younger brothers and I all struggled with severe acne. Not only was this a serious knock to our confidence, but it was also painful — both physically and psychologically. The only silver lining was I was able to test every acne product on the market in order to find a solution.
I found that many products were actually harming my skin, and only when I began to use clean, natural formulas in my early ’20s did I see lasting results, which is something I have since developed a passion for and remains the driving force behind our brand and the mission we are so committed to fulfilling.
Before founding Rugged & Dapper, I was working as a designer and product developer for various brands, including Woo, William Rast, Denimocracy and Parker Smith. In the spring of 2011, I met and fell in love with my now-husband Ryan.
Why did you found your company?
Over the years, I had watched my husband Ryan struggle with finding a natural and effective skincare regimen. With the flashbacks of my own skincare search during my youth, I saw an opportunity to provide natural and organic skincare products designed specifically for men like Ryan. It was really then, with Ryan’s inspiration, that my passion for skin care was reignited.
We saw a gap in the market and really wanted to find a way to meet this consumer need and make grooming more approachable for all men, whether minimalist or skincare aficionado.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
We are so fortunate to have found something that was missing — something natural, but also effective; multi-purpose, but also high quality. We truly believe life should be real and simple and that belief is carried through every aspect of our business.
We have found a way to cut through the noise of so many other brands trying to either over complicate things or add too many harsh ingredients. We really are just about utilizing the most premium natural and organic ingredients, without all those harmful chemicals and toxins.
This is something men need and we’re hoping to be able to fill that gap for them in a way that doesn’t confuse those who already have a hard time thinking about the concept of skincare.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
We have a couple dear friends who are successful business owners in the skincare market. They have been excellent mentors since the initial concept of Rugged & Dapper. The e-commerce world is extremely fast paced and constantly evolving. It is powerful to have a solid group of leaders within the same industry that face the same wins and obstacles.
How are you going to shake things up next?
We are constantly brainstorming new innovations that we can bring to the table to really stir things up in men’s grooming. We will forever be on the lookout, hoping to identify a problem we can help solve for men and finding a way to make sure we introduce something that meets that need. In each step we take, we also remain cognizant of sticking to our mission of providing premium ingredients in a straight forward routine that keeps men looking and feeling great. We have some exciting launches coming up over the next year and will be continually introducing new ways for men (and the women who buy for them!) to get excited about what we have to offer!
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey?
Find something you are passionate about and go do it— I have been extremely passionate about our business from day one. When we first started out, we were building the business from a breakfast table in our small one bedroom apartment. Long hours late into the evening, seven days a week did not feel like work because we really loved what we were creating and had big dreams.
Don’t be like the rest of them, darling — I have always been a bit of a rebel at heart and aim to go against the grain. When launching Rugged & Dapper it was very important that our branding and packaging was unique and really stood out from the masses. We took inspiration from some of the bigger players in our market and strived to do the opposite.
Never apologize for being a powerful woman — As the CEO of our company, I wear many hats and have full control over all aspects of our family owned business. I consider myself very fortunate to be married to a man that is confident and supportive of my role within Rugged & Dapper. It is somewhat of a balancing act day to day as I shift through many roles as a wife, mother and founder of our company.
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking?
Girlboss Radio with Sophia Amoruso is a fun listen and is very inspiring for all girl bosses or women aspiring to be leaders in their careers.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I would love to have brunch with Gwyneth Paltrow, founder of Goop. I recently attended the In Goop Health Event in Los Angeles and was so inspired by the lifestyle brand she has created and the riveting group of women who are within her powerful network. We attended a couple of her talks and she was surprisingly down to earth and seemed wonderful.
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Originally published at medium.com