I had the pleasure of interviewing January Olds. January Labs was born from a desire to leave the “quick-fix” products of today. The use of chemicals and over-complicated skin care regimens that are not only expensive, but ineffective. Through the founder’s professional career in product development for a leading national skincare brand, as a licensed aesthetician and an avid consumer of skincare products, January Olds saw a genuine need for simpler, purer products with much greater transparency about their ingredients. January Labs has now curated a small range of highly potent, multi-tasking miracles for the skin.
Grit is about staying in your own lane and not succumbing to the pressure to do what other companies are doing or jump on bandwagons. We have a small, curated line and everything works together and also compliments other brands. We’re focused on the bread and butter of skin routines, not making products because they’re trendy.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My career in skincare pretty much started when I was 12. It was like a calling, and it happened very naturally. Back then, we didn’t have access to the internet or social media that give us the great ideas or information that we have today so I devoured beauty magazines for inspiration and tried out makeup on my friends. But it was really my grandmother who encouraged me to experiment. She was always willing to let me use her as a guinea pig for my concoctions and try out new things that I foraged from the garden or her refrigerator. My obsession with lactic acid actually comes from those early days of making yogurt masks for her.
When I was 17, not only was I over six feet tall, these white spots started showing up on my chin and all around my jawline. Of course, I was completely freaking out over it. The dermatologists kept giving me cortisone which was terrible and didn’t work at all. After going to many doctors, I was finally diagnosed with Vitiligo which is pigmentation skin disease that causes white patches on the skin. As traumatizing as it was, it was a defining moment in my life and led me to search for products that specifically addressed my condition. I found one that was made by Epicuran and that’s where I landed my first real job in the industry.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When I started January Labs, I was starry eyed and naive. I thought there was no possible way I could fail because I had cut my teeth working for the most respected brands in skincare. I cashed out my retirement account and went for it, but there was so much I didn’t know and so much I took for granted about the business side of it. I had made a few products but I didn’t have distribution and I was just lost and afraid. Just as I was ready to give up, I went on a trip to Nicaragua to help build a school for children. The experience was life changing–my heart was so full and my perspective on everything shifted. When I returned, the universe was on my side and miracles started to happen. I thought, ‘well, I have everything to gain as much as I have everything to lose,’ so I really put myself out there and hustled. I had no shame in knocking on every door to get product on shelves.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I feel like skincare saved me in my life and gave me purpose. I loved everything about it and have always been passionate about learning as much as I could about how skin functions, what ingredient combinations were the most effective, and how things like hormones, diet and exercise play a role in what shows up on your skin. I knew how difficult it was to suffer with a skin condition and I knew I could help other people with my products. That still keeps me motivated.
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
Success is a work in progress. Nowadays, I work on letting go of the things that aren’t meant to be or don’t feel right even if there is some suffering in those decisions. I try not to get hung up on the way I see things in my mind and be open to different viewpoints. I always try to stay on my path but be able to pivot when it’s needed. Nurturing my relationships and doing the right thing prevails over everything.
So, how are things going today? 🙂
We’ve grown organically and have done a lot of heavy lifting on the things that are the hardest for a company to do. Developing formulations and a product range that I’m really proud of–and that has a loyal following– has been the most important. Building infrastructure and getting distribution isn’t the most fun part of the business, but it’s been the priority so we can keep doing a great job as we grow. We’re now adding resources that bring specialized expertise which is really exciting.
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?
It wasn’t funny then, but I laugh about it now. I got this call from a TV show that wanted to feature one of my products and purchase a huge quantity. I literally hung up the phone and ordered everything so I was ready to sell on this program. I’m thinking, ‘This is IT! January Labs is going to be on the map because of this!’ I was totally ghosted and never heard back from them and I had this gigantic order on my hands with no orders for it! The lesson: keep it slow and steady. I’ve learned not to get overly excited or jump the gun on everything that comes my way, especially without doing my homework!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My idea of a good day is spending time helping someone improve their skin. I love opportunities to work directly with customers and provide guidance. That will never change because It’s like a drug to me. Having healthy, glowing skin has a direct correlation to self esteem and confidence and I have countless stories that melt my heart when I hear how our products have helped lift someone up.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Our team is really important and the fuel that inspires me to keep going and stay fresh and creative. Find the right people that you care about, that you can have open communication with and that are equally committed to the vision.
Trust that if you’re doing something you believe in, follow your intuition, but be okay to walk away if something doesn’t feel right.
Everyone is afraid of making mistakes in the beginning, but making them is a necessary evil. Plus, your screw ups make much better stories than your successes!
Don’t forget where you came from or get too comfortable. I know every aspect of the business from the mail-room, to creating the formulations. I’ll always roll up my sleeves pretty high.
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?
The owner of Epicuran took a chance on me and gave me my start in the wild world of skincare and beauty. Her support of anything and everything I wanted to take on fueled my passion for the business. I also have two angels from heaven who helped me create a full line of products that attracted the best accounts I could have hoped for just when I was ready to give up. There are no words to express my gratitude.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
People take for granted how important healthy skin is to our overall health and wellness. When you’re formulating products, you always have a choice of what ingredients you can use. It’s more difficult and more expensive to formulate products that are both effective and do no harm. We would rather make smaller batches using the highest quality ingredients than to use fillers or ingredients like parabens or sulfates. We do everything we can to make our products affordable so more people can benefit from them.
Of course, we have also donated hundreds of products to various charities and that is and will always be important to us.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)
- Grit is about perseverance over the long term. You have to keep moving forward and being creative through all of the ups and downs, especially when you want to give up.
- Developing grit is pushing yourself to do things that are uncomfortable or that could result in failure. I have been pushing myself to do regular Instagram Stories and my inner voice asks questions like, “Does this sound stupid? Does anyone even care?” But I’m sticking with it and I’m getting more and more comfortable with it.
- Grit is about staying in your own lane and not succumbing to the pressure to do what other companies are doing or jump on bandwagons. We have a small, curated line and everything works together and also compliments other brands. We’re focused on the bread and butter of skin routines, not making products because they’re trendy.
- Respecting and supporting other brands is so important to me. That kind of grit is about having confidence in what you’re doing and knowing that there is enough skin for all of us. Today, it’s rare that a person only uses one skincare line. Most have many different brands on their counter. Sometimes I see one brand criticize another and it’s so unnecessary especially because there are millions of critics online that will share their opinions.
- All the grit in the world is cancelled out if you’re dishonest, unethical or don’t have empathy or humility.
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. 🙂
I’ve been really interested in this for awhile. I find it fascinating that the importance of taking care of our skin is still so secondary. We take better care of the organs we can’t see versus the largest organ that’s right in front of our eyes. We wear helmets to protect against head injuries, we don’t smoke to protect against lung cancer and respiratory illnesses, we go on gluten-free diets to overcome digestive issues.
It wasn’t that long ago that helmets were considered uncool if you were biking or skiing. Now, they are the norm and that’s so encouraging because it’s saved so many lives.
I’d like to be the champion for elevating the ritual of taking care of our skin starting from a young age. If we are able to do that, we can lower the incidence of skin cancers and our skin will be much healthier for much later in life. I want to help educate kids on caring for their skin with proper cleansing, moisturizing and protecting and making it an integral part of their routine, just like brushing their teeth. 70 can be the new 20 for skin!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
We’re most active on Instagram and post something almost every day that reflects who we are. We’d love for people to follow us at @januarylabs