…Celebrate our flaws, both personal and in our brands. By being transparent as business leaders and in our brands, we show authenticity to our community and breed a deep loyalty with our community. Where perfection can catch quick attention, it loses interest. However, authenticity has been shown to retain customers for the long run.
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 Paula Hoss.
Paula Hoss is the founder of CLN&DRTY Natural Skincare and a mental health and substance abuse recovery advocate. She is the grand prize winner of Rockland Trust Bank’s “Small Business, Big Dreams” contest and has been featured in MINDBODY, on NBC, in Beauty Independent and on Brit + Co. Paula lives in Southeastern Massachusetts with her husband, two children, a Great Dane named Moses and a flock of chickens.
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?
It was a hot day in June 2014 and I was a first time mother of a 2-month old; I was flustered, exhausted, overwhelmed. I wanted to take my daughter on a walk and I had sprayed a drug store sunscreen on myself (because as mothers, we leave the all natural and organic products for our children, especially when money is tight). I picked up my sweet little girl, Juniper, placed her on my shoulder and immediately felt her warm gums latch onto my skin.
I slowly pulled her away, as it dawned on me that she had just began teething (yes, 2 months old and popping her first tooth — a habit of doing everything fast, furious and without apology that would follow her for years to come) and was ingesting the chemicals that I had just sprayed on myself.
In a postpartum haze, I became completely obsessed with researching the ingredients that we were using Juniper’s body and our own. I soon began formulating and selling home made sunscreens, facial oils, deodorants and lotions to my friends and family.
It was 2 years until CLN&DRTY was officially formed (while I was 7 months pregnant with my 2nd daughter; clearly pregnancy hormones have a motivational effect on me), but that first season of learning formulation basics and the inside of the clean beauty industry was invaluable.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
About a year into my career, I got my first taste of the ugly side of business.
I had asked a former colleague for business advice and he was very generous with giving me resources and connections. I thanked him for being so generous and told him that if he ever needed anything in return, I was there for him. He quickly texted back that he wouldn’t mind getting some “nudes” in return, and when I read his text I was so shocked that it felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. He was a married man with children, I was also married with children, nothing in our friendship would propose this sort of behavior on his behalf. I was blown away that my colleague would feel comfortable so openly asking for a sexual favor.
This was in the middle of the the #metoo movement, so I felt called to share my story of Facebook Live. I recorded a short video talking about what had happened and I received an outpouring of support from my community. However, a satire news website also picked up my video and made an article mocking my experience. They implied that I had made up the story in order to invoke pity and to make sales for my business and made fun of everything from my work to my haircut and posted dozens of unflattering screenshot from the video
The moment I saw the article, I felt like my life and my business had fallen apart. It felt like a case of adult bullying and I truly wanted to curl up into a ball and just hide away and disappear. I was embarrassed, second guessed the validity of my sexual harassment and felt so small and ashamed.
However, something amazing started happening. My community started reaching out and rebuking the online publication’s article. One at a time, my friends, customers and business partners started reaching out and speaking up publicly against the outlet and in support of me.
Within a few days, my heart had completely turned around. I felt supported, loved and validated. I knew that speaking up against my harasser was the right thing and I had countless other women (and a few men) come to me and share that my story had inspired them to speak up about unfairness that had happened to them.
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?
Yes, it was very subtle yet very powerful. There was a moment early in the start of CLN&DRTY when I was discouraged and was wondering if I could shift the brand from a hobby to an actual career. I remember at the very moment, I was carrying a few packages out the door and was heading to the post office. My maternity leave was almost up and it was coming close to the time to make the decision on whether to head back to my “real job.”
I distinctly remember taking a giant breath, stepping over the threshold of my door onto my front steps and thinking, “This is it, I’m going to make this a real business.”
I didn’t know how or by what means, but it was a promise to myself and to God that I was going to put my all into it. I haven’t looked back since.
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?
I’ve been blessed with so many people’s help along the way, I can’t even begin to list them all. From other business owners who have shared their platforms with me to my family members who have been encouraging enough to buy some of my first products, I’m so grateful for every single person that I’ve worked with.
One moment in particular that will always stick in my memory is one small line that the CEO of Rockland Trust Bank, Christopher, Oddliefson, said to me when I was pitching for the “Small Business, Big Dreams” Contest that I would eventually be the Grand Prize recipient of.
I had pulled some audacious profit projections and was very nervous to present them, especially since our 10 year projection put us at a million dollars in annual revenue. At that time we were doing just 75k dollars in annual revenue, so one million seemed completely astronomical and unattainable.
When I showed the numbers, Mr. Oddliefson smiled at me and said, “I have no doubt you’ll hit a million in revenue. But I don’t think you’ll hit it in 10 years,” he paused for drama, “I think you’ll hit it in 5 years.”
Whenever I doubt our ability to hit our revenue goals, I think of what Mr. Oddliefson said that day. I doubt he remembers telling me that, but I’m proud to know that thanks to his help, we are right on track to hitting his projection.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. 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?
With such rapid growth in the beauty industry, CLN&DRTY is taking a unique approach to the modern business model of “bigger is better” by actually slowing down our marketing and focusing more 1:1 interactions with our customers and our community.
Rather than shotgunning our products into retail, we’ve focused primarily on driving sales to e-commerce and cultivating relationships directly with our consumers through Instagram.
We have a radically loyal Instagram following and I personally spend a portion of each day interacting with our audience in our Instagram stories, in the comments section of our posts and in our inbox. We’ve found that this breeds radical loyalty and not only keeps customers coming back but also has them recommending us to their community more than any other brand that they use.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?
- The ability to choose: With the emergence of so many independent beauty brands, the modern consumer truly has the ability to choose from brands that work for them but also align with their personality and values. This ability for the customer to niche down when choosing brands has the opportunity to breed fierce brand loyalty if the company positions themself appropriately when interacting with the consumer.
- Transparency through education: The modern consumer now has the ability to educate themself about ingredients, manufacturing processes and sourcing with a simple internet search and is therefore so much more educated than a consumer from a few decades ago. Brands must therefore be more transparent in every step of their process in order to gain trust from their customers, again creating an opportunity to create wonderful customer relationships.
- The ability for consumers to engage with brands and for brands to engage with consumers: The barrier to entry of customer service is completely gone thanks to social media. Customers can now immediately direct message companies and, if a company is managing their social media correctly, immediately provide feedback and create relationships with that company. This creates opportunities for immediate product feedback, relationship building for potential Influencers and once again builds powerful brand loyalty.
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?
3 things that concern me about the beauty industry:
- Businesses that lack transparency: This includes greenwashing (using deceptive labeling to convince the public that a product is more environmentally friendly and therefore “better”), passing off large business subsidiaries as small businesses and companies that buy followers and Influencers to portray popularity and success.
- Cancel culture: According to dictionary.com, “Cancel Culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something objectionable or offensive. [It’s] generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.”
- Cancel culture is particularly problematic for two reasons: first, it promotes cyber bullying and promotes the internet as a place where rude and hurtful words have no consequences.
- Second, it paints people and brands as one dimensional and doesn’t offer them any room for learning, growth and redemption. Rather than offering second chances, it simply closes the door on people that could have a lot of value. We’ve seen a rapid uptick of cancel culture in the beauty industry and we need to push for more grace and open dialogue instead.
- The perception of perfection: Influencer culture, Instagram perfection, filters and the ability to deleted 100 photos in order to post the perfect picture has skewed the public’s perception of what reality should look like. Where Influencers should be representations of a brand’s ideal and true customer, they’ve instead become just another fashioned and constructed perfected advertisement.
3 ways to improve the industry:
- Increase transparency in brands. Encourage brands to show up to their community through social in live videos, in stories and through comments. Brands should be responding in real time to their community and moving away from carefully crafted PR responses.
- A culture of grace. The members of the beauty community (brand leaders, Influencers, etc) need to lead from a place of community over competition. Once we realize that a rising tide lifts all ships, we will built a stronger community and educate each other from a place of positivity.
- Celebrate our flaws, both personal and in our brands. By being transparent as business leaders and in our brands, we show authenticity to our community and breed a deep loyalty with our community. Where perfection can catch quick attention, it loses interest. However, authenticity has been shown to retain customers for the long run.
You are an expert about beauty. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?
From an aesthetic perspective: find your secret sauce and make it work for yourself. Maybe you have amazing hair, make that your signature and make sure it’s always well taken care of and you’re showcasing it. Perhaps you have a unique eye color or shape, find ways to highlight this feature and your confidence will bloom. Lose the notion that you have to be absolutely perfect to be beautiful. In fact, embrace the idea that beauty lies in quirks and interesting nuances. Embrace your long legs, your quirky smile or your talent for showcasing bright scarves with every outfit.
Here is the main question for our discussion. 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 story or an example, for each.
The beauty industry can be incredibly intimidating. It’s easy to get caught up with the idea that you have to be a flawless beauty or maybe that you have to always have an absolutely perfect outfit. However, I’ve worked in the wellness and beauty industry for almost a decade and I’ve had great success by holding firm to 5 core values. Time and time again, I’ve learned that when I made decisions and relationships based around these values, I inevitability succeed. I share these values with my team, with our Brand Ambassadors and with each person that I mentor as absolutes in leadership in any industry, but especially in the beauty industry where so many people can get caught up with image.
You need to lead with integrity: This is the absolute, non negotiable at CLN&DRTY, in my home and with my family. When you mean what you say and hold your word, you gain a reputation for being trustworthy and when a customer trusts a beauty brand, they will have lifetime loyalty.
This holds true even when we make mistakes or go off course of our company values. In these instances, we admit our errors, state how we’re going to fix them and show actionable steps moving forward.
As an example, we’ve been paying attention to racial and age inequality in the beauty industry recently and noticed a distinct lack of diversity in age, gender and race amongst our models. In response, we are launching our “Age is Beautiful” campaign on July 31st, which renames our core products to highlight age positivity and features a video campaign that ask a diverse group of models, “What’s the most beautiful thing about being your age?”
You need to strive for exceptional quality: There’s simply no room for mediocre in the modern beauty industry. With the emergence of new brands every day, your brand has to stand apart from the competition. Poor quality products or lack of attention to detail will stop repeat customers dead in their tracks.
CLN&DRTY continuously assesses our product quality by surveying our entire inventory on a quarterly basis and choosing products to discontinue and reformulate that don’t meet our high level of standards.
You have to be smart (but never the smartest person in the room): You can never stop learning, developing and educating yourself and your team. When hiring and looking at potential partners such as Brand Ambassadors, you have to look for people who are intuitively bright and forward thinking. However, there also has to be a deep sense of humility and understanding that in order to succeed, you have to surround yourself with people and resources that will inform you, challenge you and push you forward.
You have to have that cool factor: A brand truly needs that “je ne sais quoi.” Though there’s no way to formulate it, CLN&DRTY has had success in finding our own “cool factor” by trial and error of sharing our daily lives in the office and seeing what our community finds interesting and responds to.
No PR company could have told us that we would be known for Moses, our office Great Dane, our Instagram live outtakes and my personal advocacy for mental health. None of these things have anything to do with skincare or the beauty industry, but I can tell you with confidence that they’ve all propelled our business and built a strong foundation for our brand identity.
Most importantly, you have to be kind: My daughter, Juniper just completed Kindergarten and she’s really nailed being kind to her friends and her little sister. We still have to remind her from time to time, but she understands that in order to get anything in our home, she has to be kind to all the people in it.
It baffles me that I see so many business owners people in the beauty industry who seemed to have skipped that lesson. And it breaks my heart that bullying, eye rolling and backstabbing in the beauty industry still happen on a daily basis.
Quite simply, I try my hardest to be kind to every single person that I interact with. I can’t tell you how much that has propelled my career in a positive direction. I honestly treat all people, no matter of their job title or status in the same way, because they all have the same value as a human being. That has helped me conquer any nervousness in working with people in “high up positions” and has helped me mentor people who were just starting out.
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. 🙂
Being kind is truly the secret sauce of not just the beauty industry, but of any industry. Smile, hold a door open, say thank you and kind.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heard and all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
This has been my favorite scripture recently and I find myself returning to it in my personal and my business life. I feel it’s so powerful because it can be relevant to a Believer or someone who doesn’t walk in faith yet either.
It simplifies the Law so well: love God, love people. If we follow this, we will be successful, pleasing and happy. I feel like it’s the perfect life lesson in just a few lines.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.