Success doesn’t happen overnight — it’s easy to look at big, disruptive brands that seemingly “came out of nowhere” and think it’s an easy formula to replicate quickly. For the most part, it’s quite the misleading fallacy. Most of those companies are the result of tireless work and dedication leading up to a launch or a big event that gives them the spark that ultimately captured your attention.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robbie Salter and Ross Goodhart.
Robbie Salter and Ross Goodhart are Co-Founders of Jupiter, the first brand focused on delivering high quality, luxe dandruff and scalp care products at approachable-premium prices. Jupiter is the first premium hair and scalp care brand to make products that work, smell and look amazing so its customers didn’t need to “give a flake.”
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Neither of us had any background in the beauty industry, nor did we know someone that did. We simply had a problem and nobody was solving it. It almost felt like the industry had given up on trying…or at least competing against ‘the big guys.’
In short, Ross worked in investment banking and private equity for nearly 15 years before (not surprisingly) feeling disenchanted with the finance world and feeling out of touch with the demands of the end consumer. As a bit of a side hustle, he launched Rohego to develop high quality yet affordable home, kitchen and lifestyle products based on deep data analysis of the consumer markets.
Rohego ultimately turned into a thriving e-commerce business with five brands in the specialty kitchen, lifestyle, baby and home accessories spaces. Yet, despite the success of these businesses, Ross wanted to develop a brand and business that spoke to him more personally.
Cut to Robbie…who had spent the majority of his career working in the entertainment and media industry, first in content development at Jerry Bruckheimer Films & Television and Whalerock, and then on the business side at MediaLink, a NY-based strategy consultancy supporting the biggest names in technology, entertainment, media and finance.
Like Ross, Robbie started to miss direct customer interaction — at that point, it had been nearly 15 years since launching several entrepreneurial ventures at the University of Michigan (also Ross’ alma mater). Also like Ross, Robbie was frustrated with his flaking and knew that better was possible…he just didn’t know the first thing about formulating a product.
Connected by a mutual friend, they got together, discovered their shared frustrations with the current anti-dandruff and scalp care products, complementary skill sets, and a passion for executing against a vision.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Something nobody ever tells you when you start a company with a partner is that the partnership is a bit like a marriage. Simply liking the other person isn’t enough. You have to build trust, understand what makes the other person tick, pick your battles, and generally learn how to communicate when things go wrong.
In the earliest stages of our development, we were trying to figure each other out — how we worked, what we were good at, and how to resolve disputes. Our professional backgrounds prepared us differently for approaching problems, and each of us felt like our approach was “the correct” approach. It didn’t cause fighting per say, but it required us to really learn how to communicate in a way such that we felt like equal contributors.
In short order, we were able to figure out how to work together extremely well, rely on each other, trust one another, and lean on the other person to do what they do best. Even further, it’s yielded a closeness that can only be described as deeply familial.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
We were each raised in homes where hard work was simply the way of life. While we were both fortunate enough to never need (because of our respective upbringings and good parenting) we were exposed to what hard work really looks like. Our parents each instilled in us that with a strong work ethic, anything was possible. And that came from a collection of work experiences growing up…
Coincidentally enough, we both worked in pizza shops as teenagers (among other odd jobs we each had). It sounds ridiculous to say (because it is), but they were extremely formative experiences for both of us. You can’t imagine how impatient someone can be when their pizza is 10 minutes late to arrive, or how livid someone can get when a piece of pineapple accidentally makes its way onto a pie. Your heartbeat speeds up, your temperature rises, and you’re forced to think on your feet.
Those experiences proved hugely helpful later when we encountered issues during our formulation process. After over 15 rounds of revisions, we simply couldn’t nail the sensorial experience — our products needed to be effective, but they also needed to look, smell and feel amazing. Rather than act out of desperation, we were able to slow down, take a step back, and re-strategize so we could think clearly about how to re-approach the moment of adversity. The result was an incredible suite of products that check every box.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
We launched just under 2 months ago and we’re super humbled by the reception thus far. It’s truly amazing to see how many people share our frustration with flaking and are/were looking for a better working, smelling and looking alternative.
With regards to grit and resilience, the bottom line is that if you’re not ready to hustle, you’re not ready to start your own company. For us, that means/meant working almost non-stop, looking for creative solutions when met with challenges, and being unafraid to dive in when you’re way (way) outside of your comfort zone. It also means not letting failure be a brick wall but rather a hurdle that you need to get around.
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?
Way early on we were experimenting with various scents for our products. We wanted something upscale yet subtle, so we looked to some of our favorite brands for inspiration. We spent weeks on end making tweaks here and there, to ultimately land on a scent that truly smelled like a 200 dollars candle.
The problem is that having an amazing scent and having it be a great smelling shampoo are completely different. Once we combined it with the product, and tried it out in the shower for a few days, we were both repulsed.
Because we had spent so much time on it, however, we had to come up with an entirely new concept/profile in less than a month or potentially have to move back our production schedule. Forced to make quick decisions, we ultimately streamlined the iteration process and landed on the all-natural spa-like scent we have today…and we couldn’t be more thrilled with it.
Lesson learned? Delays, mistakes and disasters can force you to think critically and lead you to greatness.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Aside from the product features, we’re taking a totally different approach to how we’re speaking with our customers and who we’re speaking to at large. For over half a century, the incumbent brands have often used fear-based marketing to convince people they had a problem and needed to use their dandruff/scalp care products, and we were simply fed up with it.
Instead, we live by the mantra of “Zero Flakes Given” — the idea that because Jupiter exists, dandruff is one less thing that our customers need to “give a flake about.” It’s the belief that our customers can return to their lives of living confidently, without having to dust off their shoulders or feeling insecure about their appearance. We want you to be who you are, no matter what that means.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
We’re still working on that one. Let’s chat in 6 months. 🙂
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?
We’re extremely fortunate that nearly every investor on our cap table offers some value beyond their capital contribution. One in particular happens to be a scientist/chemist with decades of experience researching, formulation and testing beauty products for small and large companies. Suffice it to say that her input in the early days were critical, mostly by helping us navigate the landscape, offering up feedback when we needed another unbiased outsider, and ensuring that we didn’t fall into a common trap or pitfall.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Before we launched Jupiter, we agreed that giving back in some shape or form was critical to feeling good about our contribution to the world. It wasn’t long before we discovered how pervasive of an issue mental health was in the beauty industry — and for good reason. So many brands convey images of impossible perfection, and we knew that didn’t match reality.
As such, we agreed to donate 5% of our profits to mental health initiatives. Our benefactors will rotate, but the underlying mission is to support those organizations who are directly advancing awareness of, and support for, mental health issues.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Success doesn’t happen overnight — it’s easy to look at big, disruptive brands that seemingly “came out of nowhere” and think it’s an easy formula to replicate quickly. For the most part, it’s quite the misleading fallacy. Most of those companies are the result of tireless work and dedication leading up to a launch or a big event that gives them the spark that ultimately captured your attention.
- Everything is twice as expensive and takes twice as long as you’d expect — pretty straightforward. Budget accordingly.
- The world isn’t waiting for you to publish — similar in the thinking about our first point, but it’s a hard reality to learn. Just because it’s your baby, and just because it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread to you, you need to make other people care. And nobody cares until you make them aware and care.
- Carve out time for important relationships — with hard work comes sacrifice…and of all the things to sacrifice, your inner circle shouldn’t be one of them. Do whatever it takes — set a calendar invite, shut off your phone, lock down a babysitter — to make sure that you’re nurturing your most precious relationships.
- Perfection is the enemy of good — for two guys that are extremely detail oriented, this one was one of the toughest pills to swallow. Great brand is wonderful, but it simply may not convert; a great process may be clean, but there may be bottlenecks you never imagined. You can think and overthink for days — instead, get to “good,” test it, iterate, improve and move on.
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. 🙂
We’d somehow figure out a way to teach empathy. Because rather than focusing on one cause, it focuses on the source of the need for the cause. It’s what creates a divide between the haves and have nots, the in-crowd and the out-crowd, and the bigots and the citizens.
The second we’re able to look at each other as equals — as people who may be hurting in some way — then all of a sudden our entire perspective begins to change.
Empathy is what drives our customer service and our philanthropic efforts. We firmly believe nobody should feel like an outsider. And we won’t stop until the category is properly normalized.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Find us on Instagram and Facebook via @hellojupiter, and check out our monthly Spotify playlist here.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!