start today. We are running out of time. There will be a time that comes when everyone realizes their individual impact on the world, but by then, it will be too late. There are so many small changes we can make today that really do add up. Stop using plastics wherever you can. Research how to recycle. Plant trees. Save water. Look up all of the simple sustainability swaps you can do in the home. There are so many, and they are simple to do. Start step by step to avoid getting overwhelmed, but then enjoy knowing that the small changes you make today can have a major impact later on.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Simpson of Amethyst Skincare.
Nicole Simpson is a highly motivated entrepreneur and accomplished beauty veteran in the aesthetics industry. As founder of Amethyst Skincare, she proves her innovation in the beauty space with the first skin care line entirely dedicated to healing & protecting the skin from environmental toxins and skin stressors, as well as a brand that is environmentally responsible and sustainable. As the former AVP of Global Education and Business Development at SkinCeuticals, L’Oreal, Nicole was an aggressive world traveler — spending lots of time in Europe, Asia and South America — and as such, she observed firsthand the imbalance of the world. When she traveled to places with heavy pollution, like Beijing, her skin would have adverse reactions to the pollution and toxins. When developing Amethyst Skincare, she committed to creating a skincare line with a purpose — to heal the skin from environmental stressors and lead the charge to moving the beauty industry to being more environmentally conscious. Amethyst maintains a relationship with TerraCycle to ensure all of their glass bottles are 100% recyclable, aloe is used instead of water in most products and the brand has a waterless production, in order to preserve natural resources when possible, and they are also committed to supporting 4Ocean (for every 5 Amethyst Skincare products sold, 1 lb. of plastic is pulled out of the ocean). Finally, the brand aims to be carbon neutral by the end of 2021.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
Igrew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, with 3 siblings, where the majority of our time was spent outside on the beach. Things like clean water and environment were a big part of our culture. It’s funny- when we were little, things were super pristine, but it was notable that as the planet got warmer, our beaches were affected. Red tide lasted longer. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico (an area of water that doesn’t support life due to the bioaccumulation of toxins), started off small, and got bigger and bigger each year. It defined us. So of course, sustainable business is a natural direction for all of my projects to go in. Also, from a very young age, I was obsessed with reading the labels of shampoo bottles, skincare products, and almost anything I could get my hands on. Fortunately, my parents saw it and cultivated a STEM environment for me and my siblings to learn in. That sparked an undeniable space for biology and chemistry. Mixed with an equally strong passion for skincare, the rest is history.
You are currently leading a social impact organization that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
I have been in the beauty industry for more than 16 years, and with that has come a lot of international travel and the opportunity to see the world through a different lens. I worked for a short while as a chemist after graduating from university, but I hated it. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to be in the skincare industry, so I followed my absolute passion and became an aesthetician. The rest is history! I was recruited by a major skincare company to teach skincare from a scientific perspective to other aestheticians, physicians, and nurses. From there I went on to become the AVP of Global Education and Business Development for SkinCeuticals/L’Oreal. I traveled to more than 37 countries, working with some of the most prominent physicians in the world to help them become successful with skincare in their practices.
It was during my travels that I started to see that in America, our reality is a bit different than the rest of the world. My time in China, India, and some European countries allowed me to see our future. The air is heavily polluted. The water is contaminated. There are places in the world where food doesn’t grow because the soil is too acidic from acid rain. The University of California Irvine published a study a few years ago that showed that all of the smog that blows over from China adds 5–8 extra days of smog to Southern California each year. While we are not alone, the beauty industry is a major contributor to this. I made the decision several years ago that when I would create my own skincare line, I would do it as a platform to have an impact on this situation. While we still don’t have all of the resources we need to be 100% sustainable, there are things we can do today to reduce our global impact on pollution, and improve sustainability, which I am committed to being a part of.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
In addition to having an outdoor childhood, there was another remarkable moment when I was in Beijing in my hotel room trying to sleep, and I couldn’t. My body couldn’t stop sweating in an attempt to detox from all of the pollution. I have traveled to many places where the air pollution was severe, and I realized two things: the first was that the world needs help and is significantly impacted by the beauty industry, and the second is that our bodies aren’t meant to handle this level of exposure. If we don’t take action now, we are going to be too late.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
People would always ask me when I would start my own skincare line. My response was always the same: “The world doesn’t need another skincare line”. There are so many of them! While I always knew I wanted to do it, I committed to myself that if I did, I would do it with a purpose. I created Amethyst Skincare to explore and innovate ways that the beauty industry overall can start to reduce our impact on the planet, as quickly as possible. Once I realized that the environment will get worse before it will get better, I knew that it was time and I had to start.
Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
First things first. I know this sounds cliché, but it’s true: fail to plan, plan to fail. Research matters. At the end of the day, if you want to be successful selling a consumer product, you have to understand the consumer, and create something that a consumer loves — even goes deeper than that. Sometimes, it is not always about the product. It becomes about the mission and purpose. If people can connect to your mission and purpose, they will be with you the entire way. While we knew what our purpose and mission were, we spent a lot of time talking to our target consumer to make sure that we would execute our vision the right way.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
The most interesting thing was seeing the alignment that started to happen from very early on. Once we started putting the word out there that we were starting an amazing brand with an amazing purpose, the right people showed up at exactly the right time. It’s an amazing thing to watch something greater than yourself materialize right in front of your face. We have a multi-cultural team with representation around the world that allows us to really amplify the voice behind our mission.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
Early on, I was traveling in Europe to meet with potential distribution partners. I addressed some of their team in a foreign language which I am comfortable speaking, but was not my first language. The words I used were common to speaking the same language in another region, and were harmless. However, in Europe, the translation was different and literally translated to be a reference to female private parts. I didn’t know what happened until half of the room had a face of shock, and the other half was laughing uncontrollably. Thankfully, someone graciously explained the difference — I was mortified! We got through it, but lesson learned.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
I have been super lucky to have a lot of mentors who have helped me along the way, however there is one who stands out. There is a woman who has been incredibly impactful to me and has always offered her support and wisdom. Her name is Katherine Fung. I met her early on in my career at L’Oreal. It was my first business trip to Hong Kong. Not only did we become very good friends, she became a mentor for me. She is a woman of incredible patience and wisdom. I appreciate her because she always gives me the best advice and takes the time to coach me through where I am today. She knows the right questions to ask me at the right time to challenge me outside of where I am. It’s like she can see what I can’t, and always helps guide me in the right direction.
Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
There are much more than three, but here we go: The first is that society can look deeper and make simple updates, such as get educated on their local recycling systems and learn that most things that get thrown in the recycle bin don’t actually get recycled. Learning how to be impactful with simple sustainability swaps will also help our mission. Finally, bringing more awareness to the circular economy would make the most impact for us.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
It’s a medium-to-long term game. It is proven that companies that best manage their sustainability practices can reduce operational costs over time. Studying the circular economy becomes very important when it comes to boosting profitability while achieving sustainability goals. When it comes to the beauty industry, some of the challenge can be that it is expensive to get started when choosing the right packaging and focusing on how to formulate in an eco-friendly way. A few of our formulas are not just waterless, but also are made via waterless production. That is expensive in the beginning, but over time, those costs improve. Our industry is at an impasse, because we don’t have a lot of options available to us yet. A lot of success can be had through strategic partnerships. So, if your budget can only sustain plastic packaging, go for it, but do the work on the back end to empower the maximum chances to ensure it is recycled via Terracycle or other recycling agencies. As a start-up company, it is usually never a good idea to have cash going out while sales are increasing, but being as environmentally friendly as possible was important to us. So we worked with financial experts to ensure our costing structure was appropriate so that we could support the causes that could accomplish what we aren’t yet able to do as an industry, such as taking plastics out of the ocean, or making sure they are completely recycled so that there is no chance any of our products or packaging ever go to landfill. I recommend planning up front so that the business can manage out the higher costs, but the P+L can be structured to see the cost savings for the long-term.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- The world might hate you once you start your climb. Do it anyway. As I started becoming more visible, I was also exposed to more opinions. I wish I would have learned to tune out the noise much earlier.
- I came up in this very competitive industry assuming I couldn’t say no. I wish someone would have told me it is okay to stand my ground and say no. I said “yes” on far too many occasions that compromised my family time, quality of life, and even sometimes, my personal health.
- The work you do today in the beauty industry will absolutely impact the quality of life for the multitudes of women tomorrow. The beauty industry goes much deeper than what it seems on the surface. We create products that boost self-esteem, improve health, and quality of life.
- When women go together, they go further and stronger. I was not whole until I found my tribe of absolute superstar women that I could call at any time of day to speak to, learn from, bounce ideas, and have a compassionate voice of encouragement.
- Community over competition. Period. There is enough space here for everyone. We can create more impact on the things that matter when we go together. Strength in numbers.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
To start today. We are running out of time. There will be a time that comes when everyone realizes their individual impact on the world, but by then, it will be too late. There are so many small changes we can make today that really do add up. Stop using plastics wherever you can. Research how to recycle. Plant trees. Save water. Look up all of the simple sustainability swaps you can do in the home. There are so many, and they are simple to do. Start step by step to avoid getting overwhelmed, but then enjoy knowing that the small changes you make today can have a major impact later on.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If there is a thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s to not be afraid of the responsibility that comes with caring for other people”. This will have a personal meaning to each person who reads it, but for me, it carries a lot of meaning. If we have no planet left, we have no life. All things beyond that will no longer matter.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Jamie Kern Lima. She is a fellow woman of faith who has overcome every single odd to be where she is today. She made major history when L’Oreal purchased her company. It was their largest acquisition ever. She also remained CEO for a duration of time, which is a bit outside of the norm post-acquisition. Having worked in L’Oreal, I truly understand the importance of her accomplishments. She inspires me to keep going when the challenges get a little crazy.
How can our readers follow you online?