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Susan Griffin-Black: “Diminish the power of Greed”

Being immersed in beauty feels beautiful: what is that for you? Beach, garden, nature, fresh air, hot bath, candles, healthy food, fresh flowers, good wine and good company. Stop and smell the roses: inhaling the fragrance of a beautiful flower bypasses our rational thinking and triggers our emotional body, bringing us into the present moment. […]

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Being immersed in beauty feels beautiful: what is that for you? Beach, garden, nature, fresh air, hot bath, candles, healthy food, fresh flowers, good wine and good company. Stop and smell the roses: inhaling the fragrance of a beautiful flower bypasses our rational thinking and triggers our emotional body, bringing us into the present moment. Smell is magical that way and transports us as we merge with the aroma.


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 Susan Griffin-Black.

Susan Griffin-Black is the Founder and Co-CEO of EO Products, makers of EO and Everyone. As one of the early pioneers in the clean beauty and personal care movement and a leader in the naturals space since EO was founded in 1995, Susan has been a champion for conscious, purpose-led businesses around the world. Outside of EO Products, Susan serves as a mentor and advocate for many nonprofits and small businesses and is passionate about supporting female entrepreneurs.


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?

In 1991, I was a clothing designer/merchandiser at a clothing company called Esprit. I had the privilege of working with the late Doug Tompkins, an extraordinary environmentalist. Esprit was an amazing place to be at the time because we were learning about the toxic pesticides and processes used in growing, harvesting and dying cotton. I became interested in the relationship between organic agriculture/food/fabric and health. As I was running through Covent Garden in London on a business trip, I stepped into Neal’s Yard, a charming oasis that had a vegetarian restaurant, cheese shop, an apothecary and healing rooms on the second floor. You could make an appointment with an aromatherapist, herbalist, homeopath, etc. I walked in and was transformed by the smell — it was vital and real — a combination of a garden, tea shop, spa and all the best memories of my childhood. I picked up a little blue bottle of lavender essential oil, lavandula angustifolia, deeply inhaled and, by the time I exhaled, I knew what I wanted to do next with my life. I started studying aromatherapy, took a crash course in cosmetic chemistry and started blending essential oils. My partner, Brad, and I co-founded EO, which stands for essential oils, in 1995.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One of the most interesting stories is that my partner, Brad, and I started the company together, married in 1995, and divorced in 2006, and we are still running the company together as Co-CEOs. I think it points to our deep respect and love for each other, our kids and our EO family. We created a company we wanted to work for — which is still true — and our values through our growth are still intact. We are funded through very patient, early angel investors, an incredible relationship with Beneficial Bank, and no private equity or venture capital. We have 165 employees, make all of our products in Marin County in a zero waste, organic facility and it is our 26th year in business. We work with amazing, smart, kind, and creative people with shared values and have been a B Corporation (B corp) before there were B corps.

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?

I think one tipping point to acknowledge is staying power and resilience. We got really good at not going out of business! We endured through divorce, bad cash flow, slow sales, all sorts of manufacturing issues, and the myriad small business and life challenges we faced with grit and resilience (which is easier said in hindsight than while going through these things). We are passionate makers. We made products that we used for ourselves, families and friends and we grew organically through word-of-mouth and with the natural products industry. We were part of a like-minded community that wanted better, safer, more real products and we developed a loyal customer base that liked our products enough to buy them again and tell their friends. It’s so meaningful to make beautiful, wholesome products that are a part of people’s lives. Hire great people that you respect and trust and have shared values. Empower them to be themselves at work and cultivate relationships that have heart and meaning. Creating a culture and leading with values is timeless — trust isn’t a trend, neither is kindness. Success is the capacity to appreciate our human condition with compassion, humility and gratitude. Staying the course is self-affirming and helps give us perspective and, hopefully, wisdom to model and share with others.

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 am grateful for the opportunity of working with both Doug and Susie Tompkins Buell. They created a conscious, world-class brand with amazing and talented people and lived by the adage, “No detail is small.”

I am thankful every day for Brad Black, my founder/partner, wasband, father of my kids and Co-CEO, our dreams of being makers. When we got our first big order (we were hand-filling until then), he jury-rigged a gravity filler so we could fill hundreds of essential oil blends. He’s an amazing engineer, creator, inventor and photographer who can pretty much do anything. He’s a true entrepreneur, risk taker and maker. We are so fortunate to be able to be on the path together with our kids, family and community.

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?

In July, we launched two new products: EO Body Polish and EO Hand Cream. Both products were in our innovation pipeline prior to COVID-19, but still serve an important purpose and help with specific concerns in our customer’s daily ritual of taking good care. Our skin is our largest organ and protecting the skin barrier by gently cleansing and regenerating enhances our well being. Moments of self-care are so important, especially now when stress and uncertainty is so prevalent. Secondly, as customers have been washing our hands and using hand sanitizer prevalently, their hands may be drier than normal which is why our Hand Cream is a great new product to add to their routine.

This fall, we will likewise be expanding our Everyone Hand Sanitizer offerings to provide more sizes to fit a range of lifestyles. From larger and refillable formats to wipes and more, consumers can have clean hands wherever life takes them. They simply enhance the health and quality of everyday life and turn an antiseptic experience into an aromatherapeutic moment.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?

  1. First, I am excited to see consumers demand accountability and transparency from beauty brands. Consumers have a right to know what ingredients are included in their beauty products so they can ask questions and make informed choices. At EO Products, we are dedicated to making products that nurture the people that use them, respect people that make them, and honor the planet we share. All of our products aremade from synthetic-free fragrances, and are cruelty-free, gluten-free, GMO-free, and most of our products are either non-GMO or USDA organic certified. Additionally, we are a B Corp and value the importance of accountability and transparency.
  2. The importance of Self Care Rituals. It is critical to take time for ourselves so that we can take better care of others and the world around us. The simplicity of a hot bath or shower with essential oils and aromatherapeutic bath and body care products cultivates a more peaceful presence. I learned to meditate, and started my practice in the bathtub 30 years ago when my son was almost two-years-old. He would wander in and out, sometimes sit and be quiet. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to a full bath, swirl to mix, put a towel under the door, make a cup of chamomile tea, light a candle and soak for 15 minutes. If a shower is better for you, put a few drops of lavender or eucalyptus on shower floor, a towel under the door, turn the water on hot for a minute and adjust temperature before you immerse yourself.
  3. I am so excited about Body Positivity. Period.

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?

  1. Diminish the power of Greed. Put people and the planet before profits. Re-align priorities and shareholder expectations. Use business as a force for good to improve the lives of each other, our communities and our planet.
  2. Discontinue the use of all toxic ingredients. Sync global formula requirements for public health and safety through laws and consumer education.
  3. All plastic should be made from post-consumer resin by 2025. We need to decrease our use of single-use plastic packaging and manufacturing virgin plastic.

You are a beauty expert. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can utilize “to feel beautiful”?

“Ultimately, it is the soul that makes the face beautiful.” — John O’Donahue

Being immersed in beauty feels beautiful: what is that for you? Beach, garden, nature, fresh air, hot bath, candles, healthy food, fresh flowers, good wine and good company. Stop and smell the roses: inhaling the fragrance of a beautiful flower bypasses our rational thinking and triggers our emotional body, bringing us into the present moment. Smell is magical that way and transports us as we merge with the aroma.

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 quick story or an example, for each.

  1. Cash flow is the life blood of a business. Become a cash flow Queen. Master and manage cash flow so that you can make decisions that support staying in business and staying in the game to manifest your vision.
  2. Kindness is under-rated: practice kindness. Kindness includes vulnerability, strength, making tough decisions, standing your ground, humility, integrity and truth. It means walking a mile in someone else’s shoes for perspective and empathy. Treat all people the way you want to be treated and model that belief and value. When you make a mistake, admit it, make amends and start again. Self-kindness sews the seeds for kindness to others.
  3. Take a pause. If you don’t know what to do, don’t have a good answer and feel pressured into making a decision, STOP and give yourself the time to (gather yourself, ask for guidance, etc.) to do the next right thing. I’m obviously not talking about health and safety issues that require immediate action. Most business situations and decisions that feel pressured, missing an opportunity/sale, hiring someone because you have to fill that position, etc., CAN wait. Do not make decisions under pressure whenever possible. And then…
  4. Be clear. Clarity is inspiring to the people with whom you share your vision. Communicate your vision and be unwaveringly clear on what your it needs to become a reality. If you move off course, do it with the intention of returning to your vision, or, change your vision when you realize you need to evolve. Flexibility, agility, curiosity, open-mindedness, growth mindset, it’s all about trusting yourself and your instincts. More isn’t better. Better is better. Success is not a zero-sum game.
  5. Everything changes. Nothing stays the same. Be ready, curious, open, to adapt, pivot and be flexible. Always adapt to better serve your customers’ needs. As a result of COVID-19 in February, we saw our sanitizer products sell at a dizzying rate and we also saw an uptick in sales for our liquid hand soap. Across both of our brands, we saw nearly a 1,000% increase in unit sales. In reaction to the increase in demand, we allocated more existing line time to sanitizer production and added an additional manufacturing line. We worked overtime and fast-tracked our plans to bring on a co-manufacturing partner. Even with doing all of that, when new inventory became available, it was selling out in minutes. While servicing each and every request was difficult and, at times, overwhelming, we remained committed to the high quality our customers expect from us, so we began, and are still offering, pre-sale options for waitlisted items.
  6. Being a values-led business is challenging, but building trust amongst your customers is key to long-term success. At EO Products, we believe that prioritization is key; it’s first about people, then planet, and then profit — on the bottom where it belongs. Integrity is recession proof — we’ve been in business for over 25 years, and that’s because people have come to trust us.

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. 🙂

Love everyone.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few…In the beginner’s mind there is not thought, “I have attained something.” All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of self, we are true beginners. We can really learn something.”

Suzuki Roshi

I have been a lifelong seeker and learner. Ever curious about people, customs, culture, beauty, matters of the heart and what has truth and meaning. Beginner’s mind is always available as a way to begin again, to start over, regenerate our relationships, our thinking and our way of seeing and being. A new way is always possible, which makes for a creative, generous and authentic life.

How can our readers follow you online?

@sgriffinblack

@eoproducts

@everyoneproducts


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