Episode 106: Tina Hedges, CEO and Founder of LOLI Beauty

When Tina Hedges, Founder of LOLI Beauty, began the process of raising money for her company, she had already ticked off a lot of boxes. Proof of concept. Glowing press. Years of experience in the beauty industry. So she didn’t expect the response she got from the prominent venture capitalists she pitched: You’re over 40, therefore too old. You’re not pitching tech, so we’re not interested. And by the way, you’re too experienced. Demoralizing words for any entrepreneur to hear, but she wasn’t about to let this be the end of her—or her brand’s—story.

In this episode, hear how she turned the tide to become one of the few chosen by an elite start-up incubator that’s helping to propel her brand to the next level.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® hosted by Jodi Katz, Founder and Creative Director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHey there, it's Jodi Katz, your host of WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® Podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in. I'm incredibly grateful for your support of our show. This week's episode features Tina Hedges. She's the founder of LOLI, and she's also from a reality TV show. So if you're as much of a fan of reality TV as I am, you'll really enjoy this episode. And if you missed last week's episode, it featured Nancy McKay. She is currently the CEO of Barefoot Scientist. I hope you enjoy the shows.
Jodi KatzDo you eat breakfast mostly?
Tina HedgesNo. And I know it's the most important meal of the day, and I just ... I'm not a morning person.
Jodi KatzAccording to Dana James, who's my-
Tina HedgesI know her.
Jodi Katz... nutritionist ... you know her?
Tina HedgesI can't believe that you know her and she's your nutritionist because she and I have become besties.
Jodi KatzOh, really?
Tina HedgesAnd we're like frick and frack. So she's the new intuitive nutritionist and I'm the intuitive beauty healer. And the two of us together have the both ... 'cause we're sort of like alchemists together. So we're looking at what we can do together.
Jodi KatzOh, that's so awesome. So we are recording now. Is it okay that we're talking about this?
Tina HedgesTotally. Absolutely. I love her. I'm a big fan.
Jodi KatzWe met ... I mean, it's 12 years now. We were both starting our businesses. And she's been my client on and off through the years and she's healed me through carpal tunnely problems, plantar fasciatus problems. You know, just general sluggish system problems. All of her solutions always work and they're very simple. Like oh, you need a mineral in your diet, so take a supplement because you're not getting it in your food. And then look at that, I feel better.
Tina HedgesIt's amazing. But seriously, the two of us together when you hear us, we kind of go into this magical place because she knows all the science of food, but she also has this very intuitive healer personality and talent. And I do the same thing on the beauty side. So I know all the technical, what's in the ingredients, why they work, but then I also have this alchemist intuitive. So when we sit together, we're like wow, if we can combine the two things, we actually have the holistic person. Yeah. So we're in lots of fun conversation.
Jodi KatzSo if you read her book, her book will say that breakfast being claimed as the most important meal of the day is just a marketing tactic employed by sugary cereal companies decades ago. And that depending upon who you are, and she separates her book into these different categories of different types of women, you might be the type of woman who's body doesn't need that big morning fuel, and that something simple like a up of coffee and one bite of something might be enough for you. And that your bigger meal will be a different meal. And then it's just marketing that told us-
Tina HedgesThat makes sense because my body doesn't crave to eat in the morning. It's like a slower ramp. But I get hungry as the day goes on. I also ... my body clock is I'm definitely a night owl. I'm Cuban. I'm Latin. I get more energy as the day goes on, so I have no problem like 10:00 at night being fired up. It's just my personality. It's funny. But morning, I'm definitely more sluggish, no matter how much sleep I have. It's kind of irrelevant.
Jodi KatzRight. So I'd be interested on, after you read that chapter, what she has to say about how we're different and we're programmed different. If you follow her program and her philosophy, that you'd just honor the way that your body is and not try to force yourself to eat breakfast if it's not right for you.
Tina HedgesShe gave me the book a couple weeks ago and I haven't had a chance to read it. I flipped through it. I love it. And she definitely told me of the food archetypes. I'm ethereal, which makes complete sense, right?
Jodi KatzRight.
Tina HedgesAnd then I'm trying to remember what the second part, but it's definitely a lot about I have to ground myself. I have to eat more earthy foods, like stews and protein through beans and things like that, which intuitively I love. I love a good stew. I love a good vegetable. Like hearty ... like Indian food really grounds me. I love it. So it's funny. She's very, very, very talented. I love her.
Jodi KatzYes. She is a very special lady. So for anybody who's just listening in, 'cause you are just listening in, I would like to tell you who I'm sitting her chitchatting about breakfast, no breakfast with. It is Tina Hedges. She is the founder LOLI.
Tina HedgesLOLI.
Jodi KatzLOLI.
Tina HedgesLike the lollypop.
Jodi KatzLike lollypop. Yes, you told me that. LOLI. I can do that. Welcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®.
Tina HedgesThank you.
Jodi KatzI'm so glad that you're here. So we already asked the question of did you eat breakfast today, but why don't you tell us how you'll spend your day today?
Tina HedgesSo my day is always a little bit topsy turvy because I'm the founder of a startup. We sit in a tech accelerator and we're very much ... we're not the traditional beauty company. We're very much structured more like a tech company. I guess it's the influence of being in the tech accelerator. So we start our day, for example, doing five minute stand up meetings, which is a fascinating ... I wish when I was at the big companies in beauty that we had employed this tactic.
Jodi KatzWhat is it? Tell me what happens.
Tina HedgesSo in tech companies, engineers do stand up meetings where they stand up. They literally ... not sitting at your desk because if you're sitting you take more time to talk through things. You feel a little more lackadaisical. If you're standing up with your computer, you're more on it, right? So the idea is you stand up in the morning and at the end of the day, and you go through round robbin and you each have about two minutes to talk about what you're prioritizing today, what you got done yesterday, and what the co-dependencies are. So it's not just a status, it's like I'm working on this and that may impact you, or I need this from you because to do this today I ... you know.

So it helps sort of get the team working in synchronicity versus in silos of I'm just going to go down my to-do list regardless of what anyone else is working on. It's really fascinating and wonderful, and it's a way to be super productive. So we start our day like that.
Jodi KatzAnd what time is that meeting at?
Tina HedgesOkay, so because I'm not a morning person, we start our day at 9:30. I like people to have time to go exercise in the morning and to come in sort of fresh. But we stay late. Like our average day, most people are there until at least 7:00, 7:30, or later. So no, it's a long day. So we start the day with a stand up. And today, for example, in between coming here, I had to deal with some product development sourcing of ingredients. Our date nut brulee, which is this miracle melting bomb for skin, hair, and body, we get our oil, which is upcycled ... so part of sustainable mission from Senegal. And the purveyor, who helps us with this date oil which no one else is using, literally has to organize all these fair trade co-ops in Senegal, get the dates, get the nut, the kernel, and then crush it. So it's crushed fresh for us on orders.

But you can't pay him directly because in Senegal, the way the banking system ... so we have to ... it's just very complicated. So because we have all these ingredients from around the world, I'm dealing with all these particular problems and sourcing. And then I'm coming here to do the podcast, and then I'm going back and I'm working a spring on our user experience.
Tina Hedges
Jodi KatzWhat does that mean? A sprint.
Tina HedgesSo where we will tackle one problem. We'll say, okay, we want address our product page for plum elixir, or we want to address our home page, or we want to create a landing page to test a messaging. And we'll pull in our growth hacker, our creative team, and we'll literally sit for a couple of hours and just bang out. And by the end of that session, have something to actually show for it.
Jodi KatzSo the sprinter, not just talking about doing it, you're actually doing it?
Tina HedgesNo, we're doing it.
Jodi KatzOh, that's great.
Tina HedgesYeah. Again, very much learning from my cohort founders from the tech world. It's just a different way of working and it's so much more productive.
Jodi KatzHow did you end up in a tech accelerator?
Tina HedgesThat's an amazing story. When I first started to go raise money for LOLI, I already had a proof of concept. I had self financed and launch what we call an MVP, minimum value proposition. And I got written up by the press, I shipped over 1,000 boxes. It was a great success as a test. And I went to start raising money, and I was literally told by prominent VCs in this city to go home because I was over the age of 40 and not pitching tech, and the chances of me building over the age of 40 with experience, a unicorn was slim to none. Which was really disheartening.
Jodi KatzSo you're saying ... Wait, I want to break this down. You're in meetings, you present your deck, right?
Tina HedgesRight.
Jodi KatzYou give them ... this is all the excitement and-
Tina HedgesAnd proof points.
Jodi KatzAnd then they say literally to you, "You're too old for this. No one is going to invest in you. Give up."?
Tina HedgesYes, basically. I even had one VC, and I saved the email because one day I want to frame it, write across it in red, a lot of zeros, and send it back to him. But I was basically told ... yes. I do have one or two moments where French can be sweet sometimes, as long as it's done out of a kindness moment. A learning lesson. But basically he said to me, you know, it's really too bad that you're not 30 or 35 straight out of Harvard or Stanford business school with no experience in the beauty industry because I would have written you a $2 million check already. But the fact that you have all this, two decades of experience, and you're your age, I'm not going to invest. And that is really how they think.
Jodi KatzIt's so bizarre.
Tina HedgesSo when people talk about gender bias in female founders and how difficult ... and how 2% get funded, etc., I say, well, when you add in ageism it's even worse. So anyway, so here I was being told-
Jodi KatzBut this is not just one conversation?
Tina HedgesNo, it was several. It was multiple conversations. So I was getting incredibly discouraged and I decided to start applying for any pitch competition that I could find.
Jodi KatzOkay. How many years ago was this?
Tina HedgesThis is about ... So I raised my first round in March of 2017. So this was end of the year of 2016. So November, December 2016.
Jodi KatzSo you have this vision, you have experience in the industry, you have your finger on the pulse of what's coming and what's important.
Tina HedgesAnd a proof of concept. I actually had launched something. It wasn't a pitch deck with pretty little pictures and forecasts of projections which are meaningless, right? I had proof points.
Jodi KatzAnd meeting after meeting, nobodies understanding this and they don't even value your expertise.
Tina HedgesCorrect.
Jodi KatzAnd they say this to you to your face and over email.
Tina HedgesCorrect.
Jodi KatzOkay.
Tina HedgesThey also told me over email that natural clean beauty was never going to be more than a sort of a blip because women wouldn't choose ingredients that don't work over scientific ingredients. And I had to remind them arsenic comes from apricot seeds. Do you think it works?
Jodi KatzAnd you said that to them? And what was the reaction?
Tina HedgesCyanide, arsenic. You know, you're dealing with men who don't know. They don't know ingredients in products, they only know what they're told, right? And they tend to listen to their girlfriends or wives for most part and what they like. And if they're shopping luxury brands at Bergdorf Goodman that spout all sorts of statistics and clinicals, that's what they think works.
Jodi KatzRight. And at this time, there weren't ... I mean, there were a few really awesome investment firms that are all women run with women values. I guess these didn't exist at that time.
Tina HedgesThey did. There were a few of them that I spoke to. So you'll hear the story as it goes, so going back ... and I'll come back to the female investment groups. So I started applying to pitch competitions, and part of it was that I felt the more I pitched, and under very intense situations ... some of these pitch competitions you literally have two minutes or five minutes and the clock is ticking ... that if I could really hone my pitch, that it would help me raise money. So it was even if I didn't necessarily want the carrot at the end of that pitch competition.

So I just started doing that, and somehow, someone along the way from one of the pitch competitions I did mentioned Grand Central Tech. And I had no idea what it was. I started looking into it and I reached out, and I got an ... like the first preliminary call, which they just do to tell you everything. And I was so impressed by their mission. And basically they decided instead of creating an accelerator where they take equity and you're only in it ... like tech starters for a couple months and then you have your demo day, and hopefully you raise money, and then you're sort of out into the world. They said we want to give founders a cohort community that is supportive. And what do they need the most? Office space. So let's give them free office space for a year, select very few companies, and really mentor them for the entire year and take no equity. It's a very unusual accelerator.
Tina Hedges
Jodi KatzRight. So how do they monetize their program?
Tina HedgesThey have a fund that they can decide to invest, and they also ... it's anchored in a building on 335 Madison Avenue, which is now branded Company, and they've created an entire urban hub. So as you graduate, you rent office space. They have their version of WeWork, but you stay within the community.
Jodi KatzRight. So it's like a customer lifecycle thing, right? They're getting you early in, and then you have such good will.
Tina HedgesRight, which you do, by the way, because it's extraordinary, the community they built. So anyway, I heard about it and it was so interesting, Jodi, because one of those moments that you really ... when you wonder about divine intervention or serendipity. Because I knew that I had this application due, and there was a part of me that was like ... everyone had been telling me, but you're not pitching tech and they get 1,000 applications. They pick 18 companies. I'm like, there's no way I'm going to get in.

And some personal things happened. It was really sad. My mom's cat fell out of the window and died. It was really horrible. And I was leaving to Dubai to go speak on a panel, and it all happened in the same 48 hour period. And I got to the airport and all of the sudden I realized, oh my goodness, the application for Grand Central Tech is due at midnight today. Or due today. And it was like 10:00 at night and my fight was leaving in an hour. And I wrote to them and I said, "I'm handing in the application before midnight today." And somehow I got it done, and I thought I had missed the boat.
Jodi KatzWere you sweating at the airport?
Tina HedgesI sort of had the attitude of like, well, I've already missed the boat. So in a way it was good because I took the pressure off the application. I just said what I wanted to say. And then I get back from Dubai and a couple weeks later I get notified that I made the second cut, which was then you had to come in for interviews. So imagine 1,000 applications, they pick 18 companies. I think they interview 200.

And this was my second major blip in the process. The calendar invite came in, and you know how Gmail just automatically gives you a Google video call. I assumed it was a video call. So I had asked a friend of mine who's an investment banker if I could use her conference room. I was all set up. I was ready. I was sitting there completely polished and fresh faced looking into the video, the Google video and chat. And I get a text and it's one of the principals at Grand Central Tech. He's like, "We're waiting for you. Where are you?" I'm like, "I'm on the call." He's like, "It's an in person interview." And they were like 15 blocks away, but in Midtown at 4:00 in the afternoon.

So I said, "I'm leaving right now. It's my mistake. I thought it was a video call. I will hustle." And he said, "Well, the good news is we're running 20 minutes late, so get yourself here." Well, I was 45 minutes late, not 20 minutes late. And I again said I've lost this. Which in a way, maybe worked, because I walked into the interview like I've already messed up. So I'm just going to be myself and come from the heart.

And somehow I made the cut, and it was the most extraordinary part of my journey as a founder because one, I wanted to be validated. To be able to now look those same VCs and say, excuse me? You said I wasn't pitching tech. Well, I'm in a tech accelerator that's one of the best in New York City. Two, to be a female over the age of 40 with a cohort of mostly male founders in their twenties. And to be validated in that way was just ... and then the connections and the relationships, and-
Jodi KatzRight, and all the learning…
Tina HedgesAnd the learning. Just looking sideways. I remember the first day seeing all these teams stand up with their computers. I'm like, what are they doing? They're like, "It's a stand up meeting." I'm like, "What's a stand up meeting?"
Jodi KatzThat's awesome. And they're going to learn from you for sure.
Tina HedgesWell, they learned about skincare.
Jodi KatzYeah. And intimacy with a customer and things that you just find in beauty that you don't find in other places.
Tina HedgesAnd branding and marketing. A lot of them would be like, "How do you get all of this PR?" I'm like, "Let me help you with that."
Jodi KatzThat's awesome. I'm so grateful you shared that story with us.
Tina HedgesBut it's a good example of, in life, a lot of it is just showing up. Make sure you show up. Even if you feel you've made a mistake, don't let that opportunity slip out of your hands because there is a power in owning the mistake, right?
Jodi KatzYes.
Tina HedgesThere is a power in people remember you. If you raise your hand and you say, "You know what? I messed up. I missed the call with you," or, "I missed the meeting," or, "I'm late, but here's way. I really want to be here." And that's compelling, right? So sometimes we kind of self-sabotage because we make a little mistake and then we get embarrassed, and you don't want to deal with it head on.
Jodi KatzRight. Well, that's like this feeling that perfectionism has to rule. And for me, I have a philosophy that perfection doesn't exist and shouldn't even be a word. That's how much it doesn't exist.
Tina HedgesI so agree with you, and that's one of the hardest lessons I think I've learned in this startup, which is I am a perfectionist by nature and I like everything buttoned up. Especially coming out of big beauty where you spend years making sure a brand launch is tied up in a nice little bow and everything is absolutely pristine and well executed. And in a beauty startup or any startup, especially in the tech world, you have to unlearn that behavior and you have to learn it's better to execute and know you're executing with a lot of errors, because you get learning, than wait to make it perfect. 'Cause if you wait to make it perfect, what you think is perfect may not work.
Jodi KatzRight, and it might be too late.
Tina HedgesAnd it might be too late.
Jodi KatzRight. I love this. And in my head I'm visualizing this email, the one that you told us about in the beginning. And I feel like I want it to be printed out with some sort of holographic finish and then hang on the wall now, because you've already proven this person wrong. You don't need the zeros.
Tina HedgesWell, maybe we'll do an art project together.
Jodi KatzYeah. I feel like there's such a ... obviously this is a business. This isn't a charity, right? There is a goal, a financial goal. But you've already done it, so I almost feel like you can honor that moment. And then later you can add zeros to it and draw all over it and whatever. But for me, you hit that milestone. That's worth celebrating.
Tina HedgesWell, thank you. Thank you. I sometimes ... it's nice to have that validation because I see all the things we still need to do and I set the bar very high. And then I look sideways and I still see some of my peers, who are male, who are somewhat going down a similar track as me and sort of riffing off of LOLI and getting way more funding earlier on.

I mean, I overheard a conversation in my cohort of some gentleman who has no beauty experience, comes from the startup world. And the way he was chatting with his investor ... or pitching an investor on the phone and I overheard it, he was like, "Yeah, I'm not going to share with you any deck and I'm not going to share any financials. I don't have any. I don't have projections. I don't have a product. I've never worked at this industry and I've already raised $3 million. And I'm going to make you sign an NDA, but I'm not going to tell you anything. And you just either invest in me or not."

And I listened and I had this moment of, wow. As a woman, I think it's very female. We go in and we feel we have to have everything absolutely buttoned up and rigorously thought through and over-prepared. And we still then ... the reaction back is like, oh, this is great, but come back to me when you hit here, this milestone. And to hear this guy who doesn't know what he's doing, going into skincare, and he's just like, yeah, I'm not going ... you just believe in me or not, and other people have written a check. I'm like, wow, why doesn't that happen for us? What are we doing wrong?
Jodi KatzWell, can I play on this with you?
Tina HedgesTotally.
Jodi KatzSo I mean, you see this everyday and this is a good example. But there's people who are impassioned about the customer experience because you are one of them and you want to create a relationship for life with a customer, and there are people who enter a business because they think it's a fast way to make $200 million. So there's one way this is going to go, which is that the consumer builds a relationship with the brand and they have a long life together. The other way is, I sell a product, it's a thing for a minute, and then it's gone.

So there's no way to build a true brand and loyalty experience with a customer when you just want to make $200 million. Because you'll make one thing and you'll make some money fast, but then it's gone if the relationship is over. It's like a one night stand, right?
Tina HedgesRight.
Jodi KatzMy sense about you and the other people who are really good in this space is that you want to have a long relationship with your customer. You want to be there with her. And you want to be there with her children, and with her mother, and with her friends, and be part of their lives. And that's where the scale is that's where the future growth is, and that's also where the joy is.
Tina HedgesAbsolutely. In LOLI I tell the team everyday, the most important thing to me is customer service. Customer success, right? And personalization or pure potent products is meaningless if we don't give delightful experiences. I come from ... when I worked at Estee Lauder, one of the things that really was ingrained in us ... and in those days there were no emails or computers when I first started. When the blue binder ... navy blue binder 'cause it's the Lauder color, would come down from Leonard's office with customer complaints and land on your desk, it did not matter what you were doing. You dropped everything and you answered or gave customer service the information they needed to respond. And it was the highest priority thing. And it always stuck with me because we can't forget that this is about touching people. Business, it's only important if it's meaningful in their life. Otherwise it's a commodity that can be changed out.
Jodi KatzRight. And there are many of those, but there's no future there, right? That's like I said, a one night stand, and you're looking for a meaningful relationship long term. And that's because you're the customer. That's what you're longing for in your life, right?
Tina HedgesThat's right.
Jodi KatzSo they can say ... that guy can say whatever he wants to say and he could make money. He could also burn through their $3 million very easily in six months and nothing to show for it. So just 'cause he gets the money doesn't mean he knows what to do with it. It doesn't mean that he's doing to do anything with it that will meet your values, right? So your journey ... the universe has already shown you to trust your journey. You're going to get there, wherever it is that you want. But my guess is money is not the number one driver for you, which is why you're choosing these other paths of communication.
Tina HedgesWell, it's important. I mean, I have shareholders and I want LOLI to be a sustainable and profitable business and have a big trajectory. I think we ... we say our mission is to stir up beauty and make a conscious change. And it's really meaningful. To me, it is unconsciousable that we sell people water over-packaged in plastic, then tell them they have to buy 15 of those. You know, whether it's in a jar or a bottle or spray, to do what they could do with two products with no water and really do better for the planet and people. So yeah, I think the whole beauty industry is sort of ... it's kind of like what we talked about earlier, that the reason we're told to eat breakfast is because they want to sell sugary snacks. I think the beauty industry has a little bit of that in it.
Jodi KatzYeah, for sure. Okay. So let's talk about the brand story, because when we were on the phone together last week, in 30 seconds I heard the whole thing. Like everything. And now I know why, because you did so many of these pitch meetings that you have it so tight. And I learned everything that I would want to know if I were an editor or a publicist about what the point of difference is here. So can you give it back to me?
Tina HedgesSure, absolutely. So we, at LOLI, which stands for Living Organic Loving Ingredients, is the world's first zero waste organic beauty brand. And we make waterless, upcycled from food waste, multi-purpose products that you can use for your skin, hair, and body. They're ready to use just like your white T-shirt. You can slip them on, but you can also customize at home or we can customize for you.

So there are many ways you can experience your beauty, and the idea is that besides just the sustainable positioning, which we as I said are really the first mover and the first to do this, we believe that your skin and hair are not the same everyday. And so today I may wake up with some redness and need some tumeric essential oil in my plum elixir, but tomorrow I may wake up with flaky skin and need some salicylic acid as exfoliating.

So you can modulate and change your experience how you want to. But if you just want to have the purest, cleanest products out there, you can just use our multi-purpose bases and you're ready to go. So it's really very flexible in it's approach.
Jodi KatzI love it. When you were on the phone with me and we had limited time, so you gave it to me boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, as if you were on stage and you had a minute and a half. And I loved it. I was trying to type as fast as I could because it was all so good and meaty and differentiating, right? It really has a very strong point of view. So I applaud you on that because it's hard to do and it's hard to articulate, right? That's one of the biggest challenges I see brands have is they know in their heart who they are, right? Deep down inside. We are this, we're not that. But articulating it, using the language that the customer is going to really understand, because a lot of this can get a little heady, expressing the devotion to supply chain and partners and ethics in two words is very challenging. I feel like you have it.
Tina HedgesWell, thank you. I feel like I'm never sure ... when you're so close to something, you don't always have the perspective to see what the impact is. And what I find, which is really curious to me, is we use a lot of ... whether it's from how we formulate the ingredients that we're using, or to our messaging, or to our packaging experience ... which is completely sustainable and zero waste, we use a lot of very unique keys. Brand keys or DNA, right? And I see other brands beginning to riff off of us, and sometimes be a little bit more successful in the short term with ringing the cash register using our own language. Like literally lifted.
Jodi KatzBut how do you know that their cash register is ringing?
Tina HedgesWell, you have insights in different ways. But my point is what's interesting to me is I think because LOLI is so complex, we're not doing just one thing. On you have on side this really zero waste platform of sustainability and upcycling, and turning food waste into valuable effective ingredients in beauty, and removing the water. Then you have the packaging sustainable piece of food grade glass, reusable certified compostable bags instead of cartons, things like that. And then you have, wow, it's just the best clean beauty out there and it's food grade, right? And then you have, oh, and by the way, we can personalize. And there's so many ways into the brand.

So I feel sometimes that ... and I have an investor who said to me once early on, he said, "What will work for you long terms is that you've built a very complex, deep and meaningful brand." He said, "In the short term, what will against you is you've built a very complex, deep, meaningful brand." Right? And it's exactly ... as a marketer, it's very interesting because I do think what lever is the most important? What's the first door into the brand? You're the expert over here. I'd love your insights as well.
Jodi KatzI think the fact that you actually have true authentic stories to tell is an advantage because marketing right now in beauty is the wild west. Nobody knows what works, right? 15 years ago or 20 years ago you just put out your ads and you put out your signage in the store, and that was it. Now it's like everyday is sort of a roll of the dice. What messages are you going to boost in social, what are going to focus on in whatever, when are you going to launch this product?

So I think that the fact that you have these four pillars gives you a chance to play with the pillars and see what sticks. And that's what I see brands doing. And the ones that are, as you say, what we think is ringing the cash register, something hits today because that's just the momentum in the moment, right? The universe ... every millennial or whatever age person you're targeting is interested in X in this moment, and guess what? You were telling that story that day, or you can tell it tomorrow, without sacrificing who you are as a brand because it's an authentic story. But two days later, maybe a personalization, they're not interested anymore, right?

We're so peripatetic with the things that are interesting to us and what we're obsessed with in the moment, and we have so many great TV shows to watch on Netflix and Amazon. We can just be all over the place. So I think that you have to be there for her when she's ready to explore personalization. Or maybe she just wants to explore this idea of zero waste or she wants to explore this idea of just great skincare. Or it smells nice and it looks pretty on my counter. Like that's enough, right? You have really beautiful aesthetics. A lot of your customers are going to come to just because it feels pretty and right for them, from an aesthetic décor in their bathroom kind of way. And that's okay. Let her come that way. She can learn more about you.

So I think this is an advantage, and knowing that you're just sort of throwing the balls in the air and one of them is going to be bouncier today. Let's try it, as long as it's still authentic to who you are.
Tina Hedges100%, and I agree with that. Sometimes my investors will be like, "What's the strategic plan for the next six months?" And you have to go through the exercise of doing it, right? Which is good because it makes you think about things that sometimes in the day to day you're not. But the truth is, I do that and then I put it aside. And then I'm opportunistic because I had a mentor once who said to me, "Collect the offers, then apply critical thinking." And so sometimes a team will be like, "Well, I thought we weren't going into wholesale. Why are we talking with retailers?" I'm like, "Collect the offers, then apply critical thinking." We think we don't maybe want to be expansive in wholesale, but maybe there's a very unique situation that works for us and works for them. I always come from a place of yes, even if my priority is sort of articulated. I still engage with things that in my mind I'm not 100% sure because you just don't know.
Jodi KatzRight. But that's I think a smart way to plant seeds for the future. Maybe today you're just not interested, but you want to know what you need to plan for in a year when you might be interested. So I love this opportunistic thinking. I think that if you can stay just stay in your lane, and you just gave me ... you gave me a four lane highway, right? No water, upcycling, the recycled quality of the product packaging, and you gave me a fourth one. I'm forgetting what it was.
Tina HedgesPersonalization.
Jodi KatzPersonalization. So you gave me a four lane highway. Just stay in the highway. Your car can go ... you can click this way, you can click that way, you can go a little faster, you can go a little slower, right? Put on the brakes, move lanes. But that's your highway.
Tina HedgesYep, 100%.
Jodi KatzAnd if there's stores on that ... like brick and mortar stores on that highway, sure, you can take people into a retailer. Maybe it's just in the cloud. You know, there's just clouds and people are shopping online. But that's your highway. It's yours. Stay in it, own it, and have fun with it. And I do think that many of your customers are just going to come because they love the aesthetics, and that's just going to be a really interesting customer to engage with because they're going to be on a longer journey with you because they have more to learn.
Tina HedgesWe're beginning to see the virality of the products actually working. So we're super careful, although we're doing some claim substantiation right now. So we just did a blind consumer panel test for our plum elixir, and we got some amazing data back. 90% of women said it gave instant hydration, as an example, with the first use. That incredible, right? I mean, you don't get a statistic like that easily, and we didn't manipulate. We didn't say ... like a lot of the big beauty companies will do a panel test like that and tell the consumers don't moisturize for a week before.
Jodi KatzOh, man.
Tina HedgesAnd you can stack the deck. We didn't do anything like that. But anyway-
Jodi KatzOh, the under belly of clinical testing. I don't think that I even knew that. I mean, I'm not a product developer, so I don't get involved in that level.
Tina HedgesYeah. You can figure out how to make ... I mean, there are certain things that will be surprises, right? I mean, at some point. But you can stack the deck a bit to your advantage. But anyway, but what we're seeing is just now word of mouth of, "Oh, my friend tried this and she has blemishes or she has really, dry, flaky, irritated skin." We don't make any hard skincare claim. I'm super careful, so I never say acne, I never say eczema or psoriasis, even though a lot are saying that on their sites. And FDA considers that skin conditions with very tight monographs and things like that. But we know that it does work on problem skin, different of our products, and we just let the consumer tell us and come back and spread the word. And it's very interesting to see because when you do give a consumer a good product, they will be your advocate.
Jodi KatzRight, because there's junk out there and they spent money it. And they spent money on something that's good ... and my stomach is growling, so sorry if you can hear that in the microphone. So can we shift gears a little bit?
Tina HedgesYeah.
Jodi KatzBecause I want to make sure we have time to talk about one of my favorite topics, which is reality TV.
Tina HedgesOh, yes.
Jodi KatzSo I am so excited that you shared all the kind of secrets of what it's like to really be an entrepreneur today in this climate. But I want to hear all about the chaos and crazy and amazing things that happened when you were in reality TV. And this was the early 2000s, right?
Tina HedgesYes. I was two seasons on one of the earliest reality shows. So it was called Blow Out on Bravo TV, and it actually was my first startup. So I had left a big beauty company about six months prior and knew that in my heart I wanted to do a startup. And I started chatting, it was summer of 2004, and started chatting with different investors and opportunities. I was at brunch on a Sunday and got random phone call. Nowadays I would have never taken that phone call because I look at like it's some scam or some telemarketer, but in those days you answered.

But it was a gentleman from the west coast and he said, "Hi. You don't know who I am, but I'm the manager of a celebrity hair stylist and we just completed a season of a reality show on Bravo, and we're negotiating a second season. My hair stylist wants the theme of the show to be all about him launching a hair brand, but we have no money, no team, and no idea how to do it. And two months to put a deal together. And I started asking people in the beauty industry, and they gave me your name. Do you think you can do it?" All of this in literally five minutes on the phone. And I was just dead silent. I'm listening.

I didn't even really know that much about reality TV, but the light bulb went off and I said, "Free advertising?" I was like, "Absolutely, I will figure it out." And I hung up the phone and I started going through my mental Rolodex of who I had just been meeting with for the last couple months, which brings me up to remind me to come back to an important lesson in startup world. And I remembered that I had met a German industrialist who had just bought a haircare facility in Baltimore, and he was really, really interested in having a private label brand. And he had shown me a deck of this really bad concept for a skincare brand. And I had said to him, "I will tell you that it will cost you $1.2 million. Here's back of envelope math, between concepting, execution, website, etc., etc., to launch. And you don't have a hook here. And you could pay me a lot of money to consult for you and I'll take your money, but I want you to know up front because I'm an honest person, I don't think is going to work."

And he had said to me, "I love your honesty. If you ever come across something you do think will work, come back to me." So because I was transparent and wasn't just trying to get a paycheck from him as a consultant, right? So I called him up and I said, "I not only have an amazing opportunity, but we have a free infomercial for two months of air time on cable TV." And he said, "Done. I will invest." And I raised the money. So part of the whole concept of we ... and we were the first to ever do this. There was no Kim Kardashian, there was no other reality TV star. Sephora and QVC had never allowed anyone to film behind the scenes. We were the ones who got all that permission and structured.

And you watched us develop the hair brand from signing the contract all the way to getting into Sephora and QVC, and it was a runaway success. And I was on the show. And I can tell you that reality TV is definitely a beast. There are lots of manipulations going on, so different executive producers will sort of isolate different star characters and kind of create story lines that then the other characters don't understand what's really happening, so they're caught by surprise or they'll sort of stir the pot to try to make an intrigue. So there's a lot of manipulations going on. It was quite something. But we had actually the pressure of developing this brand.
Jodi KatzRight. You actually had to make the product and sell it.
Tina HedgesAnd make the product and make sure that it was ... So we had five months from taping to the show going on air. So we had five months, which you know in beauty industry is like an unheard of amount of time.
Jodi KatzAnd I remember the packaging was really pretty and sleek and felt good.
Tina HedgesThank you. And we were the first vegan, sulfate free hair brand in Sephora and QVC. So again, I was way ahead of the curve.
Jodi KatzLet me see if I can find some episodes on YouTube.
Tina HedgesI also, on the show, although Jonathan said it was his idea, it was really mine, but I also launched a shower filter with that brand because the concept was ... and what I would say to Jonathan is we can have the best shampoo or conditioner, but if you have bad water it will affect your hair. So we came up with a shower filter, and for a while it was the number one skincare SKU at Sephora.
Jodi KatzWow. I mean, it's super relevant today. I hear people on hair talking about that all the time.
Tina HedgesSuper relevant.
Jodi KatzLike don't condition then wash your hair again, because all the stuff that's in the water is all over your hair. Right? Like there's protocols because the water is gross that we have, and it has a lot of stuff in it.
Tina HedgesAnd not only is it gross, but we're going to get less of it. So whoever is listening, don't wash your hair everyday. Start learning how not to wash your hair everyday.
Jodi KatzSo tell me this bit of insight before we go. You had a light bulb moment that you wanted to share another story.
Tina HedgesOh. I really believe ... So it happened when I needed to raise the money for Jonathan's product. And it happened when I wanted to raise the money for LOLI, which is a serendipitous introduction can end up being the most meaningful and life changing introduction. So I hadn't taken a meeting with that German industrialist, which at the time felt very ... like an outlier to me. I had seen the deck. I was like, this skincare brand looks ridiculous. It's a haircare facility in Baltimore that wants to do a skincare brand. They don't know anything. There was so many factors that I could have just said no, I'm not going to go to that meeting. And the same with my lead investor in my first round. I got a list of three people. Every meeting I would go to, I would say, "Do you know three people you think I need to talk to?"
Jodi KatzOh, cool.
Tina HedgesAnd I won't leave the meeting until ... and actually I'm going to do it here with you at the end of this podcast. I want three people you think I need to meet.
Jodi KatzAnd it could be for any reason?
Tina HedgesAny reason. But just in your heart, go deep, and who do you think would be important for me to know?
Jodi KatzThat's cool. Does anyone ever say no?
Tina HedgesNo. Actually, people are very good, if you ask them a specific favor that's easy for them to cross off their list. It makes them feel good about themselves, and it's helpful to you.
Jodi KatzCool.
Tina HedgesSo that's the sort of a learning I would be ... I say, "By the way, is there anyone you think I need to know? At least three people." And so I got this list, and one of them is this gentleman who I went to go meet, and it turned out he is the son of the chairman of a multi-billion dollar direct to consumer beauty brand. And he and his brothers were starting a family fund, and the things that they care about are sustainability, branding, that the brand meets a criteria and a standard, and direct to consumer. And we sort of ticked all those boxes, and he became my first investor, he and his brother. But if I hadn't asked in that meeting, who are three people ... and I do that regularly and then make sure I meet those people.
Jodi KatzThat's great.
Tina HedgesYeah. Sometimes it's important to just be open.
Jodi KatzYeah, and ask for these things. No one is going to read your mind, right?
Tina HedgesAnd everyone has someone you need to know.
Jodi KatzYeah. I love it. This is so cool. So what we didn't get a chance to talk about is growing up in Jamaica, being a professional ballet performer. Right? There's so many stories for you tell. Maybe we can do a part two sometime.
Tina HedgesI'm always happy to have a part two.
Jodi KatzThank you, Tina, for sharing your wisdom with our listeners today. This is awesome. And for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes, and for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram at @WhereBrainsMeetBeautyPodcast. Thank you, Tina.
Tina HedgesThank you.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

Want to sponsor the pod?

Available On:

Apple Podcasts