Episode 109

During her time working in advertising, Georgina Gooley, Founder of Billie, discovered a pointless double standard in consumer goods: Women were being charged more for inferior products when it came to shave products, aka The Pink Tax. Her response was Billie, a better shave product for women at better prices. In creating this company, she’s aligned both a social mission and for-profit business.

 

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 so grateful that you did. Today's episode features Georgina Gooley, she's the Co-Founder of Billie. If you don't know what Billie is, it's a really interesting razor company, made for women. If you're on social media, I'm sure you've seen their ads. Georgina was counting down four weeks until she had her first baby. Off air we had a nice conversation about what to expect, I guess, when you're expecting. I hope you enjoy her episode. If you missed last week's episode, it features Essence Gant, she's a Beauty Director at BuzzFeed. I hope you enjoy the shows.

Hello everybody, I am super excited to be sitting with Georgie Gooley. She is the Co-Founder of Billie. Welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty.
Georgina GooleyThank you for having me.
Jodi KatzI'm so excited to be sitting with you here. The first questions are really easy ones. How will you be spending your day today?
Georgina GooleyI just finished a Board meeting, looking at Q4 of last year, and the rest of the day will be ... I have a couple of interviews, some internal meetings, just moving projects along.
Jodi KatzIs that a typical day?
Georgina GooleyYeah. A typical day is, looking at every aspect of the business, prioritizing what's the most important thing to tackle that day, and then trying to move it forward.
Jodi KatzHow long are your work days?
Georgina GooleyProbably somewhere between 10, 11, could be 12.
Jodi KatzAre all those hours in the office?
Georgina GooleyProbably about 10 hours in the office, and then picking up bits and bobs, either early in the morning or later at night.
Jodi KatzIs that a rhythm that feels really natural to you now?
Georgina GooleyThe 10 hours in the office feels pretty natural now, but yeah, it does make it hard to squeeze in other things in the morning, or in the afternoon, or in the evening. Yeah.
Jodi KatzYou are in the stage of living and breathing Billie.
Georgina GooleyYeah. We're an early company, so you are pouring your heart and soul into building the company. Our team is about 15, 16 people now. We're looking to expand. So, even just getting up to speed, and recruiting, and all of that, takes a lot of time, but the goal is have more people that can help you out.
Jodi KatzRight. Right. Let's talk about your career. What was your first job out of college?
Georgina GooleyMy first job out of college was, I did a PR internship while I was at college, and that was ... I'm originally from Australia, so that was at the city of Sidney, working on the media relations side of the city's activities, New Year's Eve, Christmas, Chinese New Years, all those sort of activities and events that the city puts on, I was part of the media relations.

Then after college, my first job was at an advertising agency in Sidney, called DDB. I was there for about three years before moving to New York to work at an agency here.
Jodi KatzWhat account were you on at DDB?
Georgina GooleyI was working on McDonald's.
Jodi KatzOh, okay.
Georgina GooleyYeah.
Jodi KatzWas it fun?
Georgina GooleyIt was really fun. I had a great team. I've been really lucky that I've had really great teams at every place that I've worked at. But it was a fun team. They were excited to do fun work, playing with Happy Meals, and kids, and going into the nostalgia that's associated with McDonald's. It was a good learning experience, I think, for where I was in my career. At the beginning it was really just understanding production, and how to make commercials, and all of that.
Jodi KatzWere you in account services? Were you creative? What were you-
Georgina GooleyYeah. I was in account management, yeah.
Jodi KatzIn Australia, is the entry level job called Assistant Account Executive?
Georgina GooleyWe were called Business Coordinators.
Jodi KatzOh, okay.
Georgina GooleyYes. Then you went to Executive, Account Manager, yeah, slightly different, but yeah, Account Coordinator, Business Coordinator.
Jodi KatzI was an Assistant AE my first job out of college at BBDO in New York, working on Visa credit cards, which was a big account. It was a fun account. We had a lot of women on the account too, which was cool.
Georgina GooleyYeah. Right. Yeah. We had a pretty female heavy accounting.
Jodi KatzWas McDonald's the type of account where it was like you were always in production, you're always-
Georgina GooleyYeah. They're advertising every day of the year, so you're always in some strategic development for a campaign, and in production for another campaign. In Australia, they were a big advertiser, so yeah, there was lots of production dollars to play with.
Jodi KatzWhy did you take your first job in that business?
Georgina GooleyI really liked the idea of advertising. From quite a young age, I actually was in a few, as a child, was in a few commercials myself.
Jodi KatzOh really? That's so fun.
Georgina GooleyJust little, little parts, nothing glamorous, or anything.
Jodi KatzWere you like five? How old were you?
Georgina GooleyYeah, like five or even going into teenage years. Just being on set, where the commercials were being made, and seeing the storyboards up on the wall, and seeing the whole back of house process, that really got me interested in advertising. I liked this idea of bringing a strategy to life through a creative means.

Then I started to think about, how come some brands really resonate with some consumers, while other brands fall flat, just really understanding that relationship between brand and consumer. But that all really started through just have been exposed to a few commercial sets.
Jodi KatzThat's so awesome. I would imagine that as a kid it would be so fascinating to see how a commercial gets made, right.
Georgina GooleyYeah.
Jodi KatzAnd you got to be at the center of it.
Georgina GooleyYeah, it was like bringing to life magic.
Jodi KatzDo you remember any of the commercials that you were in, that they were advertising?
Georgina GooleyYou know, one was like shoes. Another one would be face cream, just little things, little side parts. I think, there was a music video at one point, but just as an extra. It was just fun to be on set, and see how everything came to life.
Jodi KatzRight. I'm curious, because we produce for the agency all the time, who on set was the most commanding to you? Was it the Director? Was it an agency person, a client person? Do you remember who got your attention, just from a curiosity perspective?
Georgina GooleyWell the person you're interacting with the most is the Director, because they're giving you immediate feedback on what to do on camera. But I was always very curious of the group of people that were sitting behind the monitor, and looking at the storyboards, and checking off each of the frames, and making sure that we were capturing all the pieces of content to pull together one message. I think as I grew up in teenage years, that became more prevalent, and I really liked that. I really liked something, taking it from paper and bringing it to life.
Jodi KatzWell you're one of those people behind the monitor now.
Georgina GooleyYeah. That dictated what I went to go on to study at university. I did media and communications focusing on marketing. Then when I graduated, I knew I wanted to get into the advertising space.
Jodi KatzAfter DDB, is that when you moved to New York?
Georgina GooleyYes.
Jodi KatzWhat did you move to New York with a job?
Georgina GooleyYeah. I moved and I worked at an agency called BBH New York, and worked on a number of clients there, in fashion, in video games. Yeah, that was another good experience. I think the first agency job that I had was very production focused. The second one was more about crafting a strategy, and all the work that goes into before you bring it to life in production.I was at that agency for two years.

Then I actually moved to the West Coast to Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Oregon. There I worked for three years. I worked on Old Spice.
Jodi KatzOh, that's fun.
Georgina GooleyYeah. It was really fun, was super fortunate to be surrounded by really smart, great people, at every job, really, and people that were very passionate about creating ads or campaigns that really resonated with people. There's so much advertising out there, it's all clutter, so how can you create something that people actually remember, and care about, and like?
Jodi KatzTell us, what's the answer?
Georgina GooleyI think it's just really trying to marry, what is your product, and what do you stand for as a brand? Then, what's happening in culture, and who your consumer is? Where is that sweet spot, or that middle ground where you, as a brand, have a right to say something, and they actually care about? That takes a lot of research, and knowing who at the core what you stand for as a brand, what the product you're delivering, how that helps the consumer, and then what the consumer cares about. It's a lot of research, and then you trial and you test different things, but hopefully you can hit a nerve, and people really care about what you're building.
Jodi KatzLet's segue into Billie, that you have the job in Portland, and then after that job, you started working on Billie.
Georgina GooleyYeah.
Jodi KatzHow long has this been an idea in your head?
Georgina GooleyYeah. I was shaving with men's razors for many years actually because I was very aware of the pink tax, which is this crazy pricing strategy where they charge women 10 or 15 percent more for a very similar product, just because we're women. Out of principle, I was actually buying men's razors, and seeing that there were a few companies coming up in the start-up space, but only tailoring to men, and giving men a more affordable shave experience.

But it wasn't really until I came back to New York, I met my Co-Founder, Jason Bravman, and he had been playing in the space as well. The obvious question was, how come no one's doing this for women? A new chapter in my life, thought, we should both do something about this, so we came together towards the end of 2016, and really started to build Billie. We basically built it for over a year. Then we launched in November of 2017.
Jodi KatzHow did you meet him?
Georgina GooleyWe met through a mutual friend. I was moving back to New York. He was based here in New York. A mutual friend put us in touch. We had both been dabbling in this space. Yeah, it was something that, I think, sometimes the stars align, and something happens.
Jodi KatzThat's cool. What does Billie mean?
Georgina GooleyBillie, is a female first shave and body brand. We deliver razors, and body care products to people through an affordable subscription. The name itself, it's a unisex name that we really fell in love with. When we looked at the shaving category, most women's shaving brands had been spun out of men's brands. The most obvious thing to do was, give it a woman's name, slap some pink on it, probably charge more for it, and call it a day.

What we wanted to do was find a name that was a unisex name. We fell in love with Billie because, 100 years ago, even the way it was spelled, it was predominantly a man's name. It's now been one of those names that's been taken over by women, which is what we hope to do in the shaving category.
Jodi KatzWell, you think you're a little young for this but, there was a show, Who's the Boss, Alyssa Milano, when I was younger, her character was Samantha Micelli, but they called her Sam. I always loved the idea of a girl having a name that's typically a boy's name, but that's also a girl's name. I was always really smitten by that.
Georgina GooleyYeah. Yeah. We were playing with a few different unisex names, but just really liked Billie.
Jodi KatzYeah, that's cool.
Georgina GooleyYeah.
Jodi KatzOkay, I want to talk about the entrepreneurial experience, because it is unlike anything else. Some might think it's insanity, and some might find it as an adventure.
Georgina GooleyIt's both. Yeah. Obviously you have to truly believe in what you are building because, often there's no proof that it's going to work. You have to have that gut feeling that you're going to throw yourself at this thing, and all the hours that you spend building it up, and putting all your heart and soul into it, it's going to come into fruition. I think having that deep sense of conviction is super important, and then basically the grit to just see it through, because you'll come up against lots of challenges. It's not easy. You haven't proven yourself, so you're the one that really has to push it forward.
Jodi KatzDid you and Jason always feel like it's going to happen some day, it's going to work, or were there moments where you're like, what are we doing?
Georgina GooleyNo, I think we always believed in this market. We always felt that there were just as many women as there are men. They're shaving. I don't understand why all these companies are so focused on the male consumer, and everyone is just treating women in this category as an afterthought. When no one had done it before, then the question you always are up against is, well, there must be a reason why no one had done it before. We just felt that there wasn't a good reason. We hadn't heard one. We spoke to many women.

I was buying men's razors. It didn't make sense to us. It just felt that no one had taken the time, or the energy, to prioritize women in this category. That's what we were going to do. We've had an incredible launch. We're 15 months in now. By day two of our launch, we had sold to all 50 states.
Jodi KatzThat's cool.
Georgina GooleyBy month four, we had reached our 12 month goals. It was really a demand there, but no one was addressing it. Everyone was very focused on the male consumer, giving them a better experience, or more affordable experience. Any time a woman came into play in this category, it was always like, oh, we'll get to them later.
Jodi KatzInteresting. I would think that the hardest thing about that year that you're in development, was hoping and praying that someone else wasn't going to do this first.
Georgina GooleyYeah. We were gung-ho to get to market first, make sure that we obviously wanted to launch with a really great product. We wanted to design it specifically for the way women shave. We spoke to many, many women, did many surveys, to make sure we were crafting the right product, that was for the way they shaved in the shower, but trying to do that at lightening speed. You're putting in a lot of hours, a lot of energy to make that happen.
Jodi KatzIs this a self-funded company?
Georgina GooleyNo. Again, we were raising money along the way. But I think the best way to raise money is really to show progress. Have those open conversations with people, but then when you're checking back in two months later, "The last time we spoke we were here, and now we're here," and showing progress, was honestly the best fundraising strategy.
Jodi KatzYour first meeting were, this is what we plan on doing and then the check-ins?
Georgina GooleyYeah. Yeah, or just follow-ups, keeping conversations alive. We were two first-time founders. This was a market that a couple of men's brands had been in, but no one was doing it for women, so they really wanted to see, can you do something here? Since then we've raised significant amount of money, and we've just actually announced our series A raise. We raised $25 million.
Jodi KatzOh my God! Congrats...
Georgina GooleyThank you. Yeah, so just super excited, super excited that all-
Jodi KatzAre you dancing up and down, seriously, what does that feel like?
Georgina GooleyYou put your heart and soul into this, so it is really gratifying to see that other people see that there is the opportunity that you always believed in, right? But then, we're very busy all the time, so it's like right, we have that, we celebrate, and then, how are we going to build the business from there?
Jodi KatzHow do you celebrate that?
Georgina GooleyI celebrated with the team. Yeah. It's just becomes ... We're a small team, so it's very much just acknowledging everyone's hard work, rewarding people for that hard work, and then figuring out where to go from there.
Jodi KatzDo you jump on the bed when you get home? How do you take that energy and that feeling of success personally? What did you do with that personally?
Georgina GooleyWell I think it doesn't happen just like that, it is a process. So, I think when it finally closed, and it was right before the holidays, it was just honestly a moment to reflect, and decompress, because you have all this pent-up energy. It was actually quite nice, because we did have that holiday break. You could just sit with it and absorb, and then come back in the new year and figure out, right, now this is phase two of Billie. How are we going to use those proceeds to build great products, and have more customers, and grow the team, and all of that?
Jodi KatzI feel like dancing on the bed for you.
Georgina GooleyThank you.
Jodi KatzDoing what you're doing's really hard. Being responsible for other people's money, in the situation that you're in, right, is really scary.
Georgina GooleyYeah.
Jodi KatzIt's a responsibility.
Georgina GooleyIt's a responsibility, absolutely.
Jodi KatzI will just dance on the bed tonight.
Georgina GooleyThank you.
Jodi KatzI'm excited for you.
Georgina GooleyThank you. Yeah, you're going from, at the beginning people being like, "Why hasn't anyone done this in the women's space, to this is pretty amazing."
Jodi KatzWhen you were meeting investors for the first time, were there people that were like, "No, that's not a good idea?"
Georgina GooleyYou meet lots of people, and everyone has an opinion. Yeah, obviously you want to partner with investors that believe in your vision, believe that there's an opportunity, believe in the brand that you want to build. But there will be people along the way that either you don't see eye-to-eye, or for whatever reason, but that's just like dating. You want to find the right partner.
Jodi KatzRight. Did you or Jason ever have fundraising experience, because this was a big thing to do?
Georgina GooleyYeah. No, this is both our first company together, and separately. It started pre-launch, you have an idea of what you want to do. You meet a lot of people, and obviously as you launch, you then have metrics that you can share, and show your success. It becomes easier to have those conversations because, you're showing actual data, versus just a vision. Yeah. Those conversations evolve as the company matures as well, but you have a lot of them over the years.
Jodi KatzOkay. Tell me your first shaving memory.
Georgina GooleyI begged my Mom to shave my legs. I think I'd watched one of those '90s rom com movies, and the shaving shot was part of the getting ready routine, where it was very glamorized. She puts eye shadow on, shaves her legs, gets ready to go out. It just looked very adult and glamorous. I think I was about 13 years old at that point, and I asked my Mom. She was resistant at first because she maybe didn't want her little girl to grow up. But I think eventually, maybe after two weeks of begging, I shaved my legs.
Jodi KatzWhat did she give you to shave with?
Georgina GooleyI think she might have given me my Dad's, a new one of my Dad's razors, or something like that, something that we had lying around the house. I just remember shaving my legs and being super proud to wear shorts, or a skirt, or whatever I was wearing that day.
Jodi KatzMy memory is, I remember being at camp, and hanging out with some of the girls who were a little older than me, like a year or two, and they were shaving.
Georgina GooleyRight.
Jodi KatzI remember asking, and I'm sure she said, "No," a thousand times. Then eventually she acquiesced, and my Mom gave me her electric razor.
Georgina GooleyOh right.
Jodi KatzI just remember it being like, this is doesn’t work... It shortened the hair.
Georgina GooleyYeah.
Jodi KatzBut then I moved onto ... You know those baggies of disposable razors?
Georgina GooleyYeah.
Jodi KatzThey're really poor quality.
Georgina GooleyYeah.
Jodi KatzThat's just the next thing I moved onto. I had no idea that there was anything better than that, until I was in my 20s. I had a friend who ... I was like, "Why are you using that?" "I don't know."
Georgina GooleyYeah. When you go from a disposable two, three blade razor to one that's actually designed for comfort ... For example, the Billie razor has ... It's 360 degrees with aloe shave soap around the blades, so wherever you're going, you have that extra lubrication. It's like a dream, compared to dragging a blade against your skin.
Jodi KatzI used to cut my legs a lot. There weren't a lot of brands speaking to this. There was no social media back then.
Georgina GooleyYou just thought that was part of the experience.
Jodi KatzIt was normal.
Georgina GooleyIt's like shaving a bit of blood.
Jodi KatzThis friend who asked me, I remember her, looking at her legs, and being like, "Oh my God, she doesn't look like she has any hair on her legs." Now I understand why, she had a better tool.
Georgina GooleyRight. Yeah.
Jodi KatzI'm not a daily shaver. I'm like, let the stubble pile up, and then I'll get around to it.
Georgina GooleyRight.
Jodi KatzWhat are you?
Georgina GooleyI'm a daily shaver, just out of habit, and I just like that real freshly-shaved feel. I'll shave, and then I'll put some moisturizer on. Even if it's just a little, it's just now it's so easy, I just boop, boop and so it honestly takes me like 10 seconds.
Jodi KatzDo you have data, like the percentage of your customers who are daily shavers, versus people like me who are just, when we get around to it?
Georgina GooleyYeah. We have, when you sign up with Billie, one of the questions is, "How often do you shave?" I think what we knew from our research was, some women are daily shavers, some every few days, some once a week, whatever. But there wasn't a one size fits all model. So we built our business that way. If you do every day, we'll send you a refill pack every month, a few times a week, every two months, and then every three months is the other one. Yeah. I think most people fit in the, a few times a week.
Jodi KatzMm-hmm (affirmative).
Georgina GooleyYeah.
Jodi KatzHave you learned anything about shaving that you didn't know before you started Billie?
Georgina GooleyI think we just quantified a lot of things. Women shave ten times the surface area of men. We're obviously going through lots of curves, and in little areas, like under your arms. The design, obviously you can shave with a men's product, but when you shave with a women's product, that's designed for the way they shave in the shower, if you have shave cream running down your leg, these little nuances in the product design really make an everyday task a lot more delightful. The aloe shave soap, having space between the blades, so they don't get clogged with hair, or shave cream, having rounded edges, so that you're not poking your self if you're going under your arms, just the nuances, I think getting really technical, seeing how women like actually hold the handle so that they have that secure grip ...
Jodi KatzDo you think that's different than how men hold their handles?
Georgina GooleyYeah. Men are shaving their face, and often in front, so they're holding it, versus women who are often shaving like that.
Jodi KatzDragging it.
Georgina GooleyOr dragging it.
Jodi KatzRight, I'm just ... You can't see this, because it's it’s a podcast but I’m putting it on to my face, and I'm actually not ... I'm not tight wrist ...
Georgina GooleyYeah.
Jodi KatzRelax wrist...
Georgina GooleyYeah. Whereas women often have their index finger on the handle, and their thumb on the corner, for that control.
Jodi KatzRight.
Georgina GooleyThen even where we keep our razors. We keep it often in the shower. We asked women, "Where do you keep it?" "In the shower, I would use a holder, but those suction cups never work. They fall down." We wanted to design a magnetic holder, where we put it on the wall with power putty, and then the handle attaches through magnetic force, but it stays up there. That was just solving a very simple problem, but no one had done that before. Everyone's using suction cups, and they just fall down, so your razor ends up in the shower puddle.
Jodi KatzRight. Mine just gets knocked off of whatever shelf-
Georgina GooleyAlways.
Jodi KatzFor sure. Okay this is exciting. Tell me, in your first year and a half, it's been a year and a half?
Georgina GooleyOh, like 15 months.
Jodi KatzOkay. What's been the most surprising part of the entrepreneurial journey for you?
Georgina GooleyThe most surprising, well, when you've spent a year planning the launch, it's like almost like planning a party for a year. Then the day it launches, you're like, is anyone going to show up? Are they going to have fun? I think the customers' reaction to us has really been the most satisfying part of this whole experience, that they love the brand, that they vouch for the product, that they tell their friends and family, just that virality that we created, I think that's been the most exciting part of it. That's the goal, right? You hope for it, but you can do everything in the world to hope for it, but until it happens, I think that's been the most exciting part of the journey.
Jodi KatzWhat keeps you up at night?
Georgina GooleyI think honestly, there's just so much we have to do on a daily basis. It's really about being disciplined, and prioritizing, and putting your energy in areas that will grow the business the most. I think I recently saw someone's quote about, "Don't let urgent get in the way of important," which it really stood out to me. I think that's a really good philosophy to take because your to-do list is never ending. It will never, ever end. It's forever. But that doesn't mean everything on there has equal priority.
Jodi KatzMm-hmm (affirmative). What is your dream for Billie, beyond what you've already accomplished?
Georgina GooleyYeah. I want Billie to be a household name. I want women around the States, and they beyond, to just really identify with the brand, really love it, be proud to have Billie products in their household. I want to be able to go into any girlfriend's bathroom and peek into their shower, or their medicine cabinet, and not be surprised that Billie is there. I want it to be ... Everything that we're doing is to create a really accessible brand, clean products that work really well, that you can afford to adopt into your everyday lifestyle.

I think sometimes you get these brands where they're a great product, or what not, but they're really expensive, so you get them as a gift, versus actually adopting into your everyday grooming routine. That's the dream.
Jodi KatzGreat. What you've done, which is, I think, the magic is you created a product people can afford. You've given them pride of purchase, like they're really proud.
Georgina GooleyRight.
Jodi KatzRight. They're part of your team.
Georgina GooleyYeah.
Jodi KatzThey're not doing it because it's the only product they can afford. They're doing it because they want to.
Georgina GooleyRight. Yeah. I think that's the importance of building a company that's not just about trying to sell as much product as possible, but really standing for something meaningful. For us, from the very beginning, we were aware that this pink tax exists, so we wanted to make sure that we were pricing ourselves, not only half the price that you would find in a drugstore, but in line with those affordable men's razor subscriptions, so eliminating the pink tax from this category. This category is one of the worst for the pink tax.

Then how we were having this relationship with women, instead of shaming them for having body hair, saying, we sell razors, but it's up to you if you want to use them. You shouldn't feel like you have to, to fit a beauty standard that's been mainstreamed.

We did Project Body Hair, and we launched that in the summer. That was a video basically saying, shaving is a choice, not an expectation. We were the first women's razor to actually show body hair and acknowledge that it exists, which is crazy, given that this category is like a hundred years old in America. That really resonated with women. Shavers, non-shavers saying this is a brand that isn't trying to shame women, and making them look a certain way. That video that we created is, I think now has like 22 million views. It was covered in like 23 countries, a million and a half engagements, in terms of likes, and shares, and comments. We were getting all these comments in languages we didn't even understand. Yeah, just building something that's more than just trying to sell product.
Jodi KatzGreat. Well thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today. This has been incredible.
Georgina GooleyGreat.
Jodi KatzFor our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Georgie. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes, and for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram @Wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.
Georgina GooleyThank you so much.
Announcer:Thanks for listening to, Where Brains Meet Beauty™, with Jodi Katz. Tune-in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.
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