Episode 112

Rochelle Weitzner, CEO and Founder of Pause Well-Aging, spent years as a C-level executive improving the bottom line of brands dedicated to the idea of anti-aging. Until one day, she experienced her first hot flash, and realized the beauty industry’s attitude as literally anti-age left her, and millions of women her age, underserved if not outright ignored. So at 50, she started a brand made for menopausal skin. In the process of doing so, she’s also created a platform for destigmatizing menopause and allowing women to age on their own terms.

 

AnnouncerWelcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY™ hosted by Jodi Katz, Founder and Creative Director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHey everybody, it's Jody Katz, your host of Where Brains Meet Beauty™ Podcast, thank you so much for tuning in. I'm very grateful for your support. This week's episode features my client Rochelle Weitzner, she is the CEO and founder of Pause Well-Aging, and I hope you tune in and love her story. You'll hear the word menopause very often in this show. If you missed last week's episode, it featured Dr. Patricia Wexler, she's a dermatologist. I hope you enjoy the shows.

Hey everybody, I am so excited to be sitting with Rochelle Weitzner, she is the founder of Pause Well-Aging. Welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty.
Rochelle WeitznerThank you, I'm so excited to be here.
Jodi KatzWell, I want to give a back-story about how we met, and let everybody know that you're a client of ours. So we want to be transparent about this, and I'd like to tell my version of the story, and then you can tell your version of the story.
Rochelle WeitznerAmazing.
Jodi KatzWe are media partners with Beauty & Money Summit, so we were there last September in New York, and they do this cool matchmaking, speed-dating thing between brands. And you set up a meeting with us, and I didn't know what the meeting was going to be about, and that was a cool thing. I didn't know what we were talking about, and Robin and I were there. And the first thing you said to us is, "I'm making a brand that's all about menopause, and speaking to women in menopause." And I leaped out of my chair to hug you and sit in your lap, because I was so excited about it.
Rochelle WeitznerIt was hysterical, it was perfect.
Jodi KatzSo tell me what your experience was as you were talking to people like me at that event, about your brand.
Rochelle WeitznerYeah, so at that point, I was still looking for investors, and it was a little early on in the event, but I knew that I wanted to find the right branding partner. And I was going to use a lot of agencies, rather than building a team out, and hiring all kinds of employees. So when I signed up for Beauty & Money, because I was looking for money, and I saw that you were going to be there as this branding agency, I had to just meet you and see what you were about. But I had no idea what I was getting into.
Jodi KatzFrom that moment, I'm like, "Oh my god, this is what we've been working towards." I don't say that in a flippant way, on our team side, we've been talking about the changes on our body, there's so many of us who are in our early 40s, and it's been wackadoo for a few years now. We get down and dirty in the details of what's going on with our bodies, and we've done research around this. And to finally find a brand that's completely focused on telling these stories, and being a beacon for this information is so incredibly thrilling, and I only knew a little bit about what Pause was going to be at that moment.
Rochelle WeitznerYeah. I knew from the minute we started talking, and speaking with you and with Robin, that you guys were the perfect fit. We were going to be great partners and it's been amazing.
Jodi KatzWell, this is not an ad for Base Beauty, but it just shows me that we can move this industry forward. Let's talk, let's go back in time, why Pause? Why did you create this brand?
Rochelle WeitznerYeah. So really, it started because I had my first hot flash, and that moment happened, and I panicked. And then after I panicked, I realized, "Hold on a minute, I really think that there's a business opportunity here." I come from the beauty industry, I've been in the C-Suite for quite a while with some really well known brands, and I knew there were no brands out there speaking to women like me and my community basically, which is women roughly 45 and up who are starting to experience the three stages of menopause. A lot of people don't know there are three stages, peri, meno and post-menopause. A lot of people don't know that once you start menopause, you're in it for the rest of your life. So you could theoretically spend more than half your life being menopausal, and yet, there's no companies out there speaking to us. How is that possible?

And so I started to do some research, and got deep into the science just to understand what was going to happen, what were symptoms that I could expect. And finding that information was pretty difficult, so I knew that I wanted to create a company that offered products, tools, solutions, to help us get through this time. If we wanted help, not everybody wants help, and that's fine. I knew that this concept of anti-aging was horrible, that word to me just needs to be eliminated from our vocabulary completely. We are aging, and my feeling is I'm great with that. Let's talk about well aging, let's age the way we want to on our terms, with wellness involved. And so Pause is about products, but it's also about community and shared experiences, and offering education and information. Just a one-stop shop for where you can go to find out about this time we're about to go through.
Jodi KatzThis idea for Pause and Well-Aging could have gone off in a lot of different product directions, why start with skincare?
Rochelle WeitznerSkincare is what I know. Most recently, I was the CEO of Erno Laszlo, and it's a 90 year old skincare company. I really feel passionately about skincare, I always have. So it just made sense for me to start there, and I wanted to create a brand that was really steeped in science, so there is a lot of science here. We created our Complex, which is our ingredient story. It's this proprietary blend of vitamins, peptides, and antioxidants that's specifically formulated for women going through menopause. So dealing with that loss of collagen, loss of elasticity, the dryness that comes that we all suffer from, and just that loss of radiance.
Jodi KatzI think that this idea of well aging is probably even bigger than product could ever be, because this is about our whole world. And one of our writers wrote this line about anti-aging, "What is there to be against?"
Rochelle WeitznerExactly.
Jodi KatzSo this is really movement beyond, this is not just product, this is movement.
Rochelle WeitznerAnd that's really what I thought too. And again, just having that voice, and somebody out there speaking to women who might think this is an ending period for them. That this is a time in life where things are miserable, because they can be difficult. I don't want to sugarcoat it and say life is just wonderful, there's a lot of hard things. Hot flashes suck, brain fog really sucks, and I'm a terrible sufferer from that. But there's also some really great things, there's a lot of liberation that comes from this period of time. For me, I turned 50, I stared a company, I took up boxing. You can have a whole next chapter of life, and that's really what I want women to see. That it's not an ending period, it's not a time when beauty goes away. This is a time for what's next.
Jodi KatzHow interesting that you've worked at all these classic skincare brands through your career, that really, because that was the way the culture was at the time you worked there, that it really played up this anti-aging and making you feel less than, so therefore you need the product, and you need these ingredients. And that you've come at it from a completely different way now. What does that feel like, to look back and think about the marketing to the customer in those other brands, versus what you're doing now?
Rochelle WeitznerIt makes me feel sad that I didn't realize this sooner, but I guess I had to go through it, and I had to just have that realization that "What are we doing as an industry?" A lot of people will say, "We don't address menopause or talk about it, because it's just not sexy." No one wants to speak to that. But I think it can be sexy, so let's bring sexy back.
Jodi KatzRight, why can't it be sexy? We talk about adolescence and a lot of interesting things happen then, and a lot of weird body stuff too, so why can't this be as interesting?
Rochelle WeitznerAnd I meet a lot of women who say they feel better than they ever have, they look better than they ever have. And I think that's exactly right.
Jodi KatzSo I want to do an experiment right now, and say the word menopause, menopause, menopause, because no one ever hears this word out loud. Not on the airwaves, and in fact, we approach a lot of celebrities to partner with us on this. And guess what they said.
Rochelle WeitznerYeah, no. Right. They don't want anyone to know they're going through menopause, but this is just a basic fact of life. When you're roughly 45, that's when perimenopause typically hits. I say roughly, because it could be earlier. You could be brought into menopause from surgical reasons, so there's all different ways we get there. But on average, it's about 45 when the symptoms start. I remember I wanted to hold a focus group with all my high school girlfriends, and as I was thinking about launching the brand. And so I sent out this mass email to all my friends, we were all turning 50. I said, "I'm coming home, coming to Cleveland, want you to get together for this focus group. I'm providing drinks, and we're going to talk about menopause."

And the response to a person was, "We are not nearly old enough to be talking about menopause. Are you crazy?" But then we had our discussion, and it was like everybody was in the throws of perimenopause, whether they realized it or not. And I think it was quite a learning.
Jodi KatzThat's what I love about this right now, is that I am menopause, I'm 43, and my peri probably started at 39 for me. And change, you are menopause, so changing the face of menopause, and saying the word out loud, and not faking. What are some of the euphemisms for menopause that you've learned?
Rochelle WeitznerOh yeah, the change. That's really the big one. It's talking about the change. And I just hate that, I don't know why, it just doesn't sound modern and fabulous to me. I'd rather talk about, have you paused yet? Where are you in your pause? I'd like to change the vocabulary to talking about pausing.
Jodi KatzThis education for people my age, realizing that this is part of the menopause process, where I am right now, changing the face of it. I always thought menopause was someone my grandma's age, she's in her 80s. That's not what the face of menopause is.
Rochelle WeitznerNo. That's right.
Jodi KatzI think this is so important, which is why we did outreach to celebrities who are in their early 40s, because this is going to be a really important ... It's really important to see what menopause looks like, not just hear about the words. And the agents kept coming back to us saying, "She wouldn't even talk about this if she had a million dollars. She's not going to want to participate, because she doesn't want the male directors to know." What is there to hide? What is happening in our bodies that we should not be proud of during this time? Why would we want to hide the fact that we're in the stages of menopause?
Rochelle WeitznerI don't know, I agree with you. It just doesn't make any sense. I think that a lot of the actors feel like if somebody knows they're menopausal, they'll never get another part again. Even I've had some conversations with network TV types, programs, that have said, "We're not sure if we can even say menopause on television." Really? Why? "It's a medical condition." It's not, it's not a medical condition, just as puberty is not a medical condition. But there's so much information that we just don't even know, we have to educate people, and we just have to be talking.
Jodi KatzLet's go back in time a little bit, I want to know how you even landed in the beauty industry to begin with. What was your first job in beauty?
Rochelle WeitznerMy first job was CFO for Gurwitch Products, which at the time was Laura Mercier and Revive Skincare. And I had just spent a lifetime in paper and forest products, I was with the world's largest paper and forest products company for 19 years. And part, one of my roles was living in Paris, and I was the CFO of a billion-dollar business over there. And living in Paris, I became really enamored with beauty and fashion. When I moved back to New York, I had just decided that it was time to make a change. Paper and packaging really wasn't that exciting, so I decided to make the move to Gurwitch, which was fantastic.
Jodi KatzLet's go back in time even more, how did you end up in the paper industry? How does that happen?
Rochelle WeitznerI did my undergraduate at Tulane University, and I was attending business school there. At the time, jobs were posted on a board, and there was a posting-
Jodi KatzRight, this is going back in time, a piece of paper on a board with a thumbtack.
Rochelle WeitznerExactly. And this piece of paper said, "International Paper is looking for someone with a dual degree in accounting and finance." Well, I was literally the only one in my class that was getting a double degree in accounting and finance. And I remember saying to my best friend at the time, "This is the job for me, they're talking to me." Sure enough, I ended up interviewing with them, and my very first job was in Shreveport, Louisiana, as a financial analyst for International Paper.
Jodi KatzWhat motivated you to study accounting and finance?
Rochelle WeitznerI didn't start out that way, I first started out studying architecture. I was convinced I was going to be the world's greatest architect, couldn't really draw very well, but okay. I love design and aesthetics and things like that. And so I spent one semester studying architecture at Tulane, and the end for me was we were tasked with designing a public restroom in New Orleans for the indigent. And we had a site, and we had materials that we could use, and everything like that. So I'm designing, and I'm using skylights, and I'm making this beautiful restroom for the indigent. And at the end of your project, you had a jury of your peers. So there were 100 people in the class, stand up in front of all 99 people and explain what you did and why you did it.

And I just knew I had the best design ever. And at the end of my presentation, there was dead silence in the room. And one of the professors said to me, "So were you on drugs when you did this?"
Jodi KatzThat's the question?
Rochelle WeitznerAnd I was like, "Wait? What?" And he said, "This looks nothing like a restroom, this looks like a cathedral." And I was like, "And? What's your point?" I ended up with a C-, I said forget that. I think I need to switch to business.
Jodi KatzThey had no vision.
Rochelle WeitznerNone.
Jodi KatzWhy didn't you continue pursuing this and pushing the vision of the people around you?
Rochelle WeitznerI grew up with a goal of always wanting to be on the cover of Fortune Magazine, that was my thing.
Jodi KatzReally? Why was it your thing? When did it become your thing?
Rochelle WeitznerIt was my thing in high school, I wanted to be super successful, I wanted to just make my own way in the world, and I wanted to own a pink Lamborghini. Cover of Fortune, pink Lamborghini, those were my two goals that I was working towards. And when I realized with my C- that I was never going to be the very top, the best architect there, so likely I would be a very poor architect, I just decided that was not for me.
Jodi KatzYou switched to finance.
Rochelle WeitznerI switched to finance. Back then it was public accounting, it was the big eight public accounting firms, and that's where most people went to work. And so I knew I could always get a job in accounting, but finance was what was more interesting to me, so that was why I did the double degree.
Jodi KatzWhy was finance interesting?
Rochelle WeitznerI think I just liked the idea of playing with numbers, seeing where you could get to. I loved analysis, and accounting, I have to say, was incredibly boring and I hated every minute of it.
Jodi KatzLet's go back to Fortune Magazine, when you were a teenager, and you closed your eyes, what did you see? Are you on the cover by yourself?
Rochelle WeitznerTotally. I'm on the cover by myself, I don't know what I'm doing. I'm running some business, but that was my goal.
Jodi KatzThis is incredible to learn now, so that we can work towards it.
Rochelle WeitznerWhat's really funny is my wife definitely believes in putting together mood boards, and on our refrigerator there is a picture of me, my head on Ronda Rousey's body, because I've taken up boxing. And also my head on the cover of Fortune Magazine, over somebody else's body. And then I'm also on Forbes, because there was something about women billionaires, so she put me on that cover. So that's our inspiration board.
Jodi KatzI love this, I love the intention. Because if you put it out into the world, you can make it happen. Why not Forbes, why Fortune?
Rochelle WeitznerI don't know. Really, no good reason, just I think Fortune Magazine is what I would pick up now and then.
Jodi KatzMaybe it was in the library or something.
Rochelle WeitznerSomething.
Jodi KatzThat's so cool, I love hearing that. I didn't know that about you, I feel like I know so much about you. But to visual that this is where you want to be, and this is the goal, and it doesn't really matter what it was that you were going to be doing, but just that you know you would get there. It makes me think of something that Lady Gaga said to Oprah during one of their interviews, that Lady Gaga always imagined herself, saw this, what she has now. She moved through the world as a younger person without the success that she had, just imagining that it was happening. I understand that.
Rochelle WeitznerYeah, that's very much me. I'm the same way. I just feel like if I'm very positive about it, and I'm visualizing what's going to happen, it's going to happen. And I'm making it happen.
Jodi KatzI don't hear any self doubt or second guessing, does that ever happen for you?
Rochelle WeitznerOh, yeah. It definitely does. Especially ... Basically, it was exactly two years ago, almost exactly two years ago today that I had the idea for launching the company. And with all of the struggles that I went through, fundraising, things like ... As you could imagine, investors are mostly men, they're mostly older men, they're not terribly emotionally evolved. So some of the conversations that we had were just insane.
Jodi KatzTell me.
Rochelle WeitznerSo I might get a little vulgar, but there was one guy who was quite a bit older, and he was very uptight, is probably the best way to describe him. So here I am, I walk into the room with my pitch deck, and I'm going to talk to him about menopause. And I'm getting a little science-y, because I like to get a little science-y, and really explain why our products are as efficacious as they are, and why we've taken the approach that we have with a tool as well as the topical products. And I'm literally talking for probably 20 minutes, and at the end he just stares at me. And he says, "I have no idea what the fuck you just said. I'm going to go home and talk to my wife, and I'll get back to you."

And so that was a typically experience. I'm so thankful that I found the partner that I did, and with Grace Beauty Capital, they got it right away. Frank is very evolved, he saw that women were not being addressed and served, and that there was as huge opportunity here. He really is my perfect partner.
Jodi KatzLet's talk about these meetings, because a lot of our listeners are entrepreneurs. And probably most of them don't have menopause as part of their topic and their pitch, so you torture tested the experience. How could it get any harder? I don't know if it could.
Rochelle WeitznerJust in terms of experiences, I literally had my own Harvey Weinstein type experience. It wasn't with him, but one of the potential investors was a billionaire, and somebody that's pretty well known. And when I was meeting with him, I met with his gatekeeper first, somebody that would test ideas and see if he might be interested. The gatekeeper said, "I think this is definitely something he'll like, let's set up a meeting." The meeting was set up in his apartment, because he lives in some different places. And there was a perfectly good office, because I met the gatekeeper in the office. But no, we were meeting in his apartment. I really didn't think anything of it, I consider real estate as porn, and I love to see various places, and this was in a super fancy building. So I was like, "This is great. I'm going to get to see this fancy apartment that overlooks Central Park. Amazing."

I didn't think anything else of it. And I brought somebody with me, thankfully, we walk in, and the gatekeeper guy was there, so he answered the door. But I walk in, and this investor is laying in a bathrobe on his couch. He's sprawled out on the couch wearing a bathrobe with a blanket semi-covering him. And it was like, "This is weird, now I have to talk to this guy about menopause. And he's completely undressed." His first comments to me, it was all about my appearance, "Love your hair, your hair is so amazing. That jacket you're wearing, it looks like it's Kevlar. Do you work out? You look really fit for your age." That was awkward.
Jodi KatzWas he in the reclined position during this whole thing?
Rochelle WeitznerOh, yeah. So then I'm like, where do I sit? Do I sit at the head, do I sit at the feet? It's a C-shaped couch.
Jodi KatzThose were the seating options, to be contiguous to him?
Rochelle WeitznerExactly. Imagine this, it's the letter C and he's in the middle of the C, laying there. I think I went for the feet, because the gatekeeper guy was at the head side. I'm literally on the edge of the couch as far as I could be, and I'm talking about menopause. And then he gets a little endearing, and he's like, "I just love women so much, and I hate that they're suffering." I'm like, "Okay, you're getting it." And then the next thing I know, he gets up, and he's like, "I have to pee, I'll be right back." And goes to the bathroom around the corner, leaves the door open so that we can literally hear every drop of pee hitting the bowl.

It was the most uncomfortable experience. And I remember thinking, when the Harvey Weinstein stuff came out, "How do these women not know what they're about to get into?" Here I am now, I am now one of these women. Shocked, just shocked. So I left, I think it was 11:00 in the morning, and went straight to a bar.
Jodi KatzLet's talk about how you exit a situation like that, because that's really hard.
Rochelle WeitznerIt was hard. I kept it super professional the whole time, even after the peeing incident. And one thing I didn't mention is he had this blanket covering him, but it was like the blanket would strategically fall down throughout the whole discussion. It was hideous, absolutely hideous. So it was, you stay professional, and we agreed to follow-up, and things like that. And that was the end of it.
Jodi KatzWhat do you think he would have done if you actually went to the meeting alone, and he was the only one there?
Rochelle WeitznerThat's a good question.
Jodi KatzBecause there was safety for you, because you had the gatekeeper and someone else with you.
Rochelle WeitznerThat's right. That safety was there. I think if I walked in and I was just totally alone, and he answered the door in a bathrobe, I think I would have said, "I must have the wrong apartment," and I would have run away. Maybe, maybe not. As an entrepreneur, when you're looking to get funding for your baby, you almost are willing to do anything. But I don't know.
Jodi KatzThat's why I'm asking, because there is a point where you're willing to do anything in terms of work really hard, stay up late, take a lot of meetings, keep connecting, whatever it takes, keep asking until someone says yes. But are you really willing to do anything it takes? And the answer is no.
Rochelle WeitznerThe answer is no.
Jodi KatzRight. If you're looking back at yourself now, because you've found the perfect partner, and you're launched, it's real now, what would you say to yourself back at that meeting when you walked through the door and saw him?
Rochelle WeitznerI should have just turned around and walked out. I did follow-up with this gatekeeper person later, I said, "Can we meet for a drink?" Because I liked him a lot, and I said, "Does he do this for every meeting, or was it just me?" Because I don't know, somehow I felt like I needed that information, and he did say, "That's normal. That's how he takes meetings." Somehow that made me feel a little bit better, but then my response to this gatekeeper was, "Have you heard of MeToo?" He might want to talk to him about how he takes meetings, because that was really uncomfortable.
Jodi KatzI think now that we've heard the story, and you put it out there, you're going to get a lot of DMs from people who have been in similar situations. My guess is it's not uncommon for people who know that they have a power position, right here financial power, to take advantage of it and feed their own ego, or whatever it is. Thankfully for you he didn't touch you or be aggressive against you, but just being in the room with people like that, it really does something to your psyche. It's really bad.
Rochelle WeitznerIt's really bad. I always considered myself a super strong person, very strong willed, I know who I am, I know what I am. And the fact that I was in that situation was so surprising to me.
Jodi KatzMy guess is it's going to be surprising to you forever, because there's nothing right about it. I hope that we can empower through this conversation, our listeners, to if this person answers the door this way, you just say, "Let's make this for another time."
Rochelle WeitznerExactly.
Jodi KatzBut I know that if I were in your situation, I probably would have been sitting there like, "What do I do? How do I take the power back?" That's what, I think I challenge hierarchy, just by nature. So I would be thinking instead of "Exit the room, Jodi, you can do this another time, this person's not worth it." I would be thinking, "How do I take the power back in this situation," which I don't think is actually healthy.
Rochelle WeitznerBut I do think that's exactly what I did, because sure, I could have left, but I decided to just power on. And I was very professional in my discussion and my presentation, and went through all the facts. And I know he heard me, and understood what I was talking about, so I really did take control. And then I think he had to show me that he was taking control back by going to pee, outrageous.
Jodi KatzThis is I think what dogs do to mark their territory, right?
Rochelle WeitznerThat's right.
Jodi KatzLet's transition to the topic of dogs, and Coco is an important part of your life for 13 years. Tell us about Coco.
Rochelle WeitznerCoco is my little five-pound Maltese, Coco has traveled with me to Paris 15 times. She's a very well traveled dog, and she's very photogenic. She's got some celebrity friends, Coco's awesome.
Jodi KatzCoco's an important part of your personal Instagram, and we talked about giving her, her own too, we'll see. Let's talk, our last topic will be about your goals for the future. You've just birthed this idea and put it out into the universe, and you're starting to get the energy from other people who are really excited about this topic. What do you see happening in a year or two?
Rochelle WeitznerWe started with skincare, and we've started building this community. My expectation is that the community will continue to grow, that we will get interest from celebrities and other people, regular people too, that say, "This is so important to me, I want to be involved in this movement with you." And I expect that we'll move into more lifestyle areas as well. So we started as skincare, because it's what I know. I know it really well, I'm very passionate about it. But I think there's so many areas that we can get into, and I really want to hear from our customers too what's important to them. What are their pain points right now, and where should we focus?

Maybe it's supplements that we need to target, maybe teas to help you sleep and alleviate hot flashes, various things like that. It's going to be about providing those tools to just make life better.
Jodi KatzYou and I have talked about this example in the marketplace, that's probably similar to what will happen with Pause, which is erectile dysfunction. This was a "What? What are people talking about?" And now you can't watch something on TV without seeing a commercial for a product related to this. And there's even schlocky products, like on the subway and stuff to support it. So what people didn't want to talk about, is now just so normal, and they say what, ED for it? I think that's what's going to happen, this is not going to feel normal for people to be confronted with the word menopause, and realizing that's part of their life, and this is part of their vernacular. And now all of a sudden, we're going to start talking about it, and have conversations over coffee and drinks and at work about it. And then give it a few years, and it's just going to be so regular, just like talking about adolescence and teenagers having acne. Right?
Rochelle WeitznerI think so, I definitely think so. One of the things with the name of the company, I call the company Pause, because I say, "We've taken the men out of menopause, this is just for women and by women." And so with that, I think there's also an opportunity for the dialog to just be shortened, just as erectile dysfunction is now ED. Menopause can just turn to ‘pause’. So have you paused yet, where are you in your pause? I think talking like that is going to become the thing of the future.
Jodi KatzI'm so grateful to be part of this movement with you, it's really thrilling.
Rochelle WeitznerI am so grateful to you and your team for being my partner, I couldn't be happier.
Jodi KatzThis is a love fest, and everyone should know that every meeting starts with us telling each other how much we love working together, and it concludes the same way. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today, it's incredible to have you on the show.
Rochelle WeitznerThank you.
Jodi KatzAnd for updates about the show, please join us on Instagram at Where Brains Meet Beauty Podcast.
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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