Episode 13: Jasmine Garnsworthy, Founder of The Buff

Meet Jasmine Garnsworthy. Freelance writer and editor, and founder of The Buff. Listen as this Australian native shares her secrets of launching a bootstrap skincare brand only four months young. Episode includes tips & tricks for the budding entrepreneur.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty, hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzI'm so excited to say that today we are joined by Jasmine Garnsworthy. She is a freelance writer and editor, and most notably the founder of The Bust, a new skincare brand. Welcome Jasmine.
Jasmine GarnsworthyThank you, hi.
Jodi KatzWe're so excited to have you here. Our listeners are incredibly curious about the path and journeys of executives in the beauty industry. Not the PR sunny, everything's fine, everything's great version that we hear so often, but the reality, the honest truth. You certainly have an interesting story to tell. I'm so excited for you to share it with our listeners.
Jasmine GarnsworthyThank you, I'm excited to be here.
Jodi KatzJasmine and I met recently, and what I learned about her is that she is entering the world of beauty entrepreneurship after being an expert herself as a freelance writer and editor. Jasmine, I think it would be so interesting for you to tell us why you wanted to launch your brand?
Jasmine GarnsworthyYes. I mean, I made the move to becoming a freelance writer and editor after working full time for various publications for years. I don't know, it felt like quite a natural fit. Once I scratched that entrepreneurial itch, I wanted to take it further with launching my own company. I also had a really amazing experience with moving to all natural skincare, particularly beauty oils. I had really bad acne breakouts, about a year and a half ago. I don't know if anybody knows about New York acne, but it's an actual thing that does happen. I tried all the normal things to try and cure it. I was about to go on Accutane, and I went and saw a medicinal herbalist, and she said, "Clean up your diet, clean up your beauty routine, go all natural and just see what happens before you do something that drastic." I did, and within weeks I just saw a huge difference in my skin. I just thought this is something I wanted to share, and I bet I can build a really great business out of this.

I launched The Buff. Now we focus on customized beauty oils, and we also have a line that we're starting to retail as well.
Jodi KatzLet's talk about walking into the world of owning a business, where you have products, and fulfillment, and distribution, and web sales. Before as a freelance writer, there's no overhead. It's just you, a computer, and a phone. What was going through your mind when you were making the decision to actually do this? When it comes to the lifestyle change, and the finances required to start a product company?
Jasmine GarnsworthyI mean, it is obviously a little bit daunting, but I started really small, I started with one product, the customized beauty oil. The investment wasn't as huge. I taught myself how to build a website, I studied an organic skincare formulation so that I could do all the testing, and the product formulation myself, and just go to a lab for kind of the final step. I bought a professional label printer at home so I could do all that myself as well, rather than ... I try to meet minimum order quantities and that kind of thing. I think I realized pretty early on that it would be totally prohibitive if I didn't learn how to do that stuff myself. It was just about kind of seeing what the problems were, what was going to be too expensive, too hard, and kind of learning how to just do it myself. A lot of it.
Jodi KatzWere you allowing the freelance writing to sort of pay the bills for the stuff, the education, the label maker? Right? The lab? You kept your day job, right, doing this?
Jasmine GarnsworthyYeah. I still try and write a little bit. It's something that I love to do, but I used to write four or five stories a day, and now I just write a couple a week kind of thing, just to continue doing it. When I first started, it was definitely digging into savings, and paying for it with my other job.
Jodi KatzI love that you found solutions around the challenges. Finding a label maker at home that can give you that customization, and you know how powerful and incredible customization is. Customers love it, influencers love it, editors love it.
Jasmine GarnsworthyYeah.
Jodi KatzI loved that you looked for solutions outside of that obvious. Were there any big things that you couldn't find, like a reasonable solution for in the beginning?
Jasmine GarnsworthyI mean everything took time. I remember the first round of labels that I printed, I had a normal printer and it was a disaster, and I remember we spent hours and hours trying to get it to work, and then just realizing that a 200 dollar printer from Staples wasn't going to cut it. We needed a 4,000 dollar printer from Premera professional printer. I just had no idea. It's all trial and error. I mean, I do think there's a solution to everything, it's just some are more easy to find than others, I guess.
Jodi KatzFor the listeners out there who are early stage entrepreneurs like yourself, or who even those who are thinking I'm ready to quite my day job as a lawyer, or even something else, and start a beauty company. Walk us through what a day in your life is. What are you doing, how do you do it? Until what crazy hours in the morning are you doing it until?
Jasmine GarnsworthyIt does differ a lot depending on what I have going on. The customers are pretty well split across Australia, I'm Australian myself, and the US. We get a lot of inquiries and orders that come in overnight, so when I wake up it's pretty early in the morning. I probably sit down and start working around seven. The first thing I do is check those customer inquiries that come in over night, answer those, see if there were any issues that need to be actioned straight away. If I've got any writing to do that day I'll probably do that next. Then honestly, the rest of the day is a mix of working from a lab in Brooklyn, blending oils, and mixing the products to actually fulfilling the orders, packing the boxes, shipping them out. It looks glamorous on Instagram, but so much of it honestly is just the grind of actually producing the product, packing orders, responding to emails, and then at night kind of I have someone helping me with PR now as well, so kind of responding to her and strategizing with her about how we can get the word out, that kind of more interesting fun stuff is definitely after hours, kind of later in the evening.

It depends. My boyfriend is super supportive, he helps me a lot. We work until like two or three o'clock in the morning. He'll come home from his job. He is chief label officer, he does a lot of the customization, printing, and stuff. It's super helpful, and completely unpaid. Bless him. It does differ everyday, but it is usually producing product, kind of hustling on any marketing opportunities that come up and responding to customers.
Jodi KatzHow do you deal with looking at the competition? Do you feel like you're constantly studying what other skincare and specifically oil brands are doing, or are you able to kind of block it out?
Jasmine GarnsworthyI mean, it's impossible not to. I'm still on a lot of press lists, I still write about beauty a lot. I find out about product launches, which leaks the second they happen, I have an email in my inbox. It is hard to stay in your own lane and focus on what you're doing now. It's easier to have a million ideas of new products that we want to bring out, new things that we have to do, but I think right now the focus is on just nailing what we have. Focusing on distribution of what we currently have. It definitely is hard not to get distracted by what everyone else is doing. For sure.
Jodi KatzOn the topic of developing a brand from scratch, I've talked with a lot of people through the years, and some of them are like you. They're doing it bootstrap, just whatever money they have investing what they can, spending a lot of time doing it. Others are not going to do anything until they have that investment from external money. Why did you choose the bootstrap pass?
Jasmine GarnsworthyI guess I just didn't really see it as an option. I wanted to do something myself, I wanted to do it now. I don't know a lot about raising money, and I just saw that as a distraction from what I feel to be the kind of primary purpose of what I'm doing which is making an amazing product, and getting it to as many people as possible. Then I thought raising money before I even know whether I even know whether there was buyers for the product, it didn't make sense to me. I know that it's definitely worked with other companies in the past, but we definitely just wanted to make sure that the desire is there, and now the profits from the business are kind of fueling its own growth. At the moment it doesn't seem like we're going to need external investment anytime soon, which I think is great. It also gives you 100% ownership of the business. [crosstalk 00:10:27]. Yeah, thank you.
Jodi KatzTwo things I want to talk about. One are just what are the moments that you just want to break down and cry, and be like why am I doing this? Two is the success that you've had with PR. Let's start with the stuff that's hard, or maybe it's not even hard, it's just like you're having one of those days. What are the kind of things that just pile up on your shoulders that just make you feel like you've had enough, and you hit a breaking point?
Jasmine GarnsworthyI think ... I don't have a team at the moment. I have a couple of people helping me every now and then. I have someone in Australia who's part time. My boyfriend who is very supportive, but it's my boyfriend who is very supportive. I burn myself all day. I'm in my own company, I'm trying to solve all the problems myself, and I guess not really having a business partner and not having a team yet, where I can necessarily bounce ideas. That does get difficult sometimes. Again, I'm kind of learning how to overcome that by I'm not the only person in the world who's started a business, so it's just reaching out to other people and kind of building a network of support. What was the rest of the question?
Jodi KatzWhat drives you to that moment when you just feel like you want to break down and cry?
Jasmine GarnsworthyThe moment I want to break down and cry ... It's funny, because it's also a great thing. I guess when there's just like a lot of orders to get through, and I know I've got a tray to finish, and I've been up since six. That kind of thing will make you break down and cry. I think probably worse than that is a slow week, which I think I [inaudible 00:12:16]. As hard as it is working late, and putting in those hours, the worst thing is when you have a quiet week, and you think it's going down the drain.
Jodi KatzRight. It's like you can't live with it, you can't live without it. You work so much, but then it's terrifying actually to have all that work. It's definitely something that requires a new mindset to move through, when you're so overwhelmed with everything that you ever wanted, it's happening right now, but you're exhausted, right?
Jasmine GarnsworthyExactly. Yeah.
Jodi KatzBeing as you work by yourself primarily every day alone, what are some of the things that you do to get yourself out of your chair? As an entrepreneur myself, I work from home, my team is mostly virtual. I could just get into my home office at nine a.m., and not get out of my seat except to grab something to eat, until six, which I don't think is really good. I feel like sometimes force myself to get up and go into town, and get something to eat, or run to Trader Joe's, and do something not work. It requires a lot of work, to actually have to talk to myself in my head. It's really time for me to get out of my seat.
Jasmine GarnsworthyYeah.
Jodi KatzHow do you get yourself out of your seat? How do you do it? What do you tell yourself?
Jasmine GarnsworthyYeah. I mean, I try and meet up with people for coffee as much as possible. I have a couple of friends in town from Australia right now, both of them are business owners. While they're here I'm going to try and meet up with them as much as I can, we can talk about business, or we can just hang out. I think I need someone to hold me accountable to you are supposed to be here at three o'clock, or half an hour. I'm much more likely to be there and do it. Also, if there are events, I try to get to as much as possible, like conferences, that kind of thing. There's a founder event that's coming up, which is going to be awesome, so I've locked myself into doing stuff like that. I think it's just about finding interesting things to do, and committing yourself to it in advance. There definitely are days when I don't leave the house, and the my partner comes home from work and I realize I haven't seen another person all day. I'm very much still in it, I'm still working out the solutions to all these things. It can be tricky.
Jodi KatzI like it when my husband comes home, and says something about the weather, I'm like, I wouldn't know I never went outside.
Jasmine GarnsworthyI have absolutely no idea.
Jodi KatzOkay, so let's switch gears and talk about the success you've had with PR, because you're a brand new brand. You just launched January of this year, so this is the fifth month of the year. You've been in business for literally four months and one day. You've really gotten a crazy enough of props for such a small young brad in such a short amount of time. No doubt it's had a lot to do with the fact that you probably know the right people based on your freelance work. Walk our listeners through your strategy for how to approach this, because this is kind of the low hanging fruit for all brands. How do I get my product in front of people who write about products? Walk us through what you've been doing, and what's been really successful for you, and what hasn't worked so well.
Jasmine GarnsworthyYeah, sure. I think what's really worked is being really specific about the idea that you're pitching. I make sure that I really thoroughly research somebody. I know what they've recently written about, I know their direct email address. Never email an editor at Vogue.com. No one checks those inboxes. Making sure I get the right contacts, know a lot about them, and can really tailor a specific niche for them. I think the branding also really helps, I can feel confident that I know that my brand's imagery and our aesthetic will suit the publishers that I'm pitching, because I think that visually it needs to be really appealing as well. Then, if somebody does respond, making sure that I get samples in their hand as soon as possible so that they can see that the product does work. They can see that the quality of the oil is great, that it's cold pressed, that it's unrefined. Just getting it in their hand as soon as possible, and just making sure that samples go out immediately.

Things that haven't worked, it's really interesting to see which editorial mentions perform in terms of sales, and definitely any coverage that's kind of talks about my story, and why I started the brand, and the story behind it, definitely seems to really spike sales, where as just a simple mention of my product doesn't really do that much, which I think is really interesting. That's my science behind it, is really sharing the why behind the brand, why it works why you started it, I think it really important.
Jodi KatzYou're saying that when the coverage talks about your New York city acne, and the struggles, and potentially going on medication for it, and then taking a break and trying something new, that story is really relatable to the reader?
Jennifer WalshYes, definitely. It really resonates with people.
Jodi KatzI would think that it's actually kind of hard for a brand to get their story out, right? It's much easier for you to be in a roundup, right? Eight new shades of lipstick we love, and then just talk about the lipstick is made out of, or the founder story. How can a brand as young as yours get that story to be front and center in the coverage that they're hoping to get?
Jasmine GarnsworthyFor me it was just about pitching the right editor, being really honest about my story. I have before and after pictures of my skin, which I think was really helpful as well. We created an E guide as well that kind of walks through the very specifics of how the product works, that kind of thing. It's really evidence based, my story is really backed up with ... It's well documented. I think that helps as well. Then it just comes down to luck that your story resonates with the editor that you pitch to, and they want to write about it.
Jodi KatzRight, so for people who are not as savvy in this space as you, since you are on the inside, you sort of started on the inside track of how editors and writers think, brands that are founded by maybe a former attorney who turns into a product developer, does she need to be intimidated by the process of reaching out to editors, is this something that anybody can do?
Jasmine GarnsworthyYes, definitely. I mean it always helps to have if you can afford it, it does help to have a PR person, because they'll often have an existing relationship with an editor, so a lot of the editors that I have been pitching, I have a preexisting relationship with them, so I know my email's going to be opened. You can buy that with a publicist. They have a preexisting relationship, they know that the email is going to be opened and responded to. Even if you don't get coverage immediately, you know that the editor is going to be familiar with your brand because they've opened your email and they've seen the pitch. In saying that, as long as you send a tailored email, you get the right contacts, editors get hundreds of emails a day. You definitely shouldn't feel intimidated about adding yours in there, just make sure that you've kind of got a compelling story, great imagery, and I would definitely say go for it.
Jodi KatzIt makes me think about how unusual it is for a small brand to get a ton of coverage, and I think a lot of small brands are sort of focusing their time on Facebook, or Instagram, or whatever, something social because they have a little more control over it. They obviously don't have control over if someone's going to actually convert to a customer, but they have control over the messaging. Do you see still a ton of value in the old fashioned mechanism of an editor or writer being interested in the product, writing about it, publishing it, and the brand benefiting from that, versus just focusing all on social?
Jasmine GarnsworthyWe have ... Especially being an early brand, I think it lands a lot of the imagery to the brand as well. Working with a really big retailer at the moment on an exclusive line, and that is just now, but that can be super exciting, and that came from them seeing us on [inaudible 00:21:25]. That kind of thing, and buyers are scouring those kind of websites to see what is new. I really do think that it's definitely worth investing in that space, for sure. That doesn't mean that social media isn't worth investing in. We definitely do micro influence. We're not paying someone with 100,000 followers to write a post about us, but if we're looking through Instagram and I see someone who has a really great feed, and it looks like what we're going for, they have a few thousand followers, I'll reach out to them and offer them gifting for a post about it. Most of the time they say yes. It definitely A gives us great content to share, and B, it directs more traffic to the website.
Jodi KatzThat's another topic that I think a lot of young brands aren't sure how to handle, this idea of can I play in the influencer space. I don't have a million dollars, what do I do? I think sometimes you just don't do anything because they don't' know what to do, its' so overwhelming and all you hear about is stories that everything is pay to play, and they don't have the money for it. Let's talk about the micro influencer strategy. Can you define that for our listeners and give us a sense of why it works?
Jasmine GarnsworthyYeah. I mean how we've been approaching it, is I don't have a budget, we definitely don't have a budget to be paying someone a thousand dollars for an Instagram post at the moment, even just to test it. I still want a type of presence on social media. I know it's really important, and also it was a really affordable way to generate content for our own feed. Basically, I just spent a lot of time searching through, looking for people that feel on brand, who take good photos, who are clearly interested in beauty and wellness, and who look like they're influencers within their social network. Whether that's specific to beauty, or in more of a kind of broad sense, and then I just reach out to them and explain what we do, and as if they do use beauty oils, would they like one customized, and honestly no one's ever said no. They're really excited to be a part of it, and all that does is the cost of the product and shipping.
Jodi KatzGreat, and how do you track any sort of feedback for success? Do you follow up with them all?
Jasmine GarnsworthyYeah, so a great way to track whether an influencer ... Because obviously you can't track specific campaigns on Instagram if it's just gifting or a micro influencer. What you can do is give somebody a unique discount code, which will also encourage people to click their own shopping cart. It also allows you to track how many people have used that code, which means they were referred by that specific influencer, so you can see whether it's been worth it or not.
Jodi KatzHas that been fruitful for you?
Jasmine GarnsworthyYeah, definitely. It's something that we're really ramping up at the moment. After testing it over the last couple months, it's going to be more of a priority, for sure.
Jodi KatzAs a last thought, what are you looking for in the future? Obviously the brand is four months young, but let's say in a year from now, what goals are you working towards? What do you have your sights set on?
Jasmine GarnsworthyYeah, I mean at the moment we're focusing really hard on distribution, and finding really clever ways to allow women to customize natural beauty products, so that's through innovative new products, different sort of digital features on the website and that kid of thing. Hopefully within a years time we'll have a much more robust bricks and mortar presence with the brand, and also a really solid product lineup as well.
Jodi KatzJasmine thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and your experience, I'm sure there are so many people taking detailed notes today as they listen to this, and get to take advantage of all your learnings. This has been a really interesting, thank you.
Jasmine GarnsworthyThanks so much for having me.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to Where Brains Meet Beauty with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

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