Episode 152: Diana Briceno, CEO of No B.S. Skincare

The name is catchy but it’s much more than that. It reflects an entire business ethos that revolves round clean ingredients, honest marketing, respect for customers and smart internal practices, i.e. no b.s (bullshit or bad stuff, whichever you prefer) in any of it. Learn how Diana Briceno, CEO of No B.S. Skincare, developed the “b.s. meter” that she and her team use every day as they make decisions, assuring that none of the bad stuff creeps into anything they do.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHey, everybody. It's Jodi Katz, your host of WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® Podcast. I'm so grateful that you tuned in this week's episode features Diana Briceno. She's the CEO of No B.S. Skin Care. We recorded her episode via Zoom since we are all work from home. And if you missed last week's episode, it featured Karissa Bodnar. She's the founder and CEO at Thrive Cosmetics. Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoy the show.

Well, I am very excited. This is our second ever Zoom podcast recording, so thank you for being flexible with us. I'd like to welcome Diana Briceno. She is the founder of No B.S. Skin Care. Welcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®.
Diana BricenoThank you. Hi, Jodi. I'm glad to be here.
Jodi KatzYeah, it's so nice to meet you. This is a very interesting time, because when we first talked, it was before coronavirus was a part of our life and business worlds. And now many things have changed. But I would like to start off with a question that's in line with the reason why our fans listen to the show, which is to learn about the journeys of our guests. So Diana, when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Diana BricenoI wanted to be a dolphin trainer, actually, but that was before I learned the cruelty that's behind a lot of the seaquariums and stuff like that. I just loved dolphins, and I thought that would be a really, really fun job to hang out with dolphins. Obviously, as I grew up and realized that it wasn't a great idea because of the captivity conditions and all of that that I now consider to be very wrong.
Jodi KatzWell, I do want to talk a little bit about COVID and how your company's responding later, but if we can start at the beginning, because you did not go to school to be a dolphin trainer. You went to school to be an industrial engineer. So tell us how that happened.
Diana BricenoYeah, so I remember when I was in high school, I was really confused about what I wanted to do in college. And I come from a family of engineers. My mom is a civil engineer, and so this is my dad. My older brother is an industrial engineer too. And I remember, obviously, being highly influenced by the fact that they believe, and I do now too, that engineering is a great career that teaches you how to think analytically. So beyond the specificity of the industrial process or if you're a civil engineer building something, the amount of, I guess, rational thinking with all of the math and physics that you get to a study just opens up your brain for analytical thinking. And that's what it ended up being for me. I mean, I actually only worked as an industrial engineer very, very briefly on a couple of internships, and that was it.

But I do think that it helped me in the way I approach problems and think analytically in general. So I mean, it was a hard choice because it's a lot of studying and, and sleepless nights. But I think overall, I'm happy with it. It's also a very flexible career. It allows you to work in so many fields, so I'm happy that I actually did that.
Jodi KatzWell, you got a job at Procter & Gamble, so that's a pretty cool place to start your career.
Diana BricenoYeah. Yeah. And I do believe in the universe having a plan. So maybe that was it, actually, because I remember when I was in college, I was attending one of my regular classes. And one day they said, "Oh, we have these tests." And I thought it was a test for the class. So I went end and did my test. And he was actually a P&G going to recruit people at my university. And that was the initial test that they do to ... the first filter to rule out and consider new interns. They were looking for interns at that moment.

And then when I got called in for an interview, I was like, "Wow, I didn't even know that was a P&G test." But it ended up working out. And actually, when I started at P&G, it was my internship that I needed to graduate from college. And I was studying engineering for five years. I did that in Venezuela, which is where I'm originally from. And at that point, the career took six years. It's a longer process than here in the US.

And I remember I said, "I've been studying all these hardcore math and physics and chemistry for five years." And they offered me an internship in marketing, and I was like, "That was really weird." P&G had a big R&D facility in Venezuela, so I ended up then doing a hybrid between R&D and marketing. And then I immediately fell in love with marketing, and I basically changed career path right there.
Jodi KatzSo what were some of the brands you got to work on at your time there?
Diana BricenoI started working on the feminine care category for Always Tampax and another feminine care brand that's for Latin America. And it's also in developing market ... We launched it in China and a couple more Asian markets.
Jodi KatzWell, what does it mean to be an industrial engineer on tampons? What is that job?
Diana BricenoWell, I went into marketing pretty fast, but if you really want to stick to the engineering path, there's a lot of exciting things that you could do on the tampons category. So you can work at the manufacturing facility, mostly coordinating the productivity of it and the supply chain and the quality of the products. And it's always about how to optimize the processes. You could work in the R&D lab to develop and innovate on the product. How can you make it more what consumer wants, if they want more absorbency or more comfort or more, I don't know, slimmer or a better material that's more sustainable or something like that? That's where they're always working on, and I think it's pretty interesting.

I mean, I still love that side of my, I guess, background. So even nowadays, I really enjoy going to the lab and going to the plant and seeing how the product is made. And how could we make it better? And what if we tweak this? And doing some of the quality tests myself. I still have that kind of geek in me that tries when I'm in a plant environment and get to wear a lab coat and stuff like that.
Jodi KatzYeah, I think it sounds really cool. So after P&G, you got a role in prestige fragrance.
Diana BricenoYeah, well that's within P&G. So I spent eight years of my life at P&G, and I moved countries and brands every two years. So I started in Venezuela. Then I went to Chile in South America. Then I came to the US, and then I went to Geneva in Switzerland. Two of my last roles at P&G were in the prestige division. That part of the company called P&G prestige was later ... recently, actually, a couple of years ago ... sold to Coty. But back then, it was pretty much an important big division within P&G with the headquarters in Geneva in Switzerland. And it was basically a group of licensing brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Lacoste, Hugo Boss, Alexander McQueen, and a number of other brands. And I specifically worked on developing the makeup and skincare for Dolce & Gabbana.
Jodi KatzThat sounds like a fun project.
Diana BricenoIt was really, really fun. It was interesting too. It was challenging because I was kind of like the middle person in between the P&G team and the fashion house. And it's complete opposite ways of working together, actually. The fashion house, pretty much ... They are hierarchical. Mr. Dolce and Mr. Gabbana are still there, pretty much, alive and kicking, and obviously, they have a big say in what's going on. And then at P&G, it's more about a very structured process, and it's more like the corporate America way of working, whereas the fashion houses are very Italian way of working. So I was always the middle person in between what the fashion house wanted to execute and what we could do at P&G too. I mean, it's always hard to marry the bright, creative minds with what reality is when it's time to really put together the product. But I think we did a pretty good job. I'm very proud about it.
Jodi KatzWell, how does all this lead to starting your own brand and becoming an entrepreneur?
Diana BricenoWell, it wasn't straight away, but after eight years at P&G, I realized that I wanted to do something different. And even though I loved my time at P&G, I wanted to work for a smaller company where I could have more influence on the entire process from A to C and the entire creation of a product and selling and marketing and write-up. P&G is such a big organization that you have so many people taking care of different little pieces of the puzzle. But it's hardly you get a role where you get to influence everything.

So with that in mind, I first went to a telecommunications company, and I got a global role there as marketing director. And I loved a lot about my time there because it was more focused on digital marketing and the digital world in general. So I worked in relaunching that brand, and it was the whole digital transformation happening in lives of people when they acquire smartphone. But I also quickly realized that I was really missing the beauty industry.

So I then went to work for a smaller makeup brand called Palladio Beauty that's headquarters here in Hollywood, Florida, owned by a private equity group. So I really enjoy that role. That's where I really learned to manage a brand from A to C because it was a really small team. And it's a small- to medium-sized company, so I got to do everything from product development, quality control, marketing, a little bit of sales, and business finance, a bit of everything. I did that for two years, and then I felt like I was ready to do something by myself.

I always wanted to do something. I always had that entrepreneurial mindset. In fact, when I was in college, I had my first business, and it was a swimsuit line that I did at home. So it was a made to measure bikinis, actually. Pretty awesome. I started making it for myself, and I had an employee, a person that was actually sewing the swimsuits and everything. And then I started making it for my friends, and it quickly became a thing. But unfortunately then with the P&G job taking a lot of my time, I left that behind, but I had that kind of seed in me that I really enjoyed making something from scratch for myself. So after Palladio, I met Volta Global, which is the financial group that is behind No B.S., and then jointly, we started No B.S. And it's been two years. Actually, we're celebrating the second birthday for No B.S. Skin Care.
Jodi KatzOh, today?
Diana BricenoYes.
Jodi KatzThat's so exciting. Happy birthday.
Diana BricenoThank you. We're launching a pretty sweet birthday celebration offer and promotion in our website today.
Jodi KatzThat's so great. Well, No B.S. is so interesting to me because I've been seen in a lot of places, right? I guess you've been getting a lot of press and maybe many influencers, so you're starting to really dominate in that digital ecosystem. But I love the name, right? No B.S., but it doesn't have to be a curse word. It can stand for no bad stuff, right? So why is that message important to you?
Diana BricenoIt is really important for two things, and I'll start with a simple explanation. The one thing that I realized when we were starting this new brand is that the landscape is so cluttered. There's so many beauty brands out there. It's not just the very big traditional brands, but a lot of new indie brands popping everywhere. And it gets confusing for consumers, and as a brand, it gets really hard to stand out. So the first thing is like, okay, we need a brand that stands out. So we felt that name, because of the play of words ... and it does mean no bad stuff but also no bullshit ... was one way of standing up and at least raising our hand and saying, "We're here." So that was a simple pragmatic first explanation.

And then the second one, which is more around the values of the brand has to do with what I really wanted the brand to stand for from a lifestyle point of view. So after being more than 12 years in the beauty industry, I really realized that there's a lot of BS in it. And it starts with the most tangible stuff, like the ingredients. You see products that are marketed as the next big thing, but when you read the ingredient list, you realize there's toxic stuff in it. and people don't even know. By toxic, I mean things that can cause hormone disruptions or things that can even be cancerous, things that are really harsh on your skin and that can cause inflammation, irritation. So there was a lot of bad stuff physically in the product.

And then the amount of BS within the industry surrounding the marketing tactics, how for years, it's been about portraying these amazing-looking models and a beauty standard that is really attainable ... and it's not representative of what a real woman, normal woman is. The fact that it wasn't inclusive ... and I know the industry has been doing a lot of improvement on that area, but still, it was only very recent where you would only see the similar type of people where this woman with the same type of body type, hairstyle, and skin color, unfortunately, and backgrounds. And that, I thought, it was BS too.

And then you get even more deeper into the pricing structure and how the consumer ends up paying a pink tax because it's a feminine product that maybe it's the same formula that you would find in a male-oriented product. But because it's for women, they price it higher, or all of the built-in marketing budgets and celebrity endorsements that the brands need to pay. That was pretty much the traditional way of marketing, but I thought it had to stop.

So when we started developing the brand, I was like, "I want a brand that's about a lifestyle without BS." And obviously, it starts with the product itself, but it's also about the marketing, how we do customer service. How do we talk to our clients, and how do we encourage people to live their lives? And that's another big, I guess, part of the brand that it's not just about the products that you put on your skin, but the lifestyle that you do.

So we have it in our brand manifesto. We always say, "If it's BS, let it go, whether it's an unhealthy relationship, an impossible Pinterest project, or a frenemy or that person that has bad vibes and makes you feel down after you hang out with them." So it's about letting go of all of that negativity and negative energy and welcoming what really serves you. That's going to really make an impact on your health and your skin too. Well, plus the products, obviously.
Jodi KatzSo I'm curious about what kind of impact COVID has had on the business and the way that you're communicating, because you are primarily a direct to consumer brand, right?
Diana BricenoYeah.
Jodi KatzSo tell me about what's changed for the brand or what hasn't changed during this.
Diana BricenoYeah, I mean, a lot has changed, and for the way we, I guess, relate to our consumers, we want to be as close as possible and kind of learn together how we can serve them better, basically. And one of the things we started doing is we started sending emails. I, actually, just yesterday, sent 50 to 50 of our most loyal consumers, and personal emails asking them what they do, how are they coping with it, just to learn more how can we fit better within their new normal. And so that was the first thing we did. Let's try to learn how this is impacting our consumers and how can we do better for them. And everybody in my team is also doing that, direct communication with our customers.

As far as the more mass communication, our ads and the campaigns that we have running, we obviously are shifting gears, and I'm promoting what could be good about No B.S. within this, I guess, situation that we're all in. So obviously highlighting how a self care routine ... It's important. And I know it sounds cliche, but I personally, on the first week that we worked from home, I worked in my PJs, and I was with my laptop in bed. And then I looked at the clock, and I hadn't even had breakfast. And my hair was a mess. My face was a mess, and I couldn't care because nobody's watching.

But it quickly became overwhelming, and then I was like, "Okay, the day and night are together." And I felt really bad really quick. So then I really dramatically shifted what I was doing and said, "Okay, I'm going to stick to a routine." And then I woke up at the time that I was supposed to and like I always do if I had to go to work. And then I started doing my skincare routine, and I even started applying makeup, a little bit, not full-on makeup. But that immediately lifted my mood. And then I said, "You know what? It might be even better because I get to wear a face mask in the middle of the day, and nobody really knows."

So by doing that, it really changed my dynamics. I feel more productive, more awake, more, I guess, positive and upbeat. So sharing kind of those stories and communicating to people that it's not about, okay, we really want to sell skin care. Obviously, we're a business. We do want to sell skincare, but it's about why consumers need skincare in times like this. You do have to take care of your skin and make sure it's healthy, but a lot of it has to do with your mood. And taking that time to take care of yourself really, really makes a difference.

And so that's how we shifted our message, and then also sharing a little bit of, I guess, hacks and tips like that. Like for instance, this is kind of obvious, but we forget when you wash your hands so often and you start using these alcohol-based products, like the hand sanitizers and your Lysol in everything, your hands get really, really dry. And dry, cracked skin is dangerous because bacteria and unfortunately the virus can get in quicker and easier. So we started giving away a body moisturizer, which is great for the hands, so that when you wash your hands, you also apply a little bit of moisturizer, and that acts as a barrier on your skin. So that was another thing.

And then from a business point of view, because the majority of our business is online, direct to consumer through our website, we actually haven't seen a big change. We're still selling just actually a little bit of an uplift versus pre-COVID. And I guess it's because people that maybe used to go to a store to buy their skincare now have to do it online, and they're open to trying new brands. So on that end, we're really blessed that our business is still pretty much alive and kicking and growing, actually.
Jodi KatzIt really is so fascinating to observe different businesses and how this has impacted them. Like my business, I built my agency to be a virtual business 13 years ago because that was just sort of the style of work I wanted to do. So being a virtual business is just part of who we are, so as an agency, that wasn't that challenging. Work continues, and we actually plan to grow and during this time period. But then talking to brands with brick and mortar, right, or with lots of inventory, then the inventory can't move out of the warehouse quickly because of COVID restrictions, right, or being direct to consumer, there's just so many different scenarios, so many different challenges. What I found is the community and support between competitors has been really incredible in beauty, people sharing idea, sharing recommendations. So that's been incredible to watch.

So to turn to a little bit of a lighter side of our show, your fans wrote in questions that they'd like us to ask you. So some of these might not be COVID related, and some of them will be a little more lighthearted. So the first question from @EmilyBorbor2003, she wants to know, what's your favorite way to spend your time when you're not working?
Diana BricenoMy favorite way to spend my time is at the beach. I live in Miami, and I grew up in Venezuela going to the beach every weekend. So I'm definitely a beach person. And every weekend, unfortunately, not now, but pre-COVID, I used to go to the beach. And I'm really into watersports, so wakeboarding, kite surfing, paddleboarding, anything that has to do with the ocean, I love it. And I just feel like it's like a mini break, mini vacation, and it really energizes me. I don't know if it's the salt water or the sun, but it is by far my favorite thing to do.
Jodi KatzAnd then someone else asks, the No B.S. attitude, how does that factor into your company's culture?
Diana BricenoEverywhere. So we actually try and live it ourselves and really put all of our ideas and projects and plan to the test. So our main quote is that if it's BS, let it go, or that we're severely allergic to BS. So whenever we're working on it and we feel like we're not sure, it doesn't feel right, or it's getting too complicated, we're like, "Okay, that's BS. Bye." And we're all constantly saying, "Is this BS-y or not?" And if we're even doubting, we don't do it, and it helps. It really does, because you'll be surprised, when you have your own company, how you quickly get overwhelmed by a gazillion things you want to do. And obviously, there's not enough time in the day or people that can do that effectively. So a lot of my work as an entrepreneur and as the CEO of a small company is to get rid of stuff that doesn't really add value. And I guess that that test of, is this a bit BS-y or is it really awesome, always helps because the moment we thought it, we just don't do it and move on.
Jodi KatzSo what has been your leadership style now that your whole team is working from home? What's changed or what hasn't changed for you in the way that you're leading your team?
Diana BricenoWell, obviously, we are doing everything virtually, and we have to be a little bit more disciplined now in how we communicate with each other. We were pretty much an informal company, all working in a small space together, open space. So we were pretty much just talking to each other openly and just interrupting everybody here all day for sharing ideas and just basically working out loud. Now we have to schedule like daily little ... connect via Slack or Zoom so that we say hello to each other and kind of like share what are we working on. What are your struggles? Where does anybody need help? So that has been the main, main difference.

And then the second, I would say, we've become also more disciplined in the projects that we do and the ones that we don't. So we had to go through a list of things that we were doing and decide what we're going to put on the back burner for now and what are we going to focus on that's really going to help us go through this crisis and the stuff that really has the short-term impact versus the stuff that maybe is a nice thing to do, but it can wait.
Jodi KatzRight? I went through that list a few weeks ago, and when you sit down to make that list, it's not hard to see what's not important, right? Even though all the ideas in my head, they feel super important, when I made that list of now or later, I'm like, "No, obviously, these are the nows. The laters can wait."
Diana BricenoMm-hmm (affirmative).
Jodi KatzWell, Diana, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today and for being willing to do our podcast recording over Zoom, since this is new for us. And for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Diana. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes, and for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.
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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