Episode 154: Manon Crespi, Co-Founder and CEO of Manon des Sources

In many ways, Manon des Sources CEO Manon Crespi’s journey to a beautiful head of naturally silver hair is representative of her winding path through the beauty industry — long, flowing, and sometimes challenging. After a year of literally getting back to her roots while she grew out dyed and damaged locks, Manon realized there was white space (or shall we say grey space?) in the beauty industry for a haircare line made specifically for naturally silver hair. And so Manon des Sources was born.

I am inspired by her winding journey, philosophy and her story — and I think you will be too. Give it a listen!

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. Thank you so much for tuning in this week. Today's episode features Manon Crespi. She's the co-founder and CEO of Manon des Sources. And if you missed last week's episode, it featured Frédéric Fekkai. He's the founder of Fekkai and the co-founder of Bastide. I hope you enjoy the show.

Hey everybody, welcome back to the show. I am so excited to be here with Manon Crespi. She is the co founder and CEO of Manon des Sources. Welcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®.
Manon CrespiWell, thank you. It's fun to be here.
Jodi KatzSo I'm really excited to talk about your history, your background, your journey in your career. But I'm going to start with something that you said when we had our intake call that really made me laugh and really express what it's like to be an entrepreneur. You told me it's like sipping water out of a fire hydrant.
Manon CrespiYes, that's absolutely true. I'm always learning something new just like today. I didn't realize voice memo is on my phone, but it is. And yeah, there's always something new to learn and I guess that's what does keep me going everyday.
Jodi KatzSo you didn't start your career as a beauty entrepreneur. But let's talk a little bit about the entrepreneurial journey, then we'll go back in time to what got us here. You are in the process of building a hair care brand, specifically formulated for gray hair.
Manon CrespiYes. I like to call it natural silver hair.
Jodi KatzOh, natural silver. Oh, that's beautiful. Okay. So where are you in the process and when are you going to be launching?
Manon CrespiWe have our four formulations completely done. We have our bottle design. We're ready to go to manufacture the bottles. And I think we should be launching probably in October, that's the goal. With COVID-19 it's kind of obviously changed things a little bit. But yeah, we did an Indiegogo campaign like a week before COVID-19 hit us. So that, needless to say, wasn't a spectacular turnout. But we're still aiming for October.
Jodi KatzThat's so exciting. So I'm imagining there's a lot of water coming out of that fire hydrant right now of things to learn.
Manon CrespiYes.
Jodi KatzYou told me that learning about the chemistry of the products has been really fascinating. Tell me what you've learned there.
Manon CrespiWell, I've learned, I'm definitely not going to get an A in chemistry. So I learned highlights of how our products work and how they work together. One of the biggest things that we learned, we took a survey of several of my Instagram followers, who have natural silver hair. And one of the three biggest things that they struggle with, and I do too, but it's not about me, it's about my silver sister community. We learned that the pain points are dry hair, coarse hair and yellowing. When you have natural silver hair, it's really easy for it to get yellow. So the way it works for me with my manufacturing partner is I tell the chemist, this is the outcome or the performance that I want for this product. These ladies struggle with coarser, dryer hair. So every single product needs to be super hydrating and conditioning.

And so that's definitely the biggest thing that I would say differentiates our product. And so yeah, lots of conditioning things are in there. I learned about different botanicals and floral and fruit botanical extracts and things like that. Our secret ingredient is the pearl. So I chose that ingredient because of its benefits of rejuvenation and collagen that it adds to the formulas. But also because of my jewelry background, I love pearls. I'm wearing pearls. And also it's the universal symbol of wisdom, which by now in our forties, fifties and over, I think we have accumulated quite a lot of wisdom. So I think I've over answered your question, but that's basically what I've learned lately about the ingredients, is that there obviously are certain things that need to address our specific needs.
Jodi KatzWell, Manon, you helped me segue into the next part of storytelling, which is I want to go back in time now and talk about how someone who has a degree in broadcast production evolves through her career to end up starting a hair care line for natural silver hair, but also is an influencer in this space around natural silver hair. So take us back in time to what do you wanted to be when you grew up?
Manon CrespiThat's a good question. I always wanted to be an actress when I grew up, but I never had the confidence at the time when I was younger to actually go for it. So I chose broadcasting instead. But I went to ASU, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. I hated the news. I hated how depressing it was. They never said anything positive. So I chose to do the production route. I don't think I've steered that far away from it because I am constantly producing content. One of the learning curves is teaching myself how to edit video, light for video, things like that. That's going to be a huge part of our company is really engaging our customer with her story, her journey, what she's learned in her life, which she wants to share. And a lot of that will be writing, videotaping, editing. So I'm still using those skills.

But yeah, soon after college I met my husband got, I mean, he kissed me for the first time, six weeks after we met. And we got married, eight months later, got pregnant three months later, had four children in total, and was a stay at home mom for 15 years. And then when I hit 40, that's when I reentered the work world and found myself on a dual track of modeling, I did that in college. And so I started that up again here in Colorado. And my dear friend, Kir Boedecker, who is a jewelry designer here in Boulder, who actually made these gorgeous Tahitian pearl earrings. She was doing a startup herself and asked if I would help her. And so I did that part time, and that's kind of how I landed in the jewelry world and the modeling world.

And then toward the end of the jewelry part, over the last few years, I completely evolved from helping her with her company, to doing sales and marketing for other companies. And then eventually was approached by a trade publication to do a trends feature in their magazine. And then eventually after that started working for Elite Traveler, which is a private jet travel magazine, writing about high jewelry for their website. So I did that for a few years. And then because of the influencer thing, the following that started accumulating on my Instagram, I transitioned out of that and started doing more videos, rare and beautiful. I don't know if you can see. Well, it's expanded to people, places and things, rare and beautiful people, places and things. But I primarily had been interviewing jewelry designers. So how I got to the hair company is a couple of years after I started modeling in my early forties, I was an early adopter of embracing my natural silver hair. And because of that had, unbeknownst to me, become somewhat of an inspiration to other women over the years who wanted to do the same thing.

And I had girlfriends calling from all over the country saying, "Oh my gosh, Manon, if you type gray hair in Pinterest search, your pictures come up everywhere." And I was just flabbergasted to say the least. I was like, "How do you even get on Pinterest?" I was so in the dark about it all. But because of that, I get asked so many times about my hair, how I did the hair transition, how I take care of it, what products do I use? And I decided, you know what? I want to tell people that I use my products. Because the truth is over the last 12 years, the types of products that I were using were products that were for dyed blonde hair. All the imagery around these brands were all young, gorgeous women, which I have no problem with young gorgeous women. I just have a problem with them being my role model as an almost 55 year old woman. And so I thought, you know what? This is an opportunity. There's white space in the hair market. There's no brand clear brand leader for natural silver hair.
Jodi KatzWait, you just said there's white space in the hair market, which is really funny because that's like it's double meaning, because it's like white hair.
Manon CrespiHey, yeah, I like that.
Jodi KatzSo Manon, I just want to go back a second because you started off the conversation telling us that you wanted to be an actress, but you didn't have the courage at the time. But then you turned 40 and decided to get back into the workforce, so you choose modeling, which requires the same amount of courage. What changed?
Manon CrespiWell, for me modeling when I was in college, I modeled, and for me it was kind of like my dip my toe in the water, like, I'll start as a model and then I'll become an actress. Well then all my values and goals changed. I met my husband and wanted to be a stay at home mom. But there's absolutely something amazing about turning 40, and that is you just stop caring as much about what other people think. You really begin to value the things in life that truly are eternal and intrinsic. And I mean, without sounding like a soap box, or the last thing I want to do is sound like I'm talking down to someone. But you get to a point where you really start to embrace the things that truly matter in life.

But I do believe that the hair transition, for me, anyone that's been through it, and if you're a silver sister watching this you know what I'm talking about. You kind of find yourself in, just as a metaphor, not for real real, but you find yourself in the trenches of, "Oh my gosh, my hair is awful." I mean, I had silver hair, then orange hair, because I had dyed black hair for years. And when I did my transition, there were no silver dye products on the market. There was nothing like that. But my hairstylist at the time tried to tone down the black to try to make a sort of clean transition. Well, that didn't work. So for a year and a half, I had multiple colors. It was awful. And for whatever reason, I think a hundred percent of every woman out there feels this way.

Our hair is so incredibly important to us. I don't know why that is, but it is. If we have a bad hair day, we pretty much have a bad day. I mean, not anymore, but for sure it's easy to feel that way. So our hair is really important. So when you're walking around for a year and a half with awful hair, you really have to learn to depend upon who you are on the inside more than what you look like on the outside. And I think that in and of itself is a courage builder. I think, to be able to, especially at a time when not a lot of people were doing it, to be able to just, like going silver is one of the most courageous things I've ever done, without even realizing it. I mean, I was just sick of dying my roots every three days. So that's why I did it.

But in retrospect, it really was because people were just like, "What are you doing? Why would you do that? Oh my gosh, what is going on with your hair?" And when you go through that, you can either sink or soar. And I think that's definitely how my confidence grew by leaps and bounds. And then at that point as this silver haired woman, oh my gosh, people stopped me every three seconds because it was so weird for them, but also they liked it. And that's when I started putting myself out there to other markets for modeling. So I signed with my Iconic Focus New York agency soon after it was all grown in and I had new images taken. And I mean, Patty called me within five minutes after she saw my picture. So once that happened, they placed me with agencies all over the world and it just kind of went from there. But yes, I would say that transition really is a confidence builder, even though it doesn't seem like it would be.
Jodi KatzSo this topic of reentering the workforce is super relevant. I'm 44, so I have a lot of friends around me who were stay at home and then are trying to figure out, what is out there for me? And this topic is also really interesting to our fans. So at the moments that you were like, you know what, I want to start working again, what were some of the hardest things that you were encountering or what were the most challenging things you were thinking about at the time?
Manon CrespiWell, I have to say as a disclaimer, and I mean this with all of my heart, I'm very, very fortunate that I have a husband that has been our primary provider. And that was a decision that we made before we got married. We talked about it. We both had working parents. I had a single working parent. Both his parents worked, we both were latchkey kids. And so for us, we knew we wanted four kids. We knew we wanted me to stay home. And that was a precious gift that I wouldn't trade for anything. But I say that because there are a lot of women that don't have that luxury. So I just want to acknowledge that, that I can't speak for those women. Sometimes I think those women, for one thing, they're a million times more strong than I am, for sure. But a lot of times I think when they have that kind of pressure to succeed, I think they succeed 10 times more than I do. There's something about that.

But for me, it was my friends and family would completely laugh at me right now because I have had so many incarnations. I have friends that say, "You know what I admire about you, Manon? I love how you just reinvent yourself like every two years." And it's hilarious. It's like, actually I'm not trying to do that. It's just that didn't work, so I'm going to try this now. So some things just, I think too, kind of just happen. The Instagram following thing, that thing happened when my agency, when Iconic Focus said, "Hey, we can't put your Instagram profile on our website until you get at least 3000 followers." It's like, "Oh man, that's going to be hard," because I had like 1500. And so I just made a commitment that every day I'm going to post, and that's what I did. And now it's been like two and a half years later and there's over 45,000. But I also think that that correlation is the spike in more and more women over 40 wanting to embrace their silver hair. I mean, almost 70% of my followers are women 35 and older. So I think that it mostly has something to do with the hair.
Jodi KatzSo it's so interesting that your friends observed, like the every two years as sort of re-evaluating who you are as a choice because it's probably you just being really smart in that moment and pivoting to what's working. I think it's not just for women over 40 reentering the work world.
Manon CrespiRight.
Jodi KatzI mean, even myself, well my agency 14 years ago when I started, it's not the same as it was then. This marketplace just requires you to keep pivoting, keep moving, keep evolving.
Manon CrespiYeah.
Jodi KatzRight? because if you stand still, you get nowhere. Right?
Manon CrespiExactly.
Jodi KatzMaybe 40 years ago standing still and just doing the same thing everyday was fine, but that doesn't work anymore.
Manon CrespiThat's true.
Jodi KatzSo it's really your response to the marketplace that's allowed you to continue to grow and evolve.
Manon CrespiYeah.
Jodi KatzBut it's funny that friends see it as like a choice, like as if like, well, yeah, today I'm going to be something else.
Manon CrespiThey're probably just being nice. They're probably just like teasing me, but I don't know.
Jodi KatzI just think it's a really important note to make for people who are feeling insecure about their career choices or what type of career is ahead of them, that it's not linear, it's not a straight line.
Manon CrespiRight. I absolutely agree with you. And I think that it's really important to recognize opportunities. I was at a trade show in Las Vegas, a jewelry trade show. And she said, "I love your sense of style. Do you think you could do a trends feature for our magazine?" And I said, "Absolutely." On the inside, I was like, I don't know if I can do it, but I'm going to do it. And it's recognizing those opportunities, not being afraid. That's the thing too, just try. The worst thing that can happen is failure. And who cares, you're 40 now or you're whatever you are. Don't care what people think, just do you.
Jodi KatzRight. So if your path was helping a friend with her jewelry line, then getting a writing opportunity and getting some modeling opportunities, they probably seem really zig-zaggy. Right? But now with the collection that you're launching in a few months, then it starts to stretch out into a straight line, right?
Manon CrespiYes.
Jodi KatzBecause you were inspired by the jewelry, it's part of who you are, your modeling is what gave you an audience and fans because of your hair. Right? And now you have a product line that's there to support them in their hair journey, right?
Manon CrespiYes.
Jodi KatzSo once you stretch it out and give it more time to breathe, it really does become a straight line. But when you're in it, it's crazy, zig-zaggy and swirly.
Manon CrespiYes, definitely. It's that tapestry kind of thing where the top of it is so gorgeous. But when you flip it over, it's a bunch of nodded threads and that's just the beauty of life. It's like, you take the good with the bad, the trials with the triumphs and you can just stop and look back and just say, "Wow, what a beautiful tapestry this has turned out to be."
Jodi KatzSo let's just shift gears for a second because I have a lot of admiration for influencers. This is a very hard job. And I think people who aren't aware of the amount of work that goes into it really probably think it's a piece of cake. But I've tried to make a video and it doesn't work, right? Work is hard. So can you talk to us a little bit about what it takes to influence? What is the work behind the scenes that's required?
Manon CrespiWell, one thing is, for sure you don't want to disenfranchise the people that are looking to you for advice about things. So yes, there is an opportunity to make money on promoting things with ads and things like that. But I definitely turn companies down because I know I would never wear that jewelry, I would never wear those shoes, and I can't in good conscience. So that's number one. Can be hard when you really want to make some money to turn that down. But you have to, to maintain your integrity.

The other difficult part for me is my house is not conducive to fantastic lighting. We live close to the mountains here in Boulder and it's very mountain homey feeling and I wanted it to be cozy. And that was a long time ago before I was doing this. So it's like, I go to every room in the house thinking I'm going to get good light and I don't. So I had to figure out the lighting situation. So that can be hard. Just, yeah, I think capturing the content in a way that you feel good about how you look while you're also showing the product in a good light.

I think it's not so much a challenge for me, but I think it can be a challenge for people, but just having your authentic voice, I think, well I know, we live in a culture that really requires authenticity, especially in social media. And I see people's Instagram profiles and it feels clunky and awkward because it seems like they're saying what they think they should say. When in reality, just say what you want to say. What's the first thing comes to your mind? So yeah, I think for me, the toughest part is finding the good light. Everything else I just have had to learn, that you also have to be willing to learn. You got to be willing to sip water out of a fire hydrant, for sure.
Jodi KatzWell, Manon, this has been so interesting. I'm so excited to know you. Your hair is really beautiful. It's very inspiring.
Manon CrespiThank you.
Jodi KatzI tell everybody that Zoom is amazing because you can't actually see the grays. It doesn't look like there's anything happening. But you are, I can see why you're an inspiration to many women.
Manon CrespiThank you.
Jodi KatzSo thank you so much for your wisdom. And for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes and for updates about the show. Follow us on Instagram @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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