Episode 160: Dara Levy, Founder of DERMAFLASH

Dara Levy, Founder of Dermaflash, leads with grace and gratitude. She’s made it through the past several months, as well as many difficult years, by channeling kindness and positivity. Like many entrepreneurs, her career journey has been far from linear, but for Dara, it all seems to have fallen into place. Perhaps it’s her power to manifest good things through gratitude and positive energy.

Listen to this inspiring episode and decide for yourself whether the Universe, hard work, or an incredible combination of both brought success to Dara.

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. This episode is recorded over Zoom because we're still work from home during COVID. I'm happy that Dara Levy, the founder of DERMAFLASH was able to join me. And if you missed last week's episode, it featured Fiona Stiles. She's the owner of Reed Clarke. I hope you enjoy the episode.

Hey everybody. Welcome back to the show. I am so excited to be here with Dara Levy. She is the founder of DERMAFLASH. Welcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®.
Dara LevyHi, Jodi. Great to be here.
Jodi KatzThank you so much for making time for us. When we talked a few weeks ago, it was during COVID and we talked a lot about how our businesses have evolved and changed during that time. But now we're sort of in another space with the ideas of equality and racism, really coming to the forefront and these conversations being really driven social media. So something that really is about organization and brand mission has become sort of tied to these marketing platforms. So before we learn more about you, I wanted to see how have you been approaching this since this is really a new world on social media for brands?
Dara LevyI think not only is it a new world on social media, I think we're all navigating a new world on both personal and a professional level. On a professional level, you can go on the DERMAFLASH Instagram and sort of learn what we're doing and what we're doing as a brand. On a personal level, for me, starting with this virus I just think there's this universal impact right now. And I personally can't remember a time in my lifetime and there probably has never been a time like we're going through right now because of the internet, because it's a global kind of, we all are connected, but we're literally connected. Every single person is being touched by the same issues at the same time.

And I think it's magical, actually. I really do. I think that the universe, we're at a tipping point, and I feel like if you've read Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth, it's like sort of in that book, he talks about the collective consciousness. And I think it's a matter of, and I'm hopeful that it's not like, "Oh, today everybody's leaning in and this is what they're going to do." But I look at it, we were struck with this global pandemic. And when you look at what happened to the earth, the earth started healing itself because everybody went inside and stopped flying and stopped driving. And so in LA, they can see the skyline and there were dolphins in the Venice canal, jellyfish, in the Venice canal and animals coming out sort of into their natural habitats and feeling safe like there weren't predators around.

And I think from a personal level, my kids are grown, but I look at my friends and things that people are... Families are having dinner together. They're talking to their kids, they have this precious time that they might otherwise have never had. And kudos to the moms that have to homeschool because I'm fully committed to not doing that because DCFS would be knocking at my door. But I can't believe, Samantha Murphy who works for me is leaning in, helping me do everything with my company and also homeschooling her two children. I look at what people are doing and how they're doing it and I think it's an awakening. And now with what this tragic ending that George Floyd had, he's changed the world, 18 countries are involved and peacefully protesting. And I think that if we listen, the universe is shaking us and saying, "Wake up, clean the earth, love each other." It's all about love and kindness and leading with sort of equal opportunity and grace and gratitude, which is how I try to live my life. I'm for sure not a little Saint because I'm not, but I try, I try to be grateful and kind, and if everybody just kind of led with love, I think we'd have a much different world.
Jodi KatzThank you, Dara. Well, you mentioned a book that I actually don't have, but to a segue I did get this.
Dara LevyOh, Yay. Did you start it?
Jodi KatzNo, it's right next to my bed, that I can start it this week.
Dara LevyIt's going to change your life.
Jodi KatzYeah. You told me. Why is this book going to change my life? So for everyone who is obviously not with Dara and I on Zoom right now, it's called The Secret, The Power by Rhonda Byrne. Tell me why.
Dara LevySo I think almost everyone at some point or another, have heard of the book, The Secret, and because it was all the rage, I don't know, maybe 20 years ago. And it was written by Rhonda Byrne. And that book is really about gratitude. It's about just being grateful for everything from the toast you make in the morning to just seeing everything around you and being grateful for every single bit and part of your life. And the more grateful you are, the better things are for you because we manifest our reality. There's this universal energy and that's Rhonda Byrne's second book. And it's what she talks about in this book that you can visualize your reality.

So what happens is the universe mirrors back to you, what you give out. So if you are positive and you know things are going to be good and you lead towards that, that's what you bring into your life. If you're negative and, "Oh, I can't afford this and I'm stupid." Or everything that sort of has been ingrained in us our whole lives, then that's what the universe brings to you. And so I try every day, like every night I go to sleep and I thank the universe for the health, happiness, and love that my children have and my husband and my mother and my family. And I'm so grateful for my wonderful life, even when it's not wonderful, you have to give gratitude because then it becomes wonderful. And I wake up in the morning and before I get out of bed, I thank the universe for the amazing day. I'm about to have, and inevitably something amazing happens.

And that book is about harnessing that energy and manifesting what you want to see in life. And there's really easy tricks you can do. Like you can say, "I'm so excited I'm going to see that white flower today." And then all of a sudden, you'll see that white flower and it's simple little things, and it sounds hokey, and I know it, but when you read this book, it makes so much sense.
Jodi KatzI do try to practice these things, but they don't always come top of mind. So maybe the book will help to sort of engrain these philosophies into my every day, because I do know that I feel better when I'm grateful. I know that difficult situations are ease when I see a bright side or let's say I'm having a difficult time with a client. Well, at least I have a client right.
Dara LevyThat's right.
Jodi KatzAt least someone's here, hiring me.
Dara LevyThat's right.
Jodi KatzSo to try to really refocus those energies. And I actually have less all over my home office, so I've been trying to talk to myself in this way. So I'm excited for the book. I will report back after I read it.
Dara LevyAnd I have a vision board behind me that I kind of, when I think something that I want something, I put it up on my vision board and it's freaky. Inevitably, I'll put it up, I'll forget about it. And then I come back and like, "Wow, that just happened. And I wrote it a year ago." So it's believing in sort of everything is energy and energy spirals around us and you can't touch it. It's like when you go into a vacation place and you're like, "Oh my God, I want to live here." It's because everything, all the pieces and parts are energetically aligned with how you're feeling as a person and the energy that the people are giving off around you. It's very interesting.
Jodi KatzWell, I'm super excited because this hasn't been an easy time for business and the emotions of running the business, the emotions of COVID, the emotions of seeing people hurting in pain and having to look differently at the way I live my life. It's all really intense, right? There's nothing not in intense about this time period and coupled with not just running the business, but trying to spend quality time with my family and my kids and working a lot more than I've ever worked before. So while they are downstairs, I am not with them, they're on their own.
Dara LevyRight. Right.
Jodi KatzThankfully they are nine and 12. And really video games is all they want to be doing anyway. But I think that this book might help kind of screw my head back on a little bit.
Dara LevyEvery time I have... My kids are older. I have a 30 and a 27 year old, but every time I had issues with them, I just say, "Please read The Power." Like, "Just read The Power." They won't because they're my kids.
Jodi KatzSomeone else might recommend it.
Dara LevyExactly. Exactly.
Jodi KatzWell, in our conversation was so interesting. I learned so much about your career journey and I highlighted something that I thought was probably, I wonder if your team would agree is sort of like Dara-ism. You said, "When I find something that is all mine, no one will stop me." So tell me what that means to you.
Dara LevyIt's probably my greatest strength and my greatest weakness, is my tenacity, because I'm like a dog with a bone. Once I get my sight set on something, I won't stop until I've achieved that goal. And I don't take no for an answer. I've never taken no for an answer. My late husband said to me that it was the best thing I had going for me. But on a personal level, it was the worst thing I had going for me because you might as well say yes right away, because you're going to give in ultimately, so it's, "Skip the battle in the middle and just cut to that happy ending."
Jodi KatzSo that tenacity, does it feel like about often or does it feel like a journey or like an adventure? What does it feel like for you now.
Dara LevyI think it depends on what that specific issue is, right. If it's a thorn in my side, if it's something I have to get rid of or change, then of course, life, isn't always a ball of cherries, right. Life isn't meant to be so... I appreciate the battle, because you don't appreciate the reward, if it were all a straight line up, it would be easy. But it's kind of Sisyphus, pushing the rock up hill sometimes, which is not fun. But I would say in hindsight, all of the challenges lead you to become the person you are. And at times that can be really fun. And at times it can be really daunting.
Jodi KatzSo you started your career in a woman's clothing brands, is that right?
Dara LevyYeah. I was a fashion merchandising Major in college and right out of college, I was wrapping a women's clothing line and I had a five State territory. And it was a lot for a 21 year old, but I decided really quickly that I hated it. And that, that was not what I wanted to do. So I quit my job and I got a job as a runner, which is the lowest, lowest, lowest possible position that you could have had in those days at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which is like our version of the New York Stock Exchange. It barely exists as it was anymore busy, traders in the pit screaming and yelling. And I started as a runner for a $100 a week. And within four years I was a member of the Exchange, which is a big deal. It's the last bastion of capitalism, all men. And I had 15 guys working for at my apex of that career. So I had big institutional business. It was an uphill battle. I was only one of a handful of women on the Exchange as a member. And it was... There's nothing you can't do if you decide to do it. The only thing that gets in your way as you,
Jodi KatzSo this career at the Exchange, was this like a childhood dream of yours to be in banking or finance?
Dara LevyOh my God, no, no, no, no. It was sort of the really cool in place. The it place to be in Chicago as far as... I would liken it to today's hedge funds, if you will, where they get all the press, that's the really exciting kind of sexy world to be in. I didn't know anything about banking or finance. I'm terrible at math and never in my wildest dreams did that even occur to me as a possibility
Jodi KatzDuring this time, were you suffering from cystic acne?
Dara LevyWell, I was in conjunction doing, I was modeling and I was at the Merc. And so out of nowhere I got cystic acne at 21 and I was on the-
Jodi KatzYou mean as a teenager didn't have it, but then when you turned 21 you had it.
Dara LevyYep, yep. And I was modeling, so I was cute. It was devastating and I went on Accutane. It was first-generation Accutane. I got purple blood blisters all over my face from it. It was horrific. So from that moment on, I was kind of on this journey for, "How do I achieve perfect skin?" So that was sort of the beginning of becoming a chemist in my own bathroom and trying everything to make my skin not an issue.
Jodi KatzHow do you think that effected your self esteem during that time period?
Dara LevyOh, it was the worst. I would go to work, but I would go home. I wouldn't leave the house. I had no social life. I was incredibly superficial in those days. Everything was kind of about how you looked. When you're 21, it's a very me centric time in your life. And it was horrible for me. Horrible.
Jodi KatzLet's shift gears a little bit, you told me that you've had some reinventions, right? So I guess you reinvented yourself from the fashion business into the exchange. And then again, into skin care and that's, you mentioned the passing of your first husband.
Dara LevyYeah. So my husband was a trader at the Merc. That's not where we met, but how we were a part, I always saw him every day down there. And so it's how we kind of started dating. And he was just this amazing, amazing human being. And we had two little girls and when my kids were five and seven, my husband was diagnosed with stage four, colon cancer. And I think we don't know what we're made of until we're tested. And at that point I decided that my whole life was on hold and I was going to save his life. And we battled for four and a half years. Amazingly, he had seven stem to stern surgeries. He didn't eat for a year. I fed him intravenously for a year.
Jodi KatzOh my God.
Dara LevyAnd he was amazing, never complained. But when my kids were nine and two weeks before my 11 year old, she was then 11, about to turn 12, two weeks before her birthday, he died. And it's so funny because yesterday was his birthday and you know what, it's like, you have to celebrate it and not make it... It stirs up a lot, but I have a guardian angel that's having a lot of fun with my life right now. And it's funny because my current husband asked me yesterday like, "Were you strong before he got sick? Or did his being sick, make you this strong?" And I think that I had a lot of strength, but it can go either way. People react differently. And for me, I had a really go dig deep and be strong and take care of him. And my kids, they sort of were pushed to the periphery. I figured I'll make it up to them after I saved his life. But it really changes you as a human being. And it changes how you look at everything, because really, if you have your health, you have everything. And if you don't have your health, I don't care how much money you have and possessions and everything else, all the money in the world doesn't... If you have your health, you have everything.
Jodi KatzThat's something my grandmother has been saying for as long as I can remember, that's her thing. Like, "You have your health, that's all that matters."
Dara Levy100%.
Jodi KatzAnd I remember that from when I was a tiny kid, her saying that, she's still with us and she still says it.
Dara LevyAh, how old is she?
Jodi KatzBut it's true. Oh, she would never let me say that on air, but she's great. She's another generation, right? She doesn't announce her age.
Dara LevyMy mom's the same way and she's 90 and I'm like, "Wear it on a placard on your chest. It's incredible. 90." Knock wood.
Jodi KatzYes. I celebrate her, but she'd be so mad at me if I said her age, but anyway, she's doing great. She lives alone. She's wonderful. But she's always been talking about our health and your health is the only thing that matters. All you have is your health. And I think that's really hard for a lot of us to remember, right?
Dara LevyWe take it granted.
Jodi KatzYeah. And obsessed with these other things that are happening in our lives, like work or a neighbor saying something we didn't like, or not being able to go to the food store the way that you want, all these things, right. Maybe that's why I need The Power. Everybody needs The Power, right. To remind us of how to use our brains in more productive ways.
Dara LevyYeah. And again, I think that the human body is such an amazing thing. And when everything goes, right, it's easy to take for granted, right. Because thank God most of us are healthy and don't have to think about that. But when you don't have that and everything falls apart, everything. So all of the things that your good health allows you to have like to work and to socialize and to eat out and all of the... Well, eat out, you know what I mean? When we could eat out, that all goes, it means nothing.
Jodi KatzSo after he passed, were you jumping right back into a career or did you take time off?
Dara LevyNo, I took a lot of time off, actually. It's funny. I think it was because it was his birthday yesterday, we were just talking a lot about sort of what happened after his death. I never worried, like I said, "I know I'll be able to find a job. I know I'll be able to support my kids." I wasn't actively figuring out how I would do that because I was reeling. And quite honestly, it was hard to get out of bed for a really long time too but you have to go on, you have no choice. So I dallied around, I helped somebody raise money for a fund. I was still kind of going that way. But constantly, I was keeping my skin up so I kept going and getting dermaplaned every month. And when I opened my spa, it was because I was tired of going to the back of a beauty shop for facials and to a dermatologist for Botox into a plastic surgeon's office for Dermaplaning and yada, yada, yada.

So I decided to put the best of the best under one roof, trademarked my Dermaplaning facial DERMAFLASH, because that was the foundation of everything we did at the spa, because I had been such an avid Derma planner and the universe just had a plan. And that's how I look at it. Like, "Why did I trademark it with that name?" It was my positivity, I think, that led me to where I am today.
Jodi KatzHey, everybody, it's Jodi. I know I'm interrupting this great podcast, but I do have an important message and it concerns the legal health of your business. I just did a recording recently with Steve Weigler of EmergeCounsel. And he taught me so much about how important it is to trademark your business the proper way. And he actually met me when he was considering starting his own brands and what I didn't realize at the time with is he's an expert in brand protection. And he represents a number of small and even huge beauty brands. So there's a lot of reasons why you need to listen to his episode. But I would say that some of the most important ones are policing the market against counterfeiters. This is a huge thing in our industry right now, protecting the secrecy of product formulations, having strong protectable brand names and unique packaging, enforcing MAP pricing policies and distribution channels and documenting terms and conditions. And all the really important stuff, even influencer marketing, everything needs to be protected.

So I really like Steve, his episodes full of really important information and Steve if as a lawyer and he understands that legal stuff can sometimes be a drain or a bore, but it's so important for the health of your business. So please call Steve, he offers a free initial consult, which I think is really great. Get to know him. He wants to get to know your business, and please tell him that I sent you. So you can go to emergecounsel.com E-M-E-R-G-E-C-O-U-N-S-E-l.com or call Steve at 1-800emerge0. So that's 1-800-E-M-E-R-G-E-0, which is a very cool phone number and ask for Steve. We have to protect the legal health of our business as much as we protect our distribution and our innovation. So this is really important stuff.

Let's talk about that name because it is so awesome. I want to hear what some of the names that you were thinking of that didn't make the cut.
Dara LevyOh my God. I don't even remember to be honest with you, because I was looking for just the treatment name for Dermaplaning because everyone just called it Dermaplaning, and quite honestly, I don't remember, it came to me and I was obsessed with it. And again, it was the perfect storm. I only had dermaflash.net. I had a dermaflesh.com, but somebody owned it and I reached out to him and it was crazy. It was just like what was going on in his life. He was willing to sell it to me. But we didn't even use dermaflash.com for anything at that point, it was just still my spa's name, but we called it DERMAFLASH. So it kind of sat there in a parking lot.
Jodi KatzOh, so this idea of DERMAFLASH was really an investment in your future, you didn't need it in that moment.
Dara LevyWell, I wanted to own the name because it was our signature facial. So that was important to me. And if you looked for that facial, you would get to us, but no, I have a very big macro kind of appetite. I don't think about, "Oh, I'm going to have this spa and that's going to be all I'm going to do for the rest of my life." Because I'm just not that girl. I'm like the Phoenix and rising from the ashes and onto the next thing. And I decided I wanted to develop a skincare line, not just for myself spa, but I was going to be the next Estee Lauder because I don't think small.

We couldn't come up with what the hero ingredient was going to be. And one day I was in the shower and I screamed at the top of my lungs. "Oh my God, it's DERMAFLASH. And I went running, soaking, wet, naked, out of the shower, screaming, "It's DERMAFLASH. It's DERMAFLASH." And called my husband. And I started calling people, "I know what it's going to be. I know what we're going to do." And I got some really, really, really good validation that this was a good idea. And I went to the person that had done the George Foreman Grill, the biggest infomercial of all times. And I told him my idea and he loved it. And I just kept getting all of this validation and I sold my spa and I got to work and the rest is history. The difference between DERMEFLASH and a red lipstick is that I created an entirely new category in beauty. And that's exciting. It doesn't really happen very often.
Jodi KatzYeah. That's awesome. So let's talk about this macro view and all this ambition. I often think that way too, like really big and I feel like my superpower is being 10 steps ahead, or maybe even more. But that's hard from a leadership perspective when your team doesn't think that way, right. So give me some advice on how to help... When I say things to my team, sometimes they're looking at me like, "What?" Right? Because I've already jumped those steps, right. And I'm through that, right. But that's a lot of catching up for people to do. And I recognize that sometimes I sound crazy or insane or completely misguided, but in my heart and mind, I know this is the right path. I need some advice here. I really do, because they stare at me and I don't even know how to articulate that catch up because to me it's just instinct.
Dara LevyWell, it's sort of, I liken it to the spaghetti on the wall theory, right. So I'll throw out ideas that are sometimes too many, sometimes all at once. And my team gets overwhelmed, but you throw all the spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks. Somebody that used to work for me used to say that I see it on the shelf first, and then I go back. And I would say that that's sort of the way to put it. It's like, I can visualize what this is going to be. I'm not quite sure of the path that's going to lead us there, but let's figure it out. Let's lean in and roll up our sleeves and work together to figure out how to make this happen. It's like wanting something to come to fruition badly enough that you kind of manufacture it in your brain and it comes to fruition, but getting the team to sort of buy into that, it can be a challenge.
Jodi KatzI like this idea of actually knowing that when I say something that sounds preposterous to them, or just like, "Where did that come from?" To then follow up and say, "That's my envision helped me get there." Right. Maybe I'm just leaving them and avoid. And they're just like, "What is Jodi talking about now?" But if I articulate that, "I know that this is the end goal and I need your help to get us there." Then maybe they can be a little more at ease with the way it maybe works.
Dara LevyAnd they actually thank you. You've just given me a tip because I'm sure that my team wishes, I would do that too. I'm just like, "We're going to do this." And then they're like, "Okay, how?" But inevitably we get that "how" done. It's like, "Figure it out." But I think sort of articulating the fact that I'm seeing it on the shelf. "This is how I want it to be, now, how do we get it there?" And it's like, I want to come up with a new hero device and that's in my head I want a third device. And I'm thinking, and I'm like, "Okay, I want a third device. I want to launch it by X. What's it going to be?" That's no small feat. Right?
Jodi KatzRight.
Dara LevyBut it'll happen.
Jodi KatzYeah. I love this. Maybe I feel like I need to wear a name badge that says, "I have an idea, but I need you to help me get there."
Dara LevyI love that.
Jodi KatzJust a reminder, right?
Dara LevyI love that.
Jodi KatzA reminder to me and a reminder to them, now my team on Zoom. Someone on my team tells me that I'm very definitive. So Robin in my team tells me that that scares her so much, right. Because I am so definitive. I feel so confident in my many of my decisions, but that's a scary feeling for people to be around, when they don't think that way. Right? Most people aren't super definitive.
Dara LevyBecause most people are a bit scared, right. They like to be in their comfort zone in that little bubble that you do this all day and then you go home and you put that on the side and you do this, but you don't really get anywhere magical on life if you think micro, if you think in a bubble.
Jodi KatzYeah. I won't describe it as magic, but I think that women are magical beings anyway. I have no scientific proof of this, but I do feel like we have this magic in our fingers and magic energy and we can really do make anything happen that we want. So I think I just need to reframe... Thank you for your advice on this, reframe some of these conversations so that I'm not met with dead air and that people actually know what they can take action on. Because it's a lonely place to be sometimes with these visions.
Dara LevyYeah. And I think it's actually a good lesson for me, what you've just given for me because I throw a lot of spaghetti on the wall. Sometimes it's like way too much. So it's like saying "Okay, this is the template. Let's figure out how to make it a thing."
Jodi KatzWell, Dara, I'm so excited. We got to talk today. I am literally looking forward to seeing what this third device, and what happens with this idea.
Dara LevyMe too. I have no idea.
Jodi KatzAnd thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with our listeners today.
Dara LevyThank you, Jodi. Let's stay in touch.
Jodi KatzAnd for our listeners. I hope you enjoy this interview with Dara. 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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