Episode 176: Casey Georgeson, CEO and Founder of Saint Jane

Casey Georgeson says that building her business has been like building the plane mid-flight. While many entrepreneurs have hesitated to set sail on the CBD wave because of tough headwinds, the Saint Jane CEO and Founder believes it’s provided an opportunity for her brand to succeed.

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. Thanks so much for tuning in. This week's episode features Casey Georgeson. She's the founder and CEO of Saint Jane. And if you missed last week's episode, it featured Beatrice Dixon. She's the co-founder and CEO of the Honey Pot company. Thanks for listening. Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. I'm so excited to be here with Casey Georgeson. She is the founder and CEO of Saint Jane. Welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty®.
Casey GeorgesonThank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here.
Jodi KatzIt's so nice to see your face. You're so smiley.
Casey GeorgesonA pretty happy person, pretty optimistic all around, wake up in the morning, and I'm usually pretty happy until, of course, all of the things pile on. And then I have my moments, but I start out really happy. It's still early here on the West coast.
Jodi KatzAre you typically an early riser?
Casey GeorgesonI have gotten earlier with Saint Jane. I tend to wake up around 6:30 and immediately check what's going on with the business because we have a lot of vendors who are in Asia and it seems like overnight, it's amazing what can happen overnight. So there's a lot to deal with when I first wake up and I try to get a big block of work done before my coffee and before breakfast with the kids. It just makes me feel like if my inbox is a little bit more managed before the day actually starts, it's going to be a better day.
Jodi KatzSo do you wake up in the morning and you actually feel rested and feel optimistic and refreshed?
Casey GeorgesonMost mornings, I do. Most mornings, I do. Sleep is really big for me, so I prioritize it and make sure that I know I'm going to get enough. I really think I'm one of those people who needs eight hours plus. I don't do well under eight hours. My husband can sleep six and five and he can wake up and go to the gym. I'm not that way. I wake up after a good night's sleep and I feel positive, but if I'm on a sleep deficit for a couple of days, I really feel it first in my mood. I then feel it in my ability to work out and focus. So I've just realized that sleep has to be a big priority.
Jodi KatzI am also someone who loves sleep and I always have been, and I was that person in my twenties where my friends were like, "Let's stay out till 4:00 in the morning." I'm like, "No, I really want to sleep." That was always the number one for me. And even to this day, I become so grumpy to my kids after a certain hour. And I'm like, I just shut down. I can't function. And then I wake up rested and yeah, typically pretty optimistic. Sleep is one of the best things ever.
Casey GeorgesonIt really is. And I actually am not a great sleeper. I used to be before I worked in television in New York actually was where I lost my ability to fall asleep because I worked on the morning show and I would fall asleep at night thinking about all the things that needed to go right the next morning. And I developed this insomnia around being able to fall asleep. I can't turn my brain off. So I really have to work at it to actually fall asleep. Otherwise, I can lay in bed and continue to work in my brain half asleep until 2:00 in the morning and it's not healthy. It is not good. So I really have to prioritize making sure that I'm calm enough to fall asleep and my head is in a good space and I've gotten everything done that I need to get done, and I've got a to do list memo by my bed in case something comes up. So I have to work at it.
Jodi KatzWhat is the process like? Is there a decompression zone? If you don't mind sharing these tips because I'm sure a lot of our listeners feel the same way.
Casey GeorgesonYeah, for me, it is I really have to put my phone down around 10:00. If I'm going to fall asleep by 11:00, I have to put my phone down at 10:00. For the longest time, Saint Jane is still very new. We're not quite two years old, but for the first, really it's just been recently that I've been able to do this where before it was my phone was right in front of my face from the morning I woke up until the morning or to the minute I went to bed and that blue light and that stimulation, I could feel it in my ability to turn everything off. And so I had to really prioritize putting the phone down at 10:00 PM and then focusing on anything but, whether it's reading or closing my eyes and meditating or trying just to separate myself from what had happened throughout the day.

I oftentimes, it sounds so crazy, but I will imagine what I'm going to wear to an event or in the days when we still had events or if I want to create something product-wise, that helps me separate myself from the minutia of the moment and takes myself out of my own head. And that will help me fall asleep. It sounds so cheesy, but I'll imagine going for a walk on the beach or whatever it is to separate myself from that connection to the consciousness. That is helpful for me.
Jodi KatzThis idea of imagining what I'd wear to a party is really so fascinating because it's probably something that I would typically spend zero time thinking about, maybe a minute and a half, if there actually was an event, but the creative process in daydreaming around something that is so not normally in my head, I'm going to try that next time I can't relax.
Casey GeorgesonYeah, it's like the modern version of counting sheep.
Jodi KatzRight. And I can just think about, because I'm a big fan of Rent the Runway, I could just think about oh, what would I be searching for? What keywords would I look for in my search of what to wear? And I think it's probably an awesome way for me to get out of all the stuff in my head too.
Casey GeorgesonYeah. By the time you get to your earrings, what earrings you're going to pair with what outfit, you'll be fast asleep.
Jodi KatzThat's such an awesome trick. Okay. I'm totally going to try it. I love that. Yeah. I have a notepad next to my bed, but my head, it doesn't shut off very easily, but I love this trick. Okay. Thank you for sharing that. That is amazing. I'm sorry that being a producer in news is... I'm not surprised, but I guess I didn't really think about how much being a producer in news for morning shows would really mess with the way your brain works when you're trying to fall asleep at night because it's all about what's happening in six hours.
Casey GeorgesonExactly. And yeah, because I really, I think back to those days pre when I was a producer and how easy it was for me to fall asleep anywhere. I could sleep on planes, I could nap. And then I don't know. I think it was because I would get phone calls from the control room at 5:00 in the morning if something had been missed or if a graphic was wrong or if the guest wasn't showing up to the show. And so it still fell on me. And so I would go to sleep anticipating all of the anxiety-inducing moments. And then it was a sleep problem that didn't go away. It just stuck. And so, yeah, it was really the anticipation of what could go sideways that created the issue.
Jodi KatzThat's such a horrible way to live because I live that way too, less so now when in my agency, when we would release things to print, like print ads, which hardly anyone runs anymore or direct mail, these things are getting printed. Once they're printed, it's done. And there was always, every time we release something to print, I always get this anxiety, my body. I can feel tingles in my arms and my hands because I'm terrified of being wrong and it's awful. It's like I have PTSD from catalogs.
Casey GeorgesonIt's real. It's real. And what actually ended up being really helpful for me was I worked for an anchor at CNN who helped tremendously with his perspective because inevitably things do go wrong, no matter how much you plan and how meticulous you are on your details. But he would say to me, if something went wrong, which I was obviously my hardest critic, he would say, "Don't worry about it. This is just like peeing in the ocean. Only you care. No one else cares. And you got to move on." And that really stuck. I think it's a really good life lesson in general. So many things that happen to us in life are such a big deal to us, but it's our perspective that really gives them strength or weakness to impact our lives. So yeah, that was good advice, Jack Cafferty.
Jodi KatzOh yes. Well, I grew up in the New York area, so I recognize that name from local news, for sure. Okay. So we got off on a tangent. I want to ask you the question that I've been asking everyone during pandemic Zoom podcast recordings. I want you to think back to when you were like eight or 10 years old. And if somebody asked you at the time, what do you want to be when you grow up, what is your answer?
Casey GeorgesonMy daughters just asked me this yesterday. That's so funny. I wanted to be an actress, a doctor, an artist. And there was one other, but actress, artist, and doctor are probably the ones that stick out.
Jodi KatzAh, that's so interesting because if I track your career, like anyone who pulls you up on LinkedIn can say you've done a little bit of all of that.
Casey GeorgesonWait, that's true. That's so true.
Jodi KatzRight. So actor, producer. You're making things happen right on screen. You're producing. Doctor, I'd say, Saint Jane is a pathway to wellness. So you're not prescribing medication or taking care of illnesses, but you're helping people soothe through the things that are hard. And then what was the other one? Oh, artist. You created brands.
Casey GeorgesonThat's so cool.
Jodi KatzAt LVMH.
Casey GeorgesonThat's so funny. That's so right. I hadn't thought about it that way because I felt so directionless for such a long time when I was growing up. High school and college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. So that's interesting to hear you articulate it that way. It's not wrong.
Jodi KatzYeah. Most of the people I talk to, they say they wanted to be, I don't know, they wanted to be something. And then fast forward four different types of careers and pivots later, they're kind of doing that. Maybe they didn't get an education or a degree in it, but they're doing it in many ways or at least the root emotions tie to those careers. And that's cool. I wanted to be an archeologist. That was the first job I wanted. And I think that I kind of am. In our industry, I dig up a lot of stuff. As a marketer, I think as a savvy marketer, you're really looking underneath the dirt. You're looking deeper, deeper, deeper.
Casey GeorgesonYeah. That's-
Jodi KatzOkay. So let's talk about this career because I have this list. It was CNN, wine industry, business school, Sephora and now your own business, back to wine, then your own business. So you mentioned that you felt directionless. I'm sure you had friends growing up who were like, "I want to be a brain surgeon," and then they became a brain surgeon. So I feel like I'm really aligned to your path, which was like, where am I going? What am I doing? So let's focus the most on this time of building brands because this sounds like a dream job. You said my job was to imagine how brands would live in the beauty space, daydream, story-tell and relate to fans. So tell me about that time in your career.
Casey GeorgesonSo such a formative time in my career, I feel like it was like getting a PhD in the beauty industry. So when I was in business school, I had a little bit of experience in innovation and wine and I had also been a producer for CNN. Those were my big jobs pre-business school. And so the summer between my first and second year, I said I really want to try the beauty industry. And Sephora was Mecca for me at the time and still is. But I had a friend who was there and I walked into an interview with them to get an internship. And they said, "Well, we've never had MBA interns before." This was 2007. "But if you want to come on board and learn the ropes this summer, we can pay you in makeup and it'll be great." And I was like, "Yes, that sounds incredible." So I got a little sliver of experience that summer. And then when I graduated, I was like, I really want to go back to Sephora. That was so interesting, such impressive women there and wanted to go deeper into the industry.

So I got a job at Kendo, which was a newly formed team within Sephora. And at the time, there were five of us and it was the mission of Kendo was to create brands that were exclusive to Sephora for differentiation. And my job was new. I had never heard of this job before. It was basically the liaison between the designers or the companies that we were working with. So Disney, Kat Von D, Mark Jacobs, Elizabeth & James and Sephora, and to, like you said, imagine and daydream what those brands would look like in the beauty space. And so it helped me realize that I really love this blue sky space where there's not an answer. You really do have to imagine it. And that was where I felt like my creativity was the most challenged and it was also the most rewarding because I was working with people who were so inspiring in their own worlds of fashion or whatever it was. And I was able to learn about that founder vision and that passion for what they do and being entrepreneurs and help them translate it into the beauty space.

So it was a really amazing foundation for me to... In the back of my mind, I always thought I wanted to create my own brand, but didn't feel like I had the big idea until, of course, I discovered CBD, but those years were, like I said, like getting a PhD in the beauty industry and incredibly formative for me.
Jodi KatzWhat's the most, I guess, cherished thing that you created during your time there?
Casey GeorgesonMark Jacobs, I really loved working with him. He was so incredible to be around because he had such an unbelievable vision, but he was also really collaborative with us. And we were terrified that first meeting that we met with him and we had to present general concepts and who we were. And I remember my boss and I were both like, our hands were shaking under the table. Our notes are all really squiggly because we were just unsure about what he would be like to work with. And I will always cherish that year, year and a half that I had working on that brand with him because of what I learned and how inspiring he was.
Jodi KatzThat's so great to hear because on the other side of my business, the agency side, we've worked with clients in the licensing side, so they're licensing the brand name and oftentimes the person behind the brand name is not involved in the work and it becomes really tedious and annoying and takes forever. And there's so much and us versus them attitude built into the process. So it's so wonderful to hear that you had a great partner who was invested the way that you guys are invested because I think that's what it takes to make these things really work.
Casey GeorgesonYeah, it does. It does. And I think he had a lot of fun with it. And so it became, I knew throughout the whole process that it was a special dynamic that we had with him, that we were building a lot of trust and that it was going to end up being really incredible at the end of the day. And it was, it was such an exciting launch and really anticipated in the beauty industry. So I'm really proud. I'm really proud of that brand and the development that we did.
Jodi KatzSo let's fast forward, Casey. Why build your own brand? Why be an entrepreneur?
Casey GeorgesonWell, I really fought it for a while. I had done innovation, like I said, in the wine industry, creating new wine brands for the second largest wine company, a big wine company here in the US, and I hesitated because I knew what it would take. I didn't know the way I know now. Now I really know what it's like to be an entrepreneur, but I knew that it was going to take me away from my family, my kids, my husband, the balance that I had created in my life. And so I hesitated because I just, I loved the world of brand creation and creative, but I knew that I was going to need to learn all the things that I've learned, operations, supply chain, insurance, legal, HR, the things that weren't necessarily a part of my world and my career. And so I had to brace myself for that. And I'm so grateful for the past three years that I've been working on this and what I've learned. I feel like I have such a new perspective on the world, on beauty, on skincare, on the world of being an entrepreneur.

But I hesitated because I knew it was going to be crazy and it has been. It has been everything that I was afraid of, but has also been incredibly rewarding. There have been things that have happened with Saint Jane that have just been I'm really, really grateful for. And so it's been an incredible journey, but difficult. And that's what I think it took me until... I've been a brand creator since 2006, 2005. And it took me until 2019 to launch my own brand because I felt like I had to really be passionate about the idea, which I am. And that's when it was no longer a decision. I had to do it. When I discovered CBD, I was like, this is the most exciting skincare ingredient of our time. I have to do this brand.
Jodi KatzSo the things that I think as an entrepreneur are the, I guess, the hardest or most challenging are the things that when you were at Kendo or at the wine company, like other people did, like legal, finance, I guess regulatory, all of these things that are not part of the daydream. They make the daydream happen. So as an entrepreneur, what has been your path to bringing those experts or expert voices into a small business? How did you do that?
Casey GeorgesonWell, I bulldozed my way through it and learned as I went. I've said so many times, I feel like it's like building the airplane mid-flight. It really is. And I feel lucky that we've partnered with vendors and partners that have really joined hands with us and said, "Okay, we get that you don't have all the answers. We don't either. Let's figure it out together, what's right for Saint Jane, what's right for your business." And so across the board, I think that's been... I'm not afraid to ask for help navigating through the answers when we don't have them. And especially with my team, it's been, listen, we don't have a process yet. We're going to have to build this process together. I don't know what the answer is, but let's talk it out and let's get there.

And so I think that's been my approach is the answers, the answers are usually there. You sometimes need more information before you can make a decision and you have to be okay with that, that you don't have all the pieces yet, and that the answer will come to you, but it's not always super clear. So you have to be very comfortable with ambiguity, making decisions, like I said, without all of the information or with as much information as you can pull together and then being okay if it doesn't go your way, being okay if you have some failures. So I've tried to be very zen about the whole thing while maintaining the turbo mentality that you need to be successful, but that's been building the airplane mid-flight is probably the best way I can describe it.
Jodi KatzYeah. There's things like in my own business where I just really want the process to be cleaner, better, more organized. And the pace at which this industry keeps changing, I've had my business for 14 years and many of my team members are my age, have been doing this for a long time, we're re-inventing things every day because everything keeps changing. So just when I think that we found it, the clear path everyone understands, then we have to rebuild it and it almost keeps catching us off guard because the business, the industry just moves so, so fast. Everything changes and I think about people who are maybe 15 years older than me. They had a job, there was print, there were due dates for the print. Was the insertion order signed? Let's release the art. It was so much of a system, a very consistent process. And there's times when I just wish it was that easy.
Casey GeorgesonThere's no playbook, there's no playbook. I think having advisors that you trust is really... I don't know if you have built an advisory network, but that for me has been really helpful too, where there's problems that I'm trying to work through. I feel really stuck, lots of blockers and I'll call someone and just the perspective outside of the industry or the perspective from someone who's been through it, again, there's no playbook, but at least that those are inputs, that for me, help me see it more clearly oftentimes. Yeah. It's an adventure. It's a roller coaster.
Jodi KatzWell, let's talk about no playbook. For the space of CBD, the marketing toolbox that most entrepreneurial brands work with can't necessarily work for you because of regulations and rules and things that at this moment you might not have control over. So I'm curious to hear about how you solve for that. Getting the word out, building awareness, amplifying the great stories. It's not a click of a button for you like it is for other brands.
Casey GeorgesonYeah. I've had to really go easy on myself in that respect because you're right. It wasn't. We're not like a normal skincare or beauty brand that has a lot of levers they can pull to grow out of the gate. 2019 was tough. There were so many headwinds, so many challenges. I felt like a little bit of a crazy person trying to help people understand that CBD is an efficacious molecule. It's not a miracle, but it's a molecule. It's not a schedule one substance like heroin. We're not talking about something that is not beneficial to people. There are so many benefits to this ingredients like a vitamin. And so it was challenging between payment processors and advertising, whether it was Facebook or Google or retargeting. There were a lot of channels that were just unavailable to us. And so I relied really heavily on our retailers as our influencers. And that was, I think for us, a really great way for us to launch out of the gate because we were able to tap into these communities that were loyal to these retailers that have been mobilized for our brand.

So the retailers as influencers was really big for us and a little bit counter to a lot of the philosophies around building a DTC brand. That was what we couldn't do at first. We couldn't build a DTC brand, a strong one with the headwinds. 2020 has been different. We have had unbelievable growth in DTC, but 2019 was all about trial and awareness and getting our brand out there. So at retailers and then press. Press was something that was really fascinated by CBD. When we launched, I think we launched at a good time. And so the editors embraced us and that was really meaningful to our business. It gave us a lot of momentum and credibility and helped us combat the headwinds and also allowed us to talk to the potential vendors, the advertising vendors, or our payment processors, and say, "Look, we're working to architect the narrative of this industry. Let's work together. Let's partner and build the airplane mid-flight together."

I think that was good for us charting the way as a CBD brand that was trying to do things right and responsibly. 2019 was not without its challenges. 2020 has had challenges, different ones, but 2019 was really around a lot of regulatory headwinds.
Jodi KatzSo what changed this year in terms of being able to navigate the communications challenges?
Casey GeorgesonWell, I think first and foremost, there's a lot of education that needs to happen around CBD. And so we are now a couple of years into that education. I think people have relaxed a little bit that this is not THC. There are brands like Saint Jane that are not weed washing and trying to capitalize on drug culture. And the FDA is very, very busy and with a lot of things that are much more important than CBD right now. But I think that it's also the cat's out of the bag on CBD being able to truly help people from a topical perspective and from an ingestible perspective. It really does make a difference and it's changed people's lives. And so that momentum for the ingredient, I think, is just getting started with more education, more education.

But I think collectively, a lot of these areas that were blocked to us in 2019 have opened up because there's more understanding of what it is, what it does, the risks, the downsides, which there are very little, and then the positives that are available to people by using it. So I think that that's really where it's loosened up. We still have a lot of work to do though. It's not smooth sailing quite yet, but I do think it's an exciting frontier with what's been opened up so far.
Jodi KatzCasey, where does a counter argument to CBD come from? It's not a drug, so are there organizations who are saying don't use it? Where's the pressure coming from? It's not like lobbying like tobacco and tobacco's bad, doctors are saying, but then the tobacco lobby say no, it's fine. Is it that? Is there a lobby against CBD?
Casey GeorgesonWell, I think that there-
Jodi KatzBecause that would be like, I think... Sorry to interrupt. Would that be equal to a lobby against lavender essential oil? In my head, am I seeing this clearly?
Casey GeorgesonYour analogy, which we have to talk about with castor oil, is so good. That was such a poignant point that we talked about in the pre-interview. Well, to answer your question, I think that because CBD is borderline, it's borderline medicinal, it has the ability to help balance things that the pharmaceutical companies want to regulate. So pain, sleep, anxiety, gut health. I think that there is pushback from those companies. I don't know specifically what that pushback is, but I think that there's this nervousness that people are going to choose CBD over other options and responsibly, you don't want people choosing CBD over some Western medicine choices that might be really life-saving.

So there is responsibility needed around how you message what CBD can do. And I think that it's like any other, supplements are not regulated, but it's like any other ingredient, like SPF is regulated by the FDA because it's borderline medicinal as well. And so I think that that's where the guardrails are being put in is let's make sure that what we're talking about with CBD is accurate and backed by science and not over promising health results that would be irresponsible.
Jodi KatzGot it. Okay. So there's forces that are clear to you that are applied, but then there's some that aren't so it's a really challenging place to be.
Casey GeorgesonIt is. And the way that I approach it is I feel really clear about our mission and what our products can do. And so I stick to that. I try not to let the distractions slow us down. I think it's been a blessing for us as we've gotten into the industry, that there are so many headwinds that it's kept a lot of the bigger players out and it's allowed us to do our thing and establish our brand. And so I feel lucky that we've been able to have the vision and the mission behind what we do that has been momentum inspiring for us versus slowing us down.
Jodi KatzSo, Casey, the last thing I want to talk about before we run out of time is the idea of leaving a dream job to pursue another endeavor and, or to have more balance in your life or whatever. And you had told me that if you leave on good terms, you could probably always go back. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because I think we'll probably have a lot of listeners who are like, "I really want to leave. I really want to pursue my dream, but I'm just terrified that if it doesn't work out or I don't like it, that there's not a place for me."
Casey GeorgesonYeah. I think, okay. So, I'll explain where I came out on that when I left Sephora and then some advice. So I think when I left Sephora, it was a really hard decision. I loved my job. Like you said, it was my dream job. I felt so grateful to have it. And yet I also had these two daughters. I now have three, but I had two daughters at the time. And I knew that the balance in my life was really out of whack and not sustainable. I was traveling all over the place. It was hard on my husband. I had a three-year-old and a one-year-old and I felt out of sync with what I wanted. And so I made the decision to leave, but I wanted to make sure that it wasn't because there was a problem with my job, with my team. There wasn't.

And so that was really important to me, that my decision to leave was really about me and my balance and what I needed to correct in my life that had nothing to do with anyone else. And I think that helped because I had obviously done a great job in my role there and loved all of the relationships that I had built. And that was really important to me. And so keeping those relationships whole when I left was essential. And I knew that I could go back if I wanted to and there was an opportunity and that also made it easier to leave because of... I don't want to say fall back because it was more than that because it was such a great job and such a great company, but that was important to me to maintain those relationships and to maintain my reputation.

I think that was for me in every choice in my career, leaving on good terms was essential. And my advice to everybody is really, if you're thinking about making a change, first of all, it's always going to work out. It will work out. If you're driven, if you are committed, if you have high integrity in everything that you approach, you will find something that feels like a good fit. Sometimes you have to go through a few roles before you find that good fit. Sometimes there's no role that's a good fit and you decide to be an entrepreneur, but if you stay committed to finding the balance in your own life and making sure that you're in a role that is suited to your skill set and your passion and what inspires you, I do believe it will all work out.

And the financial side, obviously, as we're really in economic uncertainty right now, the decision to leave a job that is solid and stable right now is uniquely challenged. So be really thoughtful about that and the timing because you want to make sure that where you're going is going to enable you to use whatever you do as a launching pad to the next thing. But staying true to what makes you feel balanced, I think is so important. It's wellness, it's sanity, it's health. Ultimately, if you're stressed out and even if you don't feel that way, it's going to come out sideways in your body and your mind, and you don't want to get sick one day and look back and say I just didn't know how to create and force the balance in my life that I needed. So hopefully, that's helpful.
Jodi KatzI think it's great. And also not throwing the papers in there and being like F you, everybody, just being honest.
Casey GeorgesonYeah. Don't throw the papers in the air.
Jodi KatzDon't take a baseball bat to the printer.
Casey GeorgesonTotally.
Jodi KatzJust honesty and humanity go very far. Well, Casey, I loved getting to know you and I'm so grateful that you shared your wisdom with our listeners today.
Casey GeorgesonThank you so much, Jodi. It was great to talk to you too. Could talk all day.
Jodi KatzAnd for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Casey. 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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