Episode 40: Jeannie Jarnot, Founder of Beauty Heroes

As a long time spa director, Jeannie Jarnot was no stranger to bathroom overwhelm. You know, that anxious feeling that happens when your bathroom has too many beauty products? So she decided to take matters in her own hands with Beauty Heroes, a healthy beauty subscription service that sends out just one hero product a month. Hear how she went from steady paycheck to health-minded entrepreneur.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty, hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHey, everybody. This is so exciting. I'm sitting across the chair from Jeannie Jarnot, founder of Beauty Heroes. Welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty.
Jeannie JarnotHi, Jodi. I'm so excited to be here with you in New York City.
Jodi KatzI'm glad you're here, and we're using new tech today. New mics that replaced giant [beameth 00:00:31] ones with teeny tiny ones so I'm excited that you're my first with our new equipment.
Jeannie JarnotIt's so professional.
Jodi KatzWell, I'm so glad that you're here. We have a lot to talk about. Can you first tell our listeners about Beauty Heroes?
Jeannie JarnotYeah, sure. Beauty Heroes is a beauty discovery service. Some people call it a subscription box. I call it a discovery service because I come from the service industry. I come from hospitality, and that's where I came up with the idea to really deliver beauty in a more focused and intentional way, and really slow it down. That's what our service does. We deliver a discovery of one brand, one hero product every month that we send to people all over the world. We really try to go in depth with that brand and that product and teach people why I consider it a hero product, about the ingredients ... We have a really strict ingredients standard that we adhere to ... and about the brand and the people who make it. We really focus on green beauty, sustainable beauty and healthy beauty. We're also a beauty store, so we don't need to be a member of Beauty Heroes. We're also a beauty store where you can shop for healthy beauty.
Jodi KatzWhy did you feel like beauty needed to be slowed down.
Jeannie JarnotYeah, well, I had the idea when I was spa director. That really was my career path. I was deep in the spa industry and had been a spa director for a long time. What happened was spas, instead of being a place where you would go to slow down and to just take care of yourself, they started to be a place where you would buy your beauty products. You would buy your skincare, your makeup and what not. Over the years of being a spa director, I just really saw that women were overwhelmed with product, and they would come into the spa, actually ... This is what gave me the idea for Beauty Heroes. A part of what gave me the idea is they'd say, "I want to come in. I want to just get a massage, or I just want to get a facial. Please don't sell me anything."
That, coupled with my own bathroom overwhelm, and all the products in my bathroom, and seeing my girlfriends going into their bathrooms and just hearing stories of women feeling like they were overwhelmed, they were confused, there was so much. That led me to want to create something that slowed it down.
Jodi KatzThat's so interesting because I actually suffer from this idea. I'm essentially a marketer, right, selling stuff but I get this pit in my stomach about all this stuff that's out there. I think about globally how many shampoo brands are there. I don't even know. I haven't sought out the real answer. I know that there's thousands among thousands. There is a bit of me that's uncomfortable, really uncomfortable, with the quantity of offerings. I know it's beautiful that we have a lot of options but when does it end? I'm in conflict with my career. My gut is saying it's too much.
Jeannie JarnotAbsolutely.
Jodi KatzWhile the business that I'm in is saying more, more, more. We have to launch more. We have to have new. This is what drives our business forward.
Jeannie JarnotYeah, I think a lot of people are in conflict with it. Our mantra is "Use less, Love more" so we're really trying to help people find products that really work for them, that are actually made of ingredients that are good for you and good for the planet, and slowing down this concept that you always need something new. I think the days of going and buying eight or nine different products at once are over. I think women are really valuing less, but higher quality, products and things that make them feel good, and that also they know are going to be good for their health, for their family, for their kids and for the planet.
Jodi KatzIt makes me think of a story of a good friend of mine when we were younger and went on a cruise together. She's typically very frugal, but she came out of the spa on the cruise ship ... We were in college ... with 10 different products that were sold to her. That she bought. She's the wrong person to sell anything to. She'll never buy anything from you she's so frugal, but in that moment, she felt compelled to participate in the process of commerce in the spa.
Jeannie JarnotYeah, we've all be there. We've all been there.
Jodi KatzShe never used it. It went into the garbage, of course, eventually. Our industry is so driven by new. New, new, new. Beauty's not the only industry. Right? Cereal needs to change the box and the character on the carton. There's a lot of newness everywhere, but somebody in private equity would say I'm not interested in a brand that's not developing new because they're not going to be driving the business forward and growing. There is this "What do I do?" as a brand or a marketer when my gut is saying this is uncomfortable but the business is asking me to do more.
Jeannie JarnotRight. I think it's a balance. I see brands, a lot of the brands I work with, that are not launching something new all the time. I think there's different ways to talk about beauty. I think there's different ways to apply what you already have in your line. I see a lot of that. I think, particularly in natural beauty, what's really fun is they'll do limited edition products that tie into season, tie into a farm or tie into a message, or a story, or a self-care ritual that is new, but not really trying to get you to bite onto something and subscribe to some new concept, which is just marketing. You know what I mean?
Jodi KatzRight. A lot of our clients would say, I think in response to listening to you and I talk, "Well, editors aren't going to cover me if I don't have something new." In many ways, they're really right. Right? Writers are just obsessed with new. It's what drives their readers and their cliques. It's a hard place.
Jeannie JarnotIt is hard. I think it forces you to be creative. I actually think that experts who are really doing something very well, they don't need to create something new. They really can be looked at as doing something that is authentic and that is real, and there are deeper stories there. It is harder, but also I think it's good for the industry.
Jodi KatzWell, let's go way, way, way back. How did you start off in the spa industry? What led you there?
Jeannie JarnotYeah, I actually grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Jodi KatzOh my goodness. That's so cool. Let's start there. What was it like to grow up in Hawaii?
Jeannie JarnotI didn't even really realize it. It was pretty much the most epic way to grow up. I left Hawaii when I was 18 years old, and I came here to the east coast.
Jodi KatzWhy did you leave Hawaii?
Jeannie JarnotI went to college. I wanted to go a hospitality management school. I grew up in downtown Waikiki, hanging out at hotels and resorts, and going to the beaches there. They were my playground, like at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, for example, or the Royal Hawaiian hotel. We'd go to the beach in front of the hotel all the time. It was a culture. On Mother's Day, you'd go to the Kahala Hilton and have brunch. I grew up with the hospitality industry all around me, and I wanted to go to hotel school, so I did. I studied hospitality management, and I came to New York City. I got a job at the Palace Hotel, and I wanted to work in fine dining. I wanted to create memorable dining experiences for people. I really loved food and wine, and that whole experience that you create in that realm.
I worked at the Palace, and I felt really instantly that it wasn't going to be sustainable industry for me.
Jodi KatzWhy is that?
Jeannie JarnotYou know, it wasn't really a healthy lifestyle. I think reality set in. I had done all these [inaudible 00:09:52] and internships, and it was really exciting, and I was really passionate about the industry, but as a career, I just knew. I was working until 2:00 in the morning every night, and then so many things about it just weren't a right fit for my body and my whole being. The spa industry was just emerging, and I actually had a big life event. My mother passed away, and it forced me to really think about my life and my future. I had made a pivot basically. I wrote 40 spas all around the country, and begged them all ... I had no spa experience, so I begged them all to give me a job. A very great mentor now, and friend, she hired me. She was the spa director at Norwich Inn spa and brought me in as her assistant spa director. That's how it started for me. Then, I ended up having a long career in the spa industry.
Jodi KatzYou had this horrific life event with your mother passing. You really just said, "This is the time. I'm really doing this. I'm leaving food and entering something that feels more meaningful to me."?
Jeannie JarnotYeah, I had was really struggling with that right at that time that she passed away. I was living in New York City when she died, and I ended up having to go back to Hawaii for two months. I returned back to New York City and I was a different person. I was a completely different person after that life event. It really forced me to look at my own mortality and my own what I want to do with this one life. That led me to go seeking. I didn't know if the spa industry was going to really be a fit for me. I just knew that I wanted to try it. I don't know. I was led to it that way.
Jodi KatzYou were so ambitious to reach out to so many different spas. How did you make that decision?
Jeannie JarnotYeah. It's a really funny story. It's funny that you ask that because I love that I did this. I don't know how I had the idea to do it, but I think I went to a Borders bookstore and I bought Fodor's Guide to Healthy Escapes. This is back in the day. There wasn't really email. I think it existed because we had it when I was in college, but no one used it. I bought this Fodor's Guide to Healthy Escapes, and at that time, they listed the spa, they listed who the executive chef was and who the spa director was. It was also about spa cuisine. It was really about eating healthy and all this. I got their name and I got their address from this book, and I wrote literally 40 in print cover letters, with resumes, on nice resume paper back in the day when we used to do that. Now you just email your resume to people or whatever, and did it so nicely, sent them all out. Out of the 40, I got four responses. Three not interested, and then one person looking and I ended up getting that job.
Jodi KatzDo you still have the book?
Jeannie JarnotI don't. I don't have that book. I wish I did, though. I thought I kept it. I think I kept it, and then I was like in this mode of I'm going to live lighter and got rid of it, but I remember it really, really well.
Jodi KatzI go through these moments of going through the house and decluttering, and being like that's not me [inaudible 00:13:42]. Then, a year later, be like I wish I had this thing-
Jeannie JarnotYeah, I wish I had that book.
Jodi KatzI just get so consumed with the idea of getting rid of stuff, and I have two kids and there's so much stuff. There's always stuff to declutter. I get really motivated and sometimes I end up throwing away checks, things I really need, because I'm in this crazy, robotic move forward, get through it. That book sounds like it was really pivotal for you.
Jeannie JarnotYeah, it was a great tool. You couldn't really surf the internet and find things like that so that was the way you did that back then.
Jodi KatzWhat do you think the spa director who hired you ... What did she see in you?
Jeannie JarnotShe was really unique. She said you don't need spa experience. She was like you just need to have some good management experience and be willing to learn and work hard. I would say that's probably the one thing that anybody that I've worked for has said to me in my feedback has been you work really hard. I think she saw that in me. I think she also saw a young woman ... I was very honest about what had just happened in my life and why I was making this career change. I had had a four month gap since I had worked, so at that age ... I was 24 maybe. 23, 24 ... it was like you had to explain it. I had to say what happened, and I remember being really nervous to tell them that my mom just died and I had gone through this crisis. I was having an existential crisis really with my career.
Jodi KatzWhat do you remember learning first when you entered the spa industry.
Jeannie JarnotOh yeah. Gosh, I learned so much. They were going through a huge spa expansion, and her background was in fitness, so we did a lot with ... We had a really famous Pilates instructor come and we were working. I learned everything. I call it the spa bootcamp. It was two years of spa bootcamp. Basically they paid me to go to bootcamp.
Jodi KatzRight.
Jeannie JarnotI learned a lot about massage therapy, and the physicality of this profession and being in the spa industry, and how you really had to manage that skillset really differently then you did a regular employee who does normal things. Certainly, a lot about ingredients and products, and facials, and skincare. We really did everything. Nails. I ended up learning and doing body treatments. Then, one of the biggest, I think, gifts from that job was that they wanted to implement a meditation program at the spa. One of the managers was really passionate about meditation, and it was really new to me. It was definitely at a time in my life where I could definitely use that. The way they did it, they took volunteers from the staff who wanted to lead these meditation sessions. They were going to be free, and they were going to open it up so guests of the hotel could come, and staff of the hotel could come. They weren't going to close it off. No staff came to them, except for me. Except for me.
Honestly, if somebody else was leading it, I would go. Then, I would lead these meditation sessions. Very simple meditation. It wasn't anything complicated. That was part of one of the things that I took away from that job.
Jodi KatzDo you still use meditation?
Jeannie JarnotOh yeah.
Jodi KatzCan you tell me how?
Jeannie JarnotYeah. I mean, I think having a meditation practice ... I don't have a practice where I meditate every day. I think that if I can get either a workout or 20 minutes of meditation in a day, then it's been a good day. Sometimes I don't get either in, but I definitely do make time for meditation as often as I can. It's really, I think, helped me be a better entrepreneur, and be a better mother, and really be able to exist. I think everything's just gotten so fast. I feel like having been introduced to it so young that I have an advantage because you always know that that's there, and it makes you not get so overwhelmed by things. That I know that okay, I can stop for even five minutes because I've done it before many, many times. Meditation used to be part of my job, to lead meditation, so it was cool. It was a cool excuse to participate in mediation. It was like oh, this is part of my job, so I have to do this. That actually is a cool way to be introduced to it, I think.
Jodi KatzYou think that your body has a muscle memory? When you're having a frantic or an overwhelming moment, your body, your head, or your heart automatically says, "Oh, I can stop for five minutes and breathe."?
Jeannie JarnotYeah.
Jodi KatzThat's so amazing. I'm not there.
Jeannie JarnotYeah, I think it's like a survival mechanism now because entrepreneurship is so scary that I think that sometimes the body kicks into it, regardless of whether you're mindful about that I'm going to arrive at this place. I just had something happen where I got an email the other day, and it made my heart race. I was like it was going to be okay. I went to that place right away and it was like, "Oh, this is cool."
Jodi KatzThat's so beautiful that practicing for so long can get your body to do that automatically. I try to not necessarily ignore the stress, but I think what happens is it piles up and then I get to the moment where I'm like oh ... I have an app because I can't do this by myself ... "Put the app on, Jodi." In the train, or in bed, and just do this for five minutes. I really feel a huge difference afterwards.
Jeannie JarnotOh yeah.
Jodi KatzFor so many years, when the kids were little, I was shoving so much work into such a short amount of time every single day because maybe I didn't have a babysitter long enough, or they were really babies in preschool, and maybe there was a two hour window where I could work. I was doing this for years, shoving tons of things into a short amount of time, and every day I'd wake up and my heart would be racing as I was making breakfast. I would stand at the kitchen counter and I could feel it just going boom, boom, boom, boom, super fast. Now, I don't live that way, but my heart still does that. It doesn't know what else to do in the morning when we're doing breakfast. It just thinks it's supposed to race. I need to sometimes go into my bed, after they go off to school, and do those five minutes of breathing to just be like that's an old feeling.
That's not my now, that's my then, and get myself back into the now. My body, from being an entrepreneur for so long and struggling for so long, my body just thinks every day is that hard.
Jeannie JarnotTotally.
Jodi KatzThe meditation, I do feel, and talking about it, really makes a difference.
Jeannie JarnotI think it's a really good point that muscle memory can remember all of these things, and we need to remember that they're not all real. Yeah.
Jodi KatzLet's talk about your today. What'd you do today?
Jeannie JarnotWhat'd I do today? Well, I'm staying a friend's house. I'm actually couch surfing. I arrived last night from San Francisco, and one of my best friends lives here in New York City, so I woke up to that. Then, had a meeting with really a writer, and editor and writer, and then came here.
Jodi KatzYou were traveling yesterday. Does that mean you missed Halloween?
Jeannie JarnotI did. I did.
Jodi KatzIs that hard?
Jeannie JarnotYeah. Last night was hard. Leaving my kid on Halloween was hard, but I made a deal with him. I made it up before, and made it up after.
Jodi KatzNow, do you think it's harder for you than it is for your child?
Jeannie JarnotI think it's harder ... Well, you know? I don't know. Before starting Beauty Heroes, I worked a job. He was smaller, so he didn't really notice when I was gone. I was gone a lot more. I worked a job where I was gone way more than I am now. Now, even though I travel, I am present a lot in his life, and put him to bed every single night, except for when I'm traveling. I don't know how hard it is for him. Sometimes I feel like it's just him ... He likes to make me feel bad for leaving, and I remind him that mommy's around a lot. It does tear at me a little bit, but I guess I'm not one of those moms who really feels guilty. I think I feel guilty in the moment because I have my kid looking at me and saying, "Mommy, don't go," but I also feel like I really am there for him so much, and I feel so proud of that, that I don't feel truly, truly so bad.
Jodi KatzRight.
Jeannie JarnotHe's got a great dad and great family.
Jodi KatzDo you have non-negotiable days or events that you're not willing to miss?
Jeannie JarnotI haven't had to go there, so no. Not really. It's not something that has come up for us. I'm not traveling that much that it's that big of a deal.
Jodi KatzI don't travel a ton. I've traveled very infrequently, but I do think about birthdays.
Jeannie JarnotHis birthday is definitely non ... I wouldn't miss his birthday. I haven't missed a birthday.
Jodi KatzFor me, yeah, I want to be there for birthdays. Halloween is like my obsession, so I'll be with my kids anywhere-
Jeannie JarnotWhat were you yesterday?
Jodi KatzLast night, I was just like a unicorn, just on my head, and the rest was just in a sweater and jeans, but we put this big maze together in our front yard where you walk through this spooky maze to get to the candy. You know how some people go crazy for Christmas on their houses? This is our Christmas. I can't miss Halloween. It is my obsession. I wait all year long for Halloween. I'm okay if we traveled for Halloween as a family and did something Halloween-ish somewhere else, but to me Halloween is just the day of all days. It might be equal to birthdays for me. I do think about that. I actually struggle with this idea of success getting in the way of these things that are important to me like being around, coming down and seeing the kids after school, or being home at bedtime, or having meals with them.
Will success, as other people define it, which is more business ... Actually, I do want more money so that is how I define it as well ... Is that going to creep in and get in the way of what I hold most dear, which is the flexibility in my life, control over my time? I struggle with this because I want to protect what I've created so much and I'm so fearful in many ways of the next stage. I think I'm inventing the fear. Who's going to tell me that I need to do something I don't want to do? Nobody, but I have so much fear associated with it that it may be the universe is saying we can't move forward, Jodi, until we resolve what you're feeling right now, which is an intimidation, that fear and the seduction of success is going to take me out of the place that I want to be and make me go somewhere where I don't want to be, which is always away and always traveling and missing birthdays or Halloween.
Jeannie JarnotRight, right.
Jodi KatzI don't know how to really reconcile it yet.
Jeannie JarnotYeah, I think it's a step-by-step thing, right? My husband said that to me a long time ago. I still have some anxiety for sure, and he just said one thing, and he always said it whenever I have issues. He'd just say, "Jeannie, just step-by-step. You just have to remember all you have to do is take the next step." I think that's probably the biggest thing that led me to start Beauty Heroes, and probably the most important step I've ever taken was taking this step, and then there were so many steps after that that I had to take. For me, my approach now is I can trust myself to take the next step. That's all I need to do. That's all you need to do is take the next step. You don't have to take the 15 steps ahead.
Jodi KatzRight. In my head, this fear is actually taking me out of today, and out of the current step, and it's forcing me to be in a fantasy world in the distance when I don't need to be there.
Jeannie JarnotWhat we know now is 15 steps ahead, you can't see what's around the corner. How are you going to be scared of it because you don't even know what it is? The world's moving so fast, life and business is moving so quickly.
Jodi KatzRight. I think that's one of the reasons why, for me, being an entrepreneur is so hard is you just don't know what's around the corner. It could be the boogieman or it could be a pot of gold. You have no idea. There's really almost no way to prepare for it except just to keep your side of the street clean.
Jeannie JarnotYeah, yeah.
Jodi KatzIt creates so much anxiety to think forward, almost, in many ways.
Jeannie JarnotYeah, and I think of the things that I ... I feel like I have really strong intuition and I always say if I feel like the Boogieman's around the corner, he probably is. I've been retraining that, trying to work on retraining that where it's like if the Boogieman's around the corner, let's use him. How can I turn that into something good? That's been my next thing, because if I feel like the Boogieman's around the corner, he usually is.
Jodi KatzIs there an example you can think of where you were able to take that Boogieman and turn him into a useful tool?
Jeannie JarnotI think it's easier to do it in hindsight to give you an example. When I was on maternity leave from my job, I had a lot of anxiety about going back-
Jodi KatzThis is before Beauty Heroes?
Jeannie JarnotYeah, this was before Beauty Heroes. This was one of the things where I felt like I had this really strong feeling like something about me going back was not feeling ... I don't know what I had so much anxiety about it, and I kept thinking why are you inventing this? Sure enough, I went back to work, and there were a lot of things that were unsettling. I felt like yeah, I was worried about it because I had a reason to be. I ended up taking another job, and it ended up being so much to my advantage. I think we do this, I think we end up doing this so it's like the way that I think is accelerating the process and trying to minimize the anxiety or the fear, and say, "Okay, well the Boogieman ..." If I feel like he's there, and I've got good intuition, okay, he's going to be there. How can I work with this? Now that I'm older I see I always end up turning things to my advantage, so how am I going to do it this time?
Jodi KatzWhat I'm hearing is you're not allowing yourself to be the victim in the situation. You're turning the situation into an opportunity.
Jeannie JarnotSometimes I'm in bed feeling like the victim, but then I try to get out of that as fast as possible.
Jodi KatzRight.
Jeannie JarnotFor sure.
Jodi KatzThank you so much for your wisdom today. This has been so interesting. I hope you had fun.
Jeannie JarnotYeah. Great to talk to you more and learn about your experience, too. I think we all learn so much from each other.
Jodi KatzOur listeners give us such great feedback that they eat up what everyone has to say so much, because it's real and honest. There's really not a lot of places to hear this stuff. Only in person to person conversation, but you never hear the real hard stuff at industry events. Everyone's shiny and happy, and revenues are great, and sales are great and blah, blah, blah. Right?
Jeannie JarnotYep. Well, I think if anybody wants to know how real it is, they can come to talk to me. I won't make it sound shiny. I'll tell them the real deal. I'm not good at hiding it.
Jodi KatzWell, thank you for being here with us, and for our listeners, you can learn more about Where Brains Meet Beauty on our Instagram, @BaseBeautyCreativeAgency, and check us out on iTunes.
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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