Episode 47

 

Matt Stillman went from TV exec to skincare guru, a pretty big career change by any account. “I’ve been a full time weirdo my whole life.” he observed. “And sort of followed a winding path to something that looks like a career.” In this episode, he connects the dots between creating hit shows to creating paleo skincare, and how staying true to his “weird” has helped him put it all together.

Announcer

Welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty, hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.

Jodi Katz

Welcome back, everybody. I am happy to say that today, I am sitting with Matthew Stillman, founder of Primal Derma. Welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty.

Matthew Stillman

Thank you so much, Jodi. Good to see you again.

Jodi Katz

So I want to let everybody know how we know each other. And I think this is a lesson to all new brands out there. You reached out to us.

Matthew Stillman

Indeed, I did!

Jodi Katz

You did your own PR.

Matthew Stillman

I was doing my very own PR. It’s true. I saw you guys mentioned in Beauty Independent, and then … I had never heard of you guys and I listened to a few of the episodes, and saw what your ethos was, and I thought, “Oh, this sort of makes sense. I should reach out to them.” And I did.

Jodi Katz

Yeah! And then, [Aleni 00:00:51], our producer, spoke with you and thought you were interesting, and passed the information on to me. So this works. Right? The process works?

Matthew Stillman

It worked this time.

Jodi Katz

Well, how often are you doing this sort of PR for yourself?

Matthew Stillman

Well, I’m doing PR for myself all the time. I can’t say that podcasts have been incredibly fruitful yet, but they … definitely reached out to them, and I guess you’re the second or third podcast that I’ve done to talk about Primal Derma, which is … I’m really delighted about, but we’re still a young brand, so it’s not like I’m blowing up the spot everywhere, like, “Oh my God! There’s an unstoppable PR team!” Because I’m the PR team.

Jodi Katz

And are these other podcasts … are they face to face, like this one? Or are you doing it over the phone?

Matthew Stillman

They’ve all been over the phone. This is my first face to face podcast.

Jodi Katz

I see. Let me know at the end how you like it.

Matthew Stillman

I like it. For me, I preferred the notion of face to face, because it just feels more personal.

Jodi Katz

Yeah. We’ve done phone ones. There’s just this sort of like, “I don’t know what your face looks like as you’re speaking.”

Matthew Stillman

That’s exactly right.

Jodi Katz

“You don’t know what my face looks like.” And it really changes the dynamic of the conversation.

Matthew Stillman

Absolutely. I also … when we met to talk about Primal Derma, just for you to tell me a bit about what you guys were doing at Base Beauty. I’ve just enjoyed our interactions as people. So I’ve felt that having the opportunity to have that simpatico in person would be all the better.

Jodi Katz

Well, I’m glad that you’re hear and when I look at our roster of prior podcasts that we’ve recorded, you’re in really good company. We have a lot of really interesting people.

Matthew Stillman

I enjoyed listening and seeing … When I got accepted, I was like, “Really? I’m among these people who are much more accomplished than I.” So.

Jodi Katz

Well, maybe they’re farther along.

Matthew Stillman

Yeah. But still more accomplished. So.

Jodi Katz

But let’s talk first about these beads. You’re wearing giant beads.

Matthew Stillman

Okay. Yeah.

Jodi Katz

I mean, maybe they’re, like, two inches wide. So tell me about your beads.

Matthew Stillman

Yeah. These beads were made by the [Cokiyu 00:02:39] people in Kenya … Tanzania. And for at least 1,000 years, they’ve been protecting Jews that were being chased in that part of the world and taking them into their protection. So I wear them as a reminder that I come from a people that are worth protecting. And they’ve been valued by some people somewhere in the past. So that’s why [inaudible 00:03:04] call on all the ancestors, and remember that they’re among some people like that.

Jodi Katz

And you tell us the story for the first night of Hanukkah, which is the big night.

Matthew Stillman

That is true. Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah.

Jodi Katz

How did you find the story?

Matthew Stillman

I am fond of fine jewelry. I also have some bracelets, which you might see, as well, which are pretty substantial. And I have a friend of mine who is a …

Jodi Katz

Oh my God, they’re so heavy!

Matthew Stillman

Yeah.

Jodi Katz

[crosstalk 00:03:28] like weight lifting.

Matthew Stillman

Yeah. These ones are solid brass. And this one is solid copper.

Jodi Katz

And you go around on the subway wearing those?

Matthew Stillman

Yeah. I just came … Yeah. I wear these around.

Jodi Katz

So it’s like wearing … You know how people exercise … ankle weights on? That’s what you’re doing [crosstalk 00:03:42]

Matthew Stillman

It is like that. Except this is a 300 year old piece of metal that was made by the Tuareg people.

But with this particular set of beads, an acquaintance of mine runs an African trading store. And he sort of knows a bit of my taste, and showed me these beads. I thought they were beautiful. He said, “All I know about them is they’re made by the Cokiyu people.” And I thought, “[Well, I’ve 00:04:05] heard of them.” So I went and started to do some research into who they were and where they lived, and he told me that these particular beads are probably about 100 years old. They’re not ancient, but they’re old.

And so I looked up the Cokiyu people. And in researching them, I saw that there was a connection. I thought, “Wow! I feel more drawn to them now.” And they were just beautiful, but expensive. And now they’re beautiful and expensive, and part of my ancestry. And so I thought, “Those might be worth gathering in.” And so I did.

Jodi Katz

What are they made of?

Matthew Stillman

They’re made of [copal 00:04:39] amber, which is-

Jodi Katz

Can I touch?

Matthew Stillman

Of course! You can hold them. I mean, they’re-

Jodi Katz

Oh, they’re heavy, too! Oh my God!

Matthew Stillman

They’re big.

Jodi Katz

This is crazy.

Matthew Stillman

Yeah.

Jodi Katz

Amazing. So they’re vintage. 100 years old.

Matthew Stillman

Yeah. Vintage. [inaudible 00:04:48] vintage. I wouldn’t call them antique, really. I mean … when they could be 75 years. [inaudible 00:04:52] know exactly. But they’re not 500 or 1000 or something like that. So.

Jodi Katz

Right. And do you wear them daily?

Matthew Stillman

No, I wouldn’t say I wear them daily. But I do wear them. I do wear them.

Jodi Katz

Well, let’s talk about the past before we talk about the present. Because I like the sneak attack that we’ll do, which is you’ll tell us about your careers or any prior to your current brand, because it’s very different than what you’re doing now.

Matthew Stillman

It is. But related.

Jodi Katz

So tell us about it.

Matthew Stillman

Well, I, once upon a time, was an executive at Food Network. And I did that for a number of years. I developed shows like Iron Chef and Good Eats, which were big successes for the network, and in many ways, the network is still running on the fumes of the success of those shows.

Jodi Katz

I’m a huge Alton Brown fan.

Matthew Stillman

I know. I found Alton Brown sort of out of nowhere, and made that show work. I co-wrote the first four seasons …

Jodi Katz

Oh, that’s so cool.

Matthew Stillman

… of … maybe five, with Alton. Something like that.

Jodi Katz

So the idiosyncratic nature of it, that’s part of you, as well?

Matthew Stillman

Well, I mean, Alton was a truly brilliant … and the show was a sort of birth out of his head. Was very much sort of this amazing incarnation. But it didn’t sort of have its full quirk. And he and I developed that together in those first couple years. Yeah.

Jodi Katz

That’s a great … I love everything about it. Yeah.

Matthew Stillman

Yeah. It’s great. It’s great.

Jodi Katz

Whole thing.

Matthew Stillman

Yeah. So I have that particular part of my background. And then, from … not directly from there, but other things sort of wound … I found my way to other parts of television. Then I also made a feature length documentary film about the origins of poverty and why it persists in a world where there’s so much wealth. And that-

Jodi Katz

Why does it?

Matthew Stillman

Very short … I mean, you can watch the film. We can watch it on YouTube if you want. It’s called The End of Poverty? But in short, the core resources, which everyone had natural access to before there were corporations and big mass governments, keep people from having access to those. And if you don’t have access to water or land, just to pick to two of many those sort of these core resources, no matter what you do to try to get rid of poverty, the machine will continue to pump out poverty.

And that’s a heartbreak. But, you know, for a feature length documentary film about poverty, it’s a totally hilarious film. It’s not funny. It won an award at the Caen Film Festival. And I spoke at the UN four times about the film for a while, as well.

I’ve also been interested in ancestral health issues for a long time. And when you sort of combine those two, you can see the relationship between old ways of being in community and connection to land and place, and relationships … you can see food and history and with the ancestral health movement things, you can say, “How did we used to do things?” And so there’s this line backwards, which some ways might draw you forward.

And even with the beads that I’m wearing, there might be a little bit of an echo that there’s a history that informs us, and how we might remember our place, today. And that definitely adds up, in some ways, to a relationship to Primal Derma, which is a skin care company which is young, but is about reclaiming our ancient past and our relationship to land, the health of land, the health of animals, and the health of us.

And so Primal Derma is a skin care Primal Derma made out of grass fed beef tallow, which is an unusual substance. But it’s the rendered fat from cows. Although it could be from other ungulates, as well.

Jodi Katz

So the tallow that would be in mainstream brands, that would not be from grass fed cows?

Matthew Stillman

The vast majority of tallow that is generated is from industrially produced beef. And so it’s pretty … definitely not grass fed. It’s pretty toxic, but still slippery, because it just comes … So it’s used in all sorts of industrial things. It’s used for greasing drills in oil wells. You know, effluent from that process [inaudible 00:09:08] used in lipstick. I mean, it’s broken down, used in lots of different things. But the amount of grass fed beef as opposed to industrially produced beef in the company is pretty small. So a lot of it gets pitched, because there’s not a big market for it.

Plenty of it does get saved. And of course, some people want to use it for some things. But not a lot of it does. And so that’s part of the work of my little venture, is to help support these farmers that are trying to do the right thing by having this relationship with the health of the land and the health of cows. Because when cows are eating grass, which is what they’re ancestrally designed to do, on pasture that suits them in terms of space, they help the land recover. There’s more carbon capture, the grass grows deeper, the soil’s more aerated. Everything about is sort of better.

And so this is the way that … Cows, of course, are a relatively recent invention, cow like creatures. Things like aurochs and other grazing animals have been around forever. There’s pretty good evidence that humans have been using tallow on their skin for at least 17,000 years. Probably more, like 20. But, you know, call me a liar for 3,000 years.

Jodi Katz

So, tell our listeners what tallow is, for you? What is the process of collecting tallow?

Matthew Stillman

So there’s two processes that I use. One is I get big chunks of fat that have been pulled off of animals post-slaughter. And I get that at home, and I render it down, which looks basically like cooking it really slow in water, for a long time, until all the material of the flesh breaks down. Strain it a whole bunch. Refrigerate it. And then, just sort of like your gravy at home, where the fat rises to the top and the liquid goes to the bottom, separate that. Get rid of the water. Melt it again. Strain it again. And then re-refrigerate it, and then sort of keep on … Until it’s dry. You don’t want any water in tallow.

And once you have the solid brick of tallow, you can melt it into whatever ratios you need for the combination. I [inaudible 00:11:21] to mix it with [Moringa 00:11:22] oil to soften it. It’s pretty stiff. And then essential oils to scent it. And then, that’s it.

Jodi Katz

Right. So this started because you have relationships with friends who are beef …

Matthew Stillman

Farmers.

Jodi Katz

… farmers?

Matthew Stillman

Yeah. That’s exactly right. Yeah. When I first found about tallow even being … I knew tallow existed as a skin care thing, but hadn’t really thought too much about it, just being interested in ancestral health issues. I thought, “Oh, right.” But then I read an article in a sort of obscure magazine that told the story about tallow in the Mexican heritage. And it had a lot of chemistry in it, which sort of appealed to me, because I’m pretty nerdy. And I thought, “This sounds sort of fun!” And I didn’t know about the history of it in Mexico, but I knew about it more broadly.

And at the end of the article, there was a recipe. And I thought, “This sounds like I could do it.” So I talked to a friend of mine who is a farmer, down at the Union Square farmer’s market, who I’d bought beef from for years. And he said, “You’re really in luck. I happen to have some, because mostly I throw it away or burn it. But if you want 10 pounds or 100 pounds, I’ll sell you it for the same price.”

Jodi Katz

So it’s just waste from his processing-

Matthew Stillman

Largely, it’s waste. You know, because there’s a deep fat phobia in the culture. And for him, if he can’t sell it, due to some legal restrictions in New York State, slaughtering … and other states, too … since he’s doing smallhold slaughtering, all of it needs to be accounted for to sell it. So he just happened to be lucky and sort of had accounted for it, and so he could sell it. So.

Jodi Katz

Oh, I see. So are you the first person that’s approached him for his tallow?

Matthew Stillman

I was the first person who approached him for his tallow. He sort of just had it sometimes because every once in a while, you know, a friend of his would say, “Do you have some tallow?” Because some people use it for using pie crusts or any number of things. But I just happened to catch him literally on the day where he just had done the slaughter, and had it, still.

Jodi Katz

Wait. So is tallow the word for the animal fat? Or is tallow the word for the rendered product?

Matthew Stillman

You can use it for either. More properly, the rendered stuff is tallow. But you could say, I mean, it will be tallow when it’s on their body. But it’s still fat when it’s on their body.

Jodi Katz

Right. So you take the fat. You’re not taking bones or-

Matthew Stillman

No. No bones. Before you start, you need to sort of trim off little flecks of muscle or whatever, because it was part of the animal. And then clean it. Yeah.

Jodi Katz

Okay. So this is just sort of like the way that maybe I try a new soup recipe, you tried a making tallow recipe?

Matthew Stillman

That’s exactly right. I didn’t really like it, though. I liked the idea of it, but the recipe that was in the article just didn’t come out the way that i thought a skin product should. So I had 100 pounds of tallow to play with-

Jodi Katz

What does 100 pounds look like in a New York City kitchen? Like-

Matthew Stillman

I mean, spread your arms really wide. And then sort of make that a square.

Jodi Katz

Okay. So this was sitting on your counter? You had to put it in your fridge?

Matthew Stillman

I had a really big freezer. I had a second freezer anyway, just because I always bought meat in big amounts. So I’m lucky enough to be one of those homeowners in New York to have a big house. I have a brownstone up in Harlem. So getting 100 pounds was a total schlep to carry in the subway, but I did it and then was sort of doing 5 pounds at the time to see how I could play with it.

And i gave a bunch away, and I sold a bunch, in my experiments. And people just said, “It works really, really well,” for many people’s skin issues, questions, wonders. They’re like, “This just works.” And almost every person that I gave it to or sold it to said, “You should turn this into a business.”

And I’ve been a full time weirdo my whole life, and sort of followed a winding path of something that looks like a career. And I’d never done anything that looks like physical products. And so I didn’t have a whole lot of body of knowledge on that. But I thought, “I don’t know, maybe this is the thing to try it on.”

Jodi Katz

Were you working at the Food Network while all this was going down?

Matthew Stillman

No, I wasn’t. I’d been gone for some time there. But this was probably more post the film, and … yeah.

Jodi Katz

How long has it been that the company’s been in existence?

Matthew Stillman

Two years.

Jodi Katz

So for two years, is this your only job? Or you have side hustles, too?

Matthew Stillman

Oh, I have many plates on which I spin?

Jodi Katz

What are those other plates?

Matthew Stillman

I’m a landlord. I’m an author. I help teach a personal professional development course sometimes, which is not of my own devising. I have a creativity consultancy, which is a joy of my life. And I’m also a part time body worker. So I do a bunch of different stuff.

Jodi Katz

What is a body worker?

Matthew Stillman

Things that look like massage, but aren’t really massage, but help to move things in people’s bodies. So.

Jodi Katz

Oh, okay. And what is a creative consultant? Is that what you said?

Matthew Stillman

I have a creativity consultancy. So, since 2009, I’ve been sitting in Union Square pretty regularly with two folding chairs and a table, and a sign that says, “Creative approaches to what you’ve been thinking about,” and a smaller sign that says, “Pay what you like or take what you need,” with a little jar of money there.

And I’ve spoken with over 4,000 people other there, helping them look at whatever is going on in their lives, big or small, personal or professional, weird or totally mundane. And I try not to ever give advice, but help people look at whatever’s going on in their lives more creatively, to help them cultivate a new relationship with that.

Jodi Katz

For how long do you speak to each person?

Matthew Stillman

It could be any amount of time. It could be five minutes, could be five hours. And I’ve done both.

Jodi Katz

Is it a sort of Peanuts comic strip?

Matthew Stillman

Well, I suppose there is a little bit, like, the doctor is in. But that’s definitely 5 cents, and [inaudible 00:17:21] definitely trying to move you out the door. You know, I suppose in one way, this might be akin to that idea, where I just put myself out there and see what happens. But I definitely don’t make any claim that I can fix you, and I’m not interested in giving advice, which doctors often are, and Lucy certainly does.

Jodi Katz

Right. So how do people know that you’re there? [inaudible 00:17:44]

Matthew Stillman

I just [inaudible 00:17:45] will show up. And I mean, I’m just there, on the south end of Union Square, sort of from May to October, depending on the weather, one day a week.

Jodi Katz

And you need a permit for that table?

Matthew Stillman

You don’t, actually. There were some battles during the Bloomberg years, to sort of deal with that. But now, if you have anything that looks like entertainment on your table, you can be counted as recreation and you’re fine.

Jodi Katz

Okay. So you have a lot of plates spinning. How do you see moving the brand forward?

Matthew Stillman

Well, I can see moving the brand forward by continuing to find audiences who might be interested in understanding the story and bringing it in. And I’m not trying to grow the company into some sort of radical, huge … You know, Burt’s Bees, which is a beautiful company in lots of ways, took nearly 30 years to turn it into what they turned it into, and never started off with the intention of, “We’re going to become a multinational company.” That’s not my goal at all. Roxanne Quimby, who started Burt’s Bees, her intention at the beginning was, “I want to share these great ingredients and the story of the place that I come from.”

So where this will end up, I couldn’t really say. But there’s a famous economics book but E.F. Schumacher called Small is Beautiful. And I’d like for this to be small, for now, because I think small is sustainable and it allows me to be in close contact with the product and the farmers and the manufacturing. I would love for it to be big enough that I might be able to sustain those who support me, my home, my family. But also the farmers, the animals, and the land. You know, to be able to be in that sort of a circuit would be pretty grand.

Jodi Katz

Right. So, you know, you’re certainly a beauty industry outsider. What’s been the biggest surprise since starting this business, about our industry?

Matthew Stillman

I think what’s really been a surprise for me is how slow it is, that it really … I didn’t think that it was going to go fast. I just thought it would go slower. Because I do know that the subject matter from which I’m sort of philosophically orienting the skin care product around is unusual. And it’s story worthy just all alone because a lot of people say, “What’s tallow? Why would I put beef fat on my skin?” Huh. Interest … Even if they think that’s gross, which some people do, no one says that’s not interesting.

Jodi Katz

Right. Like, when you and I first spoke, I was really surprised by myself. Like, my reaction to it. Like, one that, “Well, of course. What would people have been doing 100 years ago.” Right? we didn’t have those chemical substitutes. So of course our ancestors have been doing this. Of course it makes sense. Of course hundreds of other beauty companies are using maybe lesser quality tallow. But certainly, they’re infused in many of the products I’ve been using my whole life and probably even have an awareness around. But there’s something about the way you present it, and your backstory about how it evolved into an actual product that paints a different picture around it. I don’t know, it doesn’t feel like an ingredient of industrialized beauty. Right? It’s not. It’s the opposite of it.

Matthew Stillman

It’s the opposite of that.

Jodi Katz

But that’s what I know. Right? I know chemical companies and I know manufacturers and labs. I don’t know this. Right? So it feels odd, even though it’s not odd, which is my surprise and reaction to it.

Matthew Stillman

Yeah. So in that regard, there is a sense of … When journalists or magazines have written back saying, “Wow! Interesting story, we’ll get back to you.” Just hearing that a lot over the last two years and sort of wondering like, “Wow …” Like, not in a self-centered way, more like, “I sort of thought that if these people write back to say this is an interesting story,” they say, “We’ll do something on it.”

Jodi Katz

Right. It would be like me sitting with you and be like, “This is so interesting. This is so odd. I’m not going to have you on [crosstalk 00:21:53] podcast.”

Matthew Stillman

That’s exactly right! And that’s happened a lot. And so in that regard, I’ve just been surprised that when people write back, they write back to say, “So interesting. We’re not doing it.”

Jodi Katz

Right. They’re not even ignoring you. They’re actually acknowledging, like, this is pretty fascinating.

So I have a hunch, if you want to hear it.

Matthew Stillman

I would love to hear it. I’m welcome to all help.

Jodi Katz

Okay. So I think that in the beauty industry, there is a true discomfort with something that is so not vegan. Right? So vegan, the leaping bunny, like, that is a preferred place for many, many brands.

Matthew Stillman

Totally. We don’t test on animals at all. Just saying.

Jodi Katz

But you are all animal [crosstalk 00:22:29].

Matthew Stillman

We are all animal. It’s true.

Jodi Katz

And so there’s a very vocal community of vegan beauty customers. And when those brands that they’ve been loyal to for years because they are vegan and they don’t test on animals and blah blah blah blah, go off to China and all of a sudden start testing on animals, it is a major, major deal. Boycotting, and their business can suffer.

So I think that the media, the beauty media, is so hyper aware of that mindset that your approach feels uncomfortable. Even though it’s … I have no data, but is it 80% of beauty products already have animal ingredients in them?

Matthew Stillman

Probably.

Jodi Katz

So it’s like, we don’t talk about what you’re talking about in our industry. We only talk about the vegan side of the road. So I think it’s shocking people and making them uncomfortable.

Matthew Stillman

Yeah. While I am not vegan in any way, I have great respect for their … Basically, what I think vegans … [True Hindi 00:23:36] actually can be vegan, but that’s a whole different argument to take on. But I do respect their deep heartbreak with the state of industrialized meat. And I really think that veganism is a protest against industrialized meat, which is fair enough. There is nothing to defend about it.

But what I have explained … I mean, I am very proud of the ethical vegetarian dermatologist who used my product. He said, “Wow, if you’re going to use an animal product, this is sort of the one you want to use because it’s really not trying to waste the animal. And everyone’s trying to do right by this animal by every step of the way. This is sort of if you must use animal product, this is the one that you’d want to do.”

So not to say that vegans must use this product and tell this story on their skin, but it’s good to hear that maybe in reaching out to all these different magazines going forward, just say, “I recognize that this isn’t part of the vegan doctrinaire, which you find so much. But there is a counter story, which actually might be able to rope in some vegans to at least think about the philosophy.”

Jodi Katz

Yeah, and I’m also just wondering if you can find any data around how much of the products we’re consuming already have tallow in them. Right? That’s gross tallow. [crosstalk 00:24:54] call it gross tallow versus clean tallow.

Matthew Stillman

A lot of lipstick.

Jodi Katz

Right. So if you presented an editor or a writer with the factoid that yes, these four major brands owned by these four major corporations are vegan and in fact do not use tallow in their products, these 75 brands that represent 80% of revenue in the category actually do use tallow, among other things … and for sure it’s not clean. So, you know, I wonder if there’s a sense of perspective that you need to create-

Matthew Stillman

That’s really interesting. I hadn’t thought of that particular angle.

Jodi Katz

Yeah. Because I’m not aware of … I should say this. I’m in the business of trying to be aware of what I’m using. Right? Like, I have a lot of clients who are actually super green and clean, and they have a very regimented supply chain, and they know everything, where everything’s coming from, who harvested it, who blended it. Right? But are confused by this.

So I’m an honest marketer. Right? Even though I’m an expert in many things, it’s still a very confusing world. So for the editor who’s not getting that close to brands, she needs an education. And I think that her reaction is exactly my reaction. “This is so weird.” Why is it weird? It shouldn’t be weird, but it feels really weird.

Matthew Stillman

Yeah.

Jodi Katz

And I think that’s the hill you have to overcome, especially because they’ve been inundated with, you know, PETA messages, [leaping 00:26:13] bunny messages. And this is not a judgment on vegan. This is just the messages they’re hearing and a very vocal community they’re listening to.

Matthew Stillman

Yeah. I also wonder, now that you’re saying this, that I think another sort of complexity that I have wondered about as a young brand is, is the story best told by me? Or is the best … Because when I email editor X at magazine Y, they don’t know who the hell I am. They [crosstalk 00:26:42] have heard of Primal Derma, but they may have heard of PR person, Ellen … let’s just pick the name. And they’re more willing to, because they have a cultivated relationship.

When I was an executive at Food Network, I think I was an unusual executive. I was willing to read every single pitch that came. It didn’t mean that I could always respond quickly or say yes to all of them, obviously. But I was interested in reading every single one. But I don’t know what it’s like for beauty editors to receive unlimited pitches from unknown sources to be like, “Oh, I’ve never heard of Primal Derma,” but if they get an email or a call from Ellen, who says, “This is an interesting story, interesting factoid …” And in some ways, I think that other people can make a better case for you than you ever could.

And I think that’s been another struggle as a young brand, is … you know, I can be an articulate and interesting voice for Primal Derma. But in some ways, you know, your best friends will say the things that are amazing about you than you ever could, would, or maybe even should. And so that’s been a question in my own head. Like, do you pay the … I’m making up the number of people who have … you know, $8,000 a month retainer for three months, on the rolling the knuckle bones of fate to see if maybe that turns into press, and then maybe that turns into sales.

Jodi Katz

Right. Well, as an agency that does do PR for brands as part of one of our services, like, of course. You know, someone on my team has a relationship … not just a relationship, a friendship. Right? And says, “I have this thing. It’s really weird. I need you to sit down, listen to it. And here’s the angle.” Absolutely, that helps. Because, I mean, you can’t do this on your own. And I have many friends who run small brands who can’t afford PR, and they did it on their own.

And people are responding to you, so they’re getting your email. Right? People are responding-

Matthew Stillman

Some do. It’s not like … I mean, the response is low.

Jodi Katz

Right.

Matthew Stillman

But still-

Jodi Katz

The fact that anybody is responding back is kind of a miracle.

Matthew Stillman

That’s great! I’m doing okay!

Jodi Katz

So, yeah. I think publicists have a job for a reason. [crosstalk 00:28:51]

Matthew Stillman

[crosstalk 00:28:51]

Jodi Katz

… it works. But not everybody has the money for it. Right? So you have to find your other paths.

But I think that there’s certainly an opportunity here to tell a story. I do think that … let’s say you still had a job at Food Network. We call it Food Network or Food [inaudible 00:29:10]?

Matthew Stillman

Food Network.

Jodi Katz

Food Network. Let’s say you were doing this as your side hustle and you still had your job. Then it’s like, “I’m Matthew from Food Network. I have a story about …”

Matthew Stillman

Well, yes. Of course.

Jodi Katz

Right? So then, for them it’s a very, very, very clear story. Right? You know, food industry executive sees waste in the industry. You know, he eats the meat. Here’s the extra stuff. So for them it’s packaged up in a really clean way.

Matthew Stillman

Right. Yeah, I have to make that pitch as former Food Network executive.

Jodi Katz

Right. So I mean, obviously the work you’re doing for skin care is heavily impacted by your history in the food industry.

Matthew Stillman

Yes. Indeed.

Jodi Katz

So maybe you have to draw that connection really strongly, that you’re not just a guy who hangs out carrying beef fat on the subway to your brownstone. That you’re actually a food industry executive advocate, right? You know, poverty means food. When people don’t have food. Right? A lot of things about food.

So if you draw those connections, I think that this story can continue on. And maybe you are just not saying the things they need to hear in that moment. You know?

Matthew Stillman

Yeah. I may not be. But I’m thankful for that language on how to better advocate for the story. Thanks, podcast!

Jodi Katz

Yeah! Any time. We’re like … wait. I should have put my sign on the table.

Matthew Stillman

You really should have! Yeah.

Jodi Katz

But I gave you advice, which you don’t give to your customers.

Matthew Stillman

That’s fair enough. But I’m open to advice. I really am. I’ve had a lot of really fine women who’ve given me a tremendous amount of guidance advice to make this whole thing happen.

Jodi Katz

Yeah. I think it’s a very generous industry. If you made a short list of executives that you find fascinating and reach out to them, I bet half would respond and make time for you. So I would encourage you to continue to network in the industry more. Beyond just pitching yourself to publicists. But, you know, people who have built brands, maybe whose personal philosophies you connect with, and I think you will probably find incredible advocates and advisers that way.

Matthew Stillman

Thanks. I just invested a chunk of money to go to IBE in August, so I’m pretty excited about that. Scared to lay down that much money at once, but it’s sort of the thing you need to do to feed that which might feed you.

Jodi Katz

Right. I think that being an entrepreneur in industry means that you have to be a risk taker and you have to spend the money now to make it later.

Matthew Stillman

Yeah. For sure.

Jodi Katz

Which I think is in any sort of industry where you have distribution and product on the shelf sitting on the warehouse …

Matthew Stillman

That’s certainly here.

Jodi Katz

… and it’s slow. I have clients who have been doing this for 20 years, and they’re not huge companies. Maybe it’s easier now. You know, maybe the money rolls in a little easier. But with that, well, then, there’s more things to spend on. Right? So it’s not this sort of I flick a switch and all of a sudden I’m rolling in dough, and life is easy. But if it’s something you believe in and you feel really passionate about it, you can probably have a lot of fun, meet a lot of incredible people, and hopefully make back plenty of money for your investment.

Matthew Stillman

No, that would be a real joy if such a thing happens. You know, in the meanwhile, I’m really delighted to try to make good choices. It took a long time for us to figure out how to make recyclable labels. So everything about our product is recyclable, and those vinyl labels were really annoying to me, and I … just like, “How can I figure this out?” And it took a while, and it took a whole bunch of infusion of cash, which I didn’t really have. But you sort of played credit card bingo, and said, “Okay, I’m going to make this happen so I can tell this story because it fits into the whole ethos of what I want to do.”

Jodi Katz

Great. Well, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today. This was awesome.

Matthew Stillman

Well, the fact that you called it wisdom at all is high praise. I’ll see if I can keep that up. Thank you so much, Jodi. I’m really grateful.

Jodi Katz

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 at wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.

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