Episode 57

 

An entrepreneur since the age of 10, Stacey Levine has been working with family one way or another for decades. The former retailer and current co-founder of Glo Science smile brightening tools shares how she’s navigated the professional with the familial, from her mother, husband and two adult sons. She also offers candid advice on how to dissolve and gracefully move past business partnerships when they’re just not working anymore – a must listen whether you’re working for Mom or working for The Man.

 

Announcer

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

Jodi Katz

Hey everybody. It’s Jodi Katz, your host of Where Brains Meet Beauty. This week’s episode is with Stacey Levine. She’s the Co-Founder of Glo Science. She has a beautiful smile, and it’s an incredible teeth whitening brand. If you missed it, tune in to last week’s episode with Laszlo Moharita. He is the Global Director of Beauty Packaging at Johnson & Johnson. I hope you enjoy the shows.

Hey everybody, welcome back to Where Brains Meet Beauty. I am sitting right next to my friend, Stacey Levine. She is the Co-Founder of Glo Science. Welcome.

Stacey Levine

Good morning. I’m so happy to be here.

Jodi Katz

This is really cool to be together. We haven’t seen each other in a while.

Stacey Levine

I know, thank you. Thanks for inviting me.

Jodi Katz

I’m so happy to have you here. I want to tell our listeners how you and I met.

Stacey Levine

Yes.

Jodi Katz

It was from your friend and Board member, Moharita, who’s also been a guest on our podcast. We started working together, and interestingly, we’ve had our ups and downs, or [inaudible 00:01:11] downs and ups.

Stacey Levine

Right, more ups. But all good.

Jodi Katz

That’s a journey I’d love to share with listeners another time. I want today to be all about you as a creator, a pioneer, a wife and a proud mama.

Stacey Levine

Thank you, yes, I am.

Jodi Katz

Let’s start today with a simple question. How will you spend your day today?

Stacey Levine

All right, well I started my morning on my Peleton bike in my building gym. I had a quick breakfast meeting with my sons, who are building a new brand. Then, I hopped on the train, and I’m here with you right now.

Jodi Katz

Cool.

Stacey Levine

Yeah. I’m busy, but it’s fun.

Jodi Katz

What is Glo Science?

Stacey Levine

Glo Science is a company that my husband and I, Jonathan, created in 2010, and it’s an innovative oral care brand that is to the consumer, and it’s really in the professional dental channel. We sell teeth whitening technology that we have all the patents for, as well as oral care products that will prevent inflammation and help with the health of the mouth.

Jodi Katz

You’ve been in the dental game for a while now, but I just learned that you used to own stores, right? Despite different [inaudible 00:02:27] in fashion and jewelry. Can you tell me about that?

Stacey Levine

Sure. My early journey was my parents, my mother, had a retail store. I came from Brooklyn, and it was in Sheepshead Bay. It was called The Enterprise, and it was a jewelry, gift and fashion store pretty much ahead of its time. At 10, I was the daughter of an entrepreneur. After school, that’s where I went. I did my homework in my mother’s retail store.

We grew the business for about 20+ years, and in 2000 sold it. It was a really fun journey for me. As I look back today, it’s really where I learned a whole lot about running and managing a business, and what it entailed from customer service, to operations, to buying, to having too much inventory, needing to liquid product, and mostly how to really delight the consumer. That is really what I loved. Packaging.

Jodi Katz

If you grew up … And she said Bay area, you knew The Enterprise … Everyone knew it?

Stacey Levine

Yeah, they really did, and it’s really fun because even today when I’m in a random place, if I say I’m from Brooklyn, and they’re like, “Oh, me too.” “Oh, from Sheepshead Bay,” “Oh, I had a store,” you know? The packaging was very iconic. It was very modern, very fresh. Everybody knew an Enterprise gift. That’s very important and symbolic of my continued journey, which is all around design and packaging, and the importance of interacting with the consumer in a way that really delighted them.

Jodi Katz

I would love to see a picture. Do you have any old pictures?

Stacey Levine

I do.

Jodi Katz

Okay.

Stacey Levine

From time to time, I have people on Facebook or Instagram that posts something for me, like, “I remember you here.” It’s hilarious.

Jodi Katz

That’s where my mother-in-law’s from, so I’m going to put the picture in front of her and ask her. [crosstalk 00:04:23]

Stacey Levine

I love it.

Jodi Katz

Yeah.

Stacey Levine

The packaging was shiny white paper, satin green ribbon, and a daisy, a white daisy.

Jodi Katz

Oh, cool. Mm-hmm (affirmative), that’s so cute. I love learning about this. So you are a serial entrepreneur, right? You started at age 10-

Stacey Levine

Yeah, [crosstalk 00:04:38].

Jodi Katz

What was the way you got into the dental business? You were in fashion and gifts. How do you move into dental?

Stacey Levine

Yeah, so my husband is a prosthodontist. He practices dentistry on Fifth Avenue and 73rd-

Jodi Katz

What’s the word you just used?

Stacey Levine

Yeah, most people don’t know it, but it’s a specialty in aesthetic dentistry. It’s where you go to school for an extra few years, and you become a prosthodontist, so it’s crown and bridges, and aesthetic dentistry, and it’s really about form and function, and the aesthetic beauty of the smile.

He practiced up on Fifth Avenue and 73rd. He’s been there for many, many years. As a teacher and a pioneer, creator and an inventor, he always wanted to improve dentistry. Actually, really wanted to re-brand dentistry. He still does, because dentists get a bad rap.

Jodi Katz

Yes.

Stacey Levine

It’s all about pain. So, I like to say our business is really more about the smile as opposed to dental. But Jonathan had invented a technology that he had just for his patients. This is before Crest White Strips, and before teeth whitening became important and sexy and really relevant. He invented a product that he had just for his patients. He went on television as an expert on dentistry, and showed all different kinds of technology when dentistry became a little bit sexy. This is in 2000. He showed his little product-

Jodi Katz

What show is this?

Stacey Levine

On The View.

Jodi Katz

The View, this is major.

Stacey Levine

It was, it was really cool. He was on a lot of television, humbly speaking. That show was pretty amazing, because they wanted to highlight how dentistry has evolved, and how it has changed. He, of course, wanted to highlight that it was much more about making people smile, and giving people empowerment and confidence.

He showed different kinds of product that was being used in office, and then he showed his little product. At the time, he called it Enhanced. I just looked at him and said, “How could you have a product called Enhanced?” That just wasn’t dental, smile. Anyway, they loved it on The View, and they were all using it. When he was off and his episode was done, and the next people were coming on: Joy Behar, Barbara Walters … All of them were just using his little product.

At the time, I was just retiring. Well, I don’t know if you could call it retiring, but I had a 13 year old and a 10 year old. I was like, I’m just going to some exercise, I’m going to take care of my kids, and I’m going to be a mom.

Jodi Katz

Wait, that’s the dream, right? To just work out every day and hang out?

Stacey Levine

Yes, at the time it’s what I thought was my dream, because I had worked since I was a little girl. I just thought, “Wow, this would be really amazing, if I could just do that.” We sold the business, The Enterprise, it was called, in Brooklyn, and he’s like, “No, we’ve got to build a brand now.” I’m like, “Okay.”

It was a nano second that I went from wanting to just be a mom and stay home, to really realizing that I always had that drive to want to build something and do something.

Jodi Katz

Isn’t it amazing how the universe works? You had the opportunity to sell the family business, The Enterprise, give yourself room for [inaudible 00:08:00] at least to breathe, and then have a new opportunity presented in front of you, right? This might have been a harder decision if you were still running the store.

Stacey Levine

Yes, it would have been.

Jodi Katz

Right?

Stacey Levine

Yes. I believe that that’s just [inaudible 00:08:13]. I think that many people listening, and girlfriends and friends of mine, I try to always let them know when door closes another one really does open. It just allows you to take your learnings and pay it forward into an even better the second time.

Jodi Katz

I totally believe in that, but I’m very challenged by the when. I know that let’s say we’re having a bad quarter, or whatever is happening. I know that my business is not destroyed, it’s not the end of the world. But when does that other door open?

That’s what I struggle with. I really do get anxious about things, and a little bit crazy and lose sleep, even though I know it will be fine, and the universe has always given me what I need, I just still struggle with the unknown of the when.

Stacey Levine

Yeah.

Jodi Katz

When will that shift happen?

Stacey Levine

I think that struggle is an indication that you actually really care. For me, that [inaudible 00:09:10] care, is like the center of my universe in my company and in my life today, because I really believe … That just shows that you really care. You get anxious, you get nervous, and that’s real. I mean, if you didn’t, then you’re just coasting.

Jodi Katz

Right.

Stacey Levine

You just have to really believe in yourself, and you have to allow yourself to fall a little bit, but know that you can pick yourself right back up. That’s not easy.

Jodi Katz

I’d just like to sleep better. I value sleep so much, so when these things that I have no control over get in my way of sleeping, I get a little frustrated, which makes me then sleep less, too.

Stacey Levine

Which isn’t good.

Jodi Katz

No, it’s a cycle. I like waking up refreshed. It’s really important to me.

Stacey Levine

We all do.

Jodi Katz

Let’s talk about family, because you ran a business with your mother, so I’m sure that could be a whole book in itself.

Stacey Levine

Oh yes.

Jodi Katz

You run a business now with your husband. I know we’re skipping ahead, but this theme of family is really interesting. Your sons are creating a brand that I’m sure if you’re not actively involved, then they’re certainly ask you for guidance. How do you work with family? How do you survive working with family? What are the benefits of working with family?

Stacey Levine

Such a good question, and certainly very much a part of who I am, and who we are as a family. I think the one thing about family, most of the time, you really can trust them. You know they’ve got your back, they’re not going to abandon you. Particularly, if you keep the communication really wide open. I would say I had a lot of respect for my mom early on. She knew more than I did.

I knew that, that knowing more than I do, I got into trouble with later in my life because I didn’t necessarily pick people in my business that knew more than I did, and that was a mistake. My lessons now are you really surround yourself by people, with people in your brands, that are smarter than you, that are experts in the areas that they’re being hired for, and because you don’t know everything.

Working with my husband, he always used to say, “You need to be married for 20 years plus to work with your spouse.” The truth is, we have our own expertise. I have enormous respect for his profession and for his expertise in creation and invention, and his authenticity in wanting to create a product that really fills a void in the category, in the space, in people’s lives.

So, it’s for the right reason that he innovates product. For me, it’s like a dream because I can bring that product to life in a way that tips into what I think is my expertise, or what I really believe in, which is bringing a brand to life so that the consumer can understand it, and hopefully they can fall in love with it.

You know, falling in love with your brand … It’s like when I first met you. I mean, I really did fall in love with you. I did. I thought you were really authentic, you shared your stuff about things that were going on in your life with your kids and the balance-

Jodi Katz

I think it was a really bad day I was having.

Stacey Levine

Well, we all have them. We do, we all have them. So, I really think that … I believe that communication is so critical, and in order to have a successful family life, and for your kids to respect you and want to be with you, I think you have to talk to them like adults, and you have to treat them that way. You have treat everybody in your life that way, and give people a chance to really express their feelings, and share their thoughts so that … And digest it, so that you can move forward with them.

My two sons, it’s so exciting, because my oldest son, Julian, they both went to Cornell, they graduated in the Undergraduate Business program. One of them went into Private Equity, and was doing that for seven years, and the other one was a Digital Strategist in Marketing. Both really are doing an amazing job, kind of crushing it in their careers. But a journey, a lot of learnings. Not exactly what they both thought, and it’s surprised and delighted them in other ways.

After doing what they were doing, particularly my older son, seeing a lot of brands growing and evaluating brands and seeing what it was that got them where they got to, and the success that they had, he said, “Me, too.” They come from two entrepreneur parents. I would say we all have entrepreneur in us, you just have to have confidence to be able to do that.

They both said, my older son said, “Well, I’m going to pursue and I’m going to build a brand.” We’re like, “In what category?” We have a Foundation, which is called the Glo Good Foundation, where we give back to the underserved, which is what we started our company out with. I’ll never forget … I’m probably going off track right now-

Jodi Katz

Yes, this is awesome.

Stacey Levine

We launched the second brand. My first brand was Go Smile, and we sold it to our investors because we didn’t want to be in business with those investors anymore, and we wanted to move on and create something 10 times better, and do it in a way where we had taken our learnings and took them on the highway, and took a high road.

When we built our second brand, Glo Science, we were talking to David Sultieanu, who is the CEO at Sephora, and Moharita at the time, and Jonathan and I were like, “We want a Foundation. We want to give back. We don’t just want to be a for-profit brand.” David, particularly, they said, “That’s too much. You can’t do them both at the same time. It’s a whole business in itself to build a Foundation.”

We were like, “Okay, we get that, but we want to do it anyway.” I think part of being an entrepreneur, and being a Founder, is you’ve got to follow your dreams. You have to break rules, you have forge through, even if people tell you not to do it. If you make a mistake, so what? You pick it up. Hopefully, it wasn’t too expensive. You have to listen to the people that know more than you, but sometimes you gotta go your way.

So we did, we built the Foundation anyway. Built it. We got a name, it was called Glo Good Foundation, and it was an easy name to come up with. We’ve been doing really great things with it. I am very proud. It’s at its infancy, but it’s growing. We partner with Lenny Kravitz, who’s a dear friend and rock star, awesome person, and a patient of my husband’s.

We do these missions, and we go down to Eleuthera and we treat over 500 people a gift of a smile, taking them out of pain, making them really comfortable. Cleanings, root canals, whatever they need. It’s a big team that comes down with us, and my kids came.

Jodi Katz

So the other physicians that your husband knows and dental hygienists, you bring a whole team of experts down?

Stacey Levine

Yes, we do. In fact, the first time Jonathan … It was Christmas, and it was going to be planned over Christmas. He asked his team, whose been with him for 15, 20, 25 and 30 years in his dental practice Uptown. He has like 35 people up there. He said, “Instead of a party and a bonus, how would you like to go on a Glo Good mission?”

Every single person raised their hands. So he closed the practice, and we all went down. That’s how it got started. My boys went on the mission, and while their father was a dentist their entire life, and practicing that craft, they never really understood the power of what he did until they went on these missions. They saw that he changed people’s lives just by giving them cleanings, taking them out of pain.

People without access, it’s the best gift you could ever give them, because they’re never going to have access to dentistry. That’s the last place they’re going to be able to get help at. My boys turned around and said, “We’re going to start a company in oral care.” They’re awesome. They’re Millennials, they’re super smart, and they’re starting a direct-to-consumer brand called Twice.

It’s @Twice on Instagram. They’re starting with toothpaste. They have a super cool concept, it’s morning and night. It’s not going to be over-priced, it’s going to be like the ideal toothpaste, what you need, not what you don’t need. The real deal. They’re going to give back to the Gro Good Foundation.

Jodi Katz

Oh, that’s lovely.

Stacey Levine

Yeah, so it’s really cool. Watching them take the … This morning, one of my meetings I had was with them. I just was listening to them, and I realized it’s 24/7 when you start a brand. I guess I’m finally at a place right now where I have a really great CEO at Glo, and I have an amazing team. They don’t need me as much.

Jodi Katz

That’s so nice.

Stacey Levine

I’m so happy. I’ve never … At this age, to finally be able to just sit back and say, “Wow, this is so cool.” I did some really great work, and now I have people that can take it to the next level. I have time to talk to my kids and go back to those roots.

Jodi Katz

There is … I don’t think anything, like the feeling for me, learning that things had happened at the agency that I knew nothing about. Start to finish, results are beautiful, which I always knew they would be, but my team needs the confidence. I know that they’re awesome. And then I find out that something happened, a job was executed, it was amazing, and I knew nothing about it. [crosstalk 00:19:14].

Stacey Levine

Oh, you should be so proud.

Jodi Katz

I love it.

Stacey Levine

Yeah, it really is. It’s amazing. I mean, I had that experience with you. I met you, and it was just so cool to sit with some of your team and see them do their thing on their own. I was a little jealous. But it didn’t take much longer after that for my Head of Marketing to be sitting with your team now, and being able to execute and-

Jodi Katz

She’s our buddy. I-

Stacey Levine

Yeah, she’s amazing.

Jodi Katz

It’s almost like she and I have this 5:30 p.m. dates on the phone. It’s like end of day, let’s chat. Okay, let’s talk about Glo Good. How do you fund the program? Where does the funding come from there?

Stacey Levine

We’re in the process of really developing that now. We started by funding it ourselves, and then we had a couple of wonderful events, small but mighty and fun. We had a [inaudible 00:20:06] event that we did in the city. My sons threw a quick party at one of their friend’s bars, and invited 100 friends. They got the bar free, and their friends were so excited to support it.

Now, we’re looking to do something big with our partnership, with Lenny, and with some other people. We’re going to really spread the word. We’ve been to Rwanda, to Africa a couple of times. We’ve been to LA with LA Cares, we’ve been Foundation Rwanda, with Mehmet Oz, and Health Corp, Jeffrey Canada up in Harlem. We’re just trying to spread the word. This year, we’re going to have a big party, hopefully, and be able to raise some more money and do a big event in New York and give back to our backyard right here.

Jodi Katz

If individual donors want to contribute, they can just reach out and do that?

Stacey Levine

Yes, they can. My boys, their Twice brand is actually going to, with each purchase, part of the money is going to go to the Glo Good Foundation. We have a new strategy coming up soon, which I’ll look forward to sharing it another time with you.

But through Glo Science, through our retail product, we’re really going to target the Glo Good Foundation so that our consumer is really fully aware of what they are … They are getting a smile by whitening their teeth without product, and feeling more empowered. But they’re also going to be giving back. That’s to happen soon, and I’m really excited about that.

Jodi Katz

That’s awesome.

Stacey Levine

Yeah, we’ve had some very generous friends who have helped us fund missions as well.

Jodi Katz

Let’s go back in time, because I’m still very curious about the working with family. I almost feel like working with your husband might be easier than working with your mom. But you can’t push them out of the way in the practice, and say, “No, I’m going to stick my fingers in this person’s mouth,” and do what you do, right?

Stacey Levine

No, you can’t do that.

Jodi Katz

But when it comes to personal style and understanding trends in the marketplace, my guess is you and your mother could have been equally good at this. Right?

Stacey Levine

Yes.

Jodi Katz

You go from 10 to 20, and this becomes your job and your career. How did you communicate with your mom in a way where you can be the professional version of yourselves versus the dynamic that I think is very typical in families where we’re all … Maybe sometimes a little different with each other.

Stacey Levine

Yes. Definitely. I’d say that I think I was … I had a little bit of luck in my life with my mom because my mom, she had a lot of respect for me. I think I took that respect that she had for me very seriously, because I paid it forward with my boys. I hope that when they’re interviewed, that they share that same sentiment.

My mother, she recognized my talent and she let me fly. I recognized hers. Where we butted heads was when I wanted to grow the business. I wanted to go beyond where we were. I literally had to kind of do it behind her back. I started a business that was for the finance business, where it was corporate gift giving. She was so nervous about it.

I don’t blame her, because we went from selling one product to one person, to selling 7,000 [inaudible 00:23:54] Bears to a big company. How do you do that? How do you pack them, ship them? I just did it behind her back, and then she saw what I had done and she was like, “How are you going to do this one, now?” That’s when I tapped into some other friends and figured it out.

I would say, interestingly enough, that sometimes being in business with my husband is a little bit more difficult because as easy as it was, there were moments where we both, after a while … I mean, we’ve been doing this since 2000, so we’ve done two brands together. His expertise is clearly and very passionately in inventing and getting patents for his product, and filling the white space that’s needed.

I would take it and I would be the marketer, and the designer. I would bring it to life with packaging and graphics and all that stuff. He really became a marketer. He’s actually really good at it. So, we kind of laugh today because he thinks he named Glo Smile. I said Julian named it. He thinks he named Glo. I said I named Glo. So, we’re like … But we’re having a good time.

I think we’ve learned a lot from each other, and I feel like I can contribute more to what his expertise is, and he can contribute more to mine. I think at the end of the day, my answer to you would be, I think you have to be a really good communicator in the good and in the bad, to be able to … And have respect. Really respect each other, your friends, your peers, your husband, your mom. Whoever it is you’re in business with, when you lose respect, nothing good can happen. You gotta step back.

Jodi Katz

Let’s talk a little bit about the challenges of being in a partnership that’s not working for you because we have a lot of listeners who are entrepreneurs, and many of them are at the stages where they’re looking for outside funding, or additional partners to reinforce where they think there, or maybe they think they can’t do it alone, even though they probably could.

It’s just a hard place to be, because when you want to grow as a brand, you need money. At some point … Creativity is great, but you need money to fuel it. So, they’re looking to investors and partners. You’ve been through this, and you’ve learned a lot from it. Can you walk us through a little bit about the experience of doing that, and what sort of signs you saw that were like, “This doesn’t feel right anymore.”

Stacey Levine

Sure.

Jodi Katz

Then, how do you exit?

Stacey Levine

Yes. It’s definitely something that every entrepreneur faces. I would say we probably made every single mistake there was to make. My first piece of advice would be when you’re looking for investors, and you’re looking for people to get involved with, you have to do serious due diligence. Serious due diligence means serious. You have to dig really deep, including going on the Internet, finding out about people, learning about the people that you’re getting involved with.

Of course, it’s wonderful when you get started to have family and friends. It’s the best way. But once you start to need money to build and grow the business from there, for me, it’s about having smart money, and it’s having strategic money because money is [inaudible 00:27:32]. At the end of the day, when you take money from the wrong person, nothing good happens.

I’ve certainly had my share. I feel like you have to really follow your gut, you have to really communicate a lot with the people that love you, and that you love, and talk about what your plans are. Be strategic about what do you really need the money for? Make sure that the people that you’re getting the money from are able to provide some help to you, because as a Founder and building a brand, when you think you don’t need help, you need help. Surround yourself with people that truly care about helping you.

Jodi Katz

What I’m hearing is a Founder really needs to press the pause button. I would imagine that if I’m a Founder and I have inventory in the warehouse, and I know that this infusion of capital is going to push it out the door and keep us moving forward, that I’m getting anxious and I’m in a rush. What I’m hearing from you is take your time and really do your homework.

Stacey Levine

And be careful for what you wish for. You don’t have to grow fast. I think when we started our first company, we built it and it became really, really successful. But we were in so much distribution so fast that we really couldn’t keep up with it. Build your brand with people that you could trust.

When we first started this company, we trusted our two partners. Mindy Grossman, who is at HSN, was a friend. I had known her from my old brand. I knew I could trust her. She helped us in that HSN journey at the time. Mohartia, [inaudible 00:29:34] at Sephora, and David Sultieanu, and Priya [Pinkotesh 00:29:38] … All those people, they knew what we went through in our first journey, and they knew it was a symphony that was cut short.

They were very excited for us to build a second brand, and come back 10 times better. That love and that support has forever made me love the beauty industry. Real people that are good people that really care, they’ll be with you and they will show up for you. You get disappointed by people that don’t show up, and that turn their backs on you. But that’s okay, because those good people are there for you, and they give you the strength and they enable you to just follow your dream.

As hard as it is, if you get punched, just come right back up. Believe in your vision. You can dream big, but you have to start strategically and carefully, and don’t try to grow too fast.

Jodi Katz

I love that. Before we close, I want our listeners to know that you have an incredibly radiant smile. When you smile, your whole face really does glow, which is why I think that the fact you’re in this business and helping people get the best from their smile, and giving a smile to others who need it, it just all makes sense for you and your aura, and your everything.

Stacey Levine

Thanks, Jodi. I will say my husband says … It was my big birthday, and he made a speech and sung a song to me, actually. He said, “My wife literally wakes up every morning with a smile.” It’s not a joke. My advice to people is try that. Try waking up with a smile, and sharing a smile all day long.

Things feel a lot easier, and people fall in love with you because you’re sharing a real deep connection of a smile. I love the business that I’m in, and I hope to continue to make people smile, give back smiles to people that deserve it, and for my family to grow together and just make a difference in the world by making it a happier place.

Jodi Katz

Thank you, Stacey, so much for sharing your wisdom with us today. We love it.

Stacey Levine

You’re welcome. Thank you. I’m not sure about wisdom, just life.

Jodi Katz

It is.

Stacey Levine

But thank you.

Jodi Katz

For our listeners, please subscribe to our series on iTunes. For updates about the show, follow us on Instagram @WhereBrainsMeetBeautyPodcast.

Announcer

Thanks for listening to Where Brains Meet Beauty with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

 

 

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