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On this episode of Behind Her Empire, Vintner's Daughter founder and CEO April Gargiulo discusses word-of-mouth marketing, natural ingredients and her entrepreneurial north star.
As a child, Gargiulo’s parents wouldn’t let her eat Chef Boyardee ravioli—instead, they gathered the ingredients and made the meal from scratch. Gargiulo said her parents laid the foundation for her refusal to cut corners with cheap ingredients. That ethos first came to fruition when she helped her parents launch a winery, and later became the bedrock for her own company.
“I have this very true vision about the kind of skincare we're gonna make, and it comes from the world of winemaking,” Gargiulo said. “If you're trying to make the finest wines in the world, you have to start with the finest raw materials. You have to honor those raw materials [with] very thoughtful, meticulous diligent craftsmanship.”
Gargiulo didn’t delve into skincare until she was pregnant with her first daughter and found that the luxury products she was using had very few active ingredients. A woman at an apothecary in Morocco gave her an unlabeled bottle of oil for her active acne. After nervously putting the product on before she went to bed, Gargiulo said she woke up with an appreciation of what oil can do for skin.
“That was literally how I fell in love with oil,” she said. “And why an oil-based serum was our very first product.”
This led to her to found Vintner’s Daughter in 2013. The company initially sold only the oil-based Active Botanical Serum. When she was initially researching how to make her formula at a large scale, she said the labs she approached tried to convince her to swap ingredients to shorten the three weeks it takes to make one bottle. She said she kept her initial vision of quality ingredients for individual products in mind as she launched the company.
“Understanding what your north star is is so important because you're going to talk to 10 people, and you're probably going to get six different answers,” she said. “You have to just have such a firm understanding of that north star to understand what feels right for you [and] for your business.”
dot.LA editorial intern Kristin Snyder contributed to this post.
On this episode of the Behind Her Empire podcast, Heela Yang, the co-founder and CEO of Sol de Janeiro, talks about how uprooting her life to move to another country helped inspire her award-winning body care line.
When she first proposed the name of her new premium product, “Brazilian Bum Bum Cream,” Yang said she received plenty of advice on why she needed to change it. Instead, she chose to stick with her idea.
“The world did not need another nice body cream. The world did not need another brand that didn't create noise and made people think differently. And so that was what really gave me the courage to trust my gut,” said Yang.
The idea for the cream came from Yang’s experience moving to Brazil to be with her partner (now her husband). Within a month, she was pregnant, and feeling awkward in her own body in an unfamiliar place. But she said she drew inspiration from the way Brazilian women felt comfortable in their own skin.
The revelation came to her, she said, one day at the beach.
“I was feeling a little bit down on myself – low self esteem, you know, new job, new country and but I just started looking around and they're women, of all shapes, all sizes, all colors, just enjoying themselves and loving who they are caressing their body with oil and creams and their hair and jumping into the ocean and coming back out and doing something else—and just so joyful and nobody was looking at me.”
The experience would become the basis for her new brand, Sol de Janerio.
“At that moment, I thought, ‘Wow, I love this feeling,’” she said. “And this is exactly the feeling the beauty industry should give to women through products and through messaging.”
The “Brazillian Bum Bum Cream” launched in 2016, and became Sephora’s best selling skin care cream within few months. With its success, the brand has expanded to products including fragrance and haircare items.
“We were crazy enough to believe that we could make some difference in the industry. Now, if somebody said, ‘Yeah, you could be doing hundreds of millions of dollars by 2021?’ You know, I would have said, ‘Wow, that would be a dream come true.’ And here we are,” said Yang.
Yang credits her approach to her parents and her experiences as an immigrant. Moving from South Korea to America at the age of 12, she learned to adapt to a new culture despite feeling uprooted, she said, by learning how to make friends and adapt to new places.
That experience helped with her later move to Brazil, she said, and helped her appreciate her host country’s perspective on beauty – including their embracing wrinkles and cellulite.
“That's what I fell in love with when I went to Brazil, which is you just completely love and embrace every part of you because it's you. The Brazilians will be saying, ‘Well, that's cellulite, yes. But that's my cellulite… so I'm going to take care of them’,” said Yang.
dot.LA Audience Engagement Fellow Joshua Letona contributed to this post.
Lauren Wang tried period products from all over the globe. What she found was the same product in different packaging.
On this episode of Behind Her Empire, the founder and CEO of the sustainable period care brand The Flex Co. discusses how she came to view herself as an entrepreneur and take on the menstrual industry.
Now offering both reusable and disposable products, Flex grew from friends complaining about their periods in Wang’s tiny apartment to become a leading brand in sustainable period care. Chronic yeast infections initially led Wang to abandon tampons, but she said she found menstrual cups to be uncomfortable.
“I felt very cheated and lied to by this massive multibillion dollar industry that kind of makes us go and buy these products every single month that nobody seems to love and nobody really seems to hate either people,” Wang said. “Instead, we just kind of blame ourselves and blame our own bodies for having terrible periods.”
In 2016, she launched The Flex Co., offering menstrual discs as an alternative.
The path to launching her startup was tumultuous; Wang said she found herself nearly bankrupt after she miscalculated the initial design and manufacturing expenses.
She initially intended to take a behind-the-scenes marketing role, asking others to lead her company. When no one took her up on the offer, she reluctantly stepped into the leadership role.
Her passion for filling the gap in the menstrual industry encouraged her to pursue Flex without any experience overseeing a company, she said. Wang primarily viewed herself as someone who could listen to customers—a mindset she said informs how she approaches expanding Flex’s reach.
“I think I built that empathy because I felt my own period issues weren't being listened to and were being caused by traditional period products, tampons, pads and organic tampons,” Wang said.
dot.LA editorial intern Kristin Snyder contributed to this post.