Four years ago, Annie Jackson and the late Shashi Batra co-founded Credo, a concept store that focused on the clean beauty space. Annie, who is COO of the company, was part of the founding merchant group that started Sephora in the U.S. and Japan. “In 1997, when we were part the team, we saw this tidal wave of indie brands that needed a platform to showcase their products,” said the native Californian, who lives in Marin County with her husband and two children. “The catalyst for Credo has been a parallel to that, a second generation of entrepreneurs and makers who are passionate about the beauty category but are conscientious and informed about the harmful ingredients that exist in most conventional products.” Credo’s first store opened in San Francisco. Now there are eight in the U.S. and sales have doubled every year. “The brands we’ve selected are the most comprehensive group of passionate entrepreneurs and product specialists that are all determined to be part of this movement to bring beauty and health together,” she added. “They are the Estée Lauders of their generation and have a profound and holistic approach to their vision.” Annie should know. In addition to Sephora, she’s held positions at Lauder, where she was as an inventory planning and marketing specialist. And before creating Credo, she directed the Global Product Marketing and Product Development team at Benefit Cosmetics. This week, CEW’s Beauty Insider interviewed the Queen of Clean for the weekly 5 Minutes With…feature.
Beauty Insider: What kind of responsibility do retailers have versus manufacturers in educating consumers on the natural category?
Annie Jackson: Credo’s mission is to change the way people think about the products they use every day. It’s why Credo exists and the reason we started this company. So, the responsibility is enormous. Especially since we are a platform for clean beauty, amassing what we believe are the best brands the space has to offer. From Day One, we created the Dirty List, a robust list of ingredients which, due to safety and/or sustainability concerns, cannot be used as ingredients in any of the products we carry. As the leader in clean beauty retail, we are determined to push the industry in a better direction. Recently we announced our new Clean Standard, a comprehensive agreement with every brand we carry that’s a roadmap for ingredient sourcing, manufacturing and backing-up marketing claims.
BI: How does Credo define natural?
AJ: It’s ingredients that come from natural sources, not synthetic. They can be found in nature in the same, or mostly the same, chemical form as the ingredient in the product (e.g. fruit seed oils, clays, essential oils). There are a lot of brands that call naturally-derived or even synthetic ingredients natural. That’s greenwashing. It isn’t cool. Credo is working to change that by clearly defining these terms and requiring that brands obtain documentation on ingredient source and processing. We also ask brands to refrain from over-stating their naturalness.
BI: What are your predictions over the next three years in the naturals category?
AJ: Consumer demand for transparency and better ingredients is growing fast. There is a wealth of information today that empowers people to know what they are consuming. The existence of similar parallels in other consumer categories in the industry where sustainability, ethical sourcing, environmental impact and health are already key factors in consumer decision making; food is one obvious example. The overall shift to conscientious consumption and healthy lifestyle is innate to millennials. There is a big risk for those who assume this movement is a niche. It is more a risk for the conventional brands and retailers who don’t adapt. They have more to lose than the disrupters and start-ups like Credo. The conventional brands and companies that are open minded and accept this change is coming and make changes to meet consumer demand will rise to the top, and others who are complacent will likely suffer the consequence of a significant loss of market share by not adapting to a better way.
BI: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the years?
AJ: Be brave and take risks…and ask for forgiveness later.
BI: Greatest accomplishment so far?
AJ: That we started a business that moves people to email, call and talk to us on social—we have made a positive impact on their life.
BI: Biggest mistake you’ve made?
AJ: I’m an entrepreneur. I thrive in the wild-west environment of a start-up. I also like things to be extremely organized and ‘just so.’ They don’t go together – I recognize that. So, I’ve trusted people who have assured me that they have a new initiative ‘figured out’ and it will be an ‘easy’ integration. It never is. If you hear those words, dig deeper. Because it can end up taxing your critical resources if you need ‘all hands-on deck’ to get it on track. Step back and ask yourself if it is needle-moving, and can you handle it if it goes south. If not, move it further down the priority list.
BI: What product (not your own) is your favorite and why?
AJ: Dry Goldfaden Bright Eyes wipes out dark circles and puffiness. Ilia Limitless Lash Mascara, our newest mascara, which has a beautiful jet-black formula that is super buildable. And AKT Therapy Elemental Sun Balm, super nourishing and provides and light layer of SPF – great to wear every day.
BI: Best advice for newbies entering the business today?
AJ: As a multi-store retailer, we need our brand partners to be able to support our stores, providing things like ongoing education and in-store support. Which is tough when an indie brand is also synonymous with a small team. So, if physical retail is a channel for you, you must be able to hustle and start working hard as soon as the product hits the shelves. It’s crucial really. And I’m not talking about an army – you can do a lot with very few people. Just think it through and make sure you can handle the load.
BI: What’s something no one tells you when starting a business?
AJ: Be ready to fail, a lot, and be told you are doing it all wrong. Write it down, so you can remember you knew this going into it, so you can persevere. It’s much easier to listen to your critics over your inner voice. If you don’t have a trusted mentor you can talk to, then get on LinkedIn and try and make a new friend. Someone you trust that has related experience and can give it to you straight. You will need it.
BI: What’s a mantra you live by?
AJ: It’s only lipstick. Relax.
BI: If you were to write the note found in a fortune cookie, what would it say?
AJ: Life is precious. Do what you love. I tell my kids the same thing.