After 20 years as an executive in the cosmetics industry, Michele Gough Baril left her demanding job as Smashbox’s VP of Consumer Engagement in 2013 in search of a slower lifestyle. It was during this time that she connected with a former racehorse, Romeo, igniting an unexpected and magical friendship that taught her about mindfulness, while also inspiring the development of her recently launched hybrid skin care line, Iris&Romeo.

“My time with him helped me get clear about my next steps, as well as what was really important to me. I realized I wanted to go back to beauty, but this time, on my terms. As women we work so hard for others. We lose ourselves in families, relationships, careers, and we don’t often stop to think about what we want,” she explained. “As I looked around my industry, especially in color cosmetics, I realized nobody was speaking to—or creating for—women like me in a modern way. There were cool, edgy brands speaking to young women about finding their power and purpose, and then there were legacy anti-aging brands that targeted women over 40 and felt out of touch. I saw a white space and went for it.”

In July, she released her brand’s first SKU, Best Skin Days ($64), a 5-in-1 formula designed to offer a serum, moisturizer, sheer tinted coverage, sunscreen and blue light/pollution protection.

“We give her everything she wants in one product. It’s not about selling a ton of useless products that end up in your bathroom drawer or worse, the landfill or ocean,” said Michele. “All of our products are multi-purpose and effortless, while delivering wellness and longevity to her changing skin. They’re non-toxic, contain high level skin care actives, and boost hydration, and come in 100% recyclable glass jars and post-consumer recycled secondary packaging.”

The product is available in four adaptable sheer shades; additional hues will be added as the brand grows. While she can’t share specific figures, Michelle noted that the brand is meeting its early stage projections and is seeing positive signals, such as a low return rate and a high conversion rate.

Although the brand is inspired by women over 40, Iris&Romeo is not specifically targeting them. “Our brand is about a lifestyle and a mindset, not a demographic. We create products for the busy modern woman and her changing skin. She can be a 30-year-old working mom or a 60-year-old entrepreneur. She wants quick, efficacious solutions that are good for her skin and our planet. She cares about sustainability, wellness and her own personal growth. So, the conversation we’re having as a brand is about coming into her wholeness. Yes, women over 40 are naturally a big part of that conversation, but not exclusively. They are changing our world right now. They inspire us.”

To fund Iris&Romeo, Michele raised an initial $600,000 from angel investors, most of whom are beauty industry investors, executives and entrepreneurs. “We’re currently meeting with additional investors for the next phase of growth,” she said. “Beauty is a hot category for investment, but many brands are targeting GenZ and millennials. We’re speaking to a woman that has largely been underserved or ignored, and in a deeper, more modern way, and investors are responding to that. Very little investment ends up in the hands of women entrepreneurs (less than 3 percent), so you have to work hard for it and jump through a lot more hoops than men. Thankfully it’s changing, although not fast enough, but it’s a move in the right direction.”

There is a pipeline in place for future products, but Michele and her team are currently watching the performance of Best Skin Days.

“We are focusing our outreach to media and influencers and building out the brand’s social media presence organically first,” she said. “We are also building a blog that tells the stories of real women who are leaning into the next chapter of their lives. In addition, we are speaking with a few strategic retailers. Our brand is bigger than beauty products; it’s about celebrating a movement that is happening with women right now.”