BOSS Series Interview: Jillian Wright, Aesthetician, Creator of Jillian Wright Skincare and Co-Founder of Indie Beauty Expo

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For this weeks BOSS series we have one of the most literal beauty bosses in the industry, Jillian Wright. I really admire woman that create, innovate and evolve. And for me Jillian Wright is the ultimate example of this. She took her skincare background as an aesthetician and spa owner and didn’t just stop after creating her skincare line, she saw a void in the marketplace and had the foresight think bigger and co-founded the Indie Beauty Expo. I went to the first Indie Beauty Expo in New York and from what it started as and to what it is today just shows the growth in this category and the outstanding need for a tradeshow like this! Plus they are taking over the world and have since expanded into LA, Berlin, Dallas and London. It’s no secret that indie beauty is one of, if not the fastest growing category in beauty and she’s a big part of making that happen and giving these small brands a chance to meet buyers, press and beauty lovers to take their business to the next level. The expo has also connected me to so many incredible brands ahem Dope Naturally, Bawdy Beauty, Raw Spirit, Love Sun Body, and so many others… Plus I always look forward to hitting on their videographer. Let’s learn from the master, here’s our interview with Jillian Wright:

1. Tell us about yourself and how you got started.

I was a spa owner and skincare expert for 18 years and relied on the unique and hard to find beauty to fill up the white space in my retail environment, which made the assortment interesting and exciting for my clients.  About 10 years into my career, I decided to launch my own luxury indie skincare line. The word “trade show“ wasn’t even in my universe. I realized very quickly that in order to attract buyers and press, I needed to get out there and meet people, but didn’t know where to begin. I started doing research and wasn’t satisfied with my options.  Out of frustration, I approached my then facial client Nader Naeymi-Rad and asked him if he would help me produce a show specific to independent beauty. Without any hesitation, he said yes. Six months later, we launched the Indie Beauty Expo at the Altman Building with 80 brands, all who were in the same boat as me.

First, we extended IBE to two days so there was more time for attendees to interact with exhibitors.  Then we branched out to Los Angeles and Dallas, and now London in October and Berlin, March 2019, enabling more local brands, buyers, press and shoppers to participate at IBE. We then launched Beauty Independent, our digital publication, to provide a voice to all the great entrepreneurial stories out there. We then launched BeautyX, our educational and networking summits, because we saw so many brand founders stumble because they didn’t have reliable sources to help them navigate key business questions and issues.  Finally, with our Retail + Buyer Relation function, we now actively help buyers find the right brands and then help those brands onboard with the retailer.

2. What inspired you/How did you become involved in the Indie Beauty community?

When we started IBE, we had a simple mission: showcase great independent brands in a way that honored the hard work and innovative spirit their founders brought to the table. That was it. After our first show, and all the feedback we received, it became clear that independent brands were going to play a big role in the future of beauty and wellness, but that there were many obstacles and unmet needs that had to be addressed.  So we started to systematically go about building platform to help independent innovators succeed. I teach, lead, write and prevail, all because I didn’t have a platform to do serious business with press and retailers.

3. What is your best time management tip?

I write everything down and make sure my commitments are in my google calendar.  I work hard to not overschedule myself and maintain a disciplined day to day pace.  Since I live in NYC, I try very hard not to spend a lot of time in the car or public transportation, preferring to walk. The stress of traffic and commuting can be bad for productivity and creativity. Not only do I manage my schedule, but I also have manage my kids, so, getting enough sleep and preparing for tomorrow’s tasks the night before are important ways to ensure I make the best use of my time. I approach our lives as a team effort.  We are in it together and this also helps my kids and husband cope with my crazy schedule. I allow myself time to process things and this is important for health and longevity.

4. What is the deal with CBD? I’ve seen incredible reports about the benefits for everything for autism to epilepsy, anxiety and muscle relief but the Internet seems conflicted on if it actually does anything dramatic for your skin or is it just a fad?

It has been proven that CDB is an effective treatment for anxiety and epilepsy, now early studies are even showing it may be used to fight cancer and slow the progression Alzheimer’s disease. Depending on the strength of the CBD product—researchers say CBD creates anti-inflammatory and pain killing effects-—using it for small aches and pains on the forearms, knees, neck or elbows, one can feel a difference racially overnight with the right blend!  In beauty, it’s being used alone and coupled with other ingredients such as frankincense, Korean herbs or Vitamin C. We went from having a handful of CBD brands exhibit with us last year to over a dozen at IBE New York 2018. This seems to be a movement that will become a staple not only within beauty, but we will see it in fashion, lifestyle and wellness. As long as the founder truly understands the power of CBD and uses it appropriately, then it is a win for everyone including the environment.  We have an incredible brand exhibiting with us in London called Awake Organics who filmed a mini documentary on the hemp that she harvests. Click here to watch it.  This video is so insightful about the power this plant has and how it can be used for many purposes.  It’s an exciting time for all of us in the beauty industry to see how we can continue using this powerful plant in formulations.  Yuyo Botanics and Crave Skincare are also fantastic CBD brands to watch.

5. Same question but with crystals.

We are noticing an influx in Zodiac-focused storytelling— a lot of precious stones and gems are being incorporated into formulas.  Whether due to healing properties or just because the sparkly stuff is so pretty, crystals have invaded beauty products with a ferocity that belies their meditative qualities. The brand Moon Bath is inspired by the moon cycles and connections between astrology and herbal remedies, it was specifically created during Scorpio Moon. The Lyfestyle Co. offers perfume oils tailored to a customer’s zodiac sign or numerology number with crystals chosen to help bring out the customer’s positive attributes. Crystals are infused into organic almond and coconut oil bases under a full moon. Full Unicorns Gemstone Resurfacing Treatment uses hexagonal crystal gemstone crystals. The crystals are paired with papaya and pineapple enzymes, and hyaluronic acid to banish dead skin cells and plump the face. Full Unicorn founder Nancy Rimbergas told Beauty Independent (our digital publication) after showing during IBE Dallas in May that, “Gemstone builds collagen and elasticity as it reveals a bright glowing complexion.”  O’o Hawaii’s founder Holly Harding uses crystals in her skincare line because they have a natural ability to power and support energy fields.

6. Any other ingredient trends that you’re seeing or think we should pay attention to?

Volcanic ash is on its way to becoming as mainstream as charcoal is. Also, Baobab, Turmeric and Magnesium are ingredients that seem to keep popping up this season.

7. What other trends do you think we’re going to see from indie beauty brands in the next season?

“Blue Beauty,” or brands that specifically support ocean conservation like Osea Malibu and Honua Skincare, is really picking up steam as a trend. Jeannie Jarnot coined this phrase, brands and retailers alike seem to be taking notice. With all the consciousness happening in indie, brands will continue to include social awareness and environmental sustainability within their mission.  Other trends I think we will see really explode are app-assisted products and feminine hygiene and “self-love” products and tools.

8. What qualifies a brand as an indie beauty brand? And what requirements do you have for the show or what is the process like for you to pick and choose a vendor for IBE?

Indie is about ownership, not about a company’s size or value.  We require brands to be at least 50% owned and operated independently.  This means they can absolutely have outside investment and partnership. A brand just has to have a great product and be ready to do business with buyers and press.

9. What have been the biggest lessons and what advice do you have for budding brands and entrepreneurs.

  • You can’t do it alone. Focus on what you are good at and accept the help of people who can fulfill the other parts that will push the business forward.
  • Position yourself as leader and mentor not just within your company but to those in your community.  People will look up to you and follow your lead and this gives you the opportunity to really move the needle in your industry.
  • Be steadfast. You are likely embarking on a long journey,  but one that will be worth it in the end!

10. Clean vs Indie, is there a correlation?

They are deeply rooted together and always will be.  Indie brand founders are nimble and have more control, which means they tend to be quicker to market and quicker to adapt than bigger, corporate brands.  They often source their ingredients from local farmers with an unspoken understanding that these brands produce in smaller batches because of ingredient availability. Indie brands like Au Naturale, Josh Rosebrook and Max and Me are leading the charge when it comes to Clean Beauty.

11. What the #1 thing you wish everyone would understand about indie beauty community?

When you buy a product from an indie brand, you are supporting the life cycle of that brand.  You are supporting farmers, communities, local artisans, families and anyone who puts in hard work into make that business come alive.  Consciousness is prevalent in a way that it isn’t when you buy mass market. You are consciously supporting a person who has put everything on the line for this brand.  You are spending your money with companies that have a heartbeat and one that you can identify with on a personal level.

12. What’s the most innovative product you saw at this years IBE?

I saw quite a few.  Black Chicken Remedies has a copper tongue scraper and oral swishing oil.  It’s made from copper because of its antibacterial properties. Eighth Day Skincare has patent-pending breakthrough anti-aging technology, ACTIVE PLACENTAL MATRIX®. Incorporating over 600 human stem cell proteins, ACTIVE PLACENTAL MATRIX® activates anti-aging mechanisms within the skin by mimicking the bio-identical proteins found in live placental tissue, the very source of life. Female owned and operated YuYo Botanics are Tennessee hemp farmers, cannabinoid educators, and oversee the entire process from seed to formulation.  Their hemp is grown organically and biodynamically.

13. What brands/products are you obsessed with (you can pick 1 or 1 in each category)?

I’m a beauty lover, but this is not headline news! I’m lucky enough to experience more indie brands than one person can handle in a lifetime.  We ask the brands to send us product to the office so we live with these brands day to day. It helps us grow as a company.  It’s like the founders are with us at all times. I’m inspired by having the brands around me which helps us curate or shortlist brands to present to different retailers ahead and after the show.  If I’m stuck or have writers block, I look around at the products and typically it sparks ideas and thoughts that I can then share. When I try these brands in the privacy of my own home, I like to use them for a while before switching to another brand.  This helps me have intelligent conversations about the founders, the formulations and the experience. This is where my expertise comes in. I share some of my experiences on my private IG @greenapplebeauty. I don’t get paid for these posts. They truly come from my positive experiences with either the founders and/or the brands.   I answered your question in a more round about way! But, if here is a shortlist of some incredible brands. Osmia Organics, Beneath Your Mask, CircCell, Osea Malibu, Le Prunier, Beauty Steep, Glopro, Kaibae,  Luk Beautifood, O’o Hawaii, Au Naturale Cosmetics, Saint Cosmetics and Herbal Dynamic Beauty to name a few.

14. How are you expanding and what can we expect next from you?

We are expanding globally with our first show in London in October, and we’ve also added Berlin to our 2019 lineup.  Indie beauty isn’t a just domestic phenomenon, but an international one, so you can expect IBE to continue to expand our geographic reach to bring independent beauty to new markets.

Not only do brands leverage our platform and community to scale, retailers also seek our help to source fresh and exciting brands.  Our team makes it easier for retailers and trade professionals to do business with indie brands than ever before. Because of our growing calendar of events, buyers all over the world will be able to constantly refresh and diversify as often as they like. No two curations are ever the same and this is where IBE is differentiated.

Retail partnerships, like our collaborations with industry leaders like Neiman Marcus and Feelunique, have become an important part of our business. It’s always been our goal to not only provide 360 degree support to the indie brands, but also retailers. Because of these partnerships we are getting better-made beauty from indie entrepreneurs into the hands of more people.

15. What’s one thing you’re very proud of?

I’m proud of the collective voice we have been able to establish and share through our platforms: Indie Beauty Expo, Beauty Independent and BeautyX Summit. Indie Beauty Media Group has become a self-sustaining ecosystem for the entrepreneur to find the reliable resources they need in order to scale their business.  Whether brands are just starting out or established, we offer the right tools, guidance and introductions for this to happen. We also launched Uplink this year to provide a directory of third party vendors to service the beauty entrepreneur. When I had my skincare line, it was difficult finding the right service providers and I would spend hours online researching and often times, ended up at a dead-end.  We wanted to create a trustworthy directory to connect third party vendors such as copywriters, web designers, accountants, attorneys, labs, packaging and labeling sources for people to eliminate the laborious time it takes to find the right partners. As a next generation beauty company we will continue to find and solve the unmet needs of this community.

Thank you Jillian! You’re an absolute gem!