I love Holly’s story because it is a true story of tenacity. Holly is an entrepreneur, wife, mother, former schoolteacher, and professional harpist. Of course! It makes perfect sense that she has founded a fast growing beauty brand.
When a friend was diagnosed with skin cancer in her early 30s, Holly set out to learn everything she could about sun damage and sun protection, which eventually led her to create her innovative sunscreen brand SuperGoop!
SuperGoop’s desire is to create the most advanced formula that not only prevents and protects, but also feels good. I am a huge fan of her products. I’ve been using them for years.
I was a little selfish that I wanted her on. We just built a pool, and I am terrible about using sunscreen. You guys, she is so passionate about protecting people from getting skin cancer that it is absolutely contagious.
Holly is regularly featured in prestigious publications. She’s been in Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Women’s Wear Daily, and I am really excited for you guys to tune into this conversation.
Jessica’s Special Connection to Holly
Jessica: Hey, Holly. Welcome to The Going Scared Podcast.
Holly: Hi, Jessica. So excited to be here.
Jessica: Okay. This is crazy. Holly, as you already heard in the intro, is this crazy, accomplished entrepreneur with a passion to see the entire world wearing sunscreen, but we actually have a really special connection because my mom and her mother-in-law walk the mall together every day.
Holly: That’s right.
Jessica: Isn’t that crazy? I mean, they’ve been walking together for like 30 years.
Holly: Yes. I know. I know. Every day, and yeah, it’s crazy, and I’m so excited that it brought me to you and to the connection.
Jessica: I know. Me too. What’s been so great about their friendship is that I’m like the crazy mom that’s like traveling the world and growing this fast startup. I feel like my mom and your mother-in-law had been able to connect because you also are traveling like crazy all of the time. I think my mom actually has a little bit of a paradigm now and isn’t quite as hard on me. She’s like, "Okay. I get it."
Holly: I’m so grateful for that too, Jessica, because I feel … Then, I think it’s just having a mother-in-law, it’s not … It’s different than with my own mom who understands and is always supportive. I feel like I’m making excuses so much because I’m gone a lot from the family, and so I love that she has a best friend to talk to who has a daughter that is doing the same thing, so it’s been very cool for us, for me in more ways than just our relationships.
Jessica: Super cool. First takeaway of the podcast: if you’re an entrepreneur, make sure that your mom is friends with someone else who also has a daughter who is an entrepreneur. It goes a long way.
The Journey to Becoming an Entrepreneur
Jessica: I love your story. It’s such a cool story, and I wanted you just to start off by sharing it with us, starting all the way back to when you were teaching a third grade class around 15 years ago. What happened to create that shift from classroom to entrepreneur?
Holly: Yeah. Yeah. Jessica, I grew up wanting to be a teacher, and I played … You know when you’re young and you pretend what you want to be. I played teacher all day long, and went to college, and got out of college, and taught third grade. I got a great job in this beautiful, Episcopal private school and put everything to work that I had been saving up over my college career to do and implement and execute in the classroom.
In fact, I won, I think like the “most creative classroom in America” that year, but I also felt incredibly claustrophobic, and being tied to a school campus just day in and day out, it felt like, "Oh my gosh." I thought that it was like the biggest mistake I had ever made because I thought, "Oh my gosh, I went to college to learn to do this, and now, after only one year of teaching, it’s not for me." Fortunately, I was also … I grew up playing the harp. My maternal grandmother is a harpist, and I grew up performing, and I played a lot of Broadway. I did that alongside that year teaching as well, and so not knowing what I was going to do. I just said, "I can keep playing the harp," and fortunately, being single, I could support myself on that.
Throughout my 20s, I moved to Dallas. My little brother was starting college at SMU, and when we moved him in the dorms, I thought, "Oh, this looks like a city that has a lot of parties." So I moved to Dallas and performed and played the harp until I literally met my husband, Ty, and ended up playing for his best friend’s rehearsal dinner. He literally carried my harp out that night.
We dated for a couple of years before getting engaged, and it was then that a good friend of ours was diagnosed with skin cancer. Growing up, my parents were both entrepreneurs, and I’ve always loved to create as well.
I love to look for the white space in things. Obviously, I was playing the harp, and —
Jessica: I mean, not many people can have a career playing a harp, so that’s pretty incredible.
Holly: Yeah. I talk about it now because it’s really not that far from being the entrepreneur that I am today because any musician will tell you, "It’s all about just breaking it down measure by measure, and eventually, you get to the end of the song as you’re learning, and it takes a lot of dedication and a lot of discipline to sit there and hammer out one measure after another." I think it’s very similar to entrepreneurship, and that’s been my journey anyway as an entrepreneur. It’s just about putting one foot in front of the other and continuing to build and to grow.
“That’s been my journey as an entrepreneur. It’s just about putting one foot in front of the other and continuing to build and to grow.” – Holly Thaggard
Jessica: I love your analogy. He carries your harp for you, and you —
Jessica: Was it like love at first sight?
Holly: It was. It was, and I met his whole family, too, because it was at the wedding. It was at the rehearsal dinner for his best friend, so I knocked out … There were no unknowns. I met his mother, his father, and his brother.
Holly: They’re amazing and they’ve very lovable, and so I just felt like, "Wow. This was a great gig to have tonight."
Sunscreen for Schools — a Light Bulb Moment
Holly: Fast-forward to our dating, and I continued to play the harp. When one of our friends was diagnosed with skin cancer, I was having this conversation with another good, very close friend, one of my best friends still today, who was going through her residency in dermatology. We’re having this conversation about my friend’s skin cancer experience, and she said, "Holly, it’s not the damage, despite all of SPF marketing. It’s not the damage that happens in the summer on the playground that turns into skin cancer. It’s that daily, cumulative exposure in 10-, 15-minute bursts during the peak hours of the day that is cumulative. We know aging, but it’s also what results in skin cancer later in life, and for your friend who had very fair skin and had blonde hair, it just happened earlier for him."
Holly: That’s when this light bulb went off in my head that like, "Gosh, that year I spent teaching, I never once saw a tube of sunscreen on the school campus," and she was right. The kids are out in the middle of the day on the playground. The playgrounds in school often do not have much shade, and then after school, a lot of the time, kids are spending hours, even more hours after school in sports. We know that no SPF product provides continuous, all-day protection, and it was also I felt very unlikely that my students were even coming to school in the first place with SPF on, and what I started to do —
Jessica: Were you putting on SPF? I guess you didn’t have kids just then yet.
Holly: No. I didn’t have children yet, and I didn’t grow up wearing SPF before school every day.
Jessica: Right. I mean, who did?
Holly: No, and honestly, today even still, I’m shocked. Our son goes to an all-boys school. There’s 400 little boys, and I, of course, had high hopes that his good habits had rubbed off on his friends. But I did this little back of the napkin tally as each child came through a health fair at their school. Out of 400 children, there were only four that day with sunscreen on, and this was like a year ago.
Jessica: Hey, Holly, listen. This is a no judgment zone, and I’m telling you, I don’t put SPF on my kids every day. That’s part of the reason I’m having you on the podcast because I’m needing like a kick in the pants.
Jessica: We’ve just had a surgical oncologist come over a couple of weeks ago who primarily removes melanomas. We’ve just built a pool, and it’s like our first summer with the pool, and I’m doing this because I really need you to kick me in the pants. I wanted to get all the facts, and I needed to really do this, and so I’m sure there’s a ton of people listening right now that do not put sunscreen on their kids.
An Opportunity for Cleaner, Better Sunscreen
Holly: Yeah. Yeah. That’s what we feel like our job, and so I was originally inspired to buy, thinking about that time in the classroom, and I was like, "Gosh, you’re right." No. I never saw sunscreen.
I didn’t wear it as a teacher. My kids weren’t applying it throughout the day, and I was like, "What is that brand that’s happy?" Because when I asked people, "Hey, what do you think about this category on SPF and everything?" I mean, everyone’s face is always like, "Oh, icky, sticky." They just have a negative connotation with the very word, sunscreen.
So I knew that if I was going to change the way the world thinks about sunscreen, which is that original kind of like, "Wow, this category is so sleepy,” I needed to find that brand that would be found in schools, on campus and that children would equate to getting outside and enjoying life. I always say, "People don’t come to our brand, just sit on the couch inside and watch TV. They enjoy an active, outside lifestyle."
When I looked at the category, I just was like, "I don’t see it out there." As I learned more and more about SPF, there’s no one right product for every single skin type in America. There are some skin types that people, for example, with darker skin or black skin, they don’t do really well with mineral formulas because mineral formulas tend to look pasty and ashy on the skin. They don’t work well for a high athlete who needs to have their pores sweat naturally because of the intensity of their sport.
So a chemical formula is more advantageous so that it’s absorbed into the skin, but what I found in the market at the time was like all the chemical formulas were just full of very controversial ingredients. They were full of paraben preservative systems. Oxybenzone was at the time, and this was in 2007, in every single chemical formula, so I felt like there was an opportunity to do chemical formulations in a clean way, and there was an opportunity to take mineral formulations because there’s also a skin type that is much …
My daughter, for example, who’s 13, her skin is much more sensitive than anyone in our family, and she needs a mineral formula, so I felt like there was an opportunity to create mineral formulas that weren’t ashy and pasty on the skin.
Jessica: It’s interesting that you bring this up because Jack … I have three kids, and Jack is from Africa, and he gets a horrible rash with every sunscreen until last summer. My mom was watching the kids, and she was applying Supergoop! to them every day. She’s a better mom — a better grandma than I am a mom — and Jack did not get a rash, and so there really is … you found some sort of secret sauce here.
Holly: Yeah. I mean, I think when you take out those controversial ingredients, and I think chemical sunscreens really get a bad reputation today and putting them all in one bucket. We know that not all chemicals are bad. I mean, for example, water is a chemical, and lead is a mineral.
Holly: I think that you can’t generalize like that, but when you are mindful of the ingredients … We have over a hundred ingredients on our “no” list. Our Head of Product Development — and I work very closely with her — is like a walking encyclopedia for ingredients. When you take out all of the very controversial, even down to any of the synthetic or chemical fragrances, I mean, you remove that from the formulas, that alone is one of the most irritating ingredients that is often used in chemical sunscreens. Most formulators really try to mask any smell of the chemical formula, and so when you … This is all we do. We’re obsessed with SPF, Jessica, and so it’s —
Jessica: I can tell. I’m learning a lot.
Holly: Yeah. I felt like there was this real opportunity to do both because there’s a time and a place for everything, and it’s also very important to us that we not compromise the efficacy, and chemical sunscreens can be highly efficacious and still be clean. If we’re trying to stop the epidemic of skin cancer, which is something we’re very passionate about, bringing those products to market that are highly efficacious and that aren’t going to fail the consumer or separate, which is often if you don’t have a very, very stable mineral formula. Separation can occur, and you think you’re protected. I mean, my goodness, it’s like the worst thing in the world if you think you’re protected, and then your skin is not.
If at First You Don’t Sunscreen, Try, Try Again
Jessica: Okay. You have this light bulb moment, the compassion about a safe SPF and protecting other people, so then you went automatically back to, "How can I get this into the classroom?" Tell us a little bit about the obstacles that were involved in that and the story of how that didn’t work out and how you pivoted.
Holly: Yeah. It completely failed. Talk about —
Jessica: Every entrepreneur has a failure story.
Holly: Yes. Talk about going scared. My original idea was, of course, to take this first formula. Just one foot in front of the other, found my chemist, found my manufacturer, created this first formula. It was super, and my business model was to go forward with distribution into elementary schools across America, and I quickly learned that every state in the U.S., aside from California at the time, required a doctor’s note to have an SPF on the school campus and accessible for children, which sounds kind of when I say that, people’s jaws usually drop, so like, "What do you mean you can’t bring sunscreen to school?"
Sunscreen, and this just shows how sleepy the category was, because it was such an antiquated law that existed, but sunscreen is thought of as an over-the-counter drug, as it should be because it does something active, and it should be regulated by the FDA. But there was a policy in school, in school laws that existed that said no OTC drug can be on school campus without a doctor’s permission slip, and nobody aside from one mom in California who actually carved out a policy and made it her mission.
Holly: She had a child that died of melanoma, and she made it her mission to change that law in California. California, when I set out to do this and I lived in Texas, was the only state that I felt like I could work with because they allowed sunscreen in schools.
Jessica: Okay. Go Texas. We’re kind of a little bit of those outliers.
Holly: Yes. What I then did — I was ready pivot when I found that out, which was pretty quickly, but then I decided, "You know what? What I know most is private schools because that’s where I taught my year out of school," and private schools can write their own rules. They don’t have to follow state policy, so I hit the pavement and taught to as many school boards and heads of schools as I could about this program, which I had also associated with it was a price tag, because somebody had to pay for Supergoop!. I went trying to sell those program into schools, and along with it, of course, came a curriculum, and I wrote five grade level for pre-K through fifth grade this appropriate lesson plan that they could incorporate as a supplement to their health and wellness teachings that taught the kids about the importance of SPF.
Just for several years, I could not scale it. I got up to six schools, Jessica. It was so depressing. I couldn’t sell this into schools. It turns out that what I know now is the world really wasn’t ready for this back in 2007.
I was a little ahead of my time, and after those two school years of writing this curriculum, and going into the classrooms, and getting everyone excited about it, I realized it just wasn’t … I couldn’t scale it, and you know when you have a big mission to change the way the world thinks about sunscreen —
Jessica: It has to be scalable.
Sunscreen for 365 Days a Year
Holly: It has to be scalable, and so I really had to take a close, close look at what I was trying to do and think about it entirely differently. Fortunately for me, the school said I did have onboard. The parents were appreciative of this healthy habit that I had taught their children, and they started asking me if I would go to their country club and talk to their country club about putting Supergoop! pumps on the golf course and the tennis courts, and I thought, "That’s interesting. Yeah. These kids are getting out for summer, and they’ve learned to protect their skin, and I need to be where they are going to be that summer." So I took off for hitting the country clubs around where these schools were located in Texas and in Louisiana and launched our same pump that was in these classrooms, in these country clubs.
What was bothering me was that country clubs were very seasonally oriented to be heavy in the summer, and so my whole vision for this brand has always been about 365 days a year. I want people to stop thinking about sunscreen as a seasonal item. While UVB burning rays are definitely more prevalent and sunburns happen more frequently in the summer months, the UVA aging rays are out and about in equal intensity, all 12 months of the year, even on rainy, cloudy days. They are bouncing around, wreaking havoc on our skin, and it’s those moments that I think are the most cumulative that eventually end up as skin cancer. I felt like going to, if I had to pivot in order to scale to pivot towards a seasonal distribution channel, all country clubs, swimming pools, golf and tennis was not a good fit for my niche.
Jessica: To my mission.
Sunscreen Education For Kids (and Their Parents)
Holly: I thought that, "I know that all good change happens because it’s much easier to change children’s behavior or form children’s healthy habits than it is to change an adult’s behavior." I mean, even like you said, you know better and it’s even still hard for you to get SPF on your kiddos every day. So I felt like when I thought about change in this world, I remember thinking about the “Don’t be a litterbug” campaign. I’m probably aging myself right now, but it wasn’t because children were littering that “Don’t be a litterbug” launched in America. It was a way to appeal to children so that they could encourage their dad from like throwing a cup out the window of the car.
Jessica: Right. My kids, if I tell them any sort of goal I have, they are like keeping me accountable. I mean, I have to be careful what I say out loud.
Holly: Absolutely. You do, and I knew that I was trying to make a change happen similar to “Don’t be a litterer” … I wanted to stop. I didn’t want to stop littering. I wanted to get everybody wearing sunscreen every day, so I’ve always felt like the brand itself should appeal to children, as well as adults. So when I thought about that in terms of a distribution channel for this, and I was kind of self-teaching myself retail, and I looked to those …
I felt like a better, more scalable path would be like prestige children’s channels. When I thought about, "Who was helping educate our youth in America?," I thought about retailers like FAO Schwarz, which was in and of itself the biggest storyteller of all in New York City. There was a retailer that’s now sadly defunct, but it was called Giggle. Their stores were based throughout L.A., San Francisco, and New York, but it was just a highly-curated assortment of the best of the best for kids. So I really looked to those prestige children’s channels that could help me tell parents a story and help educate. At the time, BabyStyle was another one that had about 25 stores in the U.S.. I mean, it was just very for …
I’d say 2009 and ’10, I just really focused on our distribution in these high-end children’s stores that would really partner with me to do Q&As, to talk about why this was important, and really help me connect with families, but then, even that became difficult I felt to scale. What I was seeing from most of my friends that I had met and other brand founders that were in the prestige children’s space, most of those beautiful children’s brands end up in order to scale going to Target, and they end up going mass.
A Big Break — Sephora Calls
Holly: The brands stay as beautiful as they are, but they have to do that, and I’ve always felt like the epidemic of skin cancer doesn’t exist because there’s a shortage of SPF on store shelves. I mean, you can walk through Target and mass grocers and see huge endcaps full of SPF products, but they’re not telling stories and they’re not educating. They’re just the product’s there, but it’s seasonal.
They’re putting them up and just storing them in the summer months, and not in the winter, and so that just felt really wrong for me too, but fortunately, the skincare buyer at Sephora was a new mom and had stumbled on our brand in Giggle in San Francisco, and she reached out. She called the number on the packaging, which —
Jessica: You had your phone number on the packaging?
Holly: Yes. That was my cell phone.
Jessica: I so love it.
Holly: She introduced herself and she said, "We think this is really interesting what you’re doing. All of the brands in Sephora for skin care right now are really all about correcting the damage that’s been done, and they’re very doctor-driven. You had all of the — name your favorite dermatologist had a skin care line, and it was always like a race to the clinicals about how to fix everything that’s broken — but you’re taking a very preventative approach and making it very fun and playful, and it’s interesting to me.” She said, "Sephora is known to really help brands grow and to tell their story." The more I dug in, she said, "When you feel like you’re ready, we’d love to talk with you."
That really was a big break for me because I feel that they have been such an incredible partner in helping us tell our story. This was in, I guess, 2011. When I thought about who we were trying to reach as a consumer, I feel like that young shopper. This was when you think back to 2011, tanning beds. People still talked about tanning beds then. Like, young 25-year-olds were visiting tanning beds, and so I felt like that was a good demographic to really help educate.
Then, I also felt like catching that mom with the stroller and two kids. That consumer was shopping in Nordstrom, and so we ended up launching both Nordstrom and Sephora in 2011 together, which was my first eye-opening experience of like, "Wow, I could really scale this way." The following conversations were actually even a little rougher because the plan for launch, and I didn’t know … I wasn’t from the beauty industry, so I think I had a real advantage not knowing how the beauty industry works, but the conversation initially for our launch was, "We’re going to do a big end cap for summer." I think a lot of beauty entrepreneurs that, that’s like a dream state.
Jessica: That’s a dream. You’re like, "Yes, bigger." Like, "That’s my worst nightmare. That’s going against my mission."
Holly: Exactly, and so I’m sitting there at the table in San Francisco with 10 people from Sephora and me, and they’re like, "We’re going to do this big end cap for summer. We’re going to just store all of this." I’m like, "Guys," and I’m raising my hand, just like, "Oh my gosh, how do I say this, but I’m so grateful. I’m so flattered. Thank you, but I’ve got to secure 12 months. I’ve got to make sure that our space in your store looks as beautiful in the dead of winter as on the Fourth of July."
Everybody just went, "Huh?" I said, "If that means we need to scale this way back, what can you do for me if I want that … I’ve got to prove to you that I can be as productive on store shelves in the winter as I can in the summer", and —
Jessica: That is so gutsy. I want to, like, kiss your face right now because you are taking the long view and you are willing to take a short-term loss for longevity and staying true to your “why.”
“You are taking the long view and you are willing to take a short-term loss for longevity and staying true to your ‘why.’” – Jessica Honegger
Holly: Yeah. Yup. It’s so important. You’ve just got to have a “why,” and it really becomes simple, I think, when you have such a strong mission, and you know what you are there for. The decisions really, they really become pretty simple.
“When you have such a strong mission and you know what you are there for, the decisions really become pretty simple.” – Holly Thaggard
Jessica: Yeah. Yeah.
Holly: If we weren’t going to do it like this, we shouldn’t be doing it. They weren’t the right partner, and —
Equipping Sephora to Tell the Supergoop! Story
Jessica: Tell me this, though — because how are you a storytelling brand? Because we’re a storytelling brand, but that’s why we didn’t go into stores. That’s why we have women inviting women into their homes, and so that we have an ambassador who can literally tell the story behind the brand because I saw the same thing when I was starting Noonday.
Jessica: I would see these social brands sitting in Anthropologie, and I’m like, "No one’s here to tell the story. It’s a tag that no one’s reading."
Holly: No one’s reading. Yeah. We don’t.
Jessica: How did you still stay true to that? I mean, I can see … Yeah, so saying like we’re going to have consistently —
Holly: Yeah. I think it’s important, too, Jessica, to note that back in 2011, there were no direct to consumer brands.
Holly: I mean, this was when business was built at retail, so I had to choose those retailers really, really carefully, and Sephora is amazing. I mean, I just got back from Vegas last week where I spent a full day with 350 of the leading educators in all of Sephora nationwide. They hold your hand through this, and I mean, I was able to tell our story directly, and I am going multiple times of the year. I’m going back to Vegas. We’re doing it all again in August, so they then can go back to their stores and alongside our field team, which we have five very strong people on our Sunshine Squad that go into stores and help fill in the blanks throughout the year and tell our story.
All of the people on the Sephora team — they’re called the “cast” — I always forget that. Internally, we all know that, but they then go back and tell our story to the rest of the cast in that store, and then those are the people that are telling our story to consumers.
Holly: It wasn’t immediately right then and there that they said, “Yes.” They had to, of course, go regroup and everything, but when I got the call that January, it was on January 26. I know that because it was my little brother’s birthday, and he had just made a personal investment in our brand. I got the call from the Sephora team that said, "Congratulations. We’re so excited to offer you six inches of space on our skin care advanced favorites wall, and we …"
Jessica: Six inches.
Holly: Six inches, and they were like, "And we can confirm your placement there for 12 months." I was just over the moon.
Holly: I mean, I was just ecstatic, and it really shaped so much that I didn’t even know at the time. But when I think about that day now, I immediately went to this place in my head of, "Now it’s my job to deliver to them on a silver platter the SPF products that have never been done before that are going to be as productive in the winter as in the summer," so it really shaped our product pipeline.
Selling Sunscreen Year-round at Sephora
Jessica: By the way, just for our listeners that don’t know retail, “productive” — can you just explain that word?
Holly: Yeah. Sure. What my … productive is just how well it’s going to do. I mean, obviously, if I put a sunscreen product on the shelf, and it doesn’t sell all month, then it’s not going to keep its space. I felt like because I’ve been given this beautiful space on their shelves for 12 months, I had to then go create SPF that’s never been thought of before that you would reach for in November without any hesitation. It would become a very important sku, a very important product to the retailer.
It just really shaped how we’ve thought about research and development in Supergoop!, because we feel like for us to disrupt this category, it has to be in the form of product. Product is everything. If you don’t have something unique, why bother? I know one of your favorite products is our makeup Setting Mist, for example. I mean, when we launched that in 2015, there was not a makeup Setting Mist on the market that you could literally spray right over your full face of makeup and at the same time be reapplying a broad spectrum SPF 50.
Jessica: It’s incredible. I mean, it’s like sneaky, and I mean sneaky because I am cynical, and I have dark skin already, or I’m tan. I’m not dark skin. I just took this to Vietnam, the spray, and where it is super humid, and everyone is like, "Jessica, you look like you’ve not been sweating at all today." I’m like, "I promise you it’s this spray," but then it’s the spray that’s also protecting me, so I love how you’re just like sneaking it in to everything.
Holly: I don’t know about you, but when my kiddos were young, I would put peas in their peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and just to get the vegetables in their body. I tell our chemist that all the time. I’m like, "That’s what we’re doing. We’re sneaking the SPF into beautiful, luxurious, feel-good formulas that people want to apply." They’re going to want to wear them every single day.
“We’re sneaking the SPF into beautiful, luxurious, feel-good formulas that people want to apply." – Holly Thaggard
You’re not putting it on because you know you have to. You’re putting it on because it feels amazing, like a body … I mean, my favorite product is our body butter, and right out of the shower, it just melts into your skin, and it feels amazing, and then I’ll mist our Sun-Defying Sunscreen Oil right over my shoulders because it makes my shoulders look younger, and healthier, and glowing. That’s our job as a brand to bring to consumers what you need so that it’s not a chore, and so that it’s easy and it feels great, and you can feel good about the ingredients that we formulate with, and really just get it into your routine year-round. I mean, I call it my “SPF wardrobe,” because on any given day, I have six or seven different SPF products on.
There’s not really one that … Whereas, I think a lot of people today still think about like, "What is my SPF?" It really should be more about, "What’s your activity?," "What are you doing?," "What does that day look like for you to be able to pick the right SPF product so that it’s easy?" That’s our job.
Jessica: A spray on mist. Let me tell you, that was made for me, so there you go. That’s the way that SPF has gotten on to my skin.
Holly: I’m so glad. I mean, that’s the one question I’ve been asked most over my career is, "How do I reapply?" You say to reapply my SPF, but does anybody really in the middle of the day want to start their whole makeup face over? I mean, it’s just not practical, and so for me, I was like …
Holly: I literally dream about SPF, so I was like, "If that’s a problem and people don’t know how to reapply, and we know they need to, we got to give them what they need to be able to do that." So that was the answer to that problem. Even more recently, we launched an Invincible Setting Powder because I’ve learned from having the mist on the market that some people are refreshing-mist people, and some people would rather reapply a powder, and that’s been really a success too, so we feel like we’re that … We’re just giving people ways to do what they know they need to do to be healthy and —
Jessica: What I find to be so interesting is that the Sephora buyer discovered you in a children’s store, and Sephora does not specialize in children’s products. So that was a pivot as well, to now focus on adults, and you didn’t change the branding too much.
Jessica: I mean, I would say the look and feel is still very similar. Was that a discussion topic on the table of changing the branding and the packaging?
Building A Fun, Playful Brand
Holly: It’s actually more. It was more of a conversation when I entered children’s, because children’s boutique and retail wanted me to put “For Baby” or “For Kid” on the packaging. It was actually never discussed at Sephora because I felt very strongly that to put “For Baby or Child” on a product at the time when I was in the children’s space would … Children can, they start to read at like five, six years old, and then all of a sudden, they were going to stop this healthy habit that they had started when they were younger because it said, “For Baby.” I felt like that was going to be really a miss if our product all of a sudden to a 10-year-old didn’t look good because it had “For Baby” on the packaging. So, I really resisted the most frequent request, which was to put “For Baby” or “For Kid.”
Then, the second part to that is I always felt like children look to their parents to be good role models. So if they could look at their mom and dad pulling this out of their golf bag or their tennis bag, or the mom having this in her bathroom and the child at three, four, five saw the same products that they were using, they would be also witnessing a role model situation their whole childhood, which I thought was really healthy.
Sephora had, they just saw this as this fun, playful brand. They didn’t really think about it from a perspective of it being a kid or baby product.
Holly Hones in On Her Mission
Jessica: Which really is such a kindred partnership that they saw it the same way you did. Okay. You are an inspiration for real. You were a school teacher, and professional harpist, no formal business training, no experience in dermatology, or the beauty industry, and yet you were blazing trails in sunscreen, and skin care, skin protection niches, and I think it’d be easy for someone even listening to think, "Oh, she got her break with Sephora," but what I hear is all of that work leading up to that moment absolutely contributed to the success that you have today. When you think about the person that’s just sort of starting off right now who wants to launch a business but holding back, what should she do to get started?
Holly: Yes. I think it’s really important to recognize that all of, everything that you just named that I did, it’s part of my journey, it’s part of my special story. I didn’t know the teaching or launching children’s or all of this was leading up, and we’re actually now coming full, full circle and launching in schools across America. The whole program is funded by our retail partnerships that we’ve built over the last decade, so we’re actually going back and going into … We have a goal of a thousand classrooms in America, and it’s like the super simple program to just reach out, and we’ll ship you a pump to your child’s classroom.
Jessica: Has a lot changed?
Holly: Yes. Now, we have 11 states, and we’ve been advocating all along the way to change policies. When Texas changed the law last year is when I said, "It’s time. We’re going back. We’re going to schools."
It was a real exciting time for us, but to answer your question about your journey is, I think the one thing that I’ve always been really mindful of is two things. One is confidence. You have to have confidence and in your conviction of what you’re doing, and for me, that has never meant asking for a lot of opinions. Back in 2007, if I had asked for any opinions from the beauty industry about an SPF product, I would have never gotten anything done, but I had the confidence to continue and to know that I was seeing something that needed to be done in this world. I think one is having that confidence that what you’ve in your head created is important, and it’s just very important for any entrepreneur to have.
“You have to have confidence and in your conviction of what you’re doing.” – Holly Thaggard
Then, I think equally of importance is to not be shy to ask for help. People really do want to help people, and because I think I’ve always had such a big mission, I’ve known that I’m going to need a lot of help, whether it’s leaning on Sephora to help me build or if I’m not doing something, or if I feel like I’m not growing as fast as I can be, asking for that help, or leaning on my brother. I’m not really great with numbers. I hate spreadsheets. My brother happened to out of college go into banking, and in retail, and my husband is incredible with the spreadsheet and pivot tables and all. But as an entrepreneur, you have to identify I think what you are, what you bring personally to the table, and then ask for help for the other things.
“As an entrepreneur, you have to identify what you are, what you do bring personally to the table, and then ask for help for the other things.” – Holly Thaggard
Even just a big turning point for our brand was just two years ago, when I took a step back and realized we were getting to be this size where we really needed a strong leadership team, and that means a big position in the role of VP of Operations, VP of Sales, VP of Marketing. For a while, I think entrepreneurs just hire the people that they need to help them as they seem overwhelmed, but when I realized that, I felt like I needed help in even finding those people and putting a good culture for our brand together. It’s actually when I set out and looked to hire a President to run the company who has been with us for, this August will be two years, but I knew what I brought to the table was more of the passion, the inspiration, the SPF-obsessed product developer, and all of these things. But actually, running the company and having all of these positions report up to me is not something that I’m necessarily felt was within my own skill sets. I think as an entrepreneur, you need to know when to ask for help and find it. Be very resourceful in finding the help that you need to get you where you need to go.
“As an entrepreneur, you need to know when to ask for help and find it. Be very resourceful in finding the help that you need to get you where you need to go.” – Holly Thaggard
Seeing the Magic Happen
Jessica: Yeah. It’s interesting. I think you just spoke two things that are automatically obstacles to so many women, which is that we constantly are looking for opinions, and validation, and permission. What you said, number one is don’t look for that. Like you’ve got to have it in yourself. Number two, asking for help, which I cannot tell you how challenging it is for so many of my listeners to ask for help, and yet, that has been such a theme throughout all of these podcasts is. You’ve got to ask for help.
Holly: Yeah. It’s critical. You know what has happened since I was able to do that? We have this incredible team, and everything is just clicking. That’s when you can really start to see the magic happen. You can’t try to do everything and be everything, and that means at home, too.
I mean, going back to our earlier conversation about my mother-in-law, I ask for help all the time, and I still today go, "Okay." I feel like when I dial her number, and I do it multiple times a day, but I feel like she almost maybe thinks that … I just call her when I need help, but you know what? It takes a village, and if she can help, she’s always so happy to do that, and the same is true.
If she can’t, she’ll tell me, and then I have to go to my second or third choice, which I always have backup for that too, and my husband’s always been really good about encouraging that too from …
I think asking for help around the house too, and so that you can truly make every minute count and be present when you’re with your kids and your children and …
Jessica: Right. That’s so true. It’s so true, and it’s crazy. I mean, I’m eight in, and I still feel like I’m asking myself these questions of, "What is my highest impact for my company, and also my family?" because sometimes those things change, and you’ve got to adapt and be willing to transform and change, and sometimes that can be challenging as well.
Holly: Yeah, and you travel a lot, I think, more so out of the country. I mean, most of my travel is domestic aside from Southeast Asia. But you’ve got to have help when you’re traveling like that and be fully present when you’re out there, doing the good that you know you were meant to do in this world.
Where to Find Supergoop!
Jessica: Right. Right. Okay. I know now we have piqued everyone’s interests and they are ready to go out and buy Supergoop!. Where else aside from Sephora can we find you?
Holly: Yeah. We’re also online, Supergoop.com. That’s Sephora, Nordstrom, Bluemercury, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters. These are some of our key accounts that we stay focused on building.
Jessica: Then, we can also go direct to your website?
Holly: You go direct to our website. We have a ton of education on our website. There’s information, too, on our program if you want Supergoop! in your child’s classroom. Believe me, I was a teacher. I know how inundated they are with things on their list. We keep it really simple, and we just ask that you advocate at your school for your teacher or your headmaster. When the school says, "Yeah, sure. I don’t know why we wouldn’t have sunscreen available," we’ll just ship it to your child’s classroom.
Jessica: That’s so awesome.
Holly: Some may not be right for … We always say, "Just because Supergoop! is in the classroom, that doesn’t mean every child and their families are onboard with them wearing sunscreen every day," but it’s available, and that’s what we feel is important to give people.
Jessica: It’s available.
Holly: We wouldn’t send the kids into the cafeteria without having soap and water to wash your hands, but we know not all kids are washing their hands before lunch. We hope they are, but it’s available.
Jessica: So true. I love your tenacity. I love your passion. I feel like you are leading a revolution, and I can’t wait to have you back on. Even in a couple of years, I’m sure you’re going to be a household brand because of the sunscreen being in all of these schools, so thanks for caring for our kids, and our skin, and our health, and thanks for coming on the show today.
Holly: Thanks so much for having me. This was so much fun.
Jessica: So much fun.
Save 20% on Supergoop! products
Holly has been extremely generous, and she has offered a 20 percent coupon off all of her products from supergoop.com.
All you need to do to get your coupon code is subscribe to my email list! So go to JessicaHonegger.com. It’s already going out to all of my current e-mail tribe, and you know I really try to offer exclusives to get behind the scenes. It’s content that you’re not going to find anywhere else, so go subscribe by going to JessicaHonegger.com and we are happy to get you this coupon code. If you’re already a part of my list, you will be getting that coupon code at some point today.
Thanks so much for tuning in. Everybody, let’s put on our sunscreen this summer, and if you’re at a place where you’re wondering — Gosh, you feel like you’ve seen a problem, but it feels crazy that you could actually be part of the solution — I want you to think about that. It was a friend who was sharing a problem with her skin cancer. She noticed that there was never sunscreen available in a classroom. And now, that’s her life’s mission. Her story really encouraged me.
Thanks so much for tuning in. And I will see you later on in my e-mail tribe.