61 - Catherine Gore, Biossance & JVN Hair
Conor Begley: Sometimes the way that you win through business is just via positivity, great attitudes, will to win, and I think that certainly describes the way that Catherine has won. You'll really enjoy today's episode. Her achievements are unbelievable, pretty unparalleled when it comes to the beauty industry and has just a ton to learn from a brand building perspective. So enjoy today's show. Remember, if you like the show, be a friend, tell a friend, leave a review. That's always helpful. Thanks guys.
Speaker 2: Explore the minds and marketing strategies behind today's winning brands and businesses. Tap into the power of the creator economy with Earned by CreatorIQ. Here's Connor Begley.
Conor Begley: Hi everyone and welcome to Earned. Today I have Catherine Gore, the Global President of Biossance and JVN Hair. Welcome to the show, Catherine.
Catherine Gore: Thanks for having me. I'm happy to be here.
Conor Begley: I am pumped as well. I thought I knew a lot about you after doing my research, but then when we talked before the show, I found out you were number 22, the number 22 employee at Sephora, which is a pretty good claim to fame and also helped build obviously Sephora Collection. Kendo Brands helped launch Marc Jacobs Beauty and then got involved with Biossance, helped launch JVN, which are both top 50 brands in both categories. I didn't share these statistics with you before, but Biossance is the number 38 ranked brand in skincare year to date. And then JVN went from number 82 in January to number 48 in August, passing some unbelievable brands in the meantime. I think you also said they are the fastest growing hair care brand in Sephora. Is that right?
Catherine Gore: It's true, yeah. JVN Hair is officially a year old and is the fastest growing, and we're expanding globally as we speak so more to come.
Conor Begley: Well, so it seems like one of your kind of superpowers is both taking a brand and getting it from very small to very large very quickly. Do you think that's a pretty good description of what you're good at? I mean, looking at your track record, it's pretty unbelievable frankly.
Catherine Gore: Thank you. Yes, I do think my passion lies in scaling global brands and I think when a brand is really small and has an incredible idea and has the right DNA, it's a lot of fun to scale those brands because their mission is to bring what they stand for to the rest of the world, and that's what I like to do. I like to care for those brands and take them to the next level. Depends on what the vision is, but whether it be global reach or North America growth or whatever it might be. But it's really about taking these incredible brands and just exploding them and then also building the right teams to be able to do that. So put the right teams in place and that's really the key to the growth. But it's been a lot of fun.
Conor Begley: What do you feel like, what are the call it, three or four key team ingredients to hitting that kind of scale, right? Because there's a lot of brands out there that I think believe at least that they've got the right DNA, they've got the right products, but haven't seen the kind of success when it comes to scaling up. What do you see as the kind of core team, because you've mentioned team to me in the past and here, what are those key players and what are they doing that help you scale?
Catherine Gore: I think the three areas I would focus on there are really around digital expertise and eCom. The second would be around product development expertise and making sure there's an incredible pipeline, which is always king, is making sure there's amazing products and global sales. I think those three in connection have a symbiotic relationship to each other and really build great brands. So if we look at eCom and digital expertise, obviously that's critical to any business. But I think specifically core competencies would be just the ability to be scrappy and change strategies literally by the hour. I mean, we say we're always on and we look at our metrics literally all day every day, and just creating the right environment that supports that always on mentality. And then the second is really around just a product development pipeline. I mean, we love beauty and we love products and formulating products. And so the beauty of being owned by Amyris is that we can create those products in a day. Our lab is on site so we can have an idea in the morning and we can have a sample by the afternoon. And we are product obsessed so we want to ensure we have the best products on the market and that's a very big focus for us. And then the third is just global sales and making sure that we know the different cultures and the industries and the retailers and we have great relationships and we build those all together. And I think those three are really, really important from a team perspective,
Conor Begley: It's kind of crazy that... because I don't think that would've been the same answer maybe 10 years ago, having digital and eCom being in that three- headed monster so to speak. That just wouldn't have been an answer. So it's kind of crazy, it's gotten to that level of importance in terms of launching brands
Catherine Gore: For sure. For sure. I think at the common denominator to all of that is a brand that really knows who they are, knows how they're differentiated from every other brand, offers something that really can't be found anywhere else. So that's the common denominator to all of that. I think the great thing about the beauty industry is there's so many examples of that. There are so many brands that bring something unique and different. The pie is so large that there's a lot of people and companies that can play from the small founder level to the big empire level. I think that's what makes it so exciting is that there's so many different players, and in many ways can compliment each other to just create this incredible industry that there really isn't anything like the beauty industry.
Conor Begley: Yeah, I mean it's certainly a unique industry that we've gotten to know really well. And I think going into it's funny, when we first started the company, there's a bunch of literature we read that basically said as a company, as a technology company, there's a lot of value in focus, which is there's value for everybody in focus, but focus on a particular category where what you're doing is significantly more important. Which obviously for influencers and beauty, it was like well this is the most important vertical in our opinion. But we actually had a moment early on when we're young and I had never thought about the beauty industry in the past and remember looking at my co- founder and I'm like, " Are we going to be beauty guys? Is this going to be a thing, what we're doing?" It was like, yeah, I mean it's a right call. And I remember our first GM who led all the sales for us and she was coming out of Harvard Business School and she said that was actually the moment that she knew it was the right company to join. She's like, " Because you guys chose something that wasn't your personal interest but was the right move for the company and then went all in and now know it better than most people in the world." So yeah, it's a great industry.
Catherine Gore: I love that. Well if it makes you feel better, I was in banking and made the jump into beauty.
Conor Begley: Yeah. Sounds similar. So on that kind of founding team concept I was reading, saw some tweet this morning, but from somebody I respect, it's basically as a founder/ CEO or CEO of your company, as you get further along, your primary job is recruiting, your primary job is bringing in the right people and getting the right people at the table. And regardless of whether that's true, I think I've observed some of the people that I respect in the industry and come to observe that's a lot of what they're doing. So if you look at Scott Friedman as an example, who's the CEO at Rare Beauty, was the CEO at NYX before that. It's like I always see him at the industry events, I always see him coming around, hanging out and it's not very over the top and I could never figure out why he was going. And it's like, " Oh, because he wants to go recruit Katie Welch," who's now the CMO at Rare, right? That's why he's out there. And I brought it up to him and he is like, " Yeah, I see my primary job as getting the right people in the right spots and then removing as many barriers as I can for them to be successful." One, is that how you think about things? And then two, given that you've kind of emphasized team as an important element of success, what's your process for identifying those people, getting to know them then eventually kind of working with them? I know that's a few question in one, but hopefully it works.
Catherine Gore: Sure. There's a famous saying that goes culture each strategy for breakfast. And you've probably heard that before and I think about it a lot because yes, I am focused on finding the right people, but I'm even more focused on building the right culture and assembling the right people together. And there's probably a million sports analogies in there that would work about really putting the right team together. But I believe in it wholeheartedly. I also believe in an underdog mindset, just always striving to win as the small guy, but as it's team related, I really look for individuals that have a natural curiosity for life, a bit of levity to them and are really scrappy and have that grit that we all look for and that I know will get along really well. We have, as the team knows, and I call them the dream team, that's my nickname for them across JVN and Biossance. We started with 17 people in 2008 and we have almost 130, so we've grown quite rapidly. And in that growth you have to be very focused on how you spend time with the team and onboard the team. But their nickname is the dream team because it's how we all interact together that is the magic sauce. We really love each other as a team and I'm very passionate about promoting folks. I'm very passionate about my team's growth. I'm very passionate about women leadership. I mean, I think when Reese Witherspoon and I connected, I think she was very drawn to this. I think she felt what we had been building, which was this incredible team that's very passionate about what we do. We're a brand whose heart's in the right place, but it's got to start at every level. And so it's really about the chemistry that I look for. And it's not always in the most obvious spots. There's incredible people at all of those events, but sometimes you find the best people in the less obvious spots. So I really try to keep an open mind about where our team comes from. I think that's probably the thing I'm most proud of is this leadership team and these teams we've created. And for JVN it's been in a very short amount of time, so it's been a lot of recruiting. It's in a year, I think we've hired 32 people in a year, so it's like.
Conor Begley: Yeah. I'm not sure if I misheard, I thought you had said 2008, but you said, I'm assuming it's 2018, you went from 17 to 130 people, right?
Catherine Gore: Yes.
Conor Begley: That is 10x growth.
Catherine Gore: In four years, yes.
Conor Begley: Pretty crazy.
Catherine Gore: It is.
Conor Begley: How do you manage that? How do you maintain the culture when you are hiring so many people that presumably don't know each other, don't know the history, you haven't had that time to really kind of bond and become close. How do you cultivate that? What are some of the methods you used?
Catherine Gore: Yeah, I think, well certainly the last few years have been different than any of the rest. So we work predominantly virtually, but we get together in person for key moments. And I do think that helps a lot to have those moments where we come together as a team. I think we don't take ourselves too seriously, we keep a bit of levity, we get to know each other personally. I think everybody comes in from day one with this headset that just everybody's coming from a good place. And then I think it's about celebrating wins and making sure you give teams visibility into some of the fun stuff that we do. Like, make sure people are going to Australia with Jonathan to launch Jonathan in Australia, in the UK. I mean those events and those moments really add up. I mean, those can really be important memories for teams to be able to participate. And I think it always helps that we're growing, it's good to be a part of a growing team and we are very focused on growing. So yeah, I think all of that comes together really nicely and it works.
Conor Begley: I mean, that's one of the primary pieces of advice I give younger people when they're looking to make a decision in their career, it's like, well obviously it depends on what you're important to you, but the advantage of having a company that's growing say 50% a year or 100% year over year versus one that's growing 5% a year is that's roughly the rate at which new job opportunities get created. So if you're going 50% a year, there's roughly going to be 50% new jobs the next year. If you're going 5%, there's only 5%. And so what that does is it naturally sucks people into leadership position because there's a preference internally to promote from within versus hire outside if you can. And so at a very young age, you can get significantly more opportunity for advancement, which I think kind of snowballs. Then all of a sudden it's like, " Oh wow, look at what they've done so far at such a young point in their career. It's really impressive." And obviously, you want to make sure that you're not over promoting. That happens too, where people get in a little bit over their heads. But yeah, I think it's always easier when you're on a winning team. Winning creates culture as well, which is right tough to fake.
Catherine Gore: And I think it's good for our teams to see their peers grow and watch and they themselves grow and it just provides a lot of opportunities and I do, I love to promote from within. So I always look internally first and I think that's a good rule of thumb overall. But yeah, it just ultimately provides these opportunities for people and they can reach their own personal goals a little bit faster hopefully.
Conor Begley: Yeah, what I'd be curious about is... you've talked about celebrating wins, excitement, et cetera. One of the things that I've observed in my career on the kind of leadership side of things is I think early on I actually over- indexed with positivity. I had too much positivity and to the point that it felt like I wasn't genuine, right? There weren't any challenges, which there are always challenges in any business. How do you think about that kind of balanced messaging from a leadership perspective, being able to talk both about yes these are the things we're excited about, but these are the things that we also have to work on. How do you think about that? How do you approach it?
Catherine Gore: Sure. It's really important to have the right strategic plan for both brands. I mean there are deliverables that are required and measures. The measurements in place are absolutely key. So I think with the right strategic infrastructure there has to be accountability for the teams in terms of what needs to be delivered. Now the famous saying is you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar, but so you go about that in a positive way and what it leads to is empowering the teams and individuals to do their role, but the deliverables are still there and they don't change. And there has to be some element of accountability and seriousness to those deliverables. I think it's a balance. And I wouldn't say it's always... it ebbs and flows because nothing's perfect and there's always obstacles and certainly we're the same, especially when brand brands are growing so rapidly. I mean, it's just the keep up part of it is incredible. But at the end of the day, what you always want to provide is a psychologically safe environment that people feel like, that they feel that they're in a good place and then balance that positivity with the deliverables that need to happen at the same time. But it's an art form. I don't know if ever anyone's ever perfected it. I think it's probably most leader's biggest challenge.
Conor Begley: Well, you're always going to have people that prefer more of one than the other, right? So it's in a lot of ways-
Catherine Gore: Sure. Yeah, and I think I try to lean into the individual and understand how... I really try to find the superpower in everybody and not try to make people something that they're not. I think that's the other key.
Conor Begley: Honestly, I think it's been one of my biggest learnings in my career and I've talked about it on here a few times, is just I remember talking to my co- founder and I was like, " I really need to get better at this. I'm not very good at it." And he is like, " Why? Why do you need to get better at that? There are other people that are really good at that. Let them do that, and you do what you are truly special at, focus on that." And it's like, I don't know, I've had a couple of light bulb moments connected to it and it's like emphasize people's superpowers and then try and put in things that protect them in case their weak spots kind of come up.
Catherine Gore: Exactly, exactly. I love that story.
Conor Begley: Yeah. So let's talk a little bit about this direct to consumer versus retail space a little bit because obviously you grew up in retail, I mean, you got to see Sephora really become what it was is today, but then today, you mentioned digital and eCom, right? Direct to consumers, a critical skill set for you in terms of launching a brand. So one of those dynamics that I'm very curious about your opinion on is there's a lot of brands today where they have... historically the model was go to retail then start selling direct to consumer afterwards. And now it seems like that's kind of reversed, where it's like build your audience, build a community online, that way when you go to retail you can actually drive traffic and drive real revenue. How do you think about that? What do you think is important when it comes to launching a brand and the interplay between eCom and retail?
Catherine Gore: Great question. I think, well certainly Biossance was an early adopter of starting with D2C. Biossance is five years old and began with D2C. That was the main objective. Later expanded into Sephora and other obviously now global retailers and beyond. And JVN Hair is very similarly. I think it's really the yin and the yang and I think they each compliment each other in different ways. But I do believe it starts with a strong D2C business because it's the most concentrated interpretation of your brand. When a brand goes into a retailer, there are selections there, there are other brands, there's choice and the consumer is navigating that environment and it's a beautiful environment for a lot of things like experience and education. At the same time, there's really no replacement for one's own D2C and how a brand comes to life. I mean it's like your house, it's welcoming somebody into your home. And I think for Biossance, in the early years we not only started with D2C, but we gave away a lot of free samples. So the way the brand made a name for itself in the early years was that you could go on the site and choose free samples and we would ship them for free, a big selection of samples just to try the brand. And that worked really well in terms of getting the name out there in the early years, starting from ground zero. I think now it's obviously a much different strategy, but it did sort of all originate with D2C. So I think we can't really underscore enough the importance of that. That said, I think there are so many incredible beauty retailers globally from Sephora to Tmall to Space NK and beyond. And they each bring such a special magic sauce in terms of what they provide and how they want their consumer to experience and absorb their brands. And so you can't really replace that experiential piece either, so to me it's really the yin and the yang.
Conor Begley: Yeah, I mean you look at the data, I remember when the pandemic first happened there was all of these people shouting about this acceleration in eCom, how it jumped 10 years, and it did for a period of time. Since then, it's gone right back to the mean, right back to the kind of historical growth curve where it's like people are buying eCom at just a slightly higher rate than they were two years ago, which is right in line with what they would've done anyways. It's kind of crazy to see it come back. Anyways, so one of my questions, obviously you spent a lot of time not just at Sephora, but within the kind of LVMH empire, which I find when people get involved in these really well run kind of... empire's the wrong word, but businesses, you don't really want to leave because you can move to different brands, you can move to different markets, you can try different things. Obviously Kendo is a really exciting experience within that. But then you decided to leave for Biossance, and now eventually JVN. What was it that motivated you to leave and get involved with these brands? What was exciting about that opportunity specifically?
Catherine Gore: Yes, so this story goes a few years back when in my early years at Sephora, Sephora was my dream job. I worked for Sephora for almost 18 years, and I truly believe every day I woke up it was a dream job. I feel that way now even more so. At the same time, I had a very strong passion for oceanic preservation and sustainability. And so in the very early years, in the early 2000s, my day job was being a Sephora merchant. In the evenings I would cross the Golden Gate Bridge and I would go over to the Marine Mammal Center and in the evenings I would volunteer at the Marine Mammal Center. And that was taking care of seals and dolphins. I mean, you couldn't have had two more opposites. Honestly back in those days it seemed so... I didn't share it a lot because I thought, " Well here I'm like a beauty maven by day and a seal rehabilitator by night." But it really filled my soul, and I think it's a good lesson in always just doing multiple things that bring you joy. And I just have always been involved in oceanic preservation. So I was on a board for an oceanic preservation nonprofit ultimately, but it all sort of started with the Marine Mammal Center, shout out to the Marine Mammal Center. As my career went on, when I was introduced to Amyris and Biossance and I was at Kendo, I realized almost instantly that what Amyris is doing with biotechnology and creating ingredients in house, truly the most sustainable effort in beauty yet that I had to be a part of it. And it was really that cross section of my two loves, which are beauty and oceanic preservation and sustainability that drove me to do that. I felt that what's beautiful about Amyris and Biossance is they're... when you're small, you can create big change overnight. So Amyris and Biossance at the time were smaller and they had started with a blank canvas so that when they were building their company, they could paint it the way that they wanted to see it. And that was over indexing on this sustainability, not just from a packaging perspective or an ingredient perspective, but literally at every step of the way up to and including the gas that is put off by our plant actually fuels the plant itself. I mean, there is a beautiful sustainability message to this company and I felt I had no choice but to be a part of it. And I'm so glad that I am because it feels like something I could make my kids proud of or one day my grandkids proud of or whatever. It's at a different level for me. And I just love creating that change in an industry that I already adored so much.
Conor Begley: Yeah, I would imagine it'd have to be a pretty big pull to get you out of that.
Catherine Gore: I absolutely love LVMH and I think they've done, they do a beautiful job with brands and that was such an incredible experience as well as building Kendo. I mean those were just incredible years with these brands, but I really felt like I wanted to just lean in just a little bit more towards the biotechnology and the sustainability piece.
Conor Begley: Makes a ton of sense. Well let's talk about influencers. That is after all the space that we're in. I get criticized every once in a while, like, " You're going to talk about influencers?" I'm like, "Well, I mean there's so much fun stuff to talk about." So let's talk about it for a minute and we'll talk about influencer led brands first and then we'll talk about influencer kind of marketing itself as a brand. I think for me, one of the more interesting elements of your career is your either exposure or direct involvement with a number of incredibly successful brands, centered around an individual that often would be labeled either an influencer or a celebrity, et cetera. Whether that's, obviously you worked on Marc Jacobs Beauty, then you've got within Kendo, you had Fenty, you had Kat Von D, then you've obviously had JVN here, each of which has been centered around an individual and has gone on to be very successful. Now, with that being said, I think you also helped to spur this explosion in if there's one more celebrity skincare brand launched, our team loses their marbles every time it happens. And most of those have failed. The vast majority of those have not seen the same level of success as the brands you've been least exposed to. So what do you think are the ingredients that lead to successful brand launched around an individual, particularly those that have a presence online and possibly what are the pitfalls, what are the mistakes that you've seen people make?
Catherine Gore: Sure, I think it's extremely important to... most of what I do is listen at first. I think it's really important to listen to an individual or celebrity and really understand what is their goal. And in listening, I think it very quickly leads to there's a difference between celebrity and expert. For Jonathan Van Ness, I really think it's about his expertise in hair. All of his adult life has been as a trained hair professional. So I think it's about really, while he might have influence, it's really about his expertise. In addition to that, he's incredibly knowledgeable around sustainability and ingredients and passionate obviously with his shows. And I think there's just something about really making the distinction between influencer and expertise. At the same time, usually by the time you get to that point, it's really the consumer that also is craving more from that particular individual or that particular individual's expertise. So they just have been asking for something, whether it's Jonathan Van Ness and a hair brand. You're usually also hopefully answering a consumer call, because at the end of the day, that's really king is, is this something that the consumer really is looking for? Is this something that he or she wants? And then I think it's about making sure it doesn't feel like a sea of same. Where is the differentiation and how is it differentiated then everything else that was out there? I mean, I can remember when we first met Kat Von D, the very first meeting was at her tattoo shop in LA in May of 2008. And so it was a long time ago, but it was something that felt completely fresh and unique to the beautyscape at the time. The idea that this extremely talented tattoo artist would then go into beauty. And she happened to be a huge beauty junkie. I mean her beauty closet was incredible. So that artistry that she put into tattooing had cascaded into other areas and it was a natural fit. It felt natural. And I think with Jonathan it feels so natural. He's obviously inspired a huge community of people through Queer Eye and is very well trained. I mean, he trained at the Aveda Institute and it's just about bringing their vision to life in a way that feels like you're changing the game. And that's very special. I mean, what an honor to be able to do that for people and do it in a way that feels kind of fresh and unique and ownable. And so that's what we always do. For Jonathan, the tagline... I can remember the meeting where we came up with the tagline for the brand, which is Come as You Are. And it's that tagline because Jonathan lives that. I mean, if you go on his Instagram on a given morning, you'll see him dancing in his underwear while pouring coffee. And it's just my favorite moment of the day because it just expresses exactly what he means, which is come as you are. And then partner with that incredible formulations that are, by the way, totally clean where hair is getting there on the clean and very efficacious train. But I think it's just a really good trifecta of a beautiful brand. And so that's really what I've always tried to do is just listen and come back with something that is totally differentiated and unique and different, and it's fun.
Conor Begley: He sounds like a fun person to work with, both obviously based on observation and I'll have to follow him online. That sounds like a good way to start your day, right?
Catherine Gore: And not to mention he's incredibly funny.
Conor Begley: Yeah, totally. So obviously you've seen a lot of success in influencer marketing. Obviously the Kendo Brands were all very successful. And then more recently with Biossance and with JVN. And this, again, in a lot of ways it's great to have Jonathan involved, but really when we're saying that JVN's successful, it's thousands of creators talking about the brand, not just him. So what have been the tactics that you've seen work well there for brands? What's the approach, what's the philosophy when it comes to working with creators that are not the brand founder? How have you approached that?
Catherine Gore: Yes, the secret sauce, I believe is in connection. So most of the influencers at the medium to top level that we sign on, first of all, we go direct. We really try to manage those relationships directly. But I've had dinner with most of them or had a session where I meet them and I know their kids' names. I genuinely care about our influencers and I genuinely appreciate that they're creating content and how what a job that is, talk about always on and 24/7, that is on another level in terms of putting content into the universe. And I genuinely want to get to know them, whether it's Mama Shocks or inaudible or Reese Witherspoon. And I feel a deep connection to what they're going after. And I also feel like we are not so different from one another, especially in beauty. Typically, when you're having a conversation with someone in beauty, you can get really excited about products and formulations and you share a bond over loving beauty. And so I think connection is the key. That's been a great for us, is just really connecting on a deeper level and getting to know people. And then I think it's about just, again, having a brand that has a point of difference that feels unique and different and that they understand it and that they get it. And I do feel a lot of our influencers are proud of Biossance and what it's accomplished. And I think they're excited to be along for the journey with us because there's so much to celebrate and the brand has made so many strides with regard to sustainability and now we're doing the exact same with JVN Hair. So I think I can see when it clicks for people and when we tell the story of Biossance or JVN Hair, I can kind of see when the light bulb goes off and it gets me excited. But I think connection is the key, true connection.
Conor Begley: I mean, I think it does come down... I think what you mentioned is what we've seen really consistently, which is it's a combination of relationship. Do you have a relationship and what is the strength of that relationship? And then product, right? Do you have something that's worth talking about that they're willing to put their reputation on the line and support? Because again, going back to your kind of comments on Jonathan and expertise, we've seen the same things, right? It's very hard. Even a Jennifer Aniston and Living Proof, she was a face of Living Proof for a long time and it helped. It certainly wasn't like a negative thing, but it's very different than Jonathan being involved. Jonathan has made his career in hair. So for him, he knows it deeply. He uses it every day. He's perceived as being an expert in the category. The people that follow him are deeply interested in that product as a category. So just even in a case where you've got Jennifer Aniston, it's almost perfect alignment with living proof in terms of an ambassador relationship. And it wasn't negative by any stretch of the imagination. I think that this can be very powerful as a combination.
Catherine Gore: There's a large community of people that instantly connect with Come As You Are. So whether everyone has gone through their... has own story to tell, they have their own journey, they've gone through things or they feel that they... there's a pool to want to express yourself as you see yourself and not have to necessarily always stand up to the societal pressures of what beauty might mean. And so I think Come As You Are just at a very instantaneous level, connects with a huge community of people. And I think it feels very refreshing in the beauty industry, which can sometimes be in a good way more aspirational, but sometimes has that negative connotation of you must look a certain way or do a certain thing or be a certain way. And I think this is a breath of fresh air. So now then you go to the other layers of the onion, which are the ingredient story around Hemi Squalane and the clean story, and then Jonathan and everything that he's built and the sustainable packaging with all aluminum. And then it's just, why not? I mean, I have to have these products because they are speaking to me. And from an influencer perspective, I think as they think about their personal brand and where their vision is for their own brand that they're developing, those two brands fit well with a lot of the current thinking, which is more sustainable and more responsible I would say. So I think it's good that it can be... then in many cases it's a natural fit between influencer and the brands.
Conor Begley: For sure. Okay, well let's do one more question and then we'll do one fun end of show question. So the last question I have, and I've asked this last few times, I just really like the answer because it's different every time. You've achieved an incredible amount of success in your career in a very short period of time, and now obviously leading to very successful brands and et cetera. So if you had to give advice to younger professionals that are listening in that want to achieve the same things that you've achieved, what would be the advice that you'd give them?
Catherine Gore: Let's see. It's a good question. I think so many pieces of advice come to mind, but I think I'll tell a story and then I'll give the advice. But I think when I first started at Sephora, I was in a very entry level job. I took the first job that I could get. It was extremely entry level. And ultimately I got to a place where I wanted to be a buyer, a merchant. And at that time there were 15 candidates, most had MBAs. There was no chance I was going to get this because I was just entry level, but my heart was in the right place and I was already in the company. And so what I did was at after hours, pretty much on the nights I wasn't working at the Marine Mammal Center, but I worked with IT to teach me all of the systems at Sephora. So the gentleman from IT, I gave him free products so he could give it to his wife and then he spent a couple extra hours with me and taught me the systems. So when I went head to head, I batted for myself by saying I know all the systems. And then I did because I had gone one step further. And whether that's, I have always tried to go one step further. And I think that's the key. Keep an air of positivity, always assume the best and always go just one step further. And when I got that job, this was 20 years ago, the comment was, you're not the most qualified, but we believe you will be the most talented and we're going to give it to you outside of all these 15 people. There's plenty of stories that where something didn't work out, but I think there's a lot of stories where it did. I think that you just have to go one step further than everybody else and keep your vision tight and close and always be curious and positive and things will go well. They do work out in the end.
Conor Begley: Yeah, you're not going to see every single... I mean I think people sometimes have a hard time with, " Well I tried this and didn't work." It's like, " Well." I think in some ways it started my career on the sales side of things, so it's like, you realize it's like, it doesn't work out every time, but-
Catherine Gore: Not every time.
Conor Begley: If you're winning 50% of the time and the average person's winning 25%, you're killing it. And I really align with that kind of one step further concept, which is to say that, you know, just a little bit more, right? That little bit extra and it stands out.
Catherine Gore: Little bit more. I mean I think it's how great football teams are made, a little bit more. Or the Golden State Warriors are great. Sorry, these are going to be all Bay Area examples.
Conor Begley: Yeah, yeah. Love it.
Catherine Gore: I'm a Bay Area girl, but I think the Golden State Warriors are a fantastic example of that. It's one step further, and in that case quite a few steps further, but it's about the team energy, the team dynamic one step further and that goes a long way.
Conor Begley: Yeah, makes sense. So last question, just a fun one. If you had to start a brand that was not in the beauty space, what kind of brand would you start?
Catherine Gore: I wouldn't start a brand. I would probably write a book.
Conor Begley: Ah, okay. What would the book be about? What would be the main themes?
Catherine Gore: Probably a young girl in the beauty industry.
Conor Begley: There you go.
Catherine Gore: And just bring it full circle.
Conor Begley: Oh, you got to. Well I really appreciate you taking out the time today. I had a lot of fun. I know people learned a lot, I learned a lot. And yeah, wishing you continued success at Biossance and JVN, and excited to see you take those into the next really big global brands.
Catherine Gore: Thank you, Conor. I so appreciate it. What a great session. Thank you.
Conor Begley: Awesome. Thanks, Catherine.
Catherine Gore: Bye.
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In Ep. 61 of Earned, we sit down with beauty industry veteran Catherine Gore, Global Brand President of sustainable skin and hair brands Biossance and JVN Hair (yes, as in Jonathan Van Ness, professional hairstylist and star of Queer Eye). We start the episode by unpacking the key areas of focus that help Catherine scale a brand, before learning why she prioritizes building a positive, supportive team culture. We then explore the interplay between a brand’s DTC and retail footprints, and Catherine reveals why there’s “no replacement” for either. Next, we take a step back and hear why Catherine decided to pivot away from the LVMH corporation and enter the indie beauty world, before discussing best practices for launching celebrity-founded brands. Finally, Catherine emphasizes why “connection is key” when it comes to successful influencer marketing, and closes the show with advice to young professionals looking to achieve a similar path to success.