53 - Susan Yara, NATURIUM
Speaker 1: 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 Conor Begley.
Conor Begley: Hi everybody and welcome to Earned. Today, we have Susan Yara, the founder of Naturium, as well as a very celebrated on-air producer, reporter, creator, influencer. You've really got the full bandwidth of things going.
Susan Yara: Yeah, thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Conor Begley: Yeah, this should be fun. We ran into each other that WWD summit, where I think we got to see Pharrell speak, who's also a pretty good speaker as well.
Susan Yara: He was actually way more inspiring than I expected. I think these days, when you hear that a celebrity is going to have some kind of a beauty line, especially skincare, you're not really expecting them to inspire you when they get up on stage, but he was actually inspiring.
Conor Begley: Yeah. I was surprised at how well spoken he was. And again, in a really intimate setting, hung out for a long time afterwards. It was cool. You can see at times why people have done well. And I think that was the case there.
Susan Yara: Absolutely.
Conor Begley: Well, for those that don't know you, I want to just throw out a few facts. We'll start personal then we'll, we'll talk about Naturium. Not only were you a reporter, influencer, creator, brand builder, whatever, you're also Miss New Mexico in 2004. Some of the publications you've been a part of Glamour Magazine, PopSugar, Total Beauty, Forbes, helped launch NewBeauty Magazine. I'm sure I'm missing a few in there. And then Naturium, Taylor, who's my partner in crime on the podcast, is a huge fan and excited to have you on here. And I hold some stats. As of 2020, you guys are the number 115th rank skincare brand.
Susan Yara: Oh, okay.
Conor Begley: And now you're up to number 73 in 2021. And accelerating more in 2022, so in number 63 for 2022 so far. So moving up the rankings really quickly. And you're not... people, sometimes those big numbers can sound weird, but you're passing big names. So you've passed Garnier, Glossier, Lancome, Chanel Skincare. You're crushing it. Congrats, congrats.
Susan Yara: Woo. I know two and a half years, we've done a lot in two and a half years.
Conor Begley: It's pretty wild. And then on top of that, again, I don't know how you do all these different things, but you've got a million and a half subscribers on YouTube, 400,000 on Instagram, I think a couple hundred thousand on TikTok. Collectively over 2 million fans. Yeah. Good on you. I'm excited to inaudible.
Susan Yara: Thank you. Do we not include Pinterest and Facebook stats anymore? No, I'm kidding.
Conor Begley: inaudible. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. But I'd actually love to start actually at the top with that... you, I think have been in a unique position, from a career perspective, to have seen this digital transformation that's occurred in media generally, because you were originally doing more traditional media, right? Magazines, TV, that kind of stuff and in a digital world. And then have transitioned that to actually being a brand builder. Talk to me a little bit about that journey, what the last call it 15, 20 years has been like, as well as how that informed your content creation career? And then we'll get into the weeds.
Susan Yara: Yeah. I guess influencer is the term these days, but I do think of myself more as a producer, as a content creator. And I think that is because of my media background. I started off as a broadcast news reporter. I was in the streets, I was in New York City. I was a one man band, which is probably more common these days than not, just because it's cheaper for these media companies. They used to send me out to crime scenes and everything all by myself. I'd have to set up my big tripod, my big camera, figure out my shot, record myself, come back, edit my own videos for the news. And that really-
Conor Begley: I want to go back to that. I had no idea that was how the news worked. I did not know that they just... because it always looks like it's a huge team. And it's like, no, no, no inaudible.
Susan Yara: When you're going live, it's a huge team, not a huge team, but when you go live, you obviously have somebody with you, they have to set up the satellite and do all of that kind of stuff, right? But when you are just doing a news package, right, one of those quick reports that it looks like you're on the field, you can be all by yourself. It doesn't take a whole team to do that. Sometimes you'll have a videographer go out with you. Like if it's late at night, like if it's something potentially dangerous, right? It's a crime scene, active crime scene, something like that, you'll have somebody with you. You're not going to go out. They're not going to send a woman especially out by herself. But when it's not, it's cheaper for the company to have you do everything. And at the time I completely hated that. But when I think back, right, into my early twenties, it taught me so much that has led to this career that I have today. Right? I started off in news. Completely hated it, by the way, it was so depressing to just constantly have bad news to share with everybody, because that's what you have to find. Right? Even if there were inspiring stories, those got cut. You had to always just share the crime or anything that was salacious. Right? Which we see still transferred to social media today. And then I went into... I applied for a job at Forbes Magazine. And at the time they were doing something that was so radical and new and revolutionary, they were starting Forbes. com. It sounds crazy to say right now, but this was 2003, I think Facebook was still a college social media platform. It was just starting to become available to the public. And I remember we even brought Mark Zuckerberg in for an interview to discuss this new radical idea of having this social media platform. I don't even know if we called it social media at the time. It's just like it was this thing called Facebook. They were starting their. com. They wanted to really put a focus on lifestyle content. And that included anything that billionaires did with their money for fun, which sounded like an amazing opportunity. It was embarrassing though, because they wanted to start video. Right? And that was one of the reasons why they brought me on board was because I had all this experience in just broadcast in general. Right? So they needed the lead anchor for all of this, and that's who I was going to become Forbes. com and for the Forbes Video Network. And it was kind of embarrassing. It was still dial- up. Google didn't even own YouTube at the time. I think they bought it the year after I started at Forbes. And so it was this whole new journey of learning about the digital space and then realizing how much reach we actually had. Brands would reach out and they'd be like," Oh, we love this article that you wrote on our lipstick or our skincare products. But is it going to be in the book?" Meaning the magazine. And I would tell them, I'd be like," Don't worry. It's going to have like millions of views." And at that time, an article online would get you 24 million views on average because there weren't that many people doing it. Right? So it was this really new experience and that really launched my entire online career, because from there I went to... I mean, every publication at that point started. com and they needed people who had been in the. com space and understood that space. And I was one of those very rare people who understood the original way of handling media and the new way of handling media. So it really put me in a great position. Again, looking back, didn't think it at the time, but then as I start to rise up in my career, it definitely has led to where I am today. And that eventually led to starting video networks or YouTube channels for different media companies, the final one being NewBeauty Magazine. And NewBeauty Magazine, I mean, it was just an overhaul of their. com completely, because I was like," You need to have all of it. You need to now have all the social media channels. You need to have a really good website that's functioning well before you can even start a YouTube channel. Because you need to have all of it." And so I got to really do that. And I think that helped give me the confidence to go off on my own. Because at that point, nobody was putting any budget. I don't think they even still put that much budget into the. com stuff. Right? So when they're not giving you a budget, you're like," Well, if I don't get a budget and I need to figure all this out without a budget, I can do this on my own." And so that's where social media was going anyway. And that's been one of the biggest changes in social media, in the social media landscape, is that it's no longer about a media company. It's about the personality. And people follow a personality. And so I think that's why social media has really taken off.
Conor Begley: Yeah. I think the professionalization of content, it is designed for online consumption is fascinating. I mean, you look at... I think part of what made the whole MrBeast thing successful. Right? Which, I mean, at this point, I think it's a case study. He's putting$ 5 million into a video,$ 10 million into an individual YouTube video that is only designed for consumption on YouTube. And it's like, that's crazy. Right? But those were budgets that were getting put into more traditional kind of formatted media. It's just fascinating to watch, right? To watch that become," Oh wait, no, no, no, this is a new media channel in the same way the old ones were. And frankly you might even be able to monetize it better in the long run." Right? For you, talk to me about how that led to Mixed Makeup. Right? Which was, I think your biggest breakout success in terms of the building block for all the other media entities. What made you decide that's the right idea, that's what I want to focus on? I know some of it has to do with your background and how you were raised and those kinds of things. But talk to me a little bit about that, as well as what makes successful content, right? What is it? Because people didn't just subscribe to your channel for no reason. Right? They did it for a reason. So talk to me a little bit about how that led to Mixed Makeup and then ultimately how, when you think about what makes a good piece of content, what does that mean? What boxes does it need to check?
Susan Yara: Mixed Makeup. I don't know if you've gone, I'm sure you have, because you own your own businesses, when you go through trying to find a name that you can trademark, right? Even now, I think it's even worse, but back then it was still a terrible thing to do. You'd have to go through all these exercises of trying to figure out a name that's not taken, especially on social media and a website and all of it. Right? And so I had owned, for the longest time, Mixed Makeup. And the concept behind it was, it was just a personal blog about... I've always been very interested in learning more about both of the cultures that I grew up in or that I am, I'm half Mexican, half Korean. I grew up in a primarily Latino very dominated, it was a Latino neighborhood and community in New Mexico. A little bit in Texas, my dad was in the military and then we moved to New Mexico when he got out, because that's where he's from. And so it was a predominantly Latino community. And my mom really just kind of... she loves the Latino community and she loves the culture. So she really just kind of accepted that as her own. And so I really grew up in this Latino community. But as a half Korean woman, or Korean girl at the time, it was just interesting to grow up with a different perspective, because even though I was half Latino, the Latino kids didn't see me as Latino at all. I was Asian to them. But then if I ever like hung out with anyone Korean, because my mom's friends were in town or she wanted take me to a party or something, I was absolutely not Korean to them. Right? So it was like a very interesting perspective growing up. And so when I came up with the blog name, Mixed Makeup, it was really a play on words because I was in beauty, I was a beauty editor and everything, but I was doing a little play on words with my mixed biological makeup. Right? I just really wanted to kind of focus on that. And at the time also, there never really felt like there was anyone like me. Right? I never met anybody who was half Asian, half Latino, especially. Right? Even though now California has, I guess the largest population of half Asian, half Latino. So we're obviously starting to become somebody. Right? Anyway. That was a-
Conor Begley: That's got to be hard, right, to always feel different? No matter what group you're in, you're always different. Right? Not bad, but different every time.
Susan Yara: Yes.
Conor Begley: And in some cases I'm sure there was negative connotations.
Susan Yara: Absolutely. There were positives and negatives for sure. But it really did obviously shape me. And so I happened to have that blog and that name. It was trademarked already. I was like, let's go with this. Right? I knew I wanted to start... At the time these small digital media companies were still a thing. And so that was really the concept behind Mixed Makeup. I did not intend to be the main talent on camera for the channel. I in fact sometimes get exhausted by this whole concept of always having to get ready and have this certain appearance and a certain character, or whatever it is online. Right? And so I really didn't intend to be the main face of the channel. I really wanted it to be pretty broad. But you could see the trends shifting with social media at the time. And I think the big issue with media companies, even now, is that it takes them so long to catch up to what the trends are. Even if they can see what's happening, there's so much bureaucracy, just everything is already sent into place and they can't just make this quick shift. And social media moves so quickly that if they can't do that so quickly, if they can't make any changes quickly, then they're not going to keep up. Right? So social media, the big shift has been towards the personality, like I said. Right? And so I think the big thing to remember is that people, when they follow you, they're following you because they either feel like they're learning something from you, they're being entertained by you. They feel like they connect with you in some way. If I look at my following, a lot of my following is Asian moms or Latina moms. Right? They feel like they connect. I actually realized recently, there are a lot of people of mixed biological race, right, that follow me as well. Because we all have this very unique perspective. So people are actually, they're saying something that they connect with in you as the creator. So that's number one is to always remember that they follow you. Right? You are the person that they were following. And there's a reason for that. I think the second thing to remember, it goes back to that, either you're entertaining or you're educating or you're doing both. Right? And so you have to always do that. I think, especially with TikTok, I see a lot of the young creators who I speak to, especially that are trying to build their social media. They don't add any value though. Right? Sure, you could be cute and maybe you'll get lucky and you'll get really popular because you have really cute outfits on and stuff that you show. But there are a lot of people doing that and there are a lot of cute people out there. Right? Right? What is it that stands out about you? Even if you don't think that you were... Even growing up, if you were teased because you weren't, I guess stereotypically cute to everybody else or something like that, use that. This is what's going to make you stand out. So you have to add some type of value. For me, it was talking about stuff that I feel like, in beauty, in the beauty space, that I felt like really didn't get the attention that it needed. And that was cosmetic treatments and skincare. Right? I talk about other beauty stuff too, like hair and makeup and all that stuff, but that was never my thing. I'm not a makeup artist. I'm not a hair stylist. I'm a very informed consumer because I've been in the space for so long. And so for me, especially after I got pregnant, we talked about this actually, when I left to start Mixed Makeup, I never saw it as like, I'm going to become an influencer. I saw it as, I'm going to start a media company, I'm starting a brand. And then it wasn't until I actually got pregnant and I started to experience all the changes that happened with my body and my face and my skin and everything that it really clicked for me that there is a demographic out there that's probably underserved when it comes to skincare. Because I can't even find this information for myself. Right? At least not good information, right? I'm not trying to find the latest viral product for my skin. I'm trying to find real answers here. Right? And so I luckily had access, as an ex beauty editor, as a person who had an already a following. At that point, I think I had about 400,000 followers, subscribers on YouTube. So I had pretty good access to experts, to dermatologists and plastic surgeons and estheticians and everything. I really started to put that focus on there. And I think that was the really big shift for me was I decided I was going to focus the channel in on me as the main talent and also focus in on what kind of topic I focused on. And that was skincare. The whole concept of the channel from the get go was there was this demographic of women especially, who were 25 to 35, 40 years old, which seemed like an old demographic. There's jokes now in TikTok and everything, like if you were born after 1995 or so, you were like an old... or before 1995, you're old, right? It's like, oh this is so ridiculous. But it turns out we're the people spending the money, we're the people with the issues, we're the people that are actually going to go. And we need content too.
Conor Begley: Yeah. Yeah, totally.
Susan Yara: When I was starting Mixed Makeup, I was like, there is this population of women who are not getting the content they need. Everyone thinks that you should only be serving content to teenagers, because they're the only ones on YouTube at the time. This is now what we talk about with TikTok. Right? They were the only ones on, on YouTube at the time. And I remember I was trying to get investors and everything and they were like," Oh, you're a little bit old." I was 31. Okay? They're like," You're a little old to be on camera. You should really be looking at some teenagers, at least an 18 year old to bring on as talent." And I was like, you're not getting the point. If you create the content, it has to be better researched. It has to be better produced. It has to be high quality content. If you produce the content, they will come. And so all these men especially were like," Oh, we don't know. We don't know about this. It's cute, but no, we're not going to do this." So I was like, you know what, I'm going to do this myself. That's when I went in full force, just trying to find that demographic of women who were between the ages of 25 to 40. And it turns out I was right. Surprise, surprise.
Conor Begley: inaudible.
Susan Yara: It turns out they wanted that content. And now, I think the channel really spans, as far as the demographic, we have anyone between the ages of 18 to even 50. Right? Which is wild to think. And the real turn for me was when I started something called skincare reaction videos. And I think the reason why that clicked for everybody was because it really simplified skincare, but it made it educational and also very fun. Right? Very entertaining. And so once that started to happen, it just clicked for everybody. at the time, there was nobody talking about skincare. There were maybe a handful of people talking about skincare. And we were definitely not the cool kids. When we got invited to events, if we got invited to brand events and stuff, nobody would talk to us. We were just not the cool people at all, the skincare people, not at all. There was no community. And then after skincare reaction videos started, the community exploded. I feel like skincare, just like... and we've seen, obviously, you've probably seen the stats on skincare, it has been this growing topic and focus on social media. And I think it's because, for a lot of people, and I'm not saying it was because of me entirely, obviously there are a lot of people talking about skincare, but I know for my followers especially, skincare reaction videos really helped skincare education click for them. Because it just simplified everything. It made it less intimidating, I guess.
Conor Begley: Yeah. I mean, there was so much gold in those last four or five minutes. I've been trying to keep track of it all as you've been talking. And it's like, I think the first one was the entertainment piece. Right? Either entertainment or education or basically just being value add. Right? Most people don't ask themselves," What's the purpose of this content? Why would somebody read it? Why would somebody listen to it? What are they trying to learn? What are they trying to get better at?" Whatever. So I love that first. I think the second one was on the pregnancy being the catalyst. My wife's pregnant on her third. Right?
Susan Yara: Congrats, congrats.
Conor Begley: Yeah. Very exciting. And her sister is having her first.
Susan Yara: Okay.
Conor Begley: And I remember her sister walking up to her and telling her," Oh," talking about some problem. And she's like,"Oh, I tried to rest and it didn't fix it." And this, that. And my wife's like," Yeah, that's just pregnancy. That's just how you're going to feel for the next five months." And if she didn't have a big sister to tell her that, where is she going to go? Right? Because it's such a disruptive moment and such a dramatic change in your life. And it's not only a dramatic change for a short period of time, right? One, it's a pretty long period of time that you're pregnant. But then two, everything's different afterwards. Right? It's not exactly the same after you're done either. And so whether it's skincare or your body or whatever it is, it's just a very pivotal moment. Right? I love that. The third topic that was interesting was this concept of age. Right? I was meeting with this woman named Monica, who's an influencer, creator. And she just started a year or two ago, she's up to 250, 000 fans on Instagram. I accidentally got my trash can delivered to her house in San Francisco.
Susan Yara: You told me about this.
Conor Begley: Yes, yes, yes. Right? And I was talking to her about... She's also a software engineer and she also is starting her own line, makeup line. And she talked about... I was like," Well, why don't you just lean into the creator thing?" I'm like," You're growing so fast." and Her big concern was," I feel like I'm going to age out of it." Right? It's not going to last forever. As well as it's just a very difficult job. Right? It's just a lot of work to constantly be on, constantly be creating content. And I want to talk to you about that a little bit, because I'd be curious, how do you think about the next 20 years, right? What's the plan for the next 10 or the next 20? How much longer do you think you want to do this? And then the fourth one... Let's hit that, but the fourth one before I forget about it, that I think is interesting, is obviously you launched Naturium. And that's what I want to get into next. And one of the things that we talk a lot about, and you mentioned earlier is there's all these celebrity skincare lines, there's all these brands that are getting launched where people are slapping their name on it and trying to sell it. Right? Because they're trying to take, whether they're a celebrity or an influencer or whatever, they're trying to take their moment in the sun and make it a long lasting thing. Right?
Susan Yara: For sure.
Conor Begley: And I think the fact that you have become known for skincare is a big part of the reason that the brand is successful in skincare. Right? You didn't just go out and try and start a product in the category you didn't understand.
Susan Yara: Yeah. It would be ridiculous. If I said I wanted to start a CBD line right now, or something that I just never talk about, people would be like," That doesn't make any sense." But it's like, I went-
Conor Begley: Yeah, you have no inaudible.
Susan Yara: ...Yeah. You got to focus on what you know.
Conor Begley: You got no credibility. You have no trust from your audience. And these people have more than likely been following you for many, many years. Right? So they know you really well. And they know when you know what you're talking about and they know when you don't know what you're talking about. Right? Okay. Let's get to the Naturium next, but before we do that, I want to go back to this concept of age.
Susan Yara: Age.
Conor Begley: And just how you think about it. Right? Because at this stage, you're going to be one of the people that has the most experience when it comes to this industry, having started when Forbes. com was just inaudible, right?
Susan Yara: Oh yeah. I think I'm maybe the... am I one of the only adults on social media at this point. I'm kidding.
Conor Begley: Talk to me about how you think about the next 10 to 20 years? Because I do think one of the disadvantages... One of the great advantages you have when you are the face or you're an individual creator, is you have that connection, right?. Like," Oh, I'm like this person. We're similar. We have similar backgrounds, similar interests." But you also have a hard time reinventing yourself. Right? Glamour Magazine reinvents itself continuously for a very particular set of people.
Susan Yara: Yeah. But it's not working, right? But it's not working.
Conor Begley: Yeah. True.
Susan Yara: This is the thing to remember. I know exactly where you're going with this question. I remember being a beauty editor and thinking," Oh, how long can this shit go on?" Right? These influencers sharing their halls. And they look cute now because they're 16, everything looks good on their faces. Right? Wait until they have wrinkles and stuff. And here I am, I'm almost 41, I'll be 41 in a couple of months, and I am still on social media. And I've now had the opportunity to see, over the past decade especially, all of these people that I was like, yeah, how long is this going to last? They're going to want to get married. They're going to want to have real careers and all that kind of stuff. We've seen that evolution now, right? And it turns out, every step of their life, if they want to share it, becomes part of everybody else that's been following, it becomes part of their life too. Right? That you build a community. And I think this is the big difference between real celebrities, like an actor or a singer or something like that, a celebrity like that, they're always untouchable, right? You never really felt like you knew that much about them. You always feel like it's a character. You don't know anything. This is why I like the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial was so interesting to everybody was because you were getting this insight into very interesting people that don't live by the same rules as the rest of us. Right? It's just different.
Conor Begley: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Susan Yara: But when it comes to your social media people that you follow, you know a lot about them, right? You feel like you have become friends almost with these people. Even when I hear a guy, friend of mine like he follows somebody who is a stock trader or something. And he knows everything about this guy. Even though he watches him for information about the stock market, he also was telling me about how this guy had a kid. And he had no idea he was telling me this stuff. That actually seems kind of strange when you think about it, he doesn't actually know this person, right? But this is what it is to be a social media creator, right? You are building a community. These are people who support you. These are people who have probably seen you start off with nothing, right? Start off in your house, in your garage, in your closet, whatever it is that you're doing with really bad production quality. And they've seen you really grow and grow. You see some of them say," I was following you since you had 10, 000 followers. And now you have a million and it's so great to see you grow." These are people who love to see this for you. Right? There are always going to be people who are like... they're not happy for you. But I'd say the vast majority of people are very normal, very practical, they're very caring. They're very nice. I know that social media can feel very polarizing, but that's just the extremes of it, right? In the middle are very normal people who are very pumped for you. They feel like you're their friend. And when they walk up to you, they ask about your... they're not walking up and being like," Can I get your autograph?" Nobody has ever asked for my autograph. Right? They walk up and they say," Oh my God, it's so good to meet you. I got to tell you, I did this, this and this. And I learned so much from you. And my skin has completely changed." They usually are glowing. They're usually, oh, so proud of their skin, because they're talking to me. Or they'll like ask about my babies because they also have babies the same age. I mean, this is not the same thing as being an actual celebrity, you are building a community. And I think that, as time goes on, that community just continues to grow with you. Right? And I think that's the thing to remember is that your community will stay with you forever. Even if they don't follow you, especially in skincare, once you've figured out your issues and you've nailed it, you don't need to keep watching the same kind of content over and over again. But you will remember that that person taught you something. Right? And so I think this is the way to think about social media. As it evolves over time, yes, it's exhausting. I have never, in my 15 years, I guess now, in social media and digital, never seen competition like this between platforms before. And I think that is very exhausting for the creator, right? Where they're trying to keep up with all the different tools that are happening on every single app. Every single app wants to take the other one out, so they're creating competitive tools. And in order to be successful, at least lie in the eyes of people, right, to like get growth and engagement, you have to participate in all of these things. You can't just post pictures on Instagram anymore. That used to get you followers, right? You have to post videos. Not just Reels though, you have to post your long form videos too, mix it up a little bit. You have to post stories, you have to do a few lives. Same thing on TikTok, you have to have your short 15 second clips, but also do long form, because you know what, they're adding 10 minutes now, so they want long form and they want stories now.
Conor Begley: Well, you have to have perfect music too. Right? You got to get the right music for TikTok as well. Yeah.
Susan Yara: Exactly. When you think about this, that is exhausting for a creator, especially somebody new to this space, right? Again, I've been in this for so long. I've seen how all of these platforms evolve. Right? Everyone talks about how TikTok's so amazing, it's like the algorithm is so much better, Instagram's dead. Please. Just wait. I've been long enough to see how each social media app changes because they need to eventually make money. And so, of course they're going to all hate TikTok in four more years when Tik... We can already see TikTok changing. Right? And it's always so funny to me when I hear creators say," Oh, this platform completely changed." I hear this a lot about Instagram," It's no longer a photo sharing app." Where have you been? It stopped being a photo sharing app five years ago, right? It's just that you weren't paying attention. They tell you everything that they want you to do. They want you to be successful because it it helps their platform. So if you really pay attention to the trends, they're going to help you, if you help them. Right? It's like a handshake. You are in this together and you're going to grow if you participate, right, in the ways that they want you to. And so I've seen every single app do this, you mentioned the different numbers, I fully believe that this day and age, it's impossible to succeed at all of the apps. At least not at one time, not when you're getting started. Right? So when I started social media, I focused on YouTube. I created a Pinterest. I created a Facebook account. I created an Instagram account, but I didn't make them my focus. I just made YouTube my driving force. That was the place I was going to be consistent. I was going to nail the concept. I was going to get to a specific number every single year. That was the platform. And once I hit those numbers, then I shifted a little bit. Right? And then I went to Instagram and I started to make Instagram more of a focus. Now there's TikTok and Pinterest and all of that kind of stuff. Right. For me, I think at this point, I'm not so concerned with growing. I'm more concerned with maintaining that community that I have, because I really think that that's, at this point, so much more valuable, I guess, as a creator. It's way more valuable to see your community and give them what they want and what they need. Because especially on TikTok, I've seen so many people come through my feed and I don't know any of their names. Right? It's very rare at this point that I even know who these people are. I just watch their content and scroll right by. And then I save stuff, scroll right by. I could not tell you any of their names, besides maybe like Mikayla, who's the biggest of the beauty talkers, right? It's a whole different place and you don't want that. You want to remember that your value is when they follow you, they believe in you and they're consistent with you. Right? So you have to keep that in mind. So I don't care if I don't have a big following on TikTok. I have a massive following on YouTube. I actually have a massive Facebook following. People don't think about that too. But that is where my... I mean, people still say they see my videos. And people are also losing sight of the fact that, as I'm aging, Facebook is where I want to be. Right? I don't necessarily need the TikTokers and the 13 year olds who doesn't understand what I'm talking about anyway. Right? I want the women who are my age or older. You know what I mean? These are the people that I reach anyway. They're going to connect with me. Focus on what works for you and what you do and your demographic, all of that. Master one platform. Be on all the others, master one. And then once you get that, you'll have learned so much, you'll knock out. If I wanted to dominate TikTok, I kid you not, I would dominate TikTok if I wanted to. These kids would not know what was coming. Right? But it's just not my focus anymore.
Conor Begley: Yeah. I think focus is super critical, right? Because, in a lot of ways, where the success is in any one platform is really deeply understanding all the nuance, all the inside jokes, all the different platform features, right? So if you're going to be good, be really good at one of them. I think that's definitely the way to go. It's really interesting to think about... One of the things that you said was," I'm less focused on growth, more focused on the level of depth." Right? And in a lot of ways you think about, okay, who's been following your YouTube channel for five years, 10 years or longer? These people are deeply connected to you. Right? And that's got to be a big part of the reason that Naturium has done so well. Right? Because these people have deep trust in who you are as a person and your expertise in these kinds of things. And I wonder in some ways, because of the way that TikTok is designed, where you don't see every video from people, right? There'll be times where I have people that I follow and I only see 10% of their videos. Right? It's like, oh, I'm actually not-
Susan Yara: Yeah. Because you're mostly on your for you page.
Conor Begley: ...Yeah. And I think most people spend time on their for you page. Right? Not on their followed page. And so I remember one time I got on my followed page and I just kept seeing the same people over and over again, I was like, what is wrong? Why is it broken? But anyways, long story short, it's interesting. TikTok, you don't build as deep of an engagement with your community. You can grow faster if you get something that's viral, but the level of connection is not quite there, which is... I hadn't really thought about before.
Susan Yara: Yeah. Yeah. It's just, it's not the same kind of connection. So you want to have that connection. I think that's very important. And it's the way we build a brand also. I mean, any kind of brand, and it's not just your skincare brand, you have to build a community. Right? When I think about Naturium, everyone's like," Oh my gosh, in two years, two and a half years Naturium has grown so quickly." Honestly, I've been building Naturium for years. Because I started my community years ago. I'm going on my ninth year of having Mixed Makeup. So if you really think about that collectively, the brand is really an extension of this community, right? Granted, we have new customers and people that have never been part of it before, but I continue to make my content. I, in fact, hired a whole entire executive team recently because I know where my strength is and my strength is my community. Right? And so if I'm really focused in on all the business side of Naturium, besides obviously I want to know obviously everything about my products and be part of formulation and stuff. But when it comes to the numbers, that's not my big focus for the brand. Right? I can hire people to do that stuff for me. But maintaining your community is so much more important. And I've been doing it for years and I want to make sure that they are still the most important people
Conor Begley: For sure. And I mean, I've felt it. I'm about 10 years into Tribe and it's like, I didn't really get even what the word community meant until maybe three years ago, when I was like, oh wow, this is a real thing, right? The reputation and trust and network. It's like, well, it's like this podcast, right? We're now top 5%, I think, globally in terms of podcasts.
Susan Yara: Congrats.
Conor Begley: Thanks. And it's like inaudible podcast-
Susan Yara: It's a fun podcast. You've got a podcast voice too.
Conor Begley: ...Yeah.
Susan Yara: You've got that nice, smooth voice.
Conor Begley: Oh, I'm glad. I'm glad. I am. But the only reason this was possible was because we had built a lot of trust in a big community of people that we could bring in and have on. Right? If we were starting from square one, it never would've happened. Right? And so, yeah, it's fascinating. Let's talk about Naturium. Obviously the brand was founded a little bit before you, but you are one of the founders. Right?
Susan Yara: Yes.
Conor Begley: And I think it really took off when you got involved.
Susan Yara: Yeah.
Conor Begley: And that was around 2020-
Susan Yara: That was 2020.
Conor Begley: ...which obviously had some things going on in 2020.
Susan Yara: Oh yeah. You think? There was a lot going on in everybody's life in 2020. Yeah.
Conor Begley: Talk about what made you decide to get involved with the brand, what some of the challenges were as we went through COVID, and then what was like to work with Target? inaudible. All of those things. inaudible.
Susan Yara: All the things. Let's see. How much time do we have? How much time do we have? Okay. A lot of people didn't realize in 2019, I had already started working on a brand. It was not Naturium, I was working on an entirely different brand. I was trying to bootstrap it and really just go slow with it and get a feel of it and just go, right? Fast forward six months later and we are in February of 2020. And one email from a manufacturer just shut the whole thing down. They were like," There's this weird virus happening." They were in Korea,"... weird virus happening. Don't know if you've seen the news, but we're going to pivot to hand sanitizer. And if you want to launch your brand with hand sanitizer, we can do that. But the formulas we've been working on with you, got to scrap it for now." And it was this realization, right? I already knew in my gut that I had taken on... trying to like bootstrap a business, a brand, a beauty brand, especially on my own was pretty tough. That is a hard thing to do, but it really just solidified in my mind, I was in over my head. Right? And so when I got that email, I had already been so deep in this that I was like, I have to keep going. Right? So I started reaching out to everybody that I knew in the industry to try to find help, to find a new manufacturer, everything. And at the time I'd received some PR from Ben's team for Naturium, and I was obsessed. I thought this is going to be the best thing for the industry. Because the brands had already, and I give them lots of credit for this, brands had already come out to democratize skincare and stuff and show that it can be a little bit more affordable. It doesn't have to be so expensive. But those aren't necessarily like the best formulations, right? There's something in the middle. And I really felt like Naturium nailed it with the formulation being beautiful and elegant, packaging looked nice. There was innovation in these formulas. It was all great. And it was for very aggressive prices, right? Like$ 20, everything under$ 25 for these beautiful formulas. What is it that they're doing? And Ben, who is my business partner on this, who was the original founder of the brand, I was like, I need to talk to him. I followed his career for years. He's done so much. People have zero idea who the people behind beauty brands are. And he is one of those people who is an OG. He has been in the industry forever. He has made some of the biggest brands, him and his team, that have ever existed. It is him and his team who have been behind this. Right? Naturium was like his new baby. And they were just testing the market and everything. So I reached out to him and I was like," I want to discuss this. I ran into these issues." I told him everything. And then, because I just love to give unsolicited advice, I started to tell him what I thought about Naturium. Right? I started telling him," We need to do like these pre form claims and this stuff. And I really think you need to narrow it to this. And natrium just has so much..." I was pumped about Naturium. And if you ask anybody, if I find brands that I'm really into, products that I'm really into, I am all for promoting that and sharing that. Because I really do think that, besides friendly competition, I really think there is space for everybody out there. And honestly the best man always wins. Right? It's really not that kind of a competition. I think friendly competition is great. I love friendly competition. But in the end, we are our own businesses. We are doing our own thing. I think we can share information and be happy for each other. Right? So I was really pumped about Naturium. I was trying to get Ben to help me," Work with me on my brand. I have this great idea, very similar actually. I feel like this is the right price point. I know exactly what my followers want. I have years and years of data. Data that brands could only wish for." Right? I think this is something that influencers don't really understand that they have, they have access to so much data. If you use affiliate links, people... I've gotten teased before about affiliate links, because I'll put an affiliate link on something that's like, it costs like$2 for this. And they're like," You're really trying to claim the affiliate link on that?" And it has nothing to do with the money. It really doesn't. You don't always make that much money on affiliate links. It's more about knowing the data. Right? And data is so important, because it tells you so much about what your followers are interested in. Right? Yeah.
Conor Begley: Super interesting. Yeah.
Susan Yara: And so I've got years.
Conor Begley: Because I was thinking first about market trends. It's like, no, no, no, no, no, it's about my community. My community. inaudible.
Susan Yara: My community. Yeah. I know my community very deeply. I interact with them. I see what they're clicking on. I see what they're buying. All of it, right? And I have this for almost nine years at this point. Right? And so I was talking to him about all of this. And we kept having these conversations, and we laugh because this is only something that would've happened during the pandemic. It would've taken us years to build this relationship and decided to become business partners. But because we were in lockdown and there wasn't a lot to do, we got into these deep conversations about brands. And we had this realization that we really had very similar visions in a lot of ways. And one day he tells me, he goes," I've been thinking about this and why would we work on separate brands when we could work on one brand?" He's like,"And you love Naturium. You have helped shape Naturium to this point." He's like," The brand is only a few months old, why wouldn't you want to just join us for Naturium?" And I was like, interesting. And again, I think at the time, had I not been just so quickly shut down, trying to bootstrap this myself, right, I might have been two headstrong and been like," No, I want to do this on my own. I don't trust investors." Right? And then at the time, we built this like strong... it was almost like we were online dating. It's crazy. It's like strong relationship within two months. So I was like,"You know what? Let's do this. Let's do it. Let's kill it together." Right? It took a little while, it took a few months of going back and forth with our attorneys and everything to really work out the details of the ownership and everything. But it got solidified in June of 2020, which was super exciting. And I'm going to tell you, I want the editors to put the Beyonce, that let me upgrade you song, like," Partner, let me upgrade you." It was night and day between what I could do on my own versus what I could do with an experienced, amazing team. Right? The team at the incubator I joined, they have so much collective experience in the beauty industry, when we got all our minds together, it was like magic. I don't think that this will ever happen again. It was just amazing how we could work together. Ben felt like my very godmother suddenly. It was like, I suddenly had this beautiful brand that had already had a lot of the framework put into place. And he was essentially telling me," Do you. Give it the vision. Go for it." Right? It was amazing. And to go from trying to beg contract manufacturers to work with me, to suddenly the biggest manufacturers. I see some of the biggest brands, some of the ones that you even mentioned probably that we've surpassed on the list, going down the line next to my brand. Right? And it's like, so surreal to be like, I went from begging, begging to have someone make my product to now they want to make my products. They can't wait. Right? And it was such a huge upgrade. It really was. And I realized this is what I needed. I needed this kind of experience and this kind of team to help me bring the vision to life. And that's honestly what Naturium is. It's amazing.
Conor Begley: Yeah. I've seen that really consistently across brands. You saw it with Rare Beauty as well. Their founding team is the same founding team at Nick's. And yeah, they're definitely working with Selena and she's a big part of the brand, but having that team on the back end to take it to the next level is so impactful, right, on the operation side. And I was talking to your new CEO, who is the old COO at Tatcha, and his name's escaping me.
Susan Yara: And at Fresh.
Conor Begley: And at Fresh.
Susan Yara: Francois. Francois.
Conor Begley: Yeah, Francois.
Susan Yara: Yeah. I mean, he's got a resume, an amazing resume.
Conor Begley: Unbelievable. Unbelievable resume.
Susan Yara: I mean, he was up Fresh, at LVMH. Yeah, he's done a lot in the beauty space.
Conor Begley: He was claiming that you guys are growing faster than Tatcha ever grew too. So can you give like high level, just so people have an idea of scale, how fast is the business growing? And where is it doing well? Talk to me about that a little bit.
Susan Yara: I mean, I guess to not get into too many numbers, I saw there is a number floating out there that last year we hit$ 50 million in retail sales. And that is true. And we're going to be bigger this year, right? I mean, we're doing well, it's almost like a 50/ 50 split. It's a little bit more ECOM because we also have Amazon. Right? So it's like ECOM and Amazon are our two biggest drivers, and then we have Target. And we're working on distribution. We have small distribution in Australia. We're working on massive distribution about to happen in Europe and UK and Canada and stuff. We're working on all of this. Everyone has had supply chain issues, right? But having a team who understands this stuff, who are experienced and been in this industry forever, we were able to foresee what was about to happen. Right? Forecasting is a big part of brand success. I think for a lot of influencers, they think that going out of stock is a big marketing move. I think it's terrible. Right? I think you should be seeing things differently. If you don't have products in stock, you are not selling your products. Right? You are not giving people the products they need. And I really believe, this is the way I think about content and this is the way I think about brand building, especially for skincare, you are not supposed to focus on a viral product or a viral video. You're supposed to think long term, right? Building that slow cadence. When it comes to skincare, if you don't have your products in stock, then people don't get to be consistent with their skincare routine. And consistency is key all around, right? If you want to have perfect skin that you love and want to see some of your skin issues go away, you have to consistently use your products. If a product goes viral and it disappears and they can't have access to it, then we've done a bad job of forecasting. And those people aren't going to be able to stick with your skincare products and they're not going to see that change happen. I really think that's a huge part of our success.
Conor Begley: Yeah. Forecasting in the digital age does not sound fun. Because you inaudible-
Susan Yara: Because you don't know if an influencer is going to be like,"This is it!" And then you're like, oh gosh, we weren't planning for this. Exciting. Don't get me wrong. Exciting. Everyone loves to sell out of something. But in the time of now where there are always supply chain issues, it is very hard to deal with out of stock issues.
Conor Begley: Yeah, for sure. Okay. Let's do one more question and it's a question I probably should have asked earlier, we got to ask it now. And then we'll do one fun end of show question.
Susan Yara: Okay.
Conor Begley: Last question, obviously you know the creator side, you know the brand side, and you've gone up the rankings rapidly over the last couple of years in terms of influencer coverage, what has been your approach to working with other creators on behalf of Naturium or as part of Naturium? Talk to me a little about that. How do you approach it? What are some of your philosophies?
Susan Yara: Well, again, I go back to community. If people are skincare creators, there's a very good chance that they've seen some of my content or actually follow me. I remember what it was like to be, just a few years ago, a content creator who was struggling to get brands to notice me, to get my following, to just be consistent and stay in the good graces of brands too. Right? You want them to notice you. And when you're a smaller creator, they don't. Right? And I think this is obviously shifting with TikTok trends, but being a micro influencer back in the day was so unglamorous, right? It was not fun and you felt the struggle hard. And so I really focus on micro influencers, or small community, right. Or the community of smaller creators. I think they're very important. And I think that if you don't focus on them, then you're making a big mistake. Because big influencers, when they have massive followings, they can't keep up. They are expensive. Astronomically sometimes. Sometimes you're like, the ROI on this just makes zero sense. Why would I want to work with somebody who has... Even if they have 10 million followers, why would I want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to work with them if we can't even guarantee that I'm going to get that money back, at very least, right? And by the way, they don't even care about your content. You're just another drop in the bucket for them. Right?
Conor Begley: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Susan Yara: Obviously there are some amazing, huge creators out there and I'm so grateful for those relationships too. But the relationships that, if I could only choose one, it would be the micro influencers. Because they are so much more important. They are so much more invested in the brand with you. Right? They actually are excited about your new launches. They want to know about all the little details. We do so much research on innovation and new ingredients. Do you think a big influencer cares about that? They do not care, right? But when it comes to your community, the smaller influencers, this is what they live for. They're like, this is the good stuff, right? They want your brand because they know that you put all that time and effort into it. And you're not trying to create a viral product. And I think this is a big mistake that a lot of brands have made. They're trying to create a viral product. But a viral product? Great. You're going to have money in the meantime, but how are you going to keep customers coming back to your brand and sticking with a consistent skincare routine? Especially with skincare. Makeup, I get it. It's seasonal. It's like fashion, it comes and goes, right? But your skincare? You have to be consistent. You cannot be focused on making just viral products all the time. You have to make products that are really good. And it is your smaller micro influencers who care about that. They want to hear from you. They want to know about all this stuff. They love incentives. They love when you acknowledge them. I'm all about the micro influencers.
Conor Begley: Well, I can tell you from a data driven perspective, that's the way to go. When we look at the data, the brands that grow, or more likely to grow very quickly, tend to outperform with micro influencers. So when compared to their peers, they out index with micro creators, because like you said, easier to work with, they do grow over time. So when you build relationships with them early, they remember it years later. And they connect with their audience in a meaningful way. Right? It's a real thing. Okay. Let's do one fun end of show question, not as serious. In an interview, I think I read that you said one of the nice benefits of your background was there was always tortillas, kimchi, and rice at every meal.
Susan Yara: Kimchi, Rice And Tortillas. That's the name of my book. My fictional... No, it's not fictional, my non- existent book right now.
Conor Begley: There you go. Okay. What's interesting is with your husband, you've added a new culture as well, right?
Susan Yara: Yeah. Curry.
Conor Begley: Yes. And so, what's always at your table, right? What are the consistent staples in your family?
Susan Yara: I mean, there aren't any like actual staples. I think what the beauty of having a multicultural family is, is that we have all different foods. Right? My kids, my five year old, my two year old, they have eaten everything. My son loves sushi. He eats crab. He loves Indian food. He loves Korean food. I mean, he specifically asks us, sometimes we're like, geez, okay. He's asking for dumplings, soup dumplings for dinner tonight. He's not asking for mac and cheese, he's asking for... Which, there's nothing wrong with that, because my daughter loves her mac and cheese also. Right? But it's amazing to have that kind of experience with your kids. We travel with them. They get to experience different, even different religion. It's so much fun to introduce all of this culture to them, because they don't even realize how rich they are. Right? They get so much exposure and worldly exposure. I know like as a child, it felt terrible to me. I hated it. Right? But now as an adult, I look back and I'm like, wow, I really grew up with such rich experiences that you couldn't even pay for it. It's amazing.
Conor Begley: Yeah. I mean, I think it's funny because, I mean, you've been in L.A. for a long time, or you where you are in L. A., now in Florida. And I'm Northern California, which I mean, there is a lot of different cultures. And there's just a lot of food. Right? There's a lot of different options. And so for me it feels so natural to be like," Oh yeah, I eat a ton of different things. All these different meals." And I don't think it's like that everywhere. Right?
Susan Yara: No. It's not.
Conor Begley: Yeah.
Susan Yara: Yeah.
Conor Begley: Well, this was a lot of fun. I really appreciate you taking out the time. And I'm so glad I got to meet you. I'm wishing you continued success with Naturium.
Susan Yara: Thank you.
Conor Begley: 50 million in retail sales is no joke, and you're making it bigger. That is crazy. That's a whole new level. So congrats and thanks again for taking the time.
Susan Yara: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for hearing everything. It was so much fun. I love talking about all this stuff.
Conor Begley: Yeah, no. And the best part is I'm like, man, we didn't get to half the stuff I wanted to get to. We only got to half of it. We'll have to have you on again-
Susan Yara: Part two.
Conor Begley: ...when you're over 100 million, we'll bring you back, which, maybe that's too soon, maybe 200 million-
Susan Yara: Got it.
Conor Begley: ...we'll bring you back.
Susan Yara: Got it. That's a good goal. I like it.
Conor Begley: Awesome. All right. Bye, Susan.
Susan Yara: Thanks Connor.
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In Episode 53 of Earned, Conor sits down with skincare veteran Susan Yara, powerhouse YouTuber and co-founder of ingredient-focused skincare line NATURIUM. We start the episode by diving into Susan’s career path, from her stint as a broadcast news reporter to her time as an online beauty editor. After recapping these experiences, Susan shares why she decided to transition to launching her own beauty-focused YouTube channel, Mixed Makeup. Susan reveals how the name represents her unique perspective as a half Latina, half Korean woman, and explains why she wanted to focus her channel on skincare concerns for women aged 25-40. Susan also gives advice for building and growing a community by creating valuable content that people can learn from and connect with. Additionally, we discuss the importance of mastering one social media platform rather than spreading your efforts too thin across them all, and why building a passionate community spurs longevity for your career. We then switch gears to NATURIUM, and Susan emphasizes how having a team of industry veterans has helped the brand navigate the pandemic and recent supply chain issues. Finally, Susan shares why she believes it’s a mistake to focus on creating viral products, before explaining why NATURIUM prioritizes relationships with micro-influencers.