C2 California Clean founders, Dr. Clarissa Shetler and Dr. Christine Falsetti are two scientists with a desire to create a skincare product line that was truly safe.
The two, who are based in Northern California, sat with SWAAY to discuss their journey to the beauty industry and joint desire to launch products that were free from known carcinogens and were sustainably derived. According to the founders, ingredients like PEG, dioxins and EDTA, which are commonly included in many products can affect a person's hormones, metabolism, endocrine system, and may even lead to cancer.“When we started looking we started to realize that all of the products have a bunch of junk in it; they had these [outdated] formulations," says Shetler, a licensed pharmacist. “No one's really taken the time to go through and really evaluate the effectiveness on our bodies and how it affects them. We wanted something you could feel good about putting on and not worry about the toxic or carcinogenic effects."
C2 California Clean, which has been awarded EWG certification (a nonprofit dedicated to protecting human health and the environment), utilizes only clean ingredients like apple and citrus stem cells, for anti-aging properties. The line, which is priced between $39 for a hydrating primer and $97 for the brand's hero Apple Stem Cell Rejuvenation serum, is comprised only of ingredients that have been each evaluated scientifically as well as with various wellness experts to ensure there are no negative effects on the body.“Both of us wanted to do something with our chemistry and biochemistry backgrounds but we didn't have the high tech, so we ended up more in Silicon Valley," says Falsetti, who is former NASA scientist. “One of the biggest problems is when [beauty companies] combine ingredients, even good ingredients, they don't even think about the complex and how it will react."
After Falsetti's son Ben passed away from cancer at 7 years old, she became even more passionate about creating a product line that wouldn't affect human health adversely.
The two met with laboratories both in Italy and the US before launching its first four products, a skincare primer, the apple stem cell primer, a replenishing oil, and a moisturizer. Each includes ingredients like fruit stem cells and squalane oil from olives.
“One of the things we talked about was that plants were probably the most resilient living things on the planet because they're stationary," says Shetler. “They withstand wind, sun, ran, sleet, and they have a much more complex defense system than humans because we're mobile. So we started extracting ingredients form the plants using those complex compounds into the line."
Both Shelter and Falsetti plan to continue using scientific research and education to drive consumer choice and civic action. They plan to launch additional products in 2017 that are anti-pollution, and support a clean lifestyle.
What separates your brand from other brands in today's crowded market?
There are oodles of products in the skincare world and we have learned that many women get overwhelmed by all the choices. C2 is a brand that wants to simplify your life by giving you a skincare regimen that is easy-to-follow and offers you the best ingredients to feed your skin. We wanted a line that was safe to use on the whole family.
There were three main ideas that we thought of when we started to create C2:
1) Clean: a product line that wouldn't compromise your health.
2) Effective: a skincare system that actually works and shows results.
3) Simple: a regimen with simple steps.
What are some of the hidden dangers in skincare brands today?
Many of the culprits of skin care today are the Ingredients (active and inactive). All products must list their ingredients and they are long and complicated words -- no one really understands them. Many of those ingredients have long term effects on our body and system. Here are some ingredients to look for on the back of the bottles.
1. Benzoyl Peroxide: This ingredient is common in many acne products. However, Benzoyl Peroxide has been linked with causing DNA damage in cells and a possible tumor promoter. Alternative: Use tea tree oil for acne.
2. Fragrances: Many of the fragrances in personal care products are hormone disrupters which can increase the risk of cancers and also cause reproductive problems (such as early puberty). Alternative: Use products that scent with natural oils.
3. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)/Sodium Laureth: SLS is used in soaps and foaming cleansers. Studies have show that SLS can cause skin damage, eye damage and liver toxicity. Alternative: Use non-sudsing liquid soaps.
4. Synthetic Sunscreens (Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, Benzophenone, Ethoxycinnamate, PABA): Synthetic sunscreens may cause damage to DNA in cells and lead to endocrine disruption or even cancer. Alternative: Use Zinc Oxide Sunscreen
Please speak a little about the genesis of your brand.
We both have personal stories that helped drive our passion to find a good skincare solution. Christine's son was sadly touched by cancer and passed away at an early age. Clarissa has a childhood skin condition called ichthyosis (fish scale skin) in which dermatologists only had a recommendation of Crisco lard. One day during a hike, we started talking about our skincare choices and what was out there. Due to our own personal experiences, we had already peeked inside other brands and saw the dark side of the ingredients in many products. On that hiking day, we decided that we could do something better -- something clean.
What are some of the challenges of launching a "clean" line?
Testing and evaluation. We want to find healthy and effective ingredients that help address real issues.
What are your primary marketing activities? How do you find and attract new consumers?
Right now, we are trying to develop brand trust in the marketplace. We are working with influencers, bloggers and other wellness brands who share our vision to help spread the word. We are also verified by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) which endorses and shows the safety profile of our products. In 2017, we plan to launch an ambassador program.
Can you speak about how technology can help skincare brands be safer for consumers?
The internet is the avenue of information. Technological advances are helping consumers make “on demand" decisions in the market place. We are from Silicon Valley and are watching how devices are giving consumers the power and knowledge to make more informed purchases. For example, EWG's SkinDeep app allows the consumer to check out products while they are shopping at the store.
Can you describe your target customer?
Our target market is women and men, 18 to 80. However, our products are safe from babies to grandmas.
Tell us something that would surprise us about skincare.
Many skincare and personal care formulations haven't changed since the 1950s.
What is your favorite product in the line and why?
Clarissa's fav: Ageless Squalane + Vit E oil - I need the intense moisture and hydration due to severe dry skin.
Christine's fav: Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Primer. I like the primer because it feels fresh and clean -- it has a nourishing quality.
What is your expansion plan? What can we next expect from you?
We have a unique roadmap of products, philanthropic involvement, thought leadership & education, ambassador program and cool promotions with other wellness brands.
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.