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Welcome on our latest editorial initiative, Who wears what SpotlightHere we will use our editorial platform, social networks and ad inventory to spotlight small businesses that need our support now more than ever. Every week we will introduce a new fashion or beauty company. If you own a small brand and would like to be considered for the program, please apply here.
Ten years ago, two big-eyed young women crossed each other and did an internship at Procter & Gamble to prepare for business school. One remembers the other as a magnetic peer; The other version of events remains obscured by its competitive nature. It didn't really matter, however, because eight years later they met on a weed farm in Eureka, California and suddenly found themselves in a quick friendship. Kimberly Dillon and Dorian Morris are the founders of the CBD-oriented beauty lines Frigg and Undefined Beauty. Together they form a community of indie business leaders who work together, share opportunities and promote beauty from within.
It was impossible for Dorian not to impress one another, as the circles that educated black women ran in weren't exactly big when they entered business school, which is still true today, especially in the CBD world. "When I left Corporate America to launch my brand, we reunited because we were both black women in the cannabis room and have been close friends ever since," Dorian tells me of that coincidental time when she went to Eureka at F & E for undefined beauty. Kimberly worked in branding for a large cannabis company and was able to answer many questions for Dorian, who was still learning about CBD.
Undefined Beauty won instant awards in 2018, including a best-in-show nomination at the New York Indie Beauty Expo. Dorian described her start as self-funded, slowly growing, and strategic – lessons she was able to teach Kimberly when she eventually quit her cannabis job to start Frigg.
"It's helpful in order not to make me so competitive because it's so open. Should we share this with one another? And their approach is, "Why not?" So I've tested all of their products and been to their photo shoots and I think we know each other's businesses pretty well, "says Kimberly of Dorian.
It makes perfect sense that Dorian will be won as a mentor for the Clean Beauty Summer School and Encourage Kimberly to join the mentoring program specially designed for black beauty brands looking to get started in the clean beauty field. Kimberly won the school's pitch competition, securing a scholarship and meeting with buyers of Sephora and Ulta Beauty. Dorian naturally felt like "a proud Mama Bear".
What are Frigg and Undefined Beauty besides the well-known cannabis-based brands? I sat down with both of the founders through Zoom to learn more about their companies, how they are adapting in a COVID-19 world, what they envision for the future of indie businesses, and what comes next after CBD. Read the interviews below and find out what they have to say about each other's beauty and wellness products.
What inspired you to start a CBD beauty brand?
Dorian Morris: I think it was an evolution. It has always been about figuring out what step I can take to get healthier and I started adding more herbal solutions and some of these adaptogens to my diet. I realized that a lot of them are in formats that aren't particularly user-friendly, don't taste good, or are very expensive, and I felt like I had the opportunity to create something that felt very fun for a sustainable price and is available in formats people already understand. This is where the pralines came into play, because who doesn't love chocolate? And it's a great way to get these adaptogens in a format that people can easily take care of.
Kimberly Dillon: I've worked in cannabis for the past four years and I think cannabis is a gateway to working with plants and really understanding what works for you because it's such a personal experience when we talk about things like CBD speak. There are scientific reasons why it works for you and maybe not someone else, but we don't really have the tools to diagnose why it does, and I don't think we should have those tools. It's really about intuition and listening to your body, that was the motivation behind Frigg. I feel like sometimes a lot of wellness and beauty products say they are the solution, but Frigg is there to help you use your own intuitive magic and explore with plants.
How do cannabis and other adaptogens relate to beauty?
KD: We say stress so casually and we don't think it's a bad thing. I would say I am a very stressed, anxious person. It's not as healthy for me in the long run, and yet I get rewarded for coming to work with my eyes outstretched – like "Kimberly will do it". And it's like, "Actually, Kimberly is really starting to lose her hair."
Our slogan is truly stress-free wellness, inside and out. Just like if you were supplementing with biotin or collagen, what if you were taking one to relieve your stress so you don't break out and your hair doesn't fall out? Then we also have topics about the effects of this stress. So it's all about emotional wellbeing and using functional plants to address the effects of stress and emotions on your hair, skin and body.
DM: I think there is a lot of plant magic. Cannabis is a bucket of plant magic, but I think these adaptogenic mushrooms are a big category as there are many similar benefits you can get from the adaptogenic mushrooms you can get from CBD. So I'm very optimistic and am currently working on a new collection called Artemis that will be launched next year and that only uses adaptogenic mushrooms in both current and ingestible products. Think of Undefined as the umbrella that is about democratizing wellbeing, and then each collection will have its ingredient focus: the first collection, Indigo Rose, with an emphasis on CBD, and the next collection, Artemis, will focus on concentrate adaptogenic mushrooms.
How have social distancing and home assignments affected your business? How have your priorities shifted?
KD: CBD and cannabis are generally harder to promote across virtually all channels. Events and experience marketing are critical to business. Either in the form of farmers' markets or pop-ups in hotels or spas. Beauty in general is a very sample-driven business – many people want to try before they commit to buying a large size, and CBD products are usually expensive. Dorian's mission is to make it more accessible, but that's not common in the CBD space. That's all to say, it was a challenge because A) the main marketing channel was removed and B) how to get in court with something people still like: "What does CBD do for the skin, anyway?" People are still at the level where so much education is needed. So how can you convince them – but virtually? We made lots of videos to explain things and we are working on a series of illustrated playing cards with information on the back. We try to make the training more entertaining and more bite-sized.
DM: When I lived in SF I had this lovely opportunity in a friend's shop in the Temescal area, which is something like this hip area in Oakland, with lots of traffic and lots of canna-curious people who might not to have. I haven't tried CBD. Introducing CBD to people and helping them overcome some of the hurdles has been a really big achievement. I had a tincture bar that people could step into to try all of the tinctures for free, all made by women, almost like a wine experience. established brands. The plan was to take this concept from Oakland to LA, so I moved to LA when I closed the store and created this workspace. I developed this disruptive concept, but then COVID had other plans.
It actually brought some clarity to how I think about my innovation pipeline. Most of my previous products are all current CBD products, but with COVID and the stress level of people right through the roof, I was actually able to capture a lot of that demand on the undefined collective side of the business, and I could see what categories were after people are looking for, so I'll start with Ingestibles now. My glow bars are vegan chocolates made from adaptogenic mushrooms and herbs. Then I also work on a tincture for which I actually take a lot of that data and say, "Hey, we know what's stopping people from trying tinctures. Let me try to solve that. And let me try other adaptogens as well Add ingredients that enhance the benefits. "
Dorian, what drives you to be so cooperative with other brands and to be open about your advice and opportunities?
DM: I definitely work in this model of collaboration over competition. Last summer I started what is known as the Undefined Collective, a retail platform with multiple brands. It was the physical store in Oakland, in fact. It was all about conscious capitalism, so bringing the best of the best founded by women, minority-owned brands, local and LGBTQ, into the room. At the time, I only had two SKUs and I didn't want to start a business for two SKUs. So I hired brand founders across the state that I found very conscious and like-minded to help create this retail destination. That was my first step towards this collaboration model, so to speak.
I basically built this retail platform to try and fill in all of the loopholes that retail indie brands had. When we got the sales data at the end of the month, I sent it out to everyone so that it could be seen who was winning, which part of the day had the most traffic, etc. I wanted to democratize the information and data so we could learn from each other. Not everyone liked that, but I work with radical transparency.
I just feel that in this clean beauty room there is room for all of us to win, and I have a feeling that all ships will rise if you educate yourself and create transparency. Most people shop across categories. Most people are not going to buy a full regimen from one brand. It's about picking the best of the best, and raising other people will not affect my shine.
Kimberly, what was it like to attend the Clean Beauty Summer School?
KD: It was so epic. We had all of these CEOs and founders of all of these top brands, and it really was an open book. Again, I find that I am an only child and very competitive because some of these women just said, "And this is my packaging company; call Fred on Tuesday!" [laughs]and they were just so open about it. It was so informative and supportive.
I think the other benefit was being with all of these other founders. One of the things I thought was interesting about the wave of Black Lives Matter back in June was that even for me as black, it is difficult to know what other blacks are doing. I just wasn't even aware of it. I didn't have this community before. And so it was an interesting summer like Wait, you do this and you do this and you are not a unicorn and you are not a unicorn. There are so many of us out here doing these things and having the same problems. I feel like we've talked a lot about these black brands not being on the shelf, but to me it felt more like solidarity. I feel like I didn't even know the good job all of these people did.
How has this year influenced your perception as a businesswoman in the beauty sector?
KD: I think self care and wellness have been seen to be very popular. When I pitched Frigg last year, people said, "Well, only a small number of people are stressed." Fast forward a year, and it's like: No guy, we all are. I think as of 2020 we are actually going back to these obvious and ancient traditions and not marketing self care like 'let's take a bath' but a process where we really work to find out what you really need to do in order not to literally losing your mind.
I also think that there is this need for truth and transparency. The way companies operate will be fundamentally different from now on. You can't just start something with no ethos or mission bigger than anything you sell. Whatever you're selling is the baseline: this is the pen, but there has to be so much behind the pen. I think this is the future we are in. And do things differently! If anyone has taught anything in 2020, there is no benchmark. Don't look into the past – nobody knows. It's just the journey. You have to trust yourself and listen to yourself.
Kimberly, what do you love about undefined beauty?
KD: The elixir is really powerful. I think what I love about their formula in general is that it is really fragrant with that lovely, lovely kind of rose scent. Rose hip is a common ingredient in their products. And watch Dorian use plant magic while she is also in this undefined space that is limitless. Her business model is unique in that she also has her undefined store, in which she only runs black, brown and LGBTQ founders. She brings all of these brands to the table and markets them together. I think it's really great that their brand represents that – it's community and accessibility because their products are also very well priced.
Dorian, what do you love about Frigg?
DM: I think it's great that Frigg is really focused on stress. We all have high levels of stress and she really develops solutions for it. I also love that she's just a powerful badass woman and understands cannabis, which is important. My favorite product from her is actually hair oil. As you can see, I have a lot of hair that is very dry. The hair oil is therefore great for my scalp as I think healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp, and your scalp oil is very nutritious, very moisturizing, and a great foundation builder for your scalp.
There are many synergies between Frigg, a Viking goddess, and Artemis, the Greek goddess of the forest. We went to Joshua Tree for this photoshoot and Kimberly's birthday and I really like tarot. The goddesses were drawn and Artemis came and we said, "Wait a minute. My collection, which focuses on mushrooms and their brand, is really very similar in terms of this female empowerment and goddess story." And we said, “There is some synergy there.” I'm very into spirituality. I think the universe made me and Kimberly friends in several ways
Next up: the hand-woven knitwear you will see on every fashion girl.