April Gargiulo: Founder of Vintner’s Daughter

Episode 344

April Gargiulo, Founder of Vintner’s Daughter started the California-based Vintner’s Daughter with just one product – the Active Botanical Serum – which is often name-checked by celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Tracee Ellis Ross. April's mission has always been to create fewer products that do MORE for the skin and she has taken a dream that she was passionate about and turned it not only a reality, but a fledgling business. I cannot wait for you to hear more about April’s entrepreneurial journey which will undoubtedly leave you very inspired. Her story building this incredible beauty brand is one that you won’t want to miss! On this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be you just want to make sure you will get knocked down but just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone. It’s Kara Goldin. And we are at the Kara Goldin show. I’m so so excited to have my next guest here we have April Gargiulo, who is the founder of vintners daughter and I adore April so you’ll hear some like friendship and in this conversation as well. I am so so excited to have her on here. April started the California based vintners daughter with just one item the act of botanical serum, which if you have not heard about it, you’ve been living under a rock because it is the most amazing product with many celebrity followers, including people like one of Paltrow and Tracee. Ellis Ross just to name a few. April’s mission has always been to create fewer products that did more. And she has taken an idea that she was super passionate about and curious about and turned it into not only a reality but as super fledging business. And I can’t wait to not only hear more about April’s entrepreneurial journey, but also just to share it with everybody too. So without further ado, welcome, April.

April Gargiulo 1:50
Thank you, Kara. Thank you so much for that amazing introduction to that was great. So kind of crushed it. We have a hard time kind of synthesizing to all of that we want to be in the world into a single sentence and I feel like you just did it. Oh, you’re

Kara Goldin 2:02
so funny. Well, I absolutely adore everything that you’re doing. So it’s a pleasure to have you on so let’s start at the beginning. I’d love for you to share with our listeners. I gave a little bit of a brief synopsis of vintners daughter but I’d love for you to describe it like how is it unique?

April Gargiulo 2:21
This is the thing that I struggle with Kara’s because we I think so much I got into skincare because I was somebody who had struggled with skin all my life and was buying what I thought were the very best products and it wasn’t until I was actually pregnant with my first daughter that I started looking at the ingredients of everything and was shocked that these these so called luxury products I was buying where if you’ve looked at the ingredients or really anything but you know my background is winemaking my I come from a winemaking background and so I come from this place that has this like very deep respect for quality and craftsmanship and and taking the time it takes to make the very finest of something right there are no shortcuts and winemaking there are no kind of ways to cut corners. And I’m looking at all these these again, these expensive so called luxury products I’m using and I’m just shocked at how low quality they are. Point Oh 1% active ingredient. The rest is filler and oftentimes the filler is is toxic to both myself and the environment. Once I opened my eyes to it, I couldn’t unsee it. And so that was the genesis of vintners daughter it was how do I create a true luxury skincare company that was built off the same kind of meticulous commitment to craftsmanship into quality and to create, like you said in that beautiful introduction to create fewer but better products, fewer products that deliver that were made because they were made from the finest raw materials and because those materials were honored through very thoughtful, meticulous craft with craftsmanship and formulation techniques, they delivered even more. And that’s where we stand today. As you know, we just introduced our third product ever and so three products and 10 years is very unheard of in the beauty world that’s very much driven by this idea that I’m I’m putting it in quotations because I think it’s a little bit bogus but this like innovation, which is really not anything new. It’s just kind of marketing hype to drive this idea of new and and I don’t believe in it. I want to create products that last the test of time. I want to create the product that you marry for life, right like you you’re you know, check that off the list you’re finished searching for like your ultimate moisturizer, your ultimate hydrate or your ultimate cleanser. See I told you I can’t be near nearly as succinct as you know. I think you

Kara Goldin 4:42
did so prior to starting vintners daughter you were running your family’s winery in Napa and then you just come up with this product. I mean, did you want to be in the beauty industry years?

April Gargiulo 4:54
Yeah, you’re Yeah, I so so I was doing in the you know the art family winery small, it’s very, it’s 5000 cases a year. So this was not this, like huge organization, but it required a lot of travel. So I was doing a lot of travel all over the world, which is fun for a while. And then I wanted to start a family and, and I was a little burnt out from from it all. And thought I would create and at the same time, I was having this moment with all of these very expensive lotions and potions I had been using that like these are kind of gross. I don’t want to use these anymore. But at that point, my only alternative was to like, you know, go to Whole Foods and buy, you know, like coconut oil or whatever. Like there was no luxury natural, right? It just wasn’t it wasn’t it didn’t exist, and performance, right like and I again, I was dealing with all sorts of skin stuff. So I really needed performance. You know how it goes. It’s like that kind of food drugs like that lightning in a bottle is like everything just happens at the right time. And it’s that mix of I guess you know what they say? What do they say luck is a mix of, you know, timing and preparedness. So I think it all came together for me as a result of being you know, kind of burned out from all the travel of winemaking really unsatisfied with my options as far as performance driven skincare. And I’m having a moment in my life where I could kind of step away and really kind of focused on developing at the time, it was the like the single product that was gonna like change my skin.

Kara Goldin 6:23
Had you heard that, you know, the elements that you ultimately ended up using that you were around every day, had you heard that that was really great for your skin, were you I mean, I created hint in my kitchen and I started making. Yeah, I didn’t think until after it was something that I was drinking every single day that I would actually take it to market, it was a kind of the same story that you were

April Gargiulo 6:46
using Kara I mean, I was creating what was the perfect skincare for me, somebody who was dealing with pigmentation, someone who’s dealing with at that point, kind of the, you know, fine, like the kind of the first signs of aging, someone who was dealing with acne I was dealing with, you know, I just had a lot of kind of inflammation in my skin. And so it was the perfect product for me, right and in every bottle takes you know, still today every bottle takes three weeks to produce. I don’t we don’t use extracts, we don’t use synthetics most, you know, most skincare is like I was compared to like a meal replacement bar. It’s made with all synthetic ingredients that can sit on a shelf for 1500 years, what we’re doing is we begin with whole plants. So we’re sort of feeding the skin like this beautifully prepared plate of whole food. And ultimately, the product that we create is able to just have a much deeper connection, and ultimately, performance with the skin. And so I was creating my perfect product. And I remember, I mean it’s so funny and thinking you probably have the same thing to think about how you start like how how small you started, right? I mean, I’ve had a website that worked, right? I mean, that was literally it. Okay, right. And at first, you know, I knew every single person who placed an order every right, my mom, my aunt’s my cousins, you know, I knew everyone. And then slowly I started seeing people names in cities that I had never been to people I didn’t that names I didn’t recognize it just started to grow word of mouth. Even today, you know, we do sort of a little survey to say, How did you hear about us because we’re really fascinated to know how our customers hear about us. Over 90% It’s word of mouth. Still today.

Kara Goldin 8:25
That’s wild. That’s definitely how we started as well. And I was building our initial website out and you know, I mean, it’s very, very similar story. So I can only imagine when you were launching, you know, you had this one product and you probably talk to people in the beauty industry. And they told you oh no, you have to have a bunch of products in order to launch and I mean, I just learned right and I think back on for you looking at that time and sort of how confusing it must have been for you. How did you find the courage to just go and try you know,

April Gargiulo 8:59
I don’t know it was if it was courage, but I just wasn’t scared to fail. I don’t know what to like. Or I should say it like this like I had already won because what was in that bottle? Do you know what I mean? Like I already like there what that was it like for me that was the that was the that was the kind of the finish line was that I had created this this the ultimate serum for your skin with active botanical serum and so everything else really felt like gravy, but um, I will tell you that I felt there you know, there was a lot many many days where I felt like you just don’t understand me not you but like the industry I’m like you just don’t get it like you just don’t understand what I’m doing here because at the time it was kind of the apotheosis of this like 25 step Korean skincare routine that like you know, I always say you know like that that funny old thing about like, the higher your hair your closer to God kind of thing. They would say right, it was like you know, the more steps you had in your skincare routine the closer to God you were and I don’t know what it says about me that I just wanted a single step. But you know, nonetheless, I that was that was what I wanted a single step that kind of delivered so much and but I was told over and over again, you need more, we can’t put you on the shelf, a single we don’t know how to talk about a single product, you need more. And I was told by people who knew who had been in the industry for a very long time. Don’t even worry about what’s in the bottle, just put a label on it, you’ve already got your hero product, that’s all you need. The rest don’t even matter. It’s there just to kind of like take up space. And that is how most skincare companies still operate today.

Kara Goldin 10:31
So interesting. And so when you got the word out initially, I mean, you gained a pretty, I think fast cult following to it. Did you get it in the hands of people?

April Gargiulo 10:42
No, I didn’t know why. And I did not know makeup artists. I did not know celebrities. Like it was mean still to this day, I think how in the world that that happened because I you know, you mentioned these incredible celebrities, incredible individuals who were big supporters of ours from day one. And I you know, I still to this day have no idea how they found us.

Kara Goldin 11:03
That’s what I was wondering what was the who was the first person that you sort of like were like, Oh my gosh, like

April Gargiulo 11:09
Tracee Ellis Ross Yeah, chases us. Ross talked about us in People Magazine. And I almost passed out. Yeah, um, I could not believe it. And I’m sure she must have found it through a makeup artist, because I will say that somehow makeup artists found us first. So there was a makeup artist. Her name is Mary Phillips. She works with I think she works with all the Kardashians. And anyway, she’s an extraordinarily accomplished makeup artist. And she found us early. And I think that she was one of the very first to kind of like, get us in the hands of those folks. And I you know, I don’t know where she found it. Yeah, no idea.

Kara Goldin 11:46
That’s so funny. Well, you know, it’s interesting, I think, sort of conventional wisdom for so many people thinking about launching products is that you have to have industry experience. And the reality is, is that the people that actually change industries typically come from a totally different industry. And you’re just such a great example. You know, when I launched hint, I had come from the tech industry, I was not in this industry. And there’s just over and over again, I’ve just found so many examples of this. So it’s such a pleasure to kind of hear your backstory on that, that you didn’t come from this industry and great products find their way out there.

April Gargiulo 12:24
I oftentimes specially in San Francisco, because we are surrounded in the Bay Area by you know, it’s Tech Tech Tech. I often feel like I’m, I’m like an expat. You don’t you mean, I’m like a foreigner living in another country. So odd to make something that you could actually hold in your hand. You know,

Kara Goldin 12:41
it’s so so true. So you came out with your second product a few years ago? How did you decide to do that? Well, okay, so

April Gargiulo 12:49
active, the way we make product is, again, like I said, it’s very unique, we begin with whole plants, and we’re starting some of the most nutrient dense whole plants in the world. And we start with whole plants, because those plants in your skin speak literally the same language, they are made from the same nutritive building blocks. So there is no translation that has to happen, right your skin understands it sees it puts it to work, and all those nutrients come to the skin in the very most precise ratios, which is also very important. So inside of that world, this world of full nutrients is this kind of scientific fact that nutrients are either oil soluble, or they are water soluble. For instance, Vitamin C is a water soluble nutrient. Vitamin E is a oil soluble nutrient. So I knew with active botanical serum, which is an oil based moisturizer, we were delivering all of the oil soluble nutrients, we were having an extraordinary impact on the skin with all of these extraordinary oil soluble nutrients. Again, in all these very ideal ratios, I also knew that there was a world of water soluble nutrients that the skin also needed in order to become its most balanced, healthy self. And that was what drove the development of active treatment essence. How do we create a product that is able to deliver in that same way in that same kind of very deep, deeply connected way to the skin, all those beautiful hydrating, water soluble nutrients. And that was how after treatment essence developed

Kara Goldin 14:16
and you just launched a cleanser you barely touched on this which is just it’s amazing. And so I’m so are

April Gargiulo 14:24
third product and 10 years, we’ve tripled the size

Kara Goldin 14:26
now. So we’re consumers asking you for for the product. You’re so lucky to

April Gargiulo 14:31
our community I’m sure like like in like our community is extraordinary. They’re so supportive, and beautiful and we’d love to hear from them. So we often ask, are there other products that you would you would want and cleanser was something that from day one people were asking, asking for a cleanser May in the way that we you know add to our standards

Kara Goldin 14:54
that really leads into the next question because I frequently talk about consumers like when I’m you know having those Hard Days that founders always have, especially in the journey, you know, consumers are the ones that are, you know, really the lifters for me, though you how you’re doing. Right, so great everything, you know, you definitely have feedback, maybe something, you know, comes around, but the majority, I think are the positive comments if you’ve got the kind of community that you’re talking about that I

April Gargiulo 15:23
feel lucky. I mean, I even think about yesterday is, you know, we got an email from someone who were testing out, as we introduced our third product, we needed to kind of adjust our fulfillment, you know, the sexy world of fulfillment. And so we changed it up a little bit, it actually was what we thought was a better experience. And as its, as it was going out in the world, we started to realize, oh, no, this is this is not a better experience, and got it. And we were sort of on the fence trying to figure it out and got an email yesterday from somebody who’s been with us for you know, many years, I was like, you know, hey, this is not a good experience, you guys, I expect better. And I’m like, thank you so much. You know what, that is exactly what we needed. It is the like, you know, the the tough love that we needed. And it was, you know, it was great. Not it’s not always rainbows and unicorns, but it’s always really helpful, I think,

Kara Goldin 16:14
yeah, definitely. We’ve had people for years who have been huge fans of the product. And you know, maybe they don’t like one of the flavors. That’s exactly right. And it might not be that they’re excited about all 20 flavors. They don’t eat every single fruit in the factory, either. But I think that there’s definitely more positives that come from having that kind of feedback loop that you’ve got with your consumer, for sure. So people who start companies, founders and entrepreneurs definitely hear a ton of noes along the way, I think it’s something that entrepreneurs, people who are thinking about starting companies, nobody really talks about that. And you talked about, you know, sort of facing your fears, and not afraid to fail and all of those things, but it’s hard, it’s hard to hear that, you know, your baby’s ugly, or, you know, or that we’re not right, or that this is not going to work for us for some reason, or, you know, maybe an editor along the way, you’ve had so much positive feedback that maybe an editor didn’t like the product or something, and it definitely, you know, burst your bubble for the days, how do you deal with the nose? And, and kind of the highs and the lows?

April Gargiulo 17:24
I think, I mean, I think ultimately you have a very, we have a very strong North Star. And that’s not to say that we’re blind, or we’re not taking in those, you know, the criticism because it’s important also, but you know, we’re also not working on these timelines that you kind of have to just get things out so fast that the reality is that like many skincare, or in any customer, any businesses, they’re they’re on this, like product innovation, this new product schedule that is just so fast and furious that there’s really kind of no way for them to get things right at the very beginning. I mean, it just didn’t even, that’s not even their point. Yeah, right. It’s just really about kind of getting things out fast to have that kind of constant marketing loop. And so I would say with product, we spent so much time developing product. I mean, there’s so much research that goes into it, so much development, so many formulations, that with product, I’m I’m always I’m always really confident when product goes out the door. I mean, it’s only happened three times, right? So in the first time maybe doesn’t even count. I don’t know that just because I didn’t have all these, I didn’t have like this beautiful world customers who are expecting, but I don’t think I go into it thinking everyone’s gonna love everything, right? Like, we have a very, very specific point of view. And the levels and standards of craftsmanship and quality and which drive performance are so high. Not every product is probably going to be for everyone. We certainly design it for all skin type, right? But somebody may not like the sense somebody may not like that texture or what have you, you know, so I’m like, okay with that, right.

Kara Goldin 19:06
I love the idea that you’re okay with thinking differently, too. I mean, your

April Gargiulo 19:12
investors, I don’t have investors. So I get this very generous, very purposely, we don’t have investors. And so I have this very generous timeline that we all get to work on,

Kara Goldin 19:24
which is so so nice. So I feel very grateful. Yeah, yeah, no, it’s really, really great. So being an entrepreneur is one of the most I think one of the most challenging careers it’s a choice right, definitely it sounds you know, super glitzy, but it’s definitely can be stressful. It can be very rewarding as well. But we all have, you know, stories along the way where we learned some big, big lessons. I mean, you talked a little bit about this baby on the fulfillment side, but is there anything else that is sort of like you just, you know, kicked yourself in the head and said, Oh,

April Gargiulo 20:00
I want to I mean, yeah, big and small things probably every day. I mean, I think, for me, team has always been a challenge. And not in a, in a way that I want to create a space where everybody can kind of have this extraordinary I want people to have the, like work experience of their life if it Yeah, right. Yeah. And creating the atmosphere for that is really important and, and understanding when people are right, and when people maybe it’s time for something else, for them, I think is something that I am constantly trying to improve. You know, there’s that famous quote that I love, and I’m going to kind of wreck it. But it’s basically around this, you know, along these lines. I think it’s Jim Collins, but But again, I might have just destroyed that too. But it’s it says, you know, Team eats strategy for breakfast. And so this idea that you can have the most incredible kind of like foolproof strategy in the world. But if you don’t have the team that is there to do it and properly motivated, it’s not going to happen. Yeah. So I, you know, team is the thing that I think about most

Kara Goldin 21:08
Yeah, well, and I think that the people that you’ve seen have, you have really, you know, probably been the best part of your team are the people that are most passionate about what you’re doing, and they love the product. I think that people who, you know, go to work every day and don’t have a connection with the product don’t really get that I think it’s actually very difficult. We’ve seen this with him when people, you know, came to him because they loved the product. And you know, the reason behind the brand, the story, all of these things, and then they leave, they really have a very difficult time. And they’re, you know, because they don’t know what else they might love. I could totally see that being the situation with you. And it’s part of it’s the environment, there’s a lot of aspects and touch points to that, as well. But I think it’s it’s such an important thing. And I know what happens in the wine industry as well you become so

April Gargiulo 22:01
yeah, it’s very, it we at Minnesota, we talk about it as like, it’s joyful rigor, right? We feel like when you’re doing the best work of your life, you are that there’s a joy that comes from that. Not the same joy that comes from like eating ice cream, but but generally mean but like, there’s this like this, this, this joy to high performance that we’re really interested in?

Kara Goldin 22:28
Yeah, no, I think it’s so true. So how is your company changed from the beginning? Like from launching? No, I mean,

April Gargiulo 22:35
it used to be like me doing everything, right. Like, I remember, I remember I would make the, you know, the UPS trip every day. And I’d be like, struggled to get there before it cut off every day. I remember driving there one day getting realizing that like the hatchback of my car, and not the hatchback, but the you know, the the trunk had opened up on the way there, and all the packages have come out and be just be like, you know, just like a rap on the side of the screen. And so they like, so gratefully, somebody recovered those for me, but, you know, it’s come a long way since then, right? I’ve got a team, but we’re not, you know, it’s not a huge, it’s not huge, we’re a team of about 25, I would have told you before, before COVID, before the pandemic, like I wanted everybody to be in the, in the, in the office working in the Bay Area. And now we are distributed. We can hire you know, like the best people from an almost anywhere, which is really exciting. You know, what have one product now I have three. So it’s, you know, there’s a lot of things that have changed kind of, cosmetically. But, you know, our, our mission and our values are always have, not only they remain true, I feel like we’ve gotten so much better at like really defining them and being able to talk

Kara Goldin 23:53
about them. Ya know, I think it’s so interesting, I just ran across this video from Steve Jobs, I’ll have to send it to you, I’m probably gonna butcher the quote, but he talked about how important it is to you, as the founder need to keep reminding people what that mission is. And while you’re doing stuff, and and, you know, employees won’t ask you for that. And team members won’t ask you for that. But it’s like so critical. When I think about your company and sort of everything that you’ve built. It’s not just about having a great product, but it’s also about really sharing your why which is what you do. And that’s why everybody is been so engaged with it. So it’s super, you know, really, really great.

April Gargiulo 24:36
We talk about it, we kind of look at it from three pillars we talk about having, you know, we want to have a profoundly positive impact on our communities, skin on their lives in our world. And obviously, you know, having a positive impact on our community skin is through our nutritional performance driven nutritional formulas. having an impact on our communities life is you know, first and foremost through this idea that we talk about a positive At so much of beauty is driven by insecurity and fear words like change, improve transform, anti aging, right? That really create fear. And we want to use words that create joy and confidence and gratitude and your skin. And that’s what we write. And that’s what we talk about with positive beauty. We want you to walk away from any engagement or interaction with beginners daughter feeling good about yourself, not feeling like you need to change or transform or fix or all these other like horrible gaslighting words that get used all the time in in beauty. And then thirdly, a positive impact on our world, we, you know, 2% of our top line revenue is given to charities benefiting women children, which we’re really proud of, and it’s exciting to see that number grow every year. And then we are sustainability is something that has been woven into our company from from day one, we got our B Corp certification this past year, which we’re really excited about. And so to have those kind of three anchors, of our of this positive impact that we want to see in the world is is again, it’s like really strong guiding, guiding force and everything we do,

Kara Goldin 26:10
do you see more beauty kind of going in the direction that you’ve been speaking about? And I just think you’ve been leading as an example. And I hope

April Gargiulo 26:19
we have, and I feel really strongly about it. I would like to think yes, I think like with anything, and I don’t know if I can use this word to apply it to this world. But hopefully, hopefully, you understand what I mean. But there’s a lot of kind of like performative things happening in this world, I think, you know, and it’s also really hard to be true to it, right? Because we’re all so ingrained in it all day, every day. So you know, you’re writing copy, and the next thing you know, you look at it and you’re like, oh my god, I just said the word transform and change and fix and all these like ridiculous gaslighting words. Right. And so, you know, I think, I think it’s hard, but I think it’s a, it’s a, I think it’s extraordinarily important for us to to be true to and I, you know, yes, I hope we are inspiring companies to do it. I think it’s got to come from the founder,

Kara Goldin 27:09
I think you were leading, you know, definitely in a great example of this, but from a consumer perspective, and also from a fellow founder, I feel like there are a lot of people that are following your example. And in the beauty industry hope so. And I think that helps open you know, I mean, I think that they’re they’re really changing and it’s, you know, less is more, you know, as a trend, I think is is definitely happening. So, you touched on the North Star a bit so I’d love to hear last question like, What is the APR Northstar?

April Gargiulo 27:44
I mean, in one word, it’s like this idea of truth and connection. Or I guess that’s two words, but it’s, it’s that’s what I want to build. You know, I mean, that’s what I want to build in every interaction I have it’s what I want to build with people have connection with their skin, both when they’re putting product on with the you know, just the the formulas themselves, but also the actual physical connection you have placing it on your skin, I think it can be really, really powerful. And again, this idea of truth and and positivity and creating that like joy and gratitude and confidence.

Kara Goldin 28:19
All right, love it. Well, it was such a pleasure to talk to you. And thank you so much for having me. Yeah, thanks for sharing the story and all the great insights and conversation and all the info on your website and all your social platforms, etc. So we can follow everything going on will be in the show notes. Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. Please give us a review and feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin and if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen or pick up a copy of my book on daunted which I share my journey including founding and building hint we are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Thanks everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week. And goodbye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the book.com and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me? or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight. Send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening