Heather Wallace:  CEO of Curology

Episode 528

In this episode, Heather Wallace, CEO of Curology, shares her journey as CEO of Curology. Curology, a brand deeply rooted in the expertise of dermatologists, has transformed the landscape of skincare by making personalized treatments accessible to millions. She talks about the evolution of Curology's product offerings, personalized prescription skincare, products in the Agency collection for aging skin as well as their newest – hair growth treatments. Heather emphasizes the importance of customer feedback and not being afraid of competition as well as how Curology is uses AI and telemedicine to enhance personalized care. She also shares plans for retail expansion and offers advice for those looking to make their mark in the beauty industry. So much inspiration and wisdom in this episode. Now 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 from the Kara Goldin show. And I am super super excited to have our next guest who is the CEO of an incredible product that I have not only been aware of for years, but have also used and it is just super, super nice to have the leader of this company here with us today. So Heather Wallace is the CEO of Curology. And if you aren’t familiar with Curology you’re in for a real treat. urology is a brand deeply rooted in the expertise of dermatologists. It has transformed the landscape of skin care by making personalized treatments everybody personalized treatments accessible to millions. So Heather has spearheaded the expansion of neurology is a team of in house licensed dermatology providers reaching over 5 million patients and growing with tailored prescription skincare solutions. And they didn’t stop there cure, ology has recently branched out into the personalized prescription hair treatment area too. So I can’t wait to talk more about that. And her commitment to innovation and accessibility and patient first care is so clear. So without further ado, welcome, Heather.

Heather Wallace 2:03
Thank you, Kara. It’s so great to be here. I’m honored to be your guest.

Kara Goldin 2:07
Super, super excited to have you here. So before we jump into cure, ology, I always like to get some background. Where did this all start? Can you share a bit about what you were doing before taking on the role of CEO of urology, prior

Heather Wallace 2:21
to taking on the role of CEO Curology, I spent almost 10 years in consumer health care. But the company that was Novartis at the time, that division is now part of Haley on. And I did that, and then I moved on, and I worked in duty for almost another 10 years. So for me, it’s really interesting, I started my career in marketing, I added sales to that I moved on to general management, lead North America regions and large divisions of larger companies. And terminology for me, it was something I was so interested in, because it is really sitting at that intersection of health care and beauty. And so I have a unique background and experience that makes me have a perspective and a view on how those areas can come together to better meet the needs of consumers, and now ultimately, our patients. That’s

Kara Goldin 3:10
awesome. So what inspired you to take on this role when you know if you were recruited? Or sort of how it came about, but what inspired you like what was that about Curology that you saw that you thought? This, not only will get me up in the morning, but also it’s something that I can have impact on, you

Heather Wallace 3:31
know, I was recruited. And really the conversation that I had was with the founder, Dr. David literature. And he had looked at it and said, you know, the next phase of this company is to build out something that is sustainable, right, how we’re going to take this amazing company that we’ve created and make sure that it’ll be around for the next 1500 years. And we they had gotten to the point where they’re a mid sized organization, vertically integrated, they’ve got all the functions, lots of complexity. And so he looked at it, and he was a dermatologist and a founder and had this amazing idea and did what many people could not have done, which is created this fantastic business model that really has a right to break through and win in the skincare space. But he said, I think the next chapter should be led by someone else. And so I was brought to him through a recruiter. And I wasn’t looking at the time. And actually, he and I spent most of our time talking about how he can find the right person. And I felt very much like the conversation. Like, you know, David, you built this amazing, amazing company, and you’re gonna give your baby to someone. So you got to give your baby to the right person. So I was telling him the questions to ask and the things to think about, and we spent more time talking about how we can find the right person. Then I spent trying to sell him on me and ultimately he said, Hey, I think you’re the right person. So how do we make this happen? And I chose the company because the mission is so clear. We’re making effective skincare accessible. The impacts that we have on consumers lives, you know, they face the world with their face. And when they feel confident about the way they look, it can positively impact many aspects of their lives. And we have tremendous products highly efficacious. We’re doing personalization with prescription products in a way that no one else was doing when we were founded. And so I looked at and said, there’s just it’s, you know, almost too good to be true. This is clearly a unicorn, and I’m really interested in picking up from David Levy legacy and helping take it to the next

Kara Goldin 5:35
level. So where did the name urology come from?

Heather Wallace 5:38
So actually, when the company was founded, it was called Pocket DERM. Oh, and it was founded really focused on access to dermatology. So dermatology, you know, on average, it takes people 60 days to get an appointment, it can be very expensive, it doesn’t feel very accessible to the average consumer, it wouldn’t really an average acne sufferer, right, a younger consumer who’s kind of suffering from their first probably real skincare issues. So that was why the company was founded to the idea with pocket Derm, like a dermatologist in your pocket, you know, with your phone. And they realize actually, that the product was so important. So the multi ingredient, prescription topical formulas, and what they were, the revenue actually comes from the product itself. So they rebranded the product and the name of the company to be much more about the Curology, right, the science of the cure for your skin for things like acne and anti aging. And that is how that happened. So

Kara Goldin 6:38
how has the company evolved? In terms of number of skews? Obviously, you didn’t start with this many skews in the company? How many SKUs? Are you guys that now and not including the next company that you launched around? Hair Growth?

Heather Wallace 6:56
Yeah, so the the first product was the custom formula for acne. And the way that custom formula works on the Curology brand is that it is three active ingredients, that combined at all different types of levels, depending on an individual’s needs. So there are multiple active ingredients. And at multiple levels, when they first launched, you know, they’re probably in the 50s, or hundreds, even in terms of the number of different personalized formulas that exist. So one product with many, many different formulations, we’ve evolved that over time as we get new scientific data, we add new ingredients, we continue to evolve that formula. So right now we’ve got about 85 custom formulas on the serology brands. And then what we’ve done over time is actually consumers and patients would come to us and say, oh, okay, this is so great. I love I love my treatment, I love my formula, I’m seeing such great progress, what should I be using to cleanse? And should I be using a moisturizer? And what else should I do for my skin? So in the beginning, our healthcare providers so our our business is powered by a telehealth dermatology business and we have highly trained dermatology telehealth providers. So that’s who the patient is talking to when they’re interacting. So originally, we would recommend products that from a from a science and proven perspective and a safety perspective that we thought were great products and brands. And then we said, hey, this is crazy, you know, people are coming to us for recommendations, and we’re sending them to other brands, we should create our own products. So we launched more products to fill out the regimen. So you have your customized personalized prescription. But then you can also come to us to get the full regimen of your needs from your cleanser, your moisturizer, Spot patches, etc. And those are the same products that we have now launched into retail. So

Kara Goldin 8:44
cure, ology has seen remarkable growth. And can you talk to us about some of the strategies you’ve implemented to scale this company? Obviously, when you came in, that was really the goal. But how have you done that? So

Heather Wallace 9:00
a couple of things. One is that the company was really founded focused on acne, because that was the first immediate need that David saw, like there’s this clear need for access and more efficacious treatment, our acne formulas when used correctly, we have data that proves that they’re like THREE TIMES as effective as what you would buy traditionally, over the counter. So the company focused for many, many years on getting to as many acne consumers as possible. So tons of focus there. As I look at this, I see us much more than an acne brand or an acne treatment. But really, this is a platform by which we can bring better skincare products to consumers and patients because we have the telehealth dermatology as well as the custom compounding pharmacies. So I’ve really pushed us to say, what are the areas within dermatology that we can create highly effective formulas with The personalization element and expanded our focus beyond acne. So the first branch neurology is focused on acne, there’s a second brand where I started investing, called agency agency is focused more on older or, you know, middle aged to older women and an anti aging space. And we’ve now most recently launched into hair loss and, you know, hair thickening products as well.

Kara Goldin 10:24
It’s so interesting, because you’re really following the consumer, right. And obviously, this launched, as you mentioned, as in really what it was known for, was acne. But it totally makes sense when I saw that you went into more products as this consumer grows up, right? And with agency, but also with hair loss. So what are you seeing with hair loss? In terms of the company? How old is it? Can you talk a little bit more about that, and what I guess is challenging about it in some ways. So

Heather Wallace 11:00
I’m here last week, we’ve just launched at the end of December. So we’ve been in market for not even four months now, early days here. And so far, we’ve launched it just on the urology brands, what we see is that not only is there an opportunity to think about it in a reactive way, so the treat hair loss after it started and kind of preventing baldness, but also, consumers are becoming more and more proactive. So the idea that you can promote, you know, longevity of thick and healthy hair by starting earlier with treatments like our custom treatment, that, you know, that is the idea that that we’re really focused on here. And we also think it’s a very nice opportunity for us to have a product that appeals as much or even more to men as it does to women. And so that we’re expanding the demographic of our portfolio as well.

Kara Goldin 11:52
That’s incredible. And agency when did that start. So agency

Heather Wallace 11:57
was originally launched a couple of years ago, but with without any focus or investment. So we started the investment in the agency brand at the end of 22. So right after I started, we started investing and now agency is on trend to be a $30 million business and is DTC subscription only. That’s a really nice place to be. And I think, you know, big opportunities for that brand to enter the world and more places in the future. That’s

Kara Goldin 12:25
incredible. So accessibility is a core mission of Kinesiology. How do you navigate the balance between offering personalized prescription grade treatments, you have your telehealth group that you mentioned? I mean, obviously, there’s costs associated with that. But if you want it to be so accessible, right, you obviously have to be thinking about that, right? But you can’t be priced out of the market in some way. And how do you balance that? So

Heather Wallace 12:59
they accessibility for is actually it’s relatively easy because of our model and our very simple approach. So when you come to Curology with a problem, like call it fine lines and wrinkles or, or your acne issues, you fill out a survey, you send pictures, and we can we can assess and diagnose completely async. Right, so takes you a few minutes to fill out the survey, send us the questions, we respond back within 24 to 48 hours and say, Hey, this is the treatment that we recommend. People sign up and we send it right to their homes. So we’ve just made that accessibility super easy. The other thing that we’re focused on because we were founded by dermatologists, and a really interesting tidbit I want to throw in here is that Dr. David Larter, who founded the company was a dermatologist. His mother was also a dermatologist. And so when he left his residency and said, Hey, I have this idea of starting this telehealth company that can create this access to these amazing products that are giving a huge difference in consumers lives. And his mother was a practicing dermatologist. And and she ended up saying, well, I’ll help you, right, you know, a new mom will help you. So she was actually the first medical director and she built out the medical practice and the protocol and the education. And so when I think about the heartbeat of our company and the core of how we were built, we were built with a mother’s love, right? Our medical practice was built with a mother’s love and you can feel it today. It’s a huge part of the magic and treating patients efficiently and effectively in a way that makes a difference in their lives is something that every single one of our medical practitioners is passionate about. We also have a program within the company where we make sure that every employee has the ability to actually see and listen to the our patients and see how we care for them so that everyone can experience this idea of, of creating competence that goes deeper than skin, because that’s ultimately the end benefit of what we do beyond just the efficacy and the access.

Kara Goldin 15:13
That’s terrific. So the skincare market obviously is very saturated. We hear from particularly new founders, it’s, it’s, it’s a real bummer when you have a competitor come into the market, right? You’ve I’m sure seeing this over the years, not only in your existing role, but in other roles. How do you feel about competition? And what strategies would you suggest when somebody sees a competitor coming into their space? I mean, how do you? How do you get your hands around arms around that?

Heather Wallace 15:48
Well, two things. So one is Yes, I have lived a lifetime of, of running all different kinds of brands, and all different kinds of categories. And mostly, I’ve been the underdog brand, right? So I’m always the one coming in and challenging. So I definitely have that perspective of what being a challenger brand looks like. I think there’s two things. One is that never underestimate your competition. A lot of times when you when you go and you sit and you talk to your teams about what competition is doing, they will tell you all the ways that they think what we’re doing is better than what competition is doing. And I always say, Stop, right, stop. That’s great. But unless we understand what they’re doing well, and we embrace it, and we look at it and then compare it to what we’re doing. And we make a deliberate decision as to whether or not we want to shift our strategy or not, you know, we’re not we’re not doing justice. So I always appreciate the competition, I always try to look at what are they doing? That’s great, right? And what can we do? And what can we adopt? And can we learn. But the other side of it, I would say is that don’t eat, you’ve got to understand competition, you’ve got to know they’re there. You’ve got to understand when they’re impacting your business, but don’t let them get so distracted. Don’t get so distracted by your competition, don’t let your competition take you off your goals and your strategy and your mission. Alright, so you have to understand the context. But also, you can’t just, you know, turn left because they turn left and turn right, because they turned right, because then all of a sudden, you’ve completely lost your own focus and your distinctiveness and, and the reason for being specifically of your brand for your consumer.

Kara Goldin 17:22
Yeah, definitely. And I think it’s also it expands it, especially if your what you’ve been doing is unique and somebody is copying that, that just expands awareness, right. Hopefully, they’re going to run dollars against it. If it’s a big company, that’s what they typically do. So all you can really do is focus on you and getting better. So I think that that’s such a key learning, but I hear it come up a lot amongst especially amongst new founders or people who have never seen it before. So customer feedback is absolutely invaluable. I think it’s Eve whether you’re a founder or you’re a CEO, hearing that consumer feedback, I think that as DTC has gotten more and more prevalent, it’s, it’s definitely the consumer is telling you what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. Let’s focus on what you’ve done. Right? Have you ever heard any, any stories along the way where somebody has written to you saying thank you, something so powerful that you’re that you know, you’re on the right path?

Heather Wallace 18:36
Yes, we have a whole channel, we use Slack. And we have a whole channel that is called glow getters. And that is a channel where our medical providers can post and share with the rest of the company any really great feedback that they get from consumers. So it’s so fun when you’re having kind of a rough day or you know, you need a little bit of inspiration just to go in the channel and read the stories. And, you know, we hear things from patients like I’ve never even met you, but you’ve provided better care for my skin than any doctor I’ve seen ever, right? You hear things like that. You hear things like, you know, just thank you so much for your simple and quick responses and you know, your willingness to answer my questions and make me feel heard and make me feel seen. And and you know what, we get a surprising number of wedding invitations. We get a lot of wedding invitations. So I’m always looking at it. Like can we send the provider that she want to go to Texas and go to this wedding because I’d be happy to send them. So that I think is just like a testament to the difference that we make in people’s lives. Think about your wedding day and that is a day when it’s all about you and you want to be glowing and you want to be confident in the fact that they would actually invite their serology provider is amazing.

Kara Goldin 19:51
I just had the CEO of Boleyn branch Scott on and he mentioned that that They were the wedding party was buying sheets for Bolin branch sheets for all of their guests. And he was also invited to the wedding. And I was just I was laughing. I said, I’ve never thought I would be invited to this wedding. But I actually might come. So I asked him, What was for dinner? So anyway, it was very, it was very, very funny. So the skincare industry is rapidly evolving with the advent of technology. What potential Do you see AI? AI? I think while many companies think it’s great, that people also think it’s a little scary. So how have you harnessed AI and technology to enhance the personalized care for your consumer? Yeah,

Heather Wallace 20:52
so I like what you’ve said in that, that it’s, it’s exciting. And it’s interesting, and it’s the thing that everyone’s talking about, but fundamentally, what is the consumer want, right? So our consumer, our patient wants to know that they have the right product, and that they’re using the right product. So we we have an opportunity with AI and that we have treated over 6 million patients. We have photos we have before and afters we have all these different formulas, right? Well, we’re tracking efficacy, so we can really use AI to help us to make an initial recommendation. But at the end of the day, it is a prescription and it needs to be written by a healthcare provider. And so it will always the that that final decision on what a can what product we send to a consumer and what mix of active RX ingredients they need to best treat their skin that will always be decided by a healthcare provider.

Kara Goldin 21:45
Definitely. So how has telemedicine transformed the way you deliver care? I would imagine, I don’t know. Like, it was probably before you got there. But more than a few years ago, it must have been very difficult. I mean, it’s it things have probably eased up slightly for you guys to be able to really expand and do what you want to do.

Heather Wallace 22:10
Yeah, the pandemic was a good thing for telemedicine. Yeah. And, and, you know, I really believe that access, not just for dermatology care and through our company, but that if people can feel good about getting care in an easier, cost effective way that we will have healthy, you know, we’ll have a healthier population, and we’ll have a better society. So I’m a huge believer in telehealth overall. And I think that we’re moving in the right direction in terms of access. I think what’s interesting about telehealth and that is different and distinct from your in person healthcare, is that companies like urology have actually focused on what is the end product that you need. And our telehealth is actually just a service we provide. So we our product and service, the service is telehealth. We don’t charge for the telehealth for all of that help and support. And it’s branded in a way that the consumer understands what they get. They know what Qiraji has to offer. They know what urology stands for. And when they conduct urology, they have high expectations, and we meet those high expectations. So consumers understand brands for specific needs. And they trust brands and they’re willing to interact with them. So I actually think the more that telehealth can use branding in a really positive way to help consumers navigate towards, you know, a specific condition that they might be suffering from or to feel safe and comfortable interacting. I think we’re gonna have better healthcare outcomes across the board.

Kara Goldin 23:40
As Curology continues to grow. Can you share any plans for retail expansion as you continue to bring innovation into your company? I’m curious if you have thought about doing retail expansion?

Heather Wallace 23:58
Sure. So we launched at Target last year. So in just the targets, we had an exclusive arrangement with them. It was phenomenal. They were fantastic partner, you know, they have the right guest in their store for our demographic and our audience. And we were the number one facial skincare launch over the last five years. And we’re now in year two with target. We’ve expanded our assortment, we partner with them on building innovation for the future. And so we see target as one of the retailers that we’re going to continue to lean in with and partner and bring our best and our newest products to the hands of more and more consumers. We also launched at Amazon at the very end of last year. So we’ve been on Amazon a number of months that launch is going phenomenally well. We have so many we have so many Amazon shoppers searching for Curology in the past, and they couldn’t find us and now they can. So that’s a huge boon for us. And we’ll continue this path on expanding into retail. I think that meeting the consumer where they’re at is very important. And giving them the flexibility of You can get for our personalized formula, you can only get that direct to consumer because it is made at a custom compounding pharmacy, it is made just for you with your name on it right, so we have to send it to you. But if you want to buy more cleansers and moisturizers and our fantastic lip balm that has this really great fun little package that you don’t have to take, you don’t you can do it with one hand, you don’t have to take off the cap and lose the catheter lip balm. So we have phenomenal products that are really relevant for retail. And we’ll continue to expand in that area. I think being part for DTC having a reason for your direct to consumer is important which we have that because of the uniqueness of our personalization and our multiplex products, but then also meeting the consumer where they are. So people want to shop online, they want to shop in store, they want to do all those things. And I want to be in all the places where we can be part of the consumers life and be part of the real world as well. Definitely.

Kara Goldin 25:51
So do you have a favorite SKU that is that you really want people to know about try.

Heather Wallace 26:00
So we just launched on the agency brand, we just launched a formula specifically for the eye area, it is phenomenal, amazing. It is my favorite new product. So if you’re if you’re interested in preventing fine lines, wrinkles, skin firmness, toning, you know, evenness of your skin tone, try out the agency brand, get the feature formula and absolutely add that I product. It’s my favorite. That’s

Kara Goldin 26:28
awesome. So if you had to give anyone advice, who was looking to really make their mark on the beauty industry and jump in and kind of be you, I guess, what would that look like? I mean, what advice would you give to them going into running a company and, and going into a company that’s very exciting that they potentially could scale and be as excited as you are about it? Yeah,

Heather Wallace 27:00
I guess one of the things I think about in, in taking over a company and at the time I joined the company had been around for about eight and a half years, we just hit our 10 year anniversary, I’ve been here 18 months, thinking about when when you’re an early founder, and you have this, you’ve identified an opportunity, right, you’ve identified a white space, you’ve seen an opportunity to have a product or a service that fits and meets a new and unique need of the consumer. And then you get started and you start getting investment and investors, they have all these people and they have all these different opinions and they want you to be all these different things, you know, just don’t lose that focus. I think the power of urology and how we got to where we are was because our founder was so focused on that purpose over time and continued to build towards it. And then I think the other thing to think about too, is that when you’re thinking about a company like this, you need to continue to get funding, you need to plan towards an exit, and the market dynamics will change, right? So you know, one day you’re looking at it, and it’s like growth at all costs. And so you need to be growing high double digits, triple digits and spend all the money in the world. And that’s where the value is going to be. And other times, it’s like no, you know, the right now the profitability is what matters. If you set all that aside, right? And the shifts in the market and you just say, How do I create a company and a p&l that is sustainable, right? So I can get it to be enough scale. And the cost makes sense. And I can and I can just, you know, create something that I know, we’ll be around in the future, that’s always going to end up having the most value. So try try not to chase those market fluctuations, stay on mission and build something sustainable over time.

Kara Goldin 28:48
Heather Wallace, CEO of Curology, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing all of your wisdom. And we’ll have all the info in the show notes for all of everything that urology is doing. But thank you again, really appreciate it.

Heather Wallace 29:06
Thank you, Kara. It’s my pleasure. So much fun to be with you today.

Kara Goldin 29:09
Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would, 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 of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. I would love to hear from you too, so feel free to DM me. And if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen or pick up a copy of my Wall Street Journal, best selling book undaunted, where I share more about my journey including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Thanks for listening and good bye for now.