Joann Zehenni: Founder & CEO of Gemini Beauty

Episode 372

Joann Zehenni, Founder & CEO of Gemini Beauty, searched for a solution for her extremely sensitive skin before creating her own formulations. At age 15! Joann started Gemini Beauty at only 15 years of age. Now as a freshman at Loyola Marymount University in Southern California, she couldn’t be more excited. The beauty products she creates under the label Gemini Beauty are inspired by her Lebanese and Ukranian roots using fruits and vegetables to create a dewy, fresh look safe for all skin types. She shares all about her financial support for patients in all stages of Lupus plus all the lessons she has learned so far in her journey. Joann has taken an idea that she was curious about and didn’t let her age stop her. She has turned her creation into a business with products that are awesome. This episode is filled with so much inspiration and takeaways 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 from the Kara Goldin show and I am so excited to have my next guest. Here we have Joann Zehenni, who is the founder and CEO of Gemini beauty. And for those of you who are not familiar with Gemini beauty, you are going to be so inspired by this podcast that you’re going to go out and get some Gemini beauty products right now. So definitely listen up. So when Joann couldn’t find a solution for her extremely sensitive skin, she started creating her own formulations. And Gemini beauty was born. She started her company ready for this at age 15 years old rock star over here. She’s now a college freshman at Loyola Marymount University in Southern California and runs her own business, Gemini beauty. I love that her products were inspired not only by her own challenges that she found a solution for, but also her Lebanese and Ukrainian heritage using fruits and vegetables to create that dewy, fresh look that everybody wants. And they are safe for all skin types, not just for people with super dry skin. I also love that a percentage of Gemini beauties profits are donated to lupus, LA, a nonprofit organization that provides a variety of support opportunities for patients in all stages of lupus who doesn’t love that. And Joann has taken an idea, as I mentioned, that she was super curious about and passionate about, and felt like she could turn it into a great business. And she has so I’m very, very excited to hear more about all about the journey and lessons. And and yeah, so without further ado, Joann, welcome.

Joann Zehenni 2:36
Thank you so much for having me. best, best intro of all time.

Kara Goldin 2:40
Oh, that’s so great. Well, thank you. So before we hear more about Gemini beauty and your journey and building and I’d love to hear more about kind of your early years, you started this company, when you were 15 Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur and a beauty entrepreneur?

Joann Zehenni 2:58
Well, I come from a family of entrepreneurs. So it’s definitely just something that I’ve witnessed my whole life. And I’ve been lucky to witness my whole life. And so I started kind of getting into skincare, I was actually talking to my friends about this the other day, so I couldn’t really pinpoint when I started getting into it. And when we realized that like when I was about like 12 or 13, I just somehow just gotten to skincare there was there wasn’t really like a certain catalyst, it was just I was always interested in it. And I remember I used to give like facials to my friends and like, I used to give advice to my friends and I was very much into it. So I started just, you know, as a 13 year old, like I just kind of like just browsing the internet learning more watching YouTube. And over quarantine when I was about 15 Like, or 15 and a half, I’ve started just becoming far more interested in beauty and I start doing more research up all the quarantine, started talking to some dermatologist I knew and people that I knew. And then over quarantine when I was about 15 I, as a joke out to my mom, I was like, I would love you know, like, that’s my dream I want us I would love to start a beauty brand when I’m older like 2526. And then it was also admits like all of the college application, all the good stuff. So there was lots of virtual events at colleges. And they would always ask, you know, what’s your passion, like what makes you you know, outstanding student or someone that just stands out. And so my mom and I were talking about it, and that’s kind of when I was like 15 and a half I was like, I would love to start my own beauty brand. And she’s like, why not start now. And that was kind of just one aspect of things but also, I’ve always had really sensitive skin because I’ve borderline lupus my dad had lupus my older sister has lupus. And I was always surrounded by my grandma who loves making at home face masks. So it was kind of all of it coming together trying to navigate my skin and helping my friends and family that kind of came together to create Gemini beauty.

Kara Goldin 4:44
So you were making it at home. Initially and you said you were inspired by your grandma and and definitely you know your mom kind of egging you on to go and do it. It sounds like to which is such a beautiful story. If so how did you know how to actually create a product that I mean, it’s one thing to make your own products of home, but then actually to do a shelf stable product that potentially is going to be in a store or sold online. How did you even know how to do that?

Joann Zehenni 5:16
Well, at home, I kind of just made like face masks with my grandma for fun. But when I wanted to create actual products, I started talking to someone I knew in the beauty industry. And trying to learn that it also was just like looking up online and reading like a few books like how to start a business, asking the people around me, but also, knowing that I had to find a lab. So like, right away, my mom and I started researching labs that I could work with. And we finally found one, I met with them really, really often. And then from there, it was like a really collaborative process where I started doing research on exactly what I want the products to do, and like the ingredients I want to use, and then from there, we I kind of work with the lab. And as of right now I’m coming out with a new line of products that’s going to launch in June. And I’ve been working like at least once a week with the lab like trying to come up exactly, with the right amount of components. I want it to be very safe for sensitive skin. And so it’s been it’s been fun doing it differently now than when I was 16. Or like 15 and a half. So it’s really cool to see the differences in creating the products after a few years.

Kara Goldin 6:16
That’s amazing. And is everything in the US or do you do it outside of the US every you do everything in the US. Amazing. And so did you feel like when you were going to these labs, you were learning a ton to I mean, I think when you’re actually doing your first product, no matter how old you are, or how much experienced you are, I mean, it’s it’s amazing how much you’ll you’ll learn as well, for sure.

Joann Zehenni 6:42
And it’s definitely it’s definitely very different screens now than it was before. I feel like now with even just studying the market more and seeing what products are available and making sure that I stay away from making a product that’s too similar to a singular product. But like also taking inspiration from like what I love to use around me and so it’s kind of a difficult balance. But I am so excited for the new launch of the new products because they’re very exciting. And I’d still love using components that are fruit and vegetable based because that comes from my heritage and I and I just love using those natural products. I feel like it’s so fun to use a product that you can physically eat but then also put on your skin. And Gemini beauty is very much into looking at health holistically, but also specific to your skin. And skincare is just one step of like your holistic, your holistic care your beauty routine. So it makes it all more exciting.

Kara Goldin 7:32
So what was the first product that you came out with?

Joann Zehenni 7:35
I came out with three so there was the daily brightening moisturizer with leaching Halle Berry, and then the daily glow serum with hyaluronic acid and then are all you need eye cream with cucumber extract. So I launched those three products first.

Kara Goldin 7:49
Amazing the cucumber eye cream is amazing. I had seen your other products before and and tried the moisturizer, but I had never tried the eye. And it’s amazing.

Joann Zehenni 8:01
Thank you I love I love it, especially when I put it in the fridge and then I take out in the morning it just like an instant boost of hydration. It just it makes you I like makes you feel good about yourself. I feel like skincare is such a good way to start the day or end the day. So I love doing that.

Kara Goldin 8:17
So how many years ago was that? an ounce? So three years? Yeah. So

Joann Zehenni 8:21
I started Yeah, developing when I was round, really starting with it when I was at like 50 and a half 16. And then I launched when I was 17. So it’s been out for a year now. Yeah. And then we’ll have the next launch in June. So you know, over a three year process.

Kara Goldin 8:36
That’s amazing. And so how have you gotten the word out about the product?

Joann Zehenni 8:40
Yeah, so I focus a lot on social media. And I try to do like giveaways. I try to do collabs like collaborations with like influencers. I also work a lot with lupus LA. So I met an amazing, she’s a psychologist, but she does so much more than that. But Dr. Monica Blyde. And I did a lot of Instagram lives with her talking about mental health and wellness. And that kind of spreads the word pretty nicely. And then I’m trying to think, Oh, also just a lot of in the beginning, especially just giving a lot of free product away and just giving it to people to hear their thoughts. Not necessarily looking for like a post, but just hearing their thoughts. That was a really big thing that helped me a lot because just out of the kindness of people’s hearts, they just talk about it and they spread the word and really important. So that was a big way.

Kara Goldin 9:29
That’s amazing. So most of your sales have been online.

Joann Zehenni 9:33
Yeah. Yeah. So I sell direct to consumer through my website, but also I work with an amazing retailer, 13 Lun, so then they sell on their website, but also they have a collaboration with JC Penney, so that I sell through 600 JC Penney stores through them.

Kara Goldin 9:49
That’s amazing. And so is your goal to get into more retailers as well and yeah,

Joann Zehenni 9:55
for sure, that’s what I’m working on with this new line of product but that’s coming out in June, but I’ve loved my experience working with 13 mu, and I’m so excited to continue to work with them.

Kara Goldin 10:05
So what have you learned about the beauty industry just by launching this product? Obviously, you had been a consumer that was somewhat frustrated with, you know, the ingredients and products, if you had to break down the challenges of the industry, or what would you say?

Joann Zehenni 10:22
I think there’s a lot of, there’s so much product out there that it’s really hard to differentiate yourself from other bigger companies, because it’s so hard even as the consumer. Now I go to Sephora, way too often like that, I’d like to admit I was literally there right before this. But I love trying new products, I love just getting a sense of seeing what other brands do with their story. And because I love to compare stories, I like to see different brands, initiatives, or how they’re giving back. But it’s hard to differentiate yourself and kind of like convince people who say, like, try my products, even though there’s these huge, huge, huge companies out there that have been around for a lot longer, and who have amazing products. But I think the most important thing that I’ve learned is to really show like, show my story and stay true to exactly my plan. And I love working with your best ally. And I think it’s so important to focus on kind of a bigger idea than just skincare, I want to help the skincare with community, but also the lupus community, which is on a bigger scale. So it’s kind of just what and also what I’ve heard and times that I’ve been discouraged. Because of you know, just it’s so hard to compete with these bigger brands. But people always say just stick true to your story. And it will all work out for the best. That all happens for a reason. So it’s just important to do your market research, but also just to like give it all time, because there’s these huge, amazing brands that also waited, you know, five years, 10 years to get to where they are today. And I think in the beginning, I really compared myself from the start. And I was like, well, they’re doing all this why? Why am I not doing all of this? You know, so it’s also like giving room for that patience and knowing that they all worked really hard to get to where they are and not to rush it?

Kara Goldin 12:01
Yeah, totally. Well, and I think it’s what I’ve learned, too, is that it’s, you know, while it can feel really challenging, when you don’t know about an industry, when you’re doing things a little bit differently than what other products are doing. I think that it’s coming from a different industry is actually a blessing because I think you’re asking a lot of questions just because you haven’t been in the industry. If you were to have come from a big beauty background, or there, there would be a lot of pressure on you to have all the answers.

Joann Zehenni 12:39
Yeah, for sure. So it was it was really nice that I was able to go in with knowledge. But as I’m, as it’s been a few years, I love that I’ve learned more. And I’ve been learning more from just other brands and listening to their podcasts and their stories. So that’s been so helpful.

Kara Goldin 12:54
That’s awesome. So what’s your favorite product right now from your line that that if people want to try it is kind of, you know, we mentioned the cucumber, eye cream, but like what is the one that is kind of the staple, the one that you really, really love.

Joann Zehenni 13:11
For me, it’s a daily brightening moisturizer with lychee and cowberry. It has six different fruits in it. It has two different types of teas, green tea, and purple tea extracts. And all the vitamins in it, I feel like it instantly nourishes my face. And I’m someone who has extremely dry skin and the slightest change in the environment will freak me out or change my life changed my skin for the worse usually. So I absolutely love using our moisturizer twice to three times a day. And it’s so important to mix it in with hyaluronic acid. So I like putting a few drops of my serum in the moisturizer. Because hyaluronic acid has the ability to hold so much water. So it’s important to kind of mix up your routine and see what works for your skin. But that’s definitely like my staple product.

Kara Goldin 13:55
Definitely. So being an entrepreneur is super brutal, no matter how much experience you have, or what category or what industry you’re launching your product and, and getting the word out actually is is also really challenging as we talked about, but you’re doing a great job on social and that’s, that’s awesome. What do you think is the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur that maybe you didn’t know going in?

Joann Zehenni 14:22
I would say, I think when I went into it, I guess what I really, really committed you know, when I was 16 I kind of thought that even though I saw my parents do it, I kind of thought that it was kind of like school where you would you would work on it all the time. But then you kind of have like a break on the weekend and that you kind of have your routine because I kind of saw that with my family but I was also young when I didn’t realize they’re constantly working like I just didn’t see it but they’re constantly working. So when I launched when I was 17 I like since then it was nonstop. Like I can only think about Gemini beauty and there’s definitely no break on the weekends, which I don’t mind because I love it so much. And it’s kind of I didn’t realize how, like, it’s always in your mind, because it’s yours. It’s so different than working for someone or working towards something. It’s like always, in my mind, so it’s kind of like, I never stopped thinking about it, which I had no idea was a thing. It’s like, I love it like a child. Like I’m always thinking about it. But yeah, so I never realized that until I read, things really started to get going. And especially now with school, it does take up most of my time. And I but I do like, acknowledge that I have to get better at separating school and Gemini PB, because I like to mesh the two. And I, I hate to admit that I do prioritize Gemini theory sometimes. But I’m trying to get better at separating the two but also adding in time for, you know, just social life, and just seeing my friends and all of that.

Kara Goldin 15:53
That’s awesome. So you’re currently in college and building your company? What have you. Do you feel like just actually being hands on and doing it? Your classes are making that much more sense, in many ways? Yeah, I

Joann Zehenni 16:08
mean, I took an entrepreneurship class first semester, right now I’m not but the whole class, we listen to different podcasts of like, different entrepreneurs and seeing their journey. And that made me realize how much I’m rushing. And like, sort of how I kind of take the little things for granted. Like, whenever something good happens, I’m always like, Oh, but I have to do this, like ice I sometimes I learned, especially to that class that I need to just take a sec it and celebrate it and not to rush and put as much pressure as I am on myself. Because it doesn’t make the experience that fun. If I’m constantly saying, This is great, we got to do this, you know, it’s like I have to slow myself down, which is important to understand.

Kara Goldin 16:49
Yeah, totally. Have you had any situations where you just kind of something, a big mess up happened, and then you had to sort of get through it? I I’ve found, you know, over the course of my journey, for sure made some screw ups. And I always say that every great entrepreneur has made them right. And I’d be curious to hear if there’s any that come to mind for you.

Joann Zehenni 17:18
There’s definitely a lot. I was actually thinking about this yesterday, but a big one was just, I think because of my lack of knowledge in the beginning, in terms of choosing the actual components. I love the idea of glass and bamboo. And that’s what I use now. But transporting glass is a huge hassle and a big risk, which I didn’t really I knew about it, but I didn’t really understand it. Because for me at the beginning, my my mom and I spoke and I just spoke with my family. And we’re trying to figure out how much I need to actually make. And we were like, Oh 200 of each, like easy that will last us you know, last few few months. But then right away, I signed with 13 Moon and I had to make a few 1000 of each. So I made like 5000 of each. And we were like Okay, so in a rush I ordered all this class. And when I when it came to the lab, and I was on a huge time crunch to get my products to 13 noon for the first wave of selling like hundreds and hundreds of components broke. And I was so crushed by it. And it was a whole big mess. But I remember I didn’t even have inventory for like four months out of the first year that I’ve launched, which hasn’t been very long, because all my inventory went to their team Loon And and then so much had broke and it cost so much money so much time and stress. And I even remember like, on the day before my 18th birthday, it was kind of the last day I had to get things shipped at 13 Lun, and I kept calling the lab and there was lots of mistakes. And it was an old it was an older lab that I worked with not my current lab, but and they were like Sorry, we’re not going to be able to get it to you for a few weeks. I remember, I was so upset on my birthday, that I like physically was sick, like I couldn’t, I couldn’t like breathe, I was so stressed about it. And I touched my mom, she’s like it all happens for a reason it’s gonna work out and then I remember my birthday was like on a Saturday so on the Monday I got on the phone with a lab and I was like it has to be done today. And I stayed with them on the phone the whole day and they got done thank God but I you know, it’s like mistakes like that I didn’t have I didn’t have any personal sales on my website because I didn’t have any inventories by my website just said sold out for like four months. And then so I also couldn’t ship to influencers would really like put a barrier on sales. But thank God for 30 Moon though because they did such a good job and it allowed me to keep going because of their marketing. And so I say that’s one of the biggest obstacles that I faced and it was definitely like thank God I know now for the I’m not doing that again in the future, but that was definitely something that I had to learn the hard way but

Kara Goldin 19:47
yeah, that’s that definitely is how did you think about branding and figuring out what how you were going to what it was going to look like?

Joann Zehenni 19:55
Um, I wanted the branding to like evoke a sense of calmness and Like you, you want to reach for the product right when you see it. So that’s why I love the bamboo in the minimalistic colors of the pink in the contrast with the dark green. Also growing up in LA, like you see a lot of that pink and green contrast kind of everywhere. So I think that was definitely an influence. But I don’t know, I don’t even remember how I was just like bamboo. But somehow it just one day I said it and then thank God I II know I was able to make it happen. But with the new launch in June, I’m working on a rebrand. So no more glass and bamboo, unfortunately. But the new look at the products is great. And I also want to be able to recycle the glass and the bamboo, which was really important to me. But yeah, it was more just I it took me some time to think it over. But then when I talked to a designer, we all put it together. And that’s kind of how it came to be. But I love the idea of very minimalistic look and very clean look,

Kara Goldin 20:54
how long does it take these days? Because we all hear about supply chain and and when you’re actually creating a product, and you’re actually working with a manufacturer as you are, how long do they usually say that it’s going to take to actually create it.

Joann Zehenni 21:10
So usually it’s the standard is about a year to launch a new product. But for this new round that I’m doing that I’m launching in June, we’re doing it in six months, which has been pretty stressful, but also like a really cool experience, because I’m learning how to navigate things, especially in the manufacturing world in different ways. But they usually say about a year to give you some time to make mistakes, changed design, but also give the suppliers time to ship everything to the labs because there’s so there’s very long lead times now, but it’s getting a lot better since I think the world’s become more accustomed since quarantine. So it’s the lead times have gone a lot shorter than they used to be.

Kara Goldin 21:46
That’s great. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs that are have an idea and you’re, you definitely are inspiring. And after hearing you speak about this, they’re like maybe I should go launch my own product, what would you say?

Joann Zehenni 22:03
Definitely study the market first. And like take a lot of time, I wish I would have studied the market just a little bit more before launching because I kind of just went right into it. But at the same time you you learn as you go along. So it’s always important to understand that you’re not going to know everything right before you start. And not everything has to be perfect. Like day before launch. Like my older sister and I have worked on my website and we launched it like an hour before. We had our little launch event at my house. So it’s an I’ve changed so many things during the way from the this, like past year, two years. Sometimes when I’m in class, I’ll change my website for fun, and I’ll add new photography and like it just know that everything’s going to change and you can’t make everything perfect right at the start. But it’s always important to like learn from others and take from others.

Kara Goldin 22:50
Yeah, definitely. And what’s the best advice that you ever received?

Joann Zehenni 22:55
Um, I would say to that everything happens for a reason. And that sometimes when I feel like that’s very good, that’s such a common thing. It’s, it’s nothing special. But it has really helped me that everything happens for a reason. That’s what my parents always tell me. And especially my dad used to tell me, like the importance of learning from those around you. I know I’ve mentioned this a few times already. But I learned from him so much. I keep learning from my mom so much. And it’s so important to let let things happen as they as they should, but also to just try your best. And when like I said those big obstacles come up. Just ask for advice. That’s like, well, that will help you the most for sure.

Kara Goldin 23:36
Yeah, definitely. Well, thank you so much, Joann, we are going to have all of the links in the show notes and everything for you and also for Gemini beauty. But I really appreciate your time today. And thanks, everybody for listening as well.

Joann Zehenni 23:54
Thank you.

Kara Goldin 23:55
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. 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. And thanks everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week. And 2023 and good bye 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 i 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 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