Rachel Roff: Founder & CEO of Urban Skin Rx

Episode 362

Rachel has taken an idea that she was passionate about and turned it into a real business with products that are excellent! You hear all about her journey in entrepreneurship plus how a surprise success with a viral TikTok moment changed the game. This episode is filled with a ton of inspiration and takeaways 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 golden 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, its Kara golden from the Kara golden show. And I’m super excited to have my next guest. Here we have Rachel Roff, who was the founder and CEO of an amazing skin brand called Urban skin or x. And if you have not heard of this incredible brand, you definitely need to keep your eyes out for it and hopefully go ahead and order it right away. But like many beauty entrepreneurs, Rachel came up with the idea for her brand while living her life doing what she was doing as a trained esthetician, she discovered that many of the treatments found in dermatology and aesthetics were not suited for darker skin tones. So she decided to fix that. So Rachel has taken an idea that she was passionate and curious about and turned into business with products that are excellent. And by the way has gone way beyond just for darker skin tones to I should mention that and I’m incredibly excited to hear all about her journey of building this great, great company and also an incredible success that she had through tick tock I know that people are always curious about how people are using these different platforms. And I found that really, really interesting. So without further ado, welcome, Rachel.

Rachel Roff 1:59
Thank you so much for having me. Yeah, totally.

Kara Goldin 2:02
So okay, well let before we get into hearing a little bit about your or a lot a bit about urban skin our x I’d love. I’d love to talk for a moment about what you were doing before this, like Did you always know that you were going to be an entrepreneur? Did you sort of growing grow up thinking okay, I’m going to be an esthetician Where Where was I guess Rachel’s head before you started this company?

Rachel Roff 2:29
You Well, I started the company at 24. So now that I’m 41 I don’t really remember too much about life before this, but yeah, overall urban Skinner X was initially a dream just for my own selfish reasons. I mean, I was plagued with a lot of skin issues from a young age even as young as one years old. They’re my teens even now. And, you know, when my mother took me to the dermatologist in California, where I was raised, who happened to have an esthetician in their office, and I started going to see the esthetician, you know, 25 years ago, just laying down in her treatment bed and having her work on my skin and sending me home with these products that were a lot more efficacious and drove stronger results in the drugstore products. I was just mesmerized and was like, gosh, I want to do something like this, you know, so I can be in an environment and have my hands easily access, like, all these tools and solutions to make myself feel like I can look and feel better. But then also wanting to help others in terms of getting into specializing in deeper skin tones. That was not necessarily part of my plan. I think I was pretty ignorant as a non women of color that there was this huge disparity in the skincare industry as they came to, you know, just accessibility for safe and efficacious treatments for you know, concerns of darker skin, you know, it existed and still exist in dermatology, med spas, even sometimes holistic treatments. And so when I discovered that, while living in Charlotte, North Carolina going to esthetician school, which you know, I would bring my friends and who were all different nationalities and different skin tones, and I noticed when I would bring somebody in with a deeper skin tone. It was just you can’t do this. You can’t do that they scarf, so easy, be very cautious, but there wasn’t, you know, a education or there wasn’t really the research being done, at least in esthetician school on how to do more corrective treatments because when someone is dealing with dark marks or acne, you can’t just miss out ours are faced with oils and think it’s gonna go away. It does take a more clinical approach, and people weren’t willing to do those things, I think for a couple of different reasons. One, I mean, there’s prejudice and ignorance and just the inability to, you know, want to cater to minorities. And then to I think, darker skin does scar a lot easier. And people just are scared. But it doesn’t mean just because something’s harder you ignore it. And so that was really how I initially decided to, hey, I really want to not just be an esthetician, but I want to make sure that my services specialize in and it’s terrible as even a specialty. But really letting people know, hey, I’m fully trained. I have lasers, modalities, equipment, the people that work for me are all trained on how to do, you know, very clinical solution oriented treatments on not just lighter skin, but darker skin.

Kara Goldin 6:01
So interesting. So So what was your first product then that you started with?

Rachel Roff 6:09
Well, initially, you know, I opened my medical spa in 2006, I was carrying a lot of different brands. And the number one skin concern of my consumer was post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which is dark marks due to an injury to the skin, that injury might be acne or an ingrown hair or a bug bite or your visor rubbing together. And it seems like I had to carry 10 different skincare lines to have kind of an assortment of products for their needs a lot of brands really concentrated mostly on anti aging, or acne or smoothing. And so initially, it was like, there was that component. But then also, I was very interested in franchising. My medical spine never had a plan to build a mass retail skincare line, it was always initially just to kind of like grow my service concept. And so I was like, Oh, this would be great. If I didn’t have to carry so many lines, I could develop my own line that catered toward more towards hyperpigmentation. Plus, as I franchise my med spa, my franchisees can all sell my skincare line, you know, and it was just and that was really how it came about in my even tone cleansing bar, which is still today, our number one best selling Cleanser. This my first one I developed in 2010.

Kara Goldin 7:34
So how would you describe like, what makes it so unique? I mean, you started in 2006 It’s not you didn’t start yesterday? I mean, you’ve it’s been able to grow and and, you know, definitely be in the hands of more and more people. What what is it that makes it so unique?

Rachel Roff 7:56
I mean, skincare has gotten so noisy since the pandemic like everybody has entered into the skincare space. And it’s not just celebrities, although it’s a lot of celebrities, but I think people sat back and watched and read in The Wall Street Journal read in all these like mass media outlets. So like, skincare was just booming valuations of skincare companies were like getting, you know, eight, nine times multiples, which are just unheard of. And so being this OG it’s like, there’s now 10 brands for every niche, you know what I mean? So it’s a different world. Do I 100% think that there’s something special and unique about urban center X? Yes, I do. And I think that the hyperpigmentation angle is very interesting and unique. We have products for anti aging, we have products for acne, but the majority of our products always have ingredients in them that are designed to keep your skin tone even toned, or it’s designed to have ingredients in it to fade the look of discoloration. So if you’re buying a product for anti aging and firming, it’s also paired with ingredients towards reducing inflammation and reducing hyperpigmentation. So I think there’s that I also think that I mean I can’t speak for every other brand but me being the formulator when I took my brand from a spa, higher price brand to going into like Target and Walmart and Walgreens, you have a decision to make and that is are you going to reformulate to lower your cost of goods to you know, create a better margin now that you’re selling them for cheaper. And a lot of people think everything is just a volume play that if once you create, you know you’re selling 50,000 of something that you get it for that much cheaper and there are large price breaks when you go from making 1000 of something to 10 1000 But from there on out, the percentage of savings really goes down dramatically. And I just have never compromised on what I put in my products. I mean, there are products that I’ve launched that have very, very different margins than others and not and when I say very different, I mean, not great, because for me, if I can’t provide, you know, noticeable results, life changing results for people, there goes my brand in general, you know, so for me, it’s really results first, and then pricing second when I build out a formula, and I don’t think everybody does that.

Kara Goldin 10:44
Yeah, no, definitely I think people start to skimp on on the quality of the product. And and it’s it’s definitely people have consumers eventually figure it out. Right. And I think that that’s, that’s really, really good to know. So, being in the service business versus being in a physical products, business is certainly different, right? And you’ve seen it firsthand. If there’s somebody else out there in thinking about, you know, going into physical products, what is sort of the, you know, the most challenging part over the years, when you think back of maybe something that you didn’t know about that business?

Rachel Roff 11:25
Oh, gosh, I mean, there’s so much I mean, I had an advantage, which was, when I launched my skincare line, I had a demand, which is rare, I already had a platform of I was seeing, you know, 100 patients a day at my medical spa, we already had followers on social media. And so I think that’s, you know, a huge thing, if you are lucky enough or smart enough to have a good idea, make a good product, you then also have to figure out how to market it and how to grow demand. I really think that it’s very, very important in this day and age, to pay a lot of attention to branding, branding has gone to a whole nother level, it is like creativity is just like, I mean, it’s still hard to find, but there are very creative people out there. And if your product does not attract a consumer, if they’re not going to buy either. So even if you bring the demand, but if it’s not, the name doesn’t resonate with somebody, the packaging doesn’t end people tend to, you know, because something appeals to them, they think it’s good enough, and I or it appeals to their family and friends. And just don’t forget your family and friends are always going to be bias, you might not think that they are, but they might, you know, have more in common with you because we hang out with people in common with us. So they might like what you like, or they might not want to hurt your feelings. So I think it’s very important to do, like focus groups and surveys with people who have no skin in the game and be like, What do you think of this name? What do you think of this packaging? Because that’s very, very important.

Kara Goldin 13:14
Yeah, definitely. Has your packaging changed significantly since the beginning?

Rachel Roff 13:19
Oh, my God. 1000 100 times, I’ve struggled so much with branding and packaging, like, it’s been the bane of my existence, like I did not invest properly, with the right designers like I was, you know, bootstrapping, dealing with a lot of like junior designers, which is not to say there aren’t some amazing junior designers out there. But your packaging can live on and on forever. And once you get into retail, it can take a long time to cycle through old packaging, especially in lower performing doors. And so oh my god, I have just been through the wringer. And so of my consumers with I mean, I can’t even count the amount of packaging changes we’ve had.

Kara Goldin 14:09
You know, it’s interesting that you say that. So the product I developed hint, when we first came out, the label is slightly changed since when we first came out in 2005. But the biggest and most significant change that we made, I always wanted a label that was clear because my product was clear. And I thought okay, we’ve got fruit that pops on, you know, the label and a clear label. And what I didn’t realize was once it got on the grocery store shelves, I wasn’t going to actually be controlling the lighting on the shelf out or who I was going to be sitting next to and it really makes a difference as to how you are seen by consumers when they’re looking at a shelf if you’re next to a in No bright bottle of vitamin water. Right? That is bright pink. And it’s and then you’ve got this clear label. It is. It’s significant. And it was, it wasn’t until we actually were forced to change to a white label, because that year in particular, they were out of stock on this clear label. And so we were not going to be able to have enough stock for Whole Foods. It was it was a whole thing. So we said, Screw it, let’s just do the white labels, and made that decision. And I mean, it was overnight, we 10x Star sales, just Yeah, and again, like, it wasn’t the design, actually, it was actually the material. But it was on that made such a significant difference. And like no designer actually said this to us. And it was just it was, I mean, we just found it out by accident. So I’m sure you can relate to that

Rachel Roff 16:03
I can relate and like as much as I love urban skin or accident, it will always be my baby. And I continue to strive to make it better every day, like I very much want to one day start another consumer good brand, because I just I have made so many mistakes. And it’s like, I feel like I have the recipe now like this, like blueprint of like what you do what you don’t do. And a lot of just, I mean, I’ve beat myself up for 20 years about the mistakes that I’ve made. And I think it’d be very healing to apply those learnings to a new business.

Kara Goldin 16:47
Yeah, well, and I’ve found that you’ll probably continue making mistakes. That’s what great entrepreneurs do. You know, they just they keep iterating along the way. So it’s definitely a work in progress. So you recently started a men’s line. Can you share a little bit about that? What was the inspiration behind that?

Rachel Roff 17:06
Yeah, so actually, at the beginning of my esthetician career, I really somehow ended up focusing a lot on men with severe what we call psuedo folliculitis. Barbie on their neck, which is just a medical term for, you know, ingrown hairs. And I was working for a skin and laser center doing laser hair removal. And they happened to have a laser hair removal machine that worked on all skin tones, which I don’t even think they knew that it did. And I was very underpaid. And I just ended up doing a series of treatments on a friend it was he was a black man who have really bad ingrown hairs on his neck. And I took before and after pictures, and they were like, astounding. And I was like, gosh, this is a really common condition with ethnic skin because the hair so of course, and so currently. And so I literally because I was like I thought this was a great service people didn’t know about I was incentivized to want to build a clientele because I had no clientele. I made like a flyer of this before and after picture and went to every barber shop in Charlotte. And so I started developing like this male clientele and being known for ingrown hairs. And so Target has really put a lot of effort into building up kind of like the men’s grooming section. And so talking with them after my success in the regular general skincare aisle, I felt that there was an opportunity for my brand to get shelf space in the men’s section. And it was something I was already really passionate about because of this history. So the men’s line really focuses on exfoliation, ingrown hairs, blemishes, clog pores. And I stayed very true to like letting people know that the only way to permanently get rid of ingrown hairs is through laser hair removal. But not everybody wants to not everybody can afford to. And so here are other topical options that can really help with that as well.

Kara Goldin 19:18
That’s amazing. So it’s so it’s available now through Target, Target and our website. Yes, that’s, that’s great. So you had a tick tock moment. I touched on this when I was doing your intro a few years ago. Can you share a little bit more about that and how it really surprised you?

Rachel Roff 19:38
Yeah, so one day, my head of my E comm came to me and he said, does a celebrity post about us or something happened because our sales are like, you know, 10 times what they should be by this time of the day and nobody could figure it out. And then later that day, we randomly got an email from a girl who said, Hey, I just wanna let you know I posted my before and after pictures through a video on Tik Tok. And it’s really quickly gone to like a couple million views. And she used our even tone cleansing bar after three weeks of taking this before and after picture kind of made it into this tutorial, she did quote that she got the product at Sephora, which we don’t even sell at Sephora. And she did something unique, which she put hashtag three week Clear Skin challenge. And I don’t know if it just from an algorithm standpoint, ended up at the right moment on the Explore page or Tik Tok was really big into challenges. A few years ago, it just took off from there. And over the course of like the next three months, our sales, I think were like 300%, what they normally are, wow. And it was a life changing moment for the brand. I mean, the brand forever changed at that moment. We our brand awareness significantly changed. But it was also a lot of mistakes that I’m still having to clean up are coming from that moment. Like there’s a lot of pluses and minuses that come from viral moments that you know, in the end, I still am happy it happened, you know, but of course, hindsight is always, you know, better. And I wish that there’s a lot of things I knew now like, really, we went into like massive hiring, we just really put so much pressure to fulfill every single order, you can’t really do your best when you’re that just diluted and spread so thin. I don’t think we clearly thought about how sustainable is this over the long run, like every retailer started coming to us wanting a piece of the business, we kind of said yes to everybody. But people expect that those sales go on forever. And that’s not realistic or sustainable. And even though we had permanent growth, it wasn’t ever to the level consistently that it was during those moments. And so it kind of just sets his vibe that you’re never good enough again, you know what I mean? And it was just it. There were hardships that came from it, too.

Kara Goldin 22:27
Yeah. So I mean, that’s really, really interesting. I mean, definitely, it was a major point on your timeline. But it’s, but so what would you do differently?

Rachel Roff 22:38
I probably probably wouldn’t have had, like, expanded hired us. Yeah, yeah, I think hiring and retail, I think I would have tried to just, but I was putting a lot of pressure on my team to like, everybody wanted us from press to influencers to celebrities, to retailers. And it was like, I was like, we have to fulfill every opportunity. And that wasn’t realistic. And so obviously it took a bigger team to do that. And I should have just made a decision. Like he’s sometimes a little mystery is good. And sometimes like you just have to accept that. That’s not completely possible.

Kara Goldin 23:22
Totally. Yeah, no, and I think saying no, at points along the way is also super important.

Rachel Roff 23:30
Thank you have less regrets being no than you do have seen yeses?

Kara Goldin 23:36
Yeah, definitely. We just had Connie Zach from sunlighten. Spas. I don’t know if you know those infrared spas. They’re amazing. And yeah. And anyway, she talked about that, that, you know, she was actually it was just on a short time ago. And she talked about, you know, she got a call from Dr. Oz and Dr. Oz wanted her to get a spa and that they they hadn’t even made it. I mean, they had sort of, like pre talked about it. And then you know, they had a lot of demand. And, you know, it’s just it people, the customer service experience was awful, because they were like, oh, that’s actually not made yet. And, you know, it’s just it’s just hard. So yeah, you know, she’s she was really clear about that in the interview to that. Don’t be afraid to say no, right, that it’s, you know, let me will call you back when we haven’t in stock or whatever it is that you can say to keep people going. But I think it’s it’s such an important lesson. So how else have you gotten the word out about urban skid RX? I mean, obviously you started in your own facility, doing you know with your own consumers.

Rachel Roff 24:51
A lot of my success came from owning my spa. And so when a lot of people look to me for mentorship for my skincare line, I let people know Oh, that my situation can’t always be duplicated. Like I was a celebrity esthetician like I wasn’t a celebrity, but I treated celebrities. And through building those authentic relationships, like they would post about my skincare products for free, you know, because they genuinely liked them. And that is very hard to duplicate, you know what I mean? Or I would even trade people services for posting be like, Oh, well, this filler, this Botox, this laser is going to come up to $5,000. But hey, if you post, you know what I mean? Give you a 50% discount, you know, because I had good margins at my med spa to do that, you know, so it just, it was a very different. So I would really say a lot of where we are today is because of those celebrity client relationships. I’m always so somebody who’s always believed in PR, and even though it’s changed a lot, I’m always from a very small company, you know how to PR agency. I also did a lot of just stuff in the community. I went to a lot of expos, and I think those building those face to face relationships with consumers and me, as well as my employees, I think really did help us stick out. So I mean, there’s so many different things. We also did a ton of digital advertising before the iOS changes where it was a lot cheaper to acquire customer and now everybody’s struggling with marketing is so has changed. It’s so hard and so expensive right now, it is just it’s learning to adapt, I think through the last two years, like this environment is not for what seems between supply chain, the great resignation COVID iOS, like, if, if you can make it you I can’t imagine get it getting much worse than this. Yeah. Well, you

Kara Goldin 27:02
talked about PR, too. I think that just really getting good at SEO and organic traffic, especially during times when it is more expensive is absolutely critical. And really understanding organic traffic and understanding how you get that. Yes, is super, super important. So So what other advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs, maybe people who are thinking, Okay, I’ve got a product, I should just go launch this company. I mean, what, what’s kind of the thing that you when you look back on, again, what what you didn’t know, or what you’ve learned along the way? Either way? What,

Rachel Roff 27:43
oh, God, I got so much advice. Some of it’s gonna sound jaded. I think first and foremost, I think the grass is not always greener. And I think like, happiness should be your number one priority. And I think so many people are desperate to be an entrepreneur, their own boss, that they’re not taking, kind of, they’re not really accounting for are they actually happy is the you know, like maybe their jobs, not the number one most fulfilling thing, but isn’t offering a lot of work life balance to spend time with your kids, or you don’t feel a ton of pressure or like, I just think it’s really important to take stock of your life. And if you, for the most part are happy, I think, at the end of the day, like when we die, it’s gonna be our moments with people, you know, that is really going to make us feel satisfied. So I think there’s that. And then I think that there’s just an element of you know, just people like for me, you can’t be good at everything. And so really figuring out what your strengths or weaknesses are in finding the right complement to to complement your weaknesses. And I mean, I also think I mean, we’re part of this internet generation. I mean, you have to be careful what you read on the internet, but I taught myself so much I read so many books, like so many Google just everything you know, to teach yourself I think that we’re now like people don’t have excuses like you can teach yourself damn near anything, you know. So I don’t know those. Those are just some of my advice to people.

Kara Goldin 29:44
No, I love that. What? What’s next for the brand? I mean, what are you looking forward to?

Rachel Roff 29:50
We entered into the body category almost three years ago and our body collection has had a lot of success and and body is having a bigger moment in beauty. And I think we have a point of differentiation with the hyperpigmentation angle. And so growing that I think that there’s a lot of opportunity there. And also global I mean, I think of like, a really don’t think that there’s a lot of expansion in us from a distribution standpoint in the US, but we, I mean, all do lives are all do webinars. And it’s amazing how many people tune in from Australia and Nigeria, you know, Jamaica, like all over the world. And so I would like to make my products more accessible globally to people.

Kara Goldin 30:42
That’s awesome. Well, really, really great. Rachel, thank you so much for sharing all about your journey. And we’ll have all of the information about urban skin RX and new in the show notes. But thanks again. And thanks, everyone, for tuning in.

Rachel Roff 30:56
Thank you so much.

Kara Goldin 30:58
Thanks again for listening to the Kara golden 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 golden. 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 undaunted, 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 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 golden 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 golden thanks for listening