Pure Innovation
Episode 72
September 21, 2021

Pure Innovation

with Ric Kostick, Co-Founder and CEO of 100% Pure

Ric Kostick is the Co-Founder and CEO of 100% Pure. Founded in 2004, 100% Pure has been a pioneer and innovation leader in the natural beauty industry. With a commitment to producing the purest and healthiest products 100% Pure is on a mission to improve the lives of six billion people and animals, while also being charitable and giving back to our global community. In this episode, Ric talks with us about his entrepreneurial journey from being born and raised in San Francisco with dreams of becoming a fighter pilot, to starting a hair care company for teens with an innovative bottle that now sits in a museum, to meeting his Co-Founders and starting 100% Pure from their garage. Ric talks with us about the many challenges he's experienced along the way in building his business, including why they lost Sephora and QVC as partners, the strategy behind opening 14 stores in the US, and how he expanded the business into China.

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this episode sponsored by

In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

  • How Ric grew up in a family of doctors but had no interest in medicine so instead went into finance and business
  • How he started selling his products online while the internet was still new
  • What led to the creation of the company after he and his co-founder both had struggles with their own companies
  • How challenges and losing a huge account led to a pivot that became a success in a new channel
  • What advice he has for a healthy founding team and why good communication among the Founders and partners is not only imperative, but absolutely essential
  • What brought them to open up market in China, how it has been a unique strategy, and why that fits in with their overall mission
  • What it has been like to open up their own retail stores, what lessons Ric has learned as a result, and what they have coming up in the future
  • Why he thinks being a lifelong learner is a part of being successful and making a difference in the world around you

To Find Out More:

100percentpure.com

Quotes:

“Why are all these companies putting these ingredients into the product? Because it makes them cheaper and it makes them stable.”


“We led a lot of the innovations in the natural side of the industry. A lot of the preservatives you see in clean products today are ones we were the first to use in beauty.”


“It's really an art when you're making a natural product. You have to be very, very precise on things to get it to mix extremely well.” 


“There are so many challenges as an entrepreneur, it's very rewarding, too, but you definitely go through a lot and I don't think it's easy.”


“When you're working with partners, it's hard not to blame each other. You have to really ensure that you blame processes, not people.”


“Trust is the most important thing. Our fastest years of growth are the years where we trusted each other the most, the three founders. Those were our fastest years when we grew 30-40 percent.”


“It's our mission to improve the lives of six billion people and animals. China has a billion people and even more magnitude of animals on top of it. So I felt like we really need to stay true to our mission. And if we're really trying to stay true to our mission, we need to be where the people are around the world…”


“I use China as kind of the model of eCommerce of the future because they bypassed the whole desktop computer phase. They went straight to mobile because nobody has desktops at home in China that I know of, so they bypassed desktop, went to mobile, and their eCommerce is extremely advanced because of that.”


“The store of the future, the retail associates, are content creators.”


“You have to be okay with failure. It can't bother you. It's got to be like water off your back. Nothing. Move on.”


“Another key element of success is having a very strong network. If I need something or need access to someone, I can get it because of my strong network.”


“Some people felt like brick and mortar is dead. I don't feel that way. I feel like you need both to be successful.”


Lee: [00:00:03] Welcome to episode 72 of the Stairway to CEO podcast. I'm your host, Lee Greene, and today I spoke with Ric Kostick, the Co-Founder and CEO of 100% Pure. Founded in 2004, 100% Pure has been a pioneer and innovation leader in the natural beauty industry. With a commitment to producing the purest and healthiest products 100% Pure is on a mission to improve the lives of six billion people and animals, while also being charitable and giving back to our global community. In this episode, Ric talks with us about his entrepreneurial journey from being born and raised in San Francisco with dreams of becoming a fighter pilot, to starting a haircare company for teens with an innovative bottle that now sits in a museum, to meeting his Co-Founders and starting 100% Pure from their garage. Ric talks with us about the many challenges he's experienced along the way in building his business, including why they lost Sephora and QVC as partners, the strategy behind opening 14 stores in the US, and how he expanded the business into China. If you like what you're hearing on the Stairway to CEO podcast, don't forget to click Subscribe to get updates on our new episode releases happening every Tuesday morning. Until then, we hope you enjoy this episode.

Lee: [00:02:13] Hi Ric. Thank you so much for being on the show. I'm really excited to hear your awesome story in building 100% Pure. Thanks for joining us today.

Ric: [00:02:21] Thank you, Lee. I'm super excited to share my journey with your audience.

Lee: [00:02:26] Awesome. So let's start from the very beginning of your childhood, your background. What was it like growing up? Where are you from originally?

Ric: [00:02:35] So I'm actually a San Francisco Bay Area native. I've never left. Was born and raised here. I grew up in Fremont. My parents moved across the bay for my high school, and then I went to Berkeley, so I never left.

Lee: [00:02:52] All right. And did you have any siblings growing up?

Ric: [00:02:55] I did. I had an older sister. I still have an older sister who's down in San Diego.

Lee: [00:03:01] All right. And what did you want to be when you grew up? What were you kind of into back in the day?

Ric: [00:03:07] You know, I always wanted and thought I was going to be a fighter pilot because I really admired my grandfather, who was a marine pilot, and he fought in World War 2, and won his Purple Heart. Said he got shot down three times. I think he was the first wave over Japan. And that never happened. I didn't have really good eyesight, and I knew you needed good eyesight, so that kind of dashed those dreams right away.

Lee: [00:03:36] Yeah. You kind of need to see really well.

Ric: [00:03:38] Yeah. And my parents always thought, and I found this out more recently, my mom told me "I never thought you would become a business person. I thought you would become a doctor because sons, daughters, kids of doctors become doctors." My sister became a PhD doctor focusing on drug delivery and working with the companies to pass their FDA compliance. And so they thought I would go that same path, and I didn't.

Lee: [00:04:07] That's interesting. So both your parents were doctors.

Ric: [00:04:10] They were.

Lee: [00:04:11] And what kind of doctors were they?

Ric: [00:04:13] So my dad was a radiologist and his path was, I would say, relatively boring compared to my mom's. He's a very planned out person. So he planned out his whole career, what age he's going to retire and he has a perfect memory on he reads something, and what is it called? A photographic memory? He is extremely smart.

Lee: [00:04:34] Wow.

Ric: [00:04:34] But my mother was a family doc, and she was more than a family doc. I can tell you a little bit about her history because it's interesting. When she was in medical school, she went to Colorado Medical School, she was the only woman in her class, and she used to get told by the other docs, "What are you doing here? You don't belong here," basically, "You need to be a male to be a doctor. You should be a nurse." And it was really tough. She told me many, many stories about this. So I admire her resilience pushing through there. And not only did she become a doctor, but she excelled. She became chief of staff of the hospital. She became president of the American Academy of Family Docs. She sat on a US Scientific Assembly that helps approve drugs across the US, and she even became an associate professor at Stanford. So I'm very proud of her, and she had a local TV show, too, to help people. She really liked helping people and her favorite patients, she told me, were the ones that couldn't afford it, the ones that couldn't pay her. Those were her favorite ones. She did a tattoo removal clinic on the side for free for the community. She would do that on the weekends, and she really liked working with the ex gang members and taking off their tattoos, and she was very altruistic. I really admire her. She inspired me.

Lee: [00:06:04] That's awesome. That's incredible. I'm glad she pushed through. I mean, it kind of sounds like women a few years ago, maybe even still today, that work in tech. It's not easy. She sounds like an amazing, amazing woman and very inspiring. So you didn't go the doctor route, but did you see kind of looking back, were there any things that you did that were entrepreneurial? Like any early signs that you can look back and say, "Hmm, I was very entrepreneurial."

Ric: [00:06:35] Yeah, I would sell things to people. Even as a kid, I would find whether it's like picking fruits and selling them to the neighbors. I would always see if the neighbors needed their, you know, flowers watered, pets fed, always offer my services, and I would make side money that way. I would always try to make money from my parents. "What can I do? What can I do? Ok, how much can you pay me for doing that?" And I would keep track really diligently in my spreadsheets and then my godparents actually bought me some stock and that got me interested in finance. And so I got really into finance over that, watching stock, and whenever I was asked, "What do you want for your birthday?" I remember like when I was seven or eight, I asked my dad, I said, "I want McDonald's stock." So he bought me some McDonald's stock, for example. I was really into finances. And then when I went to college, graduating high school, I think that's where I actually did more serious work. And I was really good at computers, so I just decided, OK, I'll consult with people for tech, for computers, IT consulting. And I started picking up clients and even worked for the University at Berkeley because my coding skills were... I was really good at coding.

Lee: [00:07:53] Nice.

Ric: [00:07:55] And that earned me some money and that actually got me into beauty, that side gig.

Lee: [00:08:02] So how did that happen?

Ric: [00:08:05] That's happened because one of my clients was a hair salon in San Francisco, and my mom would visit that hair salon as well. And so it was a time when I could connect with my mom when she's doing her appointments and also I would talk to the hair salon owner because I developed his website. You have to keep in mind the timing of this. This is the 90s. I was a freshman in college, just to date myself. It was the late 90s, and the World Wide Web was relatively new. And he started talking about product. We would talk about shampoo, conditioner, all sorts of hair products, the brands on the market, what brands were good, the prices they charged... And one thing we noticed was that there was no products for teenagers, no prestige haircare products for teenagers, and at that time, teenagers were making money. Like I was a teenager. I was 17, and I was working making money. I had spendable income. And we thought, "What if we create a really fun haircare line for teenagers?" And it dawned on me, and I said, "Yeah, and we can sell it through the web because this world wide web where I built the website, we can make it eCommerce enabled, and the teenagers are on it." And so that's what got us our start. So we made a collection, five shampoos, five conditioners. He had connections with a great designer, and that designer designed the bottle, and the bottle sits in the San Francisco Museum of Art still today.

Lee: [00:09:36] So I looked this up, right? So I saw the company called Philou, if I'm pronouncing it...

Ric: [00:09:43] Philou. Correct.

Lee: [00:09:43] Ok? And I took a look at this bottle, and it reminds me of I just saw the documentary, I think it's on Netflix called Halston, and it reminds me of the Halston perfume bottle that was like curved. And the whole issue was all about how the manufacturing process was like he had to have this bottle that was this weird, odd shape. And it, of course, from a business perspective, all the business people didn't want to do it because it would be costing a lot more to make something custom. And every time you do something custom it's just like really tough to do on a supply chain level. So I'm curious, how did that end up happening with this bottle of shampoo?

Ric: [00:10:22] So that's a lesson learned. We spent too much money on it. I mean, we did find a great designer who became more famous. Yves Béhar became more famous after that, not because of the bottle, because of other things he did, although he did a great job on the bottle. But the bottle itself, I remember the molds are extremely expensive and for the amount we were selling, would I do it again? I'm not sure. It was really cool, though. I mean, it's a really cool selling point.

Lee: [00:10:53] Yeah. It looks cool.

Ric: [00:10:54] Yeah. And Darth Vader hat was the cap.

Lee: [00:10:57] Oh, interesting. Interesting. So then what happened from there? So you worked on this company for a while, and you realized it might be a little too expensive or the numbers weren't working out?

Ric: [00:11:10] Well, we made a mistake in our distribution. I really learned a lesson on the distribution side. So we had a chance... Our early customers were Sephora and Nordstrom. And this is how I met Suzie, my current business partner, too, because she also had a line selling into Sephora and Nordstrom. We had similar distribution. And we had a chance to take it into mass. And so we made a deal with the big grocer to take it to mass. And if you go mass and you're in prestige channels, your prestige don't want you anymore. They don't want to be... If Sephora has your product and you go into grocery stores, it's going to change the brand perception. Sephora is no longer going to really want to carry your product unless your sales are extremely high to justify it. And so that happened. So we did that, and that happened. And then we needed closure. We had a board. We raised eight hundred thousand or something for that line. We raised quite a bit because the molds were expensive. And so we ended up selling for distributor. And at the end of the day it wasn't making that much from the business. But the good thing about it is I learned a lot. So it was well worth the education.

Lee: [00:12:30] Yeah.

Ric: [00:12:30] And I also got into formulas because of it, because I worked with the chemist and I started asking the chemist a lot of questions on, you know, what is this ingredient that I can't pronounce? What does that do? And he said, "Why do you care so much about what these ingredients do?" And he kind of got irritated every time because I'd ask him such detail about every single ingredient because I was really curious about it. And it made me start to wonder, are these ingredients really healthy for you? And why are there so many of these ingredients in all the products on the market? Why does everyone formulate the same way?

Lee: [00:13:08] Right? Why do they?

Ric: [00:13:10] Well, there's reasons behind it, so that converges my story on how I met Susie, because when my dad showed me an article in Forbes profiling Susie as they said she could be the next Esté Lauder, she had a line of facial masks she was making out of a dorm room. And as I mentioned, she had the same customers. We were in the same doors with Sephora and Nordstrom. And I reached out to her, and she was also attending UC Berkeley. At the time, we were both attending UC Berkeley, and I reached out to her and said, "Hey, I don't know you, I never met you, but we sell to the same customers, we're doing similar things. Let's chat." And eventually, it took about a year, we started chatting, and we started really thinking about what are these ingredients in the products? And it was to the point where [00:14:03] Susie was formulating for other companies and licensing products for them, but they weren't using her formulas exactly. They would use these chemicals. To your question, why are all these companies putting these ingredients into the product? Because it makes them cheaper and it makes them stable. It's really important. It makes them stable so they can last on the shelf 10 years or more, and their color doesn't vary. Running and developing natural products and extremely pure products, these are the issues we deal with. How do you make sure it doesn't separate your oil and your water phase? How do you make sure the color stays the same batch to batch, product to product? Because in nature, colors change. How do you make sure it can preserve? Because your natural preservatives aren't as strong as your chemical preservatives. It used to be that everyone was using parabens. Now that's cleaned up, but there's still other chemicals out there. In fact, there's chemicals called forever chemicals that are in products that people are finally figuring out. It's called forever because it never leaves your body. [00:15:06]

Lee: [00:15:07] Oh no. What are those? Is there a laundry list?

Ric: [00:15:11] There's a laundry list. There's a laundry list of them. But they're in things like fragrances have them and a lot of harsh preservatives. Chemicals have them. So there's definitely a list, and they're hard to pronounce.

Lee: [00:15:28] Yikes. It's scary out there. It really sucks that we have to be reading labels of words we've never heard of or know how to pronounce. And we're kind of all just left Googling what's this? What's that? And it's such a mess.

Ric: [00:15:39] It is. But Lee, I forgot to say, that's how we started 100% Pure. That's why we... Susie had her contract. She had to sign a contract that was going to say she's either going to license formulas to this big company or not and not do anything else. And she was struggling with it. And I told her, "Look, we know how to make product. We've launched brands before. We could launch a brand," and we don't know who came up with the name 100% Pure. One of us did, and we said, we can call it 100% Pure. And her brother was graduating at the time, and he could help. So the three of us got together, and that's how we launched it with the mission of making very, very healthy products to improve lives.

Lee: [00:16:25] Mm hmm. And it sounds like it was a little bit of your idea to come together and join forces with each other.

Ric: [00:16:32] Right.

Lee: [00:16:33] And so what kind of initial capital... I know you bootstrapped. You have not taken any investor funding, which is incredible. What did you kind of start with? What were you able to wrangle together back in the day to get things off the ground?

Ric: [00:16:46] It's incredible. It's also very, very stressful. If I had to do it over, I don't know if I'd do it that way. But initially I asked my parents for money, so that's always tough to do because you want to prove to them you can do things on your own, on your own success. You don't need their help.

Lee: [00:17:07] Some people don't even have the option of asking.

Ric: [00:17:08] Well, yeah, true. True. So I was very privileged to be able to do that. So I borrowed sixty thousand from my parents. And then James had some cash saved up from his odd jobs he did through college, and he loaned sixty thousand. So we started with about one hundred twenty started the business.

Lee: [00:17:26] And what did that get you and how far?

Ric: [00:17:31] So the way we formulate a lot of the contract labs didn't get it. They don't understand it, they don't even... Number one, they would push against us because they're like, "Why do you want to do it that way?" They just disagree with us and we're the customer, why not just do it our way? It didn't matter. They didn't want to do it our way. They wanted to do it the traditional way to formulate because they're comfortable with that. So that was a struggle. And then they said, OK, we'll do it your way, but our MLQs are going to be five thousand a SKU back then, and their costs are going to be five dollars, six dollars. So you can do the math. We want to launch 20 SKUs. You're a five thousand times 20, you're already at a 100. What is that? A hundred thousand? Right. And in times five dollars, you need half a million to get started just on inventory alone. So that was impossible. We only had 120. So [00:18:26] we were struggling with what to do and it dawned on me that, wait a minute, we know how to formulate. We're the formulators. We know how to put everything together, we know how to make the product. Let's just start up our own little manufacturing out of our kitchen, and we ended up converting our garage to do it. [00:18:42] We were living together in Napa, and we made skincare. We made, I think we started 20 SKUs of skin care and then we leveraged... Suzie had a relationship with The Limited corporation who owned Bath and Body Works, and nobody remembers this... I don't think a single person remembers this. But Bath and Body Works had a concept to compete with Sephora back in 2004. And so that's what gave us our start. They had 100 doors that they turned into multi brand.

Lee: [00:19:10] Interesting. Very interesting. I'm very familiar with that store, but I don't remember that happening. So that's very interesting. So then what happened from there? You guys were in the garage cooking up some awesome cosmetics. What were some of those first products that you created and how did you take it from there?

Ric: [00:19:29] Yeah. What's interesting is our number one hero product, our Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream, we created in the beginning, and it's still a top product today. That was one of our original products.

Lee: [00:19:42] I feel so lucky to have one of those in my hands right now. It is pretty awesome. Thank you for sending a bunch of product. I've been trying it out. It's been so awesome and amazing. This Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream is really magic. Also am wearing the lip gloss you sent. It's this fruit pigmented lip gloss. It actually smells really good and tastes good, too. And it's actually it's like this sheer gloss where it's not like too thick. It's not too shiny. It looks really natural. So I'm really, really liking this one.

Ric: [00:20:18] Thank you. Thank you. Through the pandemic, lip gloss actually got more popular.

Lee: [00:20:22] Really?

Ric: [00:20:22] Lipstick went down a little bit, but lip gloss, for some reason, took off.

Lee: [00:20:26] I think that you guys are on to something with this kind of, I think you guys call it semi-sheer or something like that, which is really interesting because, yeah, I think if it's too glossy, it's like, yikes. But if it's like that perfect middle ground, which you guys have done, I think it's just like a great daily thing.

Ric: [00:20:46] Thank you.

Lee: [00:20:47] And this aromatherapy oil, this peppermint oil, it's like, I carry it with me everywhere. It smells so good, and it's a stress reliever for sure.

Ric: [00:20:55] You need that, and you can use it all over your temples, your forehead, the back of your neck everywhere.

Lee: [00:21:01] Nice. Smells amazing. This French lavender hand butter cream is awesome. Everything just smells good, and it looks awesome. I've been trying a bunch of these things and it's just so incredible what you guys have done with it being vegan, cruelty free, gluten free, nontoxic. I just really love the concept and what you guys are doing. Thanks so much for sending stuff.

Ric: [00:21:25] Thank you. And all natural fragrances is important because you don't want any artificial fragrances. That goes back to the forever chemicals and phthalates and hormone disruptors and things like that.

Lee: [00:21:37] And the color coming from fruit, which is really cool. I mean, because you put this stuff on your mouth, you know?

Ric: [00:21:43] Right.

Lee: [00:21:43] It's crazy.

Ric: [00:21:44] So that happened because Susie was picking blackberries, and she showed me her fingers, and she said, "Look, Ric, look at how these blackberries are staining my fingers.  [00:21:53]If you've ever picked blackberries, you'll see this stain is hard to get off your fingers. And she said, "How do we put this in a product?" And so we put it in, you know, the first product we made with it in the lab was we just put in a base of butters, like shea butter or cocoa butter. You just add the pigment in, melt the butter, and you have a product that you can use as a blush, as a lip. And then from there, we perfected it over 15 years of innovation. And one of the things that people don't really know about us is we led a lot of the innovations in the natural side of the industry. A lot of the preservatives you see in clean today are ones we were the first to use in beauty. Like [00:22:35] potassium sorbate sodium benzoate was a combination I used early on and I took from the food industry. It wasn't used in beauty, it was just something I noticed. Pronanzi ethanol was another one. We used one Japanese honeysuckle I really like. It got a bad rap, and I think it's unfair. I disagree with the negative things said about it, but we don't have to go into that on this podcast. That's unfortunate because I really like that one. And so those are some examples. We figured out methods to emulsify in production using high shear and different equipment. [00:23:14] And it's really an art when you're making a natural product. Really art has a lot to do with it. You have to be very, very precise on things to get it to mix extremely well. And then even our Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream. Now on the market, there's other caffeine eye creams. It's quite common, but we were the original, so we're the OG on that one. [00:23:34] Garnier was the first to copy us. That was the first thing I saw as far as the second one, but it took them a few years.

Lee: [00:23:41] The OG in caffeine.

Ric: [00:23:43] Yeah.

Lee: [00:23:45] That's awesome. So the company was founded in 2004. You guys have been in business for a long time. You've got so much, I'm sure you've been learning over the years. What are some of the key takeaways or, you know, things that you've learned the most about building a business?

Ric: [00:24:00] Oh my goodness. You have to really want it. I mean, [00:24:04] there's so many challenges as an entrepreneur, it's very rewarding, too, but you definitely go through a lot, and I don't think it's easy. I'm [00:24:17] sure there are people out there that will say it's easy, but you have to have that inner drive and really want it because at the end of the day... I read this study, and I can't unfortunately give you the source of the study because I don't remember the source, but it was that the average entrepreneur makes less on a per hour basis than if they went the path of just working for someone else. So if it's really about the money, you should work for someone else, you'll make more on average. You're more likely to make more by working for someone else going that path. So you have to have a passion for something more than money. It can't be about the money. You're not going to succeed if it's just about the money. Maybe you will. But from my perspective, it's going to be highly likely that you won't. You've got to have something more than just the money.

Lee: [00:25:04] Yeah. Starting a company is very high risk. There's a lot of success stories out there, and I'm guilty of providing a lot of those, but there's a lot more failures. There should be a show about just, you know, interviewing a bunch of failures, like failing companies.

Ric: [00:25:23] Nobody would want to listen though.

Lee: [00:25:26] Why not? There are so many lessons that are learned in those experiences

Ric: [00:25:29] That you learn from... I fail so many times. Oh my goodness. That's the other thing. As an entrepreneur, you fail so many times, but you have to keep getting up and pushing yourself forward, and you always hear about the successes and they always seem like they're overnight, but no success is overnight. There's so much hard work and grit that goes behind all the success you hear about. It's not that easy.

Lee: [00:25:50] Tell us about some of the most challenging moments you've had in building the company. Like, what's one of the biggest challenges you've had to overcome?

Ric: [00:25:58] Oh, there were so many. It's hard to say the biggest. I can give you some examples, and I'll probably think of bigger ones as I give you some examples. So, you know, when we developed our fruit pigment cosmetics, we took it to QVC in 2006. And we lost the QVC business in 2009 during the recession. And that was nearly, that was the bulk, the majority of our sales at the time. And when you lose business with QVC or any home shopping, all your inventory comes back to you because you own that inventory. It's consignment. And so we had I think we were around $6 million in sales at the time. And maybe four point five was from QVC.

Lee: [00:26:46] Wow.

Ric: [00:26:47] And so all the inventory is coming back and it's like, "What do we do? How do we pay our bills? What are we going to do with all this inventory?" Because it's aging inventory. Cosmetics. You can't keep it around. It doesn't last. And when it came back, it made me realize, what are we good at? What are our talents? What do I really understand? And I realized I really understand the direct to consumer business, the digital business. So maybe we just need to lean in on the direct to consumer business. And that's what we did is I really focused on the web side of the business, and I used all that inventory coming back to run gift with purchases, all of these fantastic promotions that our customers just ate up and they really loved. And it worked, and we were able to... We decreased. We did. But I made up for the shortfall, and I think we ended the next year at five point three, so we went from six to five point three but we backfill, you know, a good four million of that business.

Lee: [00:27:46] Wow.

Ric: [00:27:47] So that was a big risk. I can tell you, I remember... Another challenging thing is when you're with partners... So I remember losing Sephora. So we had Susie's original brand when we met and we came together, we kept it around and we kept it in Sephora and we managed it. And we lost Sephora primarily because we were having issues with our natural formulations being messy on the tester shelves.

Lee: [00:28:16] Oh, really?

Ric: [00:28:16] Because we were making things with fruits and vegetables, and think about it, it got sticky, and we weren't the best, you know, it was hard because it doesn't... The natural formulas don't work like your traditional formulas. This is why traditional formulas use the chemicals because they can make them perfect and look nice on the shelf and not be messy. But ours got messy. And so we lost the account. This was even before the QVC. And that was tough. That was like most of our sales at the time. And keeping the partner, [00:28:53] when you're working with partners, it's hard not to blame each other. You have to really ensure that you blame processes, not people. [00:29:01] And especially if it's your business partner, you don't get at each other. So that was very challenging. Another one was we went through, I don't know how much I can talk about it, but I can talk on a broad level, we went through like an employee lawsuit early on. Some fraud overhead with someone we employed for three months, and we spent like half a million on that over the course of two or three years. But really the worst of it was how it impacted the partners and the partnership. It was really challenging on that side of things.

Lee: [00:29:38] You mean like retail partners with all this lawsuit stuff?

Ric: [00:29:41] No, I mean, the Founders, the three of us together, when you're going through a real challenge like that.

Lee: [00:29:48] Yeah.

Ric: [00:29:49] It definitely gets tense and creates challenges that way. You have to really, you know, working with someone for so long that's also an art. That's also something you have to work on. Like any relationship, you have to work on it. It doesn't just happen naturally.

Lee: [00:30:06] Mm hmm. What are some of the things that you do or would advise, you know, advice that you have for working on a business type of partnership? Like, how do you keep it healthy? How do you deal with conflict resolution?

Ric: [00:30:21] That's really important. Communication is extremely key on that front. So you want to have your regular modes of communication. I've heard stories of business owners over time where they don't talk to their partner for long periods of time, and it amazes me.

Lee: [00:30:38] Yeah, how does that happen? How do you get business together without talking?

Ric: [00:30:43] I was wondering the same thing.

Lee: [00:30:43] I mean, are they just over in left field? You're in right field, and we just hope we end up scoring a goal? Like, how is that?

Ric: [00:30:48] Yeah, so don't do that. It's not healthy. It's not healthy. And then imagine when you're a bigger company and you have staff, employees, imagine what's your staff thinking? Because they're picking up on all this. You think maybe it's hidden behind doors, but the grapevine is works very, very well in a lot of businesses.

Lee: [00:31:04] Of course. I mean, I think every employee just loves to talk. You know, it's like, what else are they talking about? Let's talk about some drama in the office, right?

Ric: [00:31:11] Yeah, especially with the Founders and the partners. So you know, you really want to work on those relationships and communication, talking things out, getting aligned, and especially when you're going to disagree on some things. So figuring out who is in charge of what space, who gets to be the final decision maker in what area? That's really important because if you're both making the decision or all the partners are making a decision in one area and you have different ideas, it's really tough to move forward.

Lee: [00:31:42] In the scenario that the final decision maker for that, you know, let's say it's marketing or something, and they have the final decision on all things marketing, but you don't really agree at all, like pretty strongly about what they want to do, but they're supposed to have the say. So then what? How do you approach that kind of conflict?

Ric: [00:32:03] So now you're talking about my marketing. I'm just thinking my marketing team is going to listen to this and now I need to be careful what I say.

Lee: [00:32:11] No, not yours. Just in general and from a Founder level from like the Co-Founder level, because you were talking about final say, maybe...

Ric: [00:32:17] Let's just say the marketing team. Your marketing team has a different vision than, say, the Founder or the CEO, for that matter.

Lee: [00:32:26] I was more saying Co-Founder conflict. So like the Co-Founder is, you know, more of a marketing person, and they have this idea of what they want to do, but you're CEO...

Ric: [00:32:35] We've had this, we've had this, we've had this. So for example, I'll give you a real life example of this. I think it'll be OK. The partners told me, we were two promotional. Running too many promotions. And the thing is, from my perspective, I need to hit our financial numbers. And if we pull back on promotions too much, we're not going to get our customer acquisition high enough. And also, our sales will be low, and the way we've modeled it, we don't have wide wholesale distribution through other partners. Like we don't have a major account like Sephora or Ulta. I would love to, but we don't have one. So we're highly DTC, direct through our website. When you have a wholesale partner, a lot of times you can run those promotions through your partners, so you can keep your branded site very elevated, very prestige, and you can promote, let your partners promote and generate the turnover in product. But since we don't have that, we need to generate high product sales through our website, so we run exciting promotions for a website.

Lee: [00:33:40] So with the Co-Founder conflict, who would make the decision?

Ric: [00:33:45] So they let me make the decision. They just told me they disagree. So that's the toughest thing is they disagree and I can't convince them. You know, I gave you the explanation, but it's not good enough. So you know, those are challenges. At the end of the day, I hope that the numbers justify it. The fact that we're growing, and we're growing at this growth rate, that they see that the things we're doing is working.

Lee: [00:34:07] Yeah, there's got to be, it sounds like, a lot of trust involved with the person who's making those final decisions and hoping that everything is decided that way for a good reason, and it should turn out just fine.

Ric: [00:34:22] You nailed it. [00:34:23] Trust is the most important thing. Our fastest years of growth are the years where we trusted each other the most. The three Founders. Those were our fastest years when we grew 30-40 percent. I would say that's really important. If you support each other one hundred percent, and you trust each other, the overall organization is going to thrive because of that and be at its highest level. [00:34:47]

Lee: [00:34:48] So trust and support are key for a founding team.

Ric: [00:34:52] For sure. For sure. Without it, it's going to slow you down. It's extremely key.

Lee: [00:34:57] And so you guys have expanded to China. I'm curious, you know, obviously it's the largest beauty market along with the USA, but what kind of made you guys decide to expand to China and how did that happen? What was that like?

Ric: [00:35:13] Yeah. So that's interesting because China has always been on my eye because it was always the third, now it's the second, but it was always the third largest market. It used to go US, Japan, China, Brazil. Or originally it was actually US, Japan, Brazil, China. And then China surpassed Brazil, and then China surpassed Japan. So I always knew that one day it's going to surpass the US as the biggest economy, so we should try to get our foot in the door because it's a huge market where we can spread our mission to even more people because [00:35:46] it's our mission to improve the lives of six billion people and animals. The US is 300 million people and a lot of animals. I don't know how many animals. A lot of animals. With China is even more so. China has a billion people and even more magnitude of animals on top of it. So I felt like we really need to stay true to our mission. And if we're really trying to stay true to our mission, we need to be where the people are around the world and people are in China. People are in the US. So it's not like we're ignoring the US. It's just natural to think, where are we going to focus some energy in the future? Well, let's focus on China. [00:36:23] And so I didn't get an opportunity to... I didn't know how I was going to answer China. I explored it a bunch of different ways and this was throughout 2013/14. I looked at what's called, you hear them referred to as TPs, Trade Partners. There are people who will represent your brand in China and they'll handle the marketing. The predominant channel for selling for consumer goods in China is Tmall. And the other thing with China is we don't animal test, and China would not let you register your products if you animal test. There's a way around that where you can ship cross-border and you don't have to register your product. So that was the way I planned to do it. I say, OK, we're not going to take any risk. We're not going to animal test, but we can sell cross-border. And so Tmall has a platform, Tmall Global, for brands that sell cross-border. So that's where I identified we'll sell to China in. And when I got quotes from the TPs, it was roughly going to work out to around 20,000 a month to enter China, to do the marketing and hire the TP. And I thought, you know, 20,000? To me, that was expensive at the time and I was thinking, why are they so expensive? Twenty thousand a month, I should be able to hire my own people in China to do this. And that way they can devote 100 percent of their time to marketing 100% Pure and spreading our mission throughout China. And so that's the route I chose.

Lee: [00:37:52] Oh, OK. Right. So you didn't really go to this kind of like agency model thing with the Trade Partners. How did you just find your own people to run the business in China?

Ric: [00:38:04] So I ended up forming a subsidiary. And also, as part of that journey, I met my wife who is from China. And I just had a son a year ago, so my son is half Chinese, and so my wife immigrated from China when she was in her twenties. So she's still a Chinese citizen today, and I formed the company in her city, which made it easy because then I could visit her family. We can go there and then I can conduct the business, and I will know people to help because there's an ecosystem there, connected through different connections and banks, government things like that is really important. And the other thing in China is you really need someone you can trust because they can run away with your money very easily. I heard about stories where like you buy a company car like a van, and you hire a driver and the driver drives away with the van, you don't see him, you don't see your van again. You know things like that you hear about. So I knew the first key hire was really, really important. I needed to develop a relationship with that key hire. So I hired my General Manager and he is still my General Manager today and really worked on that relationship.

Lee: [00:39:17] Wow. That was a good hire. Where did you find him? Was he a friend of your wife's?

Ric: [00:39:20] No, we just did our regular job. I had my HR in the US help me with a job search, and I had actually had someone on my accounting team who spoke Chinese, who was actually from that same city go with me and help me translate because I don't speak Chinese. I've taken years of Chinese, but I don't speak it entirely fluently, so I need a translator.

Lee: [00:39:41] It's a tough language.

Ric: [00:39:42] It is.

Lee: [00:39:44] Well, that's amazing. So I mean, in this person is still with you, which is so impressive. So business wise, you know, how big is your business in China versus the US? What's that look like?

Ric: [00:39:57] So today, it's about five percent trending towards 10 percent of the business. So it's faster growing than the rest of the business. But we operated unprofitably for many years to grow it, and now I've given the instructions that we need to operate profitably. So we're slowing down growth a little bit to make it more profitable. So China is, I would call it, a little tricky market because you can lose a lot of money very easily.

Lee: [00:40:26] Interesting. A lot of people, I think, have the opposite idea.

Ric: [00:40:31] Hear the stories.

Lee: [00:40:32] Yeah, yeah, you launch there, and big bucks.

Ric: [00:40:34] It's back to the stories because there are a few success stories that you hear about that overnight they do one hundred million in sales. I mean, yeah, you can do it. We did half a million sales in three minutes using an influencer on on Taobao Live. Yeah, that happens in China.

Lee: [00:40:51] In China.

Ric: [00:40:52] And you can scale up from there. But it takes a lot of work and a lot of luck. A little bit of luck and a lot of work.

Lee: [00:41:02] So in terms of influencers, what's your strategy here in the US with influencers? How have you leveraged them? Has that been successful for the brand?

Ric: [00:41:11] It's interesting you talk, you ask that because it goes back to the marketing buy in. I wanted to work with influencers right when they started, but I couldn't get buy in across my team. Everyone. Founders. Everyone thought I was crazy, that I wanted to work with this rising class called influencers.

Lee: [00:41:29] Yeah. What year was that?

Ric: [00:41:31] I just remember being in our, we had a place in Alameda. We were operating out of 3000 square feet, and it must have been 2008. It must have been. It was really early.

Lee: [00:41:42] Oh yeah. That's super early.

Ric: [00:41:42] It was really early days. I wanted to jump on early. I really believed in it.

Lee: [00:41:46] Yeah. That was like the day of the blog. That's like when blogs were really big. Yes. So that's the kind of... So not even the Instagram influencer was like existing yet. It was just bloggers.

Ric: [00:41:58] Yeah, no Instagram at this point. Facebook was just coming out. So it might have been 2009 or 10. I can't remember. It was around those years, and we jumped on Facebook early because of that. But more recently we partnered with... So influencers work really well in China. You have to have that as part of your strategy. And [00:42:19] I use China as kind of the model of eCommerce of the future because they bypassed the whole desktop computer phase. They went straight to mobile because nobody had desktops. Nobody has desktops at home in China that I know of. No one I know of does. They all use their mobile devices. So they bypassed desktop, went to mobile, and their eCommerce is extremely advanced because of that. [00:42:44] And so I see China as the sales are done through a marketplace Tmall, and they're primarily driven by influencers. And influencers in China, they make tons of money. It is insane. Like 50 million a year in USD, 100 million a year USD.

Lee: [00:43:03] It sounds like they're selling a lot of product and maybe it's worth it.

Ric: [00:43:09] It's worth it. It's worth it. I mean, they're making money and it's worth it. It's just incredible amounts. I can't believe it, but it's happening, and I think that's the potential in the US is that influencers could potentially get near that level. But it's been kind of a roller coaster ride working with influencers because it's hit or miss. It's really hard to identify the ones that work? And I keep going back to China, for example, because we have more experience working with influencers there, but we worked with a top influencer. And it didn't work, and it was because she didn't identify with the brand, and we realized that she's selling like fur clothing, and that's like a no no with us. Had I known that I wouldn't have partnered with her to begin with. But she wasn't aligned with our cruelty free vision and our veganism. And then we partnered with an influencer who is very much into love to animals, animal rights, and her fans also cared about animals a lot, and she worked really well. She was a smaller influencer. But it worked really well. In the US, it's the same. You need to find the influencers that identify with your values, with your core values, and your mission, and when you find that it can be a great match. To throw someone out there like Fully Raw Kristina is a food influencer we found, and we work with her on beauty and she's amazing and her core values and the things she identifies with matches entirely with our brand.

Lee: [00:44:47] Mm hmm. Well, it's interesting that you say food influencer, because I think one of the misconceptions out there in working with influencers is that you're a beauty brand, you should work with beauty influencers not outside of that, right? But really, it's a holistic lifestyle.

Ric: [00:45:04] It's wellness. Beauty and wellness are converging. So you're going to see a lot of beauty brands become wellness brands. Even us, to some extent, I feel we're a wellness brand. So we're working on some things within beyond beauty.

Lee: [00:45:18] Nice. Right, so the lines are getting blurred between what we eat and what we put on our skin.

Ric: [00:45:25] That's right. And typically you'll see what's interesting with the beauty industry is you will see trends happen in food and then follow into beauty. This is typically how it happens. You can watch it like an ingredient will get popular in the food side, and then you'll notice, Oh, it just got popular in the beauty side.

Lee: [00:45:43] What's another example other than the caffeine coffee beans stuff that's been happening that you guys basically invented or created for the beauty industry? What's a food that's happening right now that you've seen a trend that's happening now in beauty because of the food trend?

Ric: [00:45:59] Well, there's CBD got very popular, but there's another herb ashwagandha.

Lee: [00:46:05] Yeah.

Ric: [00:46:06] That one was a very popular herb on the internal side, and it was more supplement than food. But there's a lot of topical benefits from ashwagandha. And it's because what you eat is good for you is an antioxidant and antioxidants are great for your skin and your skin is also ingesting.

Lee: [00:46:24] Well, that's interesting. Yeah, I mean, because that ashwagandha ingredient is very popular, especially in drinks. Beverages. It's all over the beverage aisle of Erewhon, which I'm not sure if you're familiar with Erewhon. It's a grocery store here on the West Coast, mostly in LA, that has amazing kind of new brands there that are like, you know, plant based and up and coming. It's a great place to discover.

Ric: [00:46:47] I think we might be talking to them, actually. I remember my Head of Sales...

Lee: [00:46:51] Yeah, you guys should be in there.

Ric: [00:46:53] Yeah, yeah, we might end up being in there.

Lee: [00:46:56] Yeah, I hope they expand their selection of skincare and beauty and stuff like that because right now it's kind of a grocery store with like one aisle, half an aisle with like skincare stuff. So cool. So you have lots of stores. What's kind of your retail strategy and opening up your own stores in the US? I think you have like 14 stores now.

Ric: [00:47:22] Yes. And that's also been quite an experience. So our first store, we opened in Berkeley and it was literally Susie and I were having coffee because we lived in Berkeley. You know, we went to school there and we were commuting and we stop at a cafe and have coffee and we saw a space for lease, and this was two thousand 2006 or 2005. Gosh, I can't even remember, but we just said, "I wonder what it's like to open a retail store." And we saw it for lease. We called the landlord, and he didn't want to give us the lease because he never heard of us, we don't have financials, and we begged him and told him we'll pay full asking and do whatever increases he wanted, and he said, "OK, we'll give you a shot." And then we went to IKEA and picked up shelves and went to a sign shop, bought a sign, and then went to Office Depot, bought that cash register, and we opened shop in literally two weeks on a shoestring.

Lee: [00:48:20] {laughter} That's insane.

Ric: [00:48:21] But the thing is, the community really supported us. The Berkeley community has been amazing supporting our Elmwood store there. And even to this day, that's been our original store. We've kept it. We've since updated it, so it's no longer the IKEA shelves.

Lee: [00:48:38] Right. It's a little fancier.

Ric: [00:48:39] Yes. Yes. So that got us our start. And then the QVC business took off in 2006, so I forgot we hired a manager of the store, and we kind of forgot about it and just let it run and didn't put much attention. What I mean by forgot about it, we didn't put much energy or attention into it. We empowered our local team to manage it, run it and grow it. And I realized especially when we lost QVC, I realized we need some alternative avenues of distribution. And when I said, let's focus on the web, I was thinking, let's focus on the DTC altogether direct to consumer through web supplemented by brick and mortar. And I showed Susie and James, my business partners, I said, "Look, Berkeley, it makes money, and it's a great way where we can connect with the consumer and they can try our products in person and we can educate them in person. Why don't we try another store?" And so they said, "OK." And we opened up and spent more money on a Santana row in San Jose location. That was our second one. And then the San Francisco Airport Authority walked through there and said they liked our concept. They liked our staff, how knowledgeable they are. And they asked us to open a store at the airport, which is a lot harder than just being asked and going in there. You actually have to submit a bid and go through a process, and it's a lot of work. But it worked and that became our number one store was our San Francisco airport store, which we closed down during the pandemic. And I have to say thank you to the airport because they let us close down early from our lease due to that.

Lee: [00:50:15] Wow.

Ric: [00:50:16] Which was nice of them.

Lee: [00:50:18] But that's still a bummer. That's still a bummer. I mean, COVID... What other challenges did you guys face with COVID?

Ric: [00:50:24] Well, here's the thing. So we have those three doors and those three doors are very successful. They're in our home market. We had a lot of support. And I thought it was pretty much you just lease a place, open up the doors, and you're successful. That's what it seemed like.

Lee: [00:50:37] Right, of course.

Ric: [00:50:39] So I went on a binge and I opened up, gosh, we went up to 12 stores. I opened nine more stores within like 18 months.

Lee: [00:50:47] Wow.

Ric: [00:50:48] And we got banks to loan us for the build out for the CapEx. And yeah, and I learned my lesson that you can't just open doors and expect it to be success, especially we signed a lot of mall leases. And they were expensive, and I thought they were expensive because they could drive a lot of revenue. But now, in retrospect, we're going to have to pivot our retail a little bit because not every store is profitable. And the division as a whole has struggled, especially through COVID. We had to close doors. And then now we're fully open, but we're not entirely recovered. We're almost there. We're almost there.

Lee: [00:51:29] What was your decision making process to opening up a store in a specific location? What were you looking for most?

Ric: [00:51:38] I change it now, but back then I empowered and partnered with some people who I thought were experts in making those decisions, and I really empowered them to do it. And in retrospect, I should have been more involved in it and been a little more strategic on the locations, because now I realize the locations that work for us are more inner city. So say downtown areas, open air, where people are out like Santana Row makes sense in San Jose. It's an open air lifestyle center. We're down in University Town Center in San Diego UTC. That's an outdoor mall. So like an outdoor where there's other activities going on, that makes sense. A community store makes sense for the community, comes down and supports it. But our retail strategy can't... I don't want it to make up more than 10 or 15 percent of our total revenue at any time. I feel like it's great to supplement your digital business, but it's not going to be the core of our business. It's just another avenue that we can contact with the consumer. And then we're also leveraging our retail staff because we have this army of experts in our retail staff. And so we're leveraging them to talk to consumers through our website. They man our chat or women our chat, man and women on our chat. And so when you go on our product page and you ask a question, it goes to our store associate and they can chat with you on video and show you product and demo product for you.

Lee: [00:53:12] Nice.

Ric: [00:53:13] Give you a consultation. And then they're doing masterclasses through social and I'm trying to incentivize them to create YouTube videos. And so creating content, they're [00:53:23] really the store of the future, the retail associates, are content creators, [00:53:27] in my opinion.

Lee: [00:53:28] Yes. I mean, Macy's, they already are. You know, Macy's style crew is like an influencer program for their retail associates essentially.

Ric: [00:53:38] I actually didn't know about that. I'll look into that.

Lee: [00:53:40] The only reason I know that is because I worked at Grin. And so I've had my, you know, head in the influencer space for a while and yeah, worked with influencers in my own company, WearAway, and stuff like that. So I've been in this space for a while. But yes, that is exactly right. That is the future. Retail associates are basically content creators and influencers now. That is the future. So what's the biggest thing you've learned about becoming a leader, a Founder, and a CEO?

Ric: [00:54:14] Oh, that's a really good question. The biggest thing I learned about becoming a leader CEO is you learn so much. I don't know what the biggest lesson is. It's not about the financials, there's more to it than that. It's really about your mission. The fact that if I look back and said, wow, we really hope to make a change across the industry, that's really cool. I don't know if that's a learning or that's like the biggest takeaway I had from it. And also the fact that I hope that the staff that I've helped grow and help coach to see them go on and accomplish great things, that's also really cool to see that. As far as what I learned, I've learned so much. I can't think of one singular thing.

Lee: [00:55:06] It's just all mashed together. Yeah, sure. Well, also being a Founder, leader, anything, it takes so much persistence. What is your why or how do you stay resilient? How do you persevere?

Ric: [00:55:27] I have a personal mission. And I get conflicted with my personal mission because I don't know if some people would say, maybe it's your ego. I don't know, but my personal mission, I don't care if it's known that it's me or not, but my personal mission is that I want to make sure that while I'm on this Earth or in this universe, that I make a difference here. That I have a purpose that I make this place a better place. I make this, now you can't just say Earth anymore. I make this universe a better place than when I first came into it.

Lee: [00:56:02] Yeah, that's a pretty big why. That probably helps you get up in the morning.

Ric: [00:56:07] Yeah, I don't want to be here, just to be here. I don't want to be here, just exist and just flow through and just exist. I want to actually improve things.

Lee: [00:56:15] So easy to just keep flowing and think, "Oh yeah, maybe I'll work there. I'll just keep doing this..."

Ric: [00:56:20] There's a lesson. There's a lesson doing business. You have to take the risk, you have to do it. You have to make a decision with limited information. That's really, really important. You have to move forward and who cares if you fail? Because as long as you're successful 60 percent of the time, as long as your decisions are right 60 percent of the time you're going to make progress. But if you never, ever take the risk and you never do it, then you're not going to make the progress. So [00:56:48] you have to be OK with failure. It can't bother you. It's got to be like water off your back. Nothing. Move on. [00:56:56]

Lee: [00:56:56] If you could change anything about your journey, what would you have changed? Maybe take investor money?

Ric: [00:57:04] Yeah, I think I would try to grow it faster, like if I could transport what I know now into what I knew then, I would say try to grow faster. Don't be afraid of taking other people's money to try, and even deluding yourself. It's fine. And even seeking the money. We didn't seek the money. And grow faster to accomplish your mission. Really focus on the mission.

Lee: [00:57:31] What kind of qualities do you think make up a strong entrepreneur? Because I don't know if everybody's cut out for it. What do you think?

Ric: [00:57:40] Resilience is one. You have to be resilient. You have to be able to handle failure. If you can't handle failure, it's going to be really tough for you because as an entrepreneur, you're going to fail. We all do. In fact, the most successful entrepreneurs fail the most.

Lee: [00:57:56] When is a time that you failed?

Ric: [00:57:58] So many times. Gosh. Whether it's like we wired money for mascara tubes and the guy who ran away with the money. That a failure? That was early on. I mean, I feel like I learned a lot in management and I would say I failed as a manager when I was younger.

Lee: [00:58:28] In what way?

Ric: [00:58:28] I would say I didn't empower enough. I was too micromanaging. I just wasn't a good manager. I was too micromanaging.

Lee: [00:58:40] Well, so how did you learn to be a better manager?

Ric: [00:58:44] Studied a lot. Studied and read. You have to. That's the other thing, you have to read a lot. If you're a voracious reader, that will help you quite a bit. So I read all I can. Study all I can. Take classes all I can. And for example, even right now, I'm constantly learning. I'm in Harvard's Owner President Management Program right now. That's to make me a better leader. That's the reason why I'm doing it. I'm studying.

Lee: [00:59:09] That's amazing. What else have you studied on the side to kind of help you level up your skills?

Ric: [00:59:16] I joined YPO, an organization that really focuses on lifelong learning, and so they offer tons of programs to help sharpen your skills. So I always take advantage of those programs. There's another program. But if you don't, you're not at the level of YPO you can join. I think EOS is the other program, if I got that right, for smaller companies. So joining associations can help you learn even more. I highly recommend you Network Network Network. [00:59:46] That's another kind of key element of success is having a very strong network. You got to focus on your network. I would say my network is extremely strong. If I need something or need access to someone, I can get it because of my strong network. [01:00:00]

Lee: [01:00:01] Yeah. And how do you maintain those relationships with your network?

Ric: [01:00:07] That's a challenging part. That's a really good question because you have limited time. And so you have to work on it. And you might want to break out who are your close people, your close friends, and how often do you see them and you have to work on it? You need to make a phone call and even put on your calendar if you need. You have to be very organized as you grow, and so you can use your calendar and put on your calendar. I'll contact these people once a month. I'll check in with this circle of friends once a quarter. Keep in touch with these people once a year. It's tough because your network gets really huge, and that's a challenge.

Lee: [01:00:45] Yep, it's a lot of people to be reaching out to and managing. What about meetings? Like what some of the nitty gritty stuff, day to day ops that you think really moved the needle in efficiency and whatnot?

Ric: [01:01:03] Once you get to the point you really have to rely on other people to drive things forward, that's where you get to your next level of challenge. That's like, OK, leveled up new challenges. It doesn't come from me anymore, I can't drive things forward because it's only one of me. I have to rely on other people. So as far as meetings go, those one on ones are extremely important where you're... So it used to be, so speaking of a manager, the way I did one on ones when I was an early manager is I used to just drill down like ask question and answer, update, question and answer. And it wasn't fun for the staff to do that. I remember my mom loaned me this light from the hospital. It's like one of those spotlights. And I did a meeting with my supply chain manager back when we were a tiny company, and I set up the light in the warehouse with a folding table and we had chairs and I just asked her, "Where is this shipment? Where is that shipment? Where is this? And OK, what's the update on this?" And later she told me it was like interrogation. So that's what not to do in meetings. So now in meetings, it's really how can I help my staff? I really look forward to my one on ones because it's my ability to really help my staff be successful. So we look at unique KPIs, key performance indicators. I think most people know it now. You need KPIs metrics to run your business off of. It's extremely important you get those in place to drive it forward and you set goals and everyone knows what they are and you focus on them.

Lee: [01:02:35] Yeah, absolutely.

Ric: [01:02:36] And so we drill into that in the meetings and then what are your biggest issues? Tackling the issues is the most important thing you can do with your direct reports. Help them through the most challenging issues.

Lee: [01:02:47] Do you think that would have worked as a very early team back in that interrogation room you created? Would that different style of management be suited for a smaller team?

Ric: [01:02:59] I think it would have worked better. I agree. I should have empowered her more. She was even an MBA grad and I treated her like that, so I feel very embarrassed about the way I used to manage.

Lee: [01:03:12] I think we all do. I think everybody who's ever managed anyone for the first time like, I feel bad for that person, right? It's just like, I'm sorry, I didn't know what I was doing, you know? We all figure it out.

Ric: [01:03:24] For sure.

Lee: [01:03:26] So what kind of final advice do you have, I guess, for any of the listeners tuning in that are thinking about starting a business or are in it, they're in the trenches right now? What advice do you have?

Ric: [01:03:41] I would say two things. One is just if you're thinking about something, trying to make a decision on something, just do it and then trust in life, you really have to trust. You just make the decision. You do it and then believe that life wants to grow you because it does.

Lee: [01:03:56] I like that.

Ric: [01:03:57] You're here for a journey, and you just believe just trust in life. Or maybe for some people, it's God. Trust in God. Trust in life because they want to grow you. They want you to succeed. Don't push against it. So if you're struggling to make a decision, just move forward. Don't wait until it's perfect. Just move forward with imperfection. It's OK. It's more about how often you do things, rather than how perfect you are on something.

Lee: [01:04:24] Interesting. How often you do things.

Ric: [01:04:27] Yeah, how often you make decisions because you make a decision and you fail, then you make another decision and you're successful. And you make another decision, you fail, and you make another decision, you're successful. And then hopefully, as long as you're successful more than your failures or your successes are bigger, you'll ultimately be more successful.

Lee: [01:04:45] Yeah, as long as you're learning from the failures, right?

Ric: [01:04:48] Hopefully you're learning from them. Right. Don't let them frustrate you, and you have to let it go. That's the other thing. You've got to let it go. If you fail, you don't want to... If you let it eat you up, you're not going to move forward

Lee: [01:05:01] Or you beat yourself up over it, which is even worse. What do you do? I'm sure by now the muscle is so strong it just as water off your back. But back in the day, I'm sure it's like really tough to build that muscle of resilience. I mean, how'd you do it? What tips and tricks do you have for that?

Ric: [01:05:19] I have some really good ones. I'm really big on mindfulness. And I've taken it's always good to have a coach. I recommend everyone have a coach. If you can afford to have a coach...

Lee: [01:05:31] Like an executive coach?

Ric: [01:05:33] I would say blend of like a life executive coach to help you grow as a person. And I had a really good coach, Anna Scott, out of Oakland. I highly recommend her if anyone hears this, that is nearby her. But she taught me really great lessons on dealing with those type of situations. So one of the things you do is you start to get curious and you get curious and you take yourself out of your body because there's two of you you want to really ground yourself into ground yourself. You take yourself out. So there's your ego and there's the real you. So get curious and look, kind of look at yourself from the outside and say, like, "Wow, it's so interesting that this other person is affecting you, Ric. Isn't that interesting how this other person is making you feel so upset? That's so interesting." Just get curious and it takes you out of that moment and grounds you. So you can do that. Another thing was taught by, I like this book Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine, and he teaches you how to do these what he calls positive intelligence kind of moments. And you can do them in almost microseconds or in like two seconds. You rub your fingers together and just focus on the feeling of your fingers together, and it just draws your attention away, draws your mind away from that stress and grounds you again and takes you out of that moment. So these are two techniques I do. One is remove yourself from your body by getting curious and looking down at yourself and just find it interesting that you're feeling that way. And the other is to do like a kind of like a short mindfulness. Just rub your fingers together or feel your toes. You know you can do anything to distract your attention into one part of your body. And it centers you.

Lee: [01:07:28] Or tapping. Have you heard of tapping?

Ric: [01:07:29] I haven't.

Lee: [01:07:31] Yeah, I'm new to it. My sister is like a transformational life coach, and she teaches people how to cope with these different emotions and mindsets and change your mindset through this like tapping stuff that she does. It's incredible the kind of change that she's able to help create with people.

Ric: [01:07:51] Interesting. I'm tapping my leg right now that you mentioned it.

Lee: [01:07:57] It's kind of like tapping into some places, I think, on your face or whatever it is. It basically is supposed to, I think, get you out of your, you know, change your thought process, essentially. But anyways, really interesting stuff. So what is next for 100% Pure?

Ric: [01:08:15] There's a lot going on. So we've never taken an investment. We're exploring that path right now to bring us into our future. I really believe in the power of Live selling. I was talking to someone in that space this morning, another CEO about it. And there's a lot of, I would say, a large amount of us that really believe this is the future of eCommerce is doing Live selling where someone goes Live and you can just hit a button and buy. No one's really mastered that in the US, but in China, that's how everything is done.

Lee: [01:08:52] Yeah, there's a company called ShopShops, I think, there that a friend of mine from XRC Labs runs in China. It's livestream.

Ric: [01:09:03] Yeah, that's how everyone buys.

Lee: [01:09:05] Super interesting. Yeah.

Ric: [01:09:06] It's really interesting. So I think that's the future of eCommerce. We're going to lean in there. I think there's a blending of digital and brick and mortar. I think you need both. You see brands doing both. [01:09:18] Some people felt like brick and mortar is dead. I don't feel that way. I feel like you kind of need both to be successful. [01:09:24] And then as far as product development, we've brought manufacturing back. We went out of manufacturing and then we brought it back in-house. And we have a blended ecosystem. So we have some good partners we do manufacture through, but we're doing a lot more in-house than we've done in the past. And that's exciting for me because we're coming up with a lot of innovations in skincare, and we filed some patents for a new natural mascara that we hope to launch next year, that may be waterproof. We're going to put it through testing. So I think that's going to be a huge launch next year. If we can get that claim. I'm not sure. It will be at least water resistant, but it will grow your lashes naturally. We're really good at natural formulations and also we're going into supplements a little bit as well. So we're exploring the inner beauty is really important.

Lee: [01:10:15] Great. Well, it sounds like super exciting stuff. I love what you guys are doing. I'm excited to see more and watch from the sidelines, but thank you so much for being on the show and sharing your inspiring story. Thanks for joining us.

Ric: [01:10:31] Thank you, Lee. I really appreciate it. I really enjoyed it.

Lee: [01:10:37] Thank you so much for listening to the Stairway to CEO podcast. Once again, I'm your host, Lee Greene, and if you have any burning business questions, please feel free to reach us at StairwaytoCEO.com. We'd love to hear from you. And if you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to the show, tell your friends, leave us a review, and follow us on Instagram @StairwaytoCEO. Until next time, guys, keep on climbing.

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