In Conversation with Rochelle Jacobs of Naturally Serious
Describe your business in a few words?
Naturally Serious products are clinically clean and consciously formulated to be good for your skin, good for the environment and 100% cruelty-free.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
Our goal in creating Naturally Serious was to take out the guesswork for other time-strapped women like ourselves! As career-driven women and mothers on the go, we didn’t have time to think twice about our skin care. We found ourselves constantly second-guessing and researching the products we were using. We wanted clean and consciously formulated products that supported our healthy lifestyles and personal values. We discovered many products claiming to be clean and conscious actually had unwanted ingredients and questionable brand philosophies. Our products are clean formulas you can truly trust.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
When my mother and I launched the June Jacobs Spa Collection in 2003, it was quite revolutionary. It was one of the first skin care brands to harness the power of natural ingredients and cutting-edge technology. Through our naturally efficacious products, our goal has always been to help women unlock their natural beauty and take charge of their well-being. With Naturally Serious, we saw the opportunity to take our mission even further!
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I grew up being inspired by the generations of women in my family who made their own homemade skin care products—and my mother, June Jacobs, is the most inspiring of them all! When she was 40 years old, she and her business partner launched a successful clinical skin care company from absolutely nothing. 21 years ago after working in finance at two large public companies, I joined the “family business”. I was the eighth employee! My mother had always pushed me to be the best I could be and in her mind, that did not include working with her—ever. Until it did! I saw how quickly her then “tiny” business was growing, and asked if I could come help her grow it. Without hesitation, she said absolutely not! Unfortunately for her, she taught me to never take no for an answer, so I set up a formal interview with her and her business partner. The rest is history…
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
Since the beginning, we’ve maintained a 360° marketing strategy with a huge focus on digital. We ultimately aimed to create emotional connections and establish Naturally Serious as the trusted information source on clean, natural skin care. To do this, we implemented a voice-first campaign with tips and education about beauty, health and wellness. Putting yourself and your skin first with clean, natural products is a lifestyle choice, and we wanted to create a close-knit community brought together by #NSILoveYou. These brand ambassadors continue to help us lead the conversation as we raise brand awareness and educate consumers about us.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
I’ve made more mistakes than I care to remember. However, I believe that if you don’t make mistakes, you can’t learn and grow. My philosophy has always been to think outside the box and make mistakes along the way. Nothing frustrates me more than when I question something and someone says ‘this is how we’ve always done it’.
Consider where we’d be today if we all believed what worked yesterday will work tomorrow. I assure you that all the greatest innovators who have disrupted industries never accepted that answer and made huge mistakes along the way. We learn from our mistakes and from being open-minded. Opportunity lies in correcting our mistakes and not making the same mistakes again. Also, if you don’t think outside the box, you may believe you are playing things safe but in truth, you will always be stuck. My hope is that I continue to make ‘new’ mistakes and never stop learning and growing!
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
As a brand, we are proud to be clinically clean, ethical and sustainable, and consider these practices to be our biggest achievement! Though Naturally Serious is still young, we have gained recognition for our efforts from Sephora (we have the “Clean at Sephora” seal of approval) and top beauty editors (our Major Moisture™ Gentle Cream Cleanser was a 2019 SELF Healthy Beauty Award winner).
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
I always like to see how things flow to supplement the list of my prepared questions, which are both general and specific to the open position. The question I like to end on is: “If someone were to explain who you are, what would you want them to say about you?” I feel you can really learn a lot about the candidate with this question. Not so much in their answer but in everything that goes into the response. The giggle or nervous laugh. Sometimes you see pure confidence and no hesitation. You can learn a lot from a candidate with that question!
When asked by friends how they should prepare for an interview, I always say, “Do YOU.” If you are authentic, the hiring team will feel it. Be overly prepared, for sure. However, I believe honesty is the best policy. If there is something you don’t know how to do or don’t understand, tell the interviewer. For me, great answers to questions on topics you’re unfamiliar with are: “I’m not 100% sure how to do that but I am a quick learner.” Or, “I’m not familiar with that, but if you tell me a bit more about it, I’ll get back to you.”
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Although the beauty industry has been less affected than other types of business, I would say we have all been deeply impacted. More importantly, we are incredibly resilient. There is no precedent to learn from. I have had to trust my gut and remind myself that in these unprecedented times, nobody really knows what the ‘right’ answer is. This is why I always go with what I believe the ‘best’ response is in that particular moment. Since day one of this pandemic, we have been pivoting and continue to do so, day after day. I love our team and I truly miss working together in an office environment. On the flip side, I’m so grateful for the hard work and dedication of our team, and their ability to work so effectively remotely. We have truly gone digital, both internally and through our omnichannel customer experience.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
As a community, 2020 has been our most challenging year ever. In speaking with senior citizens I know, they’ve told me they have never lived through anything like it. We’ve all had to make so many sacrifices. However, despite the daily challenges we face, I’ve tried to find the silver lining in everything. Even for someone like me, who is a ‘glass half-full’ person, it has been difficult to stay upbeat but I truly believe that positivity leads to perseverance and success. Professionally and personally, I’ve learned that anything is possible; we can and did get through this.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
I’m not sure if this is referring to COVID or in general. We knew we wanted Naturally Serious to be a digital-first brand, and I’m not sure how a new brand could have survived COVID without this approach. Generally speaking, however, I’ve certainly acquired more knowledge over the years and have applied what I’ve learned from previous business experiences to the launch of Naturally Serious. I believe that learning and arming yourself with industry knowledge is crucial to success. Know and understand the industry landscape to see where there might be white space and innovation opportunities.
Also, never forget your customer! When faced with a dilemma, try putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and ask yourself whether it is something they would want or need. We created Naturally Serious because we found that many products claiming to be clean and conscious actually had unwanted ingredients and questionable brand philosophies. We saw a space that needed to be filled, not just for ourselves but for other women like us who longed for clean and effective skin care they didn’t have to think twice about. As a result, Naturally Serious products are completely free of B.A.D. (Banned, Ambiguous or Debatable) ingredients, sustainably made, and clinically tested to work!
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Early on, I feared the emotional part of this pandemic would be the most challenging. But by focusing on nutrition, hydration, exercise, sleep, meditation and relaxation, I have learned and developed strengths that will carry me throughout my life. I have tried to use this time to take a step back and reflect on what is really important in my life and how I can benefit the lives of others. I am very grateful for this opportunity to reflect and learn new lessons. Some days are harder than others—an unforeseen challenge will inevitably arise and throw my familiar routine off course! However, if there’s one thing this pandemic has taught me, it’s to be more adaptable and less critical of myself (and others!) when uncontrollable events happen.
Creating a routine for myself was integral because it helped me to stay focused on what I could control, instead of what I couldn’t. Throughout my life, I have been unusually resilient, but I knew that if I didn’t prioritize my well-being first, there was no way I could access the strength for my sons or my work family, who needed me to be a leader more than ever. I didn’t want to let anyone down. I knew that cultivating a routine would allow me to get through this time and support those who needed me most.
Setting daily goals that align with my routine has also helped—during such stressful times, I find that accomplishing even the tiniest, simplest thing can spark joy! For example, I’ve been using a double-size Swell water bottle that I received after completing a nearly 100-mile hiking program. It reminds me how strong I am and also helps me achieve my goal of staying hydrated; I refill it at least three times a day. I am also 100% dependent on my Apple Watch to keep me moving. I lowered by “move” goal from what it was before the pandemic since I am staying home in confined quarters more, but I am still keeping my steps up!
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
As a new mother 18 years ago, I struggled with a work/life balance. A. Lot. In 2006, when my boys were 3 and 4, I really felt the pressure for the first time and I suffered from tremendous guilt, especially when I was away from home for work. I had to learn to accept a lot of help from the people I work with and from family and friends, which was actually more difficult than it may sound, especially when you are used to being able to manage and control different situations solely on your own. I was inspired by a video I watched of Meg Whitman, who, when asked this same question, said: “It is less of balance and more of a trade-off. The key is to make intelligent choices and ideally, over time, they do balance out.” I am very conscious of this each and every day. When I am simply a mom at home, I try to be present. When I am at work, I do my best to be all business and giving whatever role I am in 100% (or close to it!).
Around the time I first became a mother, I also fell in love with yoga. I practice as often as I can, everywhere and anywhere. This helps keep me grounded, as well as relieving some unavoidable stress. It’s also a keen reminder of how lucky I am to wake up each morning with an able mind and body. COVID has actually made this trade-off more balanced for the first time in my motherhood experience. My boys are very respectful of my work (and are probably thrilled I’m not traveling!) but they do expect me to be present when I am with them and I do the best I can to ensure that they get all of me!
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
There are so many answers to this question! Personally, I’d love to say it is my age (48!) and still doing headstands. I’m pretty extroverted so I think it may be shocking to know that I actually love being alone. During COVID, I’ve mastered expiration eating with the buy-in of both my boys. I’m also a sun chaser – just sun – not necessarily warm weather. While I am a born and bred city girl, if given the choice, you’d find me on the beach (possibly all bundled up) walking with my dog.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
To me, being an Entreprenista and female entrepreneur comes with a lot of responsibility. As a female entrepreneur, I feel an immense responsibility to forge connections with aspiring female entrepreneurs. All Entreprenistas need to set the stage for all the future Entreprenistas out there – you need to know that you will overcome your fears and they will not rule you. You will make mistakes and you will learn and come back stronger. You will take care of and love yourself first and it will be easier to take care of and love those around you. You will fall and rise again. You will not take no for an answer.