By: Robin Tolkan-Doyle, Beauty Editor
When your mom is a successful model and a Mary Kay sales person, it makes sense that beauty would play a big part in your life. Such is the story with beauty marketing professional Jennifer Saul.
Growing up in the bay area, Saul remembers witnessing both her mom and older sister make a lucrative living in the beauty industry. “Both of these women in my life worked for Mary Kay, and so they were very focused on beauty solutions,” says Saul. “It was their means of not only making money, but there was a profound interest in beauty in general.” Not to mention, she was also literally surrounded by products as a young girl, from promise-laden skincare and haircare to transformative makeup, and would have some seriously in-depth play sessions.
By the time college came around, Saul’s love for dance (she studied ballet since she was three) led her to earn a bachelor of fine arts in dance and business at the University of Arizona. But when the time came to find an internship, the beauty world ultimately stole back her heart when Saul chose to shadow the spa director at a local salon and day spa where she earned her wings in world of marketing and sales.
“The spa industry was one that was really growing this self-care experience and a destination that went with it and I was very intrigued by that,” says Saul. “This local spa in Tucson had five locations in the city, and I kept banging down their door saying, ‘Hey, I want to come work for you guys! I want to create an internship for myself.’ And they kept saying, ‘We don't do this, we don't do internships.’ But I begged them to give me one. It ended up being a really profound experience.”
Fast forward almost two decades and you will now find a determined Saul with two prestigious positions at Dermstore and Beautycounter behind her. “Working for Gregg Renfrew, the founder of Beautycounter, was so inspiring and such a pleasure. I felt like we were learning something from each other at all times, and that's a very rare opportunity,” says Saul. “I think that's what you get when you're part of a startup, and one that's pioneering something that just doesn't exist in our industry. It was very exciting to be a part of something so new.”
Her stellar reputation is why Stephan Berman, the head of JAKKS Pacific - one the biggest toy companies in the world - decided to tap Saul to head up their first beauty brand acquisition, C’est Moi in 2018. “It was really nice to be able to have an opportunity to incubate a division and a brand with the support of a publicly traded company, and so for me that was an opportunity I couldn't say no to. It was a big step up for me.”
In only three short years, Saul, a mom of two, has taken this little known brand and turned it into one of the biggest omni channel clean beauty brands for Gen Z and young millennials on the market today. Target, CVS, Kroger Stores, Walmart Canada, you name it, C’est Moi is sitting somewhere on a IRL shelf near you. Online locations including Amazon, Target.com and the brand’s DTC site Cestmoi.com are also there for your shopping needs 24/7.
One of the biggest things that sets C’est Moi apart from other brands is that its products are verified by the Environmental Working Group. It’s also what has helped successfully scale C’est Moi in an overly saturated beauty landscape. “Formulating products and really understanding the chemistry behind what's in them, was an integral part of getting this verification,” says Saul. “Being able to have an educated conversation, not only with the chemist, but also with the science teams at the EWG is something that I really pride myself on.”
A mini chemist in her own right, Saul attributes her years of studying product ingredients (she knows the difference between glycerol and glycerin) is how she’s been able to set C’est Moi apart. “Formulation and efficacy is something I really care about. Not only that, creating something that we can be proud of because it functions well and it's effective. We know that it's really safe for anyone that has very sensitive or blemish prone skin, and that it is formulated with clean products that have data behind them.”
On the brand’s joyful website, amid all the colorful makeup crayons, delicious sounding face masks that look good enough to eat and a slew of reef safe, mineral based SPFS, it states that C’est Moi says “No Way” to toxic ingredients and that they keep healthy ingredients in their formulas while eliminating thousands of commonly used ingredients which may be linked to cancer, hormone disruption, sensitization of the skin and common allergic reaction. Adhering to European cosmetic regulations as their baseline, and then taking their ingredient exclusions a step further is also part of C’est Moi’s ethos.
While the EU currently bans more than 1300 ingredients in beauty products, the U.S. still only bans 11.
“We aren’t formulating with just any ingredients that we know will cause health harm, and that's where that verification comes into place,” says Saul. “But beyond that, making sure that what we're putting out into the marketplace is also affordable. That was really our biggest position when we were putting the brand together.”
Such a position is far from easy. Breaking through as a new, small brand in a mass market is incredibly challenging, especially when you’re competing for mass market shelves and making sure you’re at the same productivity levels as your peers at Unilever and Procter & Gamble and Clorox, especially when you don’t have the same financial infrastructure and team size. C’est Moi currently runs their entire brand with five employees. “All these major brands are sitting next to you and you have productivity that you have to hit, which has been very challenging because of how marketing dollars are spent with competitors. For some of these guys, there seems like there’s no cap to their spending,” says Saul.
The never ending grind of putting brand awareness out there in a very effective way can be challenging for any brand, but Saul’s formula has proven to be a success: “As we chart our growth, I can tell that what we're doing is working.”
In the last three years, C’est Moi has worked with hundreds of micro influencers, been covered and celebrated in numerous press outlets from The Today Show to Harper’s Bazaar, launched a capsule collection with their brand ambassador, celebrity Liza Koshy, worked with all the top subscription box brands and keeps landing one retail location after another. Despite the pandemic, C’est Moi’s sales were unscathed.
And for now, it’s blue sky’s ahead as C’est Moi continues forge ahead in this $450 billion global beauty industry, focusing on their thoughtful formulations, while having fun with making their packaging more sustainable and creating more collaborations to continue to drive a stronger awareness as a legacy brand that is affordable and accessible.
While Saul is certainly proud of what she and her tight knit team have been able to accomplish in three years, she still acknowledges there is lots more work yet to do. “I’m up for the challenge,” says Saul. “I think that's just what I've been built for.”
Photo Credits: C’est Moi