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How does one go from working in corporate office for an electronics company to formulating their very own skincare line? Ask Darrell Owens and Kimberley Fristed, co-founders of Your Best Face. The two met while working in the training department of a Fortune 500 company and had big dreams of starting a project together. Initially, they wanted to combine their love for java and open a coffee shop (even following a book of coffee shops to visit cafes all over the Twin Cities!). A fortuitous trip out West though led Darrell to realize he could turn his passion for science and researching ingredients into something bigger. Soon after, Your Best Face was born.
What exactly sparked the idea for creating YBF?
DO: Back in 2004, a close friend of mine was getting married and she knew I had always been into science and a big label reader. So, she asked if I would make her some products for her to use before her wedding. I thought it was an interesting challenge and I set out for several months researching top brands and trying out samples. I began studying individual ingredients just for fun and ended up making a little line called Age Melt. Around the same time, Kimberley and I were talking about starting a business together, but we just didn’t know what.
I had a lot of extra products that I took with me on vacation to Sedona, AZ. On my last day there, my friends told me there was a skincare store that I should check out. We popped in and the owner overheard me talking about ingredients. He walked over to me and asked if I had my own line and I ran back to the car to grab some. The first thing he did was look at the ingredients and was really intrigued. He said, “You have a lot of interesting things in here. You guys should do something with this.” I came back from vacation and called Kimberley to tell her I may have a business idea.
What exactly were you both doing before launching YBF and how does that experience lend itself to what you’re doing today?
DO: The company I was working at was very small at the time and going through a major national and international expansion, so we would literally be pulled into a different direction every few months. It was constantly being thrown outside your comfort zone and being able to adapt, which is a stressful situation I think for most people, but that was just the normal culture there. You’re just learning and doing, and that helped a lot once I got into skincare. One of the last things I did there was work on compiling customer insight and learning about their behaviors. That’s really where I got into testing and measurement and learning how to build a brand which all definitely carries into what we do now for YBF.
KF: I always had a passion for the creative field. Since I was little, I thought I’d be an interior designer. After working several years in a training position, I moved to Florida and soon after went back to school for a degree in graphics technology. Between that and Darrell’s creativity, we’re constantly inspired and bouncing ideas off each other.
What were some of the biggest obstacles for you in the very beginning?
DO: After we decided we were going to do this, it was 18 months of just learning and investing a lot of time and money, going through batch after batch of experimenting. I remember once spending literally an entire paycheck working on a formula and then mixing in just one additional ingredient and the whole thing collapsed into a watery mess. For me, that was really frustrating to have that kind of loss at that point. It felt like a lot of money going out and not really seeing the benefits, but we stuck with it and didn’t give up.
What was the turning point for YBF?
DO: It was a huge challenge to find a retailer that would get interested in the product. They were pricey products and no one had heard of them. Finally, in 2007, we were picked up by Skin Care Shop which is still our primary retailer. That was an exciting time, but the significant turning point was the following summer, when they added our products to their online store. We began connecting with sites that wrote about beauty products and had an online audience who were also online shoppers. Before that, people could read about our products, but couldn’t purchase them as easily. Now, they read about it and then they can just click, click, click.
When would you consider was the “tipping point” for getting the word out about YBF?
DO: A huge tipping point for us was finding Marta and TIA. It’s funny because I had found her site and watched it for a good couple of months. I really enjoyed her writing style — it was very entertaining and being a research nerd who’s constantly on my computer, I thought there was just nothing else like it out there. Looking at it through the lens of a manufacturer though, it was nerve-wrecking. There was that big what if of “What if what she doesn’t like our products?”
There’s a quote in that movie “The Devil Wears Prada” when they’re going to show and the art director says [about the big boss], “Her opinion is the only one that matters.” I’m not comparing Marta to the devil [laugh], but Marta’s and the TIA community’s collective opinion matters so much.
KF: Online writers made all the difference – the reach is amazing. Even last night, we got email from Australia who’s a TIA reader. Great feedback and a lot of ideas come from those connections. YBF even made a new product, Define, based the comments of TIA readers!
DO: We sent her products and a few months went by, and finally saw that she had posted a great review. We were thrilled. What we as a manufacturer get from Marta is, I think, the same thing TIA readers get, and that’s that personal connection which sets her apart from all the other sites out there today.
What’s the point of difference in your line?
DO: We’re all looking for great products that really do work, and are not going to make promises of magic and are not going to con us out of our money. As a consumer, I don’t think there’s anything more frustrating than spending money on a product with an expectation and have that product not perform. That drives me crazy. We wanted to make good products with effective ingredients. We’re not making claims that set somebody up to expect more than what the products can deliver.
KF: We also wanted to make sure it appealed to men and women of all ages. Even with the packaging, we wanted to make sure we didn’t make something that was too feminine or too masculine. We made a lot of drawings and there was a lot of back and forth until we were finally set on our design.
Where do you go for inspiration or coming up with new product ideas?
DO: Online, TIA is my main source of inspiration. I not only watch product and ingredient reviews, but also readers’ comments on products that they love or don’t love. In print, my favorite source is New Beauty magazine, which is not only a beautifully designed magazine, but also one that focuses on many higher end products, trends and ingredients.
If you had to pick one product to introduce someone to your line who is not already familiar with it, which one would you pick?
DO: I would pick Prep ($80 in the TIA shop). If you look from a price standpoint, Prep is midpoint so it’s not as big of an investment as some of our other products. It’s such a multi-tasker and lets you reap the benefits from the moment you first use it. A lot of other products take a little bit of time to start seeing benefits. Also, Prep on its own will enhance the effectiveness of any other from any other brands that you may use. If someone has another brand they’re loyal too, that’ s wonderful and there’s that option to incorporate Prep to actually increase effectiveness of those other products you love. It was exciting point for us to test Prep through TIA’s VIP group, where we received measurable feedback that allowed us to quickly make necessary changes and add it to our line.
KF: If I had to blindly pick without knowing one’s specific needs, I would go to Restore. We’ve had repeat customers come back to us and say ‘My friend is asking what I’m doing differently, that I look more awake!’ It helps with skin tone and overall complexion. It brightens, reduces the appearance of scars and sun damage and has a good over effect on your complexion. Restore is just one of those products where everyone can benefit no matter what stage their skin is at, if they worship the sun or not.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?
DO: Things take time – just don’t give up. Balance what you know how to do and let go of other things. It’s not about having blind faith – you can do something ‘til your bankrupt. But just keep yourself open to what’s not working. Sometimes it’s about giving up, and then trying something different, then giving up and trying something different and on and on. Eventually, you’ll pull together the mix of things that work for your brand and that’s true whether you’re doing skincare or clothing.
KF: As far as being a partner, I would say really try to understand each other and realize people have different communication styles. Try to see where the other person is coming from. It’s also important to figure out what skills you’re better at and what your partner is better at. You can’t tackle everything and a big part of what we do is learning when to let go, especially when you’re first starting out. At that time, you will probably have all these ideas floating around and you just want to do it all. You have to realize you’ll get there slowly but you have to give it time and pace it out.
You can buy Your Best Face products in the Truth In Aging shop and you can get 10% off if you subscribe to our newsletter