Like we have mentioned before, we’ve been taking stock of our everyday regimens and really cleaning up our act. We’ve purged and re-curated our skincare so that it is clean(er) and now we are taking it to the next level to make it hormone-safe. We recently spoke with Sara Jensen, the founder of Hugh & Grace, the first skincare brand to respond to the need to limit hormone-disrupting chemicals. Sara’s journey to become a mother and her very personal experience with unexplained infertility led her to examine her routine skincare habits and develop a system that expands the notion of what clean beauty really means.
Melissa: How have you shifted your business and as an individual during these unprecedented times? What are you doing differently than what you were doing before? Give us a glimpse into how you are running your business these days.
Sara: It has been so interesting as we launched Hugh and Grace on October 1st. We did a bare bones launch on July 1st which was supposed to occur May 1st—so there have been a few changes there. We began fundraising in early March, and we had a company that was going to fund 50%, if not all of our company. However, they ended up pulling out and stopped running cheques, and with that said, everything has changed a lot since we first envisioned Hugh & Grace. We have an omnichannel platform, where we do D2C sales online and do peer-to-peer sales for people who want to represent our mission and products. After many shifts in redirects, we still feel like we were well-positioned for Covid-19, with both our products and distribution model. We are excited about where we are.
Melissa: So exciting, and I can imagine this was all very exhausting. How did you decide to do peer-to-peer? What was the reasoning behind this method?
Sara: My husband and I have been married for 18 years and we spent 14 of those years trying to get pregnant…unsuccessfully. We were diagnosed with unexplained fertility. We altered so much in our lives to try and get pregnant and nothing worked. During one of my rounds, my doctor told me to stop eating sweet potatoes. We were both triggered when he said that and thought if something like sweet potatoes can trigger your hormones, we said ‘what else was out there effecting me?’. While doing a lot of research, we learned about ‘hormone disruptors’ and how they are in most personal care products including, clean, non-toxic products. We soon realized that this was undiscovered knowledge and that this market was not out there. It was mostly discussed in the medical and scientific community, but not within the consumer space.
We were so fortunately gifted two beautiful kids from my sister and my husband’s sister who were our surrogates. With these two gifts, we felt the responsibility to pay forward everything we had received from this journey. When it came to making our products, we interviewed formulators across the country, because we wanted to have top-performing luxury products, products that were formulated without hormone disruptors that still focused on anti-aging, brightening and all of those great properties. We did not want to focus on what we were not, but what we are. We soon realized that our story and mission was best shared via word of mouth. Our story is a story, albeit a longer formatted one. I would rather reward and promote people who believe in our mission and products rather than Amazon or Sephora. We encourage people to sign up, join, and get more educated. It has been so interesting to see our demographic expand—the main demographic we thought would be for our brand ended up being completely different. We see people from all over—all races, genders…etc.—aligning with our mission.
Melissa: What a great mission. I love hearing all about it and seeing how passionate you are. That leads to our next question, how did you start the company?
Sara: We wanted to create products that were safe for babies, teenagers, and to be used while you are breastfeeding. You do not always think about it, but all your toothpaste, deodorants, hand soaps are all composed of different chemical combinations. The average woman puts on 168 chemicals (the average man 85) a day! Skin is our biggest organ, and so what you put on your skin goes directly into your body. With that, we decided to create products to detox, repair, and protect your body from hormones disruptors. We asked ourselves ‘what we could do that could make a difference without being too overwhelming?’. We started with a cleansing bar, face serum, and body oil— people can swap out their lotion for the body oil while also using the cleansing bar which detoxes your body. These are products people can use to strengthen their skin and build immunity and resilience while attaining that protective barrier. These small switches can truly make a difference.
Melissa: I love how versatile your products are and how they are catered to everyone. How did you decide on these products? What is your rollout? Have you ever thought about going into makeup or hair products?
Sara: Everything we want to produce is hormone safe. We are calling it ‘hormone safe care’. Right now, we have our face serum, cleaning bar, and body oil. We also just launched our night serum! Interestingly, your cells regenerate overnight and so this great product is composed of different properties to help your cells perform.
We always joke because the name sounds like an old couple, but the name Hugh means ‘heart, mind and spirit’ and the name Grace means ‘goodness, generosity and love’ and that is the ethos of our company and what we received. That is our whole mission.
Melissa: This is so interesting, I am learning so much! You look amazing! Whatever you have been using I am going to try all of it.
Sara: Honestly my skin has never been better. My skin feels tighter and my coloring is way more even. We thought skincare is best for people to do because it’s easy to incorporate into your day-to-day life. Our next product will launch next year, it will be lip care because everything you put on your lips, you eat. Every one of our products will be formulated to help with chemical exposure. That is our mission, to have people become more mindful of chemicals, which have unknown and known impacts. Everyone has hormones, all genders and all ages. We are starting with skincare then eventually supplements, and then move to home care like laundry care. Things that stay on your skin, touch your skin, that makes a difference.
Melissa: So many exciting things coming up for you! How often will you be launching products? Do you have a cadence yet?
Sara: That component is not overly thought out yet. We have been dealing with supply chain issues, we ran out of product in September. We wanted everything to be sourced and formulated here, in America. We put out an order in February, it was supposed to be here in 10 weeks then COVID hits and suddenly, everyone wants soap. We finally got our product by the end of August because of delays. All part of the experience! We would absolutely love to have more of a steady roll-out, but of course, this depends on many touchpoints.
Melissa: Unexpected things that you can never plan for! This will all be part of your story as you continue to grow. It is so unique to launch something during these times. What else do you use outside of your own products?
Sara: It has been crazy, but so great to see everyone stand by us and support us. I feel like all I wear is eye makeup now. I love my Chanel mascara. Otherwise, we are changing out our cookware and are looking at what makes the biggest impact around our house, chemical wise.
Melissa: I feel like I am going to be doing that right after our chat! What are some of your particulars? What in your daily life is really particular to you?
Sara: I never take off my wedding ring, it is so special to me. Every morning at 8:30 am , our team goes for a walk and hops on a call. It is nice to stay connected as we are a virtual team with employees in different states. It is so nice to get out of the house and get my day started that way!
Melissa: So nice being outside! When we are back out to whatever our ‘new normal’ is going to look like, what are you going to do differently with Hugh & Grace? How will you continuously get the word out there?
Sara: We would love to do pop-ups, not necessarily at a retail location, but online. Creating a community is so important to us, it truly is the lifeblood. We could not achieve our dream without people coming together to help us. My husband and I were talking about doing a fertility company for five years before starting and launching Hugh & Grace. You think of a launch party with your friends celebrating, so it was a weird pivot to a virtual launch. I definitely see us doing a lot of events, being out in the community, to support more awareness and education. We want to be empowering others to make a small difference, even if it comes down to skincare.
Melissa: I think that is it, all the small changes. It can be overwhelming when you think about what you are putting in your body, we need to continue with this awareness as this is so important.
Sara: I never thought that things I were putting on my skin would make me infertile. That was my drive and compulsion, to create something that can help others reduce chemical exposure. We know we are not curing everything, we are just focusing on a topic that is not widely discussed, in a really authentic way. We named the company, Hugh & Grace, after our kids. We always joke because the name sounds like an old couple, but the name Hugh means ‘heart, mind and spirit’ and the name Grace means ‘goodness, generosity and love’ and that is the ethos of our company and what we received. That is our whole mission.