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Every summer and vacation we’re really diligent about coating ourselves and our little ones in sunscreen. What we didn’t think about was all the time kids spend outside during the school day, while at the playground, with no protection at all. Holly Thaggard started Supergoop! to create feel good sun protection. She started Project Black Dot to raise awareness and get the message out that kids need to be allowed to wear sunscreen in schools; to do this in most states kids need a signed permission slip to be able to apply their own sunscreen. Project Black Dot provides a simple, sunscreen permission slip found on ProjectBlackDot.org, to tackle this issue as well as educate parents and policy makers about the importance of updating antiquated laws that exist today. Let’s protect our kids at school the same way we protect them at the beach!
What motivated you to start Supergoop!?
My close friend was diagnosed with melanoma when we were 29 years old. It was shocking to me that someone so young and healthy could get skin cancer. Through this experience I learned the alarming reality that one in five people will be diagnosed with skin caner. It’s the most common cancer in the United States and a majority of the damage that leads to skin cancer later in life is actually done during childhood as kids are exposed to 3 times more sun than adults. In exploring the market for a product that I would use to protect my family, the products that were available in suncare were chock full of harmful ingredients and simply didn’t feel good on the skin. This was my motivation to create a brand that stood for feel-good UV protection without all of the controversial ingredients.
….a majority of the damage that leads to skin cancer later in life is actually done during childhood as kids are exposed to 3 times more sun than adults.
How is Supergoop! different than other sun blocks on the market?
Supergoop! is 100% dedicated to delivering highly efficacious UV protection in the form of multifunctional products that feel great on the skin. Most suncare products contain skin-irritating ingredients like oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate and various parabens. While these ingredients are effective UV filters and preservative systems, they often are the agents responsible for skin irritation and potentially cancer. Supergoop! delivers not only highly efficacious UV protection without the use of these unhealthy ingredients but when you compare price per ounce, our products are only a slight premium to drugstore prices. And best of all, Supergoop! actually feels good on the skin! You want to apply your sun protection every single day when it feels good, and this daily regimen is the path we believe is going to stop the epidemic of skin cancer.
Tell us your startup story? What’s your background?
I grew up wanting to do nothing but two things: be a teacher and perform as harpist. While most of my twenties were spent as a professional harpist, I did teach third grade right out of college. After my friend was diagnosed with skin cancer, I reflected back quite a bit on my time as a teacher. I realized that as an educator in the U.S., we teach kids a myriad of daily healthy habits — how to brush their teeth, wear a seat belt, look both ways when crossing the street, but healthy skincare habits were never even a consideration . I never once saw sunscreens at school yet the kids were on the playground under the intense sun at peak hours every single day. So while my time in the classroom was short, I still feel today that I’m fulfilling a life of teaching, only not from within the four walls of a classroom.
Where you self funded or did raise money?
Supergoop! was self funded for the first several years and well into our retail launch. I was still learning about the suncare and beauty industry and really feeling my way around and gauging consumer interest in the brand. Once we had some serious traction as a likeable and real brand in key markets, my brother invested. This investment helped me continue building on significant year over year growth and only recently we closed our Series A round that includes strategic investors in the world of beauty and personal care.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
I love reading non-fiction, real stories of brand building. Pretty early on I ran across some entrepreneurial advice in that “it takes a lifetime to be an overnight success”. While I’m a big fan of Sharktank and my DVR is filled with past episodes, the perception that every company can get the awareness, the following and the revenues in a quick 15 minutes of fame can be misleading to young entrepreneurs. When starting a company, it’s important for entrepreneurs to understand and accept that it will often take 10 times longer than they expect. But, if they keep their head down, and are willing to work hard it will eventually pay off. It just might not happen tomorrow.
Pretty early on I ran across some entrepreneurial advice in that “it takes a lifetime to be an overnight success”….When starting a company, it’s important for entrepreneurs to understand and accept that it will often take 10 times longer than they expect.
What is something in your career that you see as a marker for success, a moment you’ve had or are working towards when you feel Supergoop! is a success?
I’ve always been a big fan of writing things down. Recently my mother reminded me that my mirror in my bathroom growing up was filled with colored sticky notes that included my daily, weekly and monthly goals. I’ve definitely held myself accountable on paper to reaching very specific social and financial goals and it is always nice to reflect back and see that your hopes match a reality.
That said, one specific moment that really made me feel our brand was making a difference happened a couple of years ago while standing in the security line in the San Francisco airport with my Supergoop! tote in tow. A mother with her family in front of me noticed my tote and commented that they love Supergoop! while pulling a tube of lotion out of her handbag. Then without pause, the couple behind me blurted out their love for Supergoop! too and the gentlemen pulled a lip balm out of his pocket. It was a pretty proud moment for me.
Do you have an advisory board? If so how did you go about building that?
My co-owner, Maria Sharapova, and I are just now today in discussion about putting a very informal advisory board together to bounce ideas around. I believe that one of the real benefits of being a young brand is that you can be quick. There really weren’t too many people early on to get in the way of the vision I had for Supergoop!. Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, of Method, say that when you’re small, being faster than your competitors is your biggest and sometimes only advantage. I believe in this wholeheartedly.
What’s a good way to start talking to your kids about the dangers of the sun and applying sun block? Is there a way we can make this fun and start out kids early?
At Supergoop!, education is one of our main priorities. Healthy habits are most easily formed and followed if they are started early in life and so youth education is paramount. SPF application should be as common for kids as brushing their teeth and washing their hands. I’ve found in my own life that my children are most receptive to new habits if they feel ownership over them, so I always encouraged them to not only wear sunscreen, but in fact be the one responsible for applying it. If your children are old enough to brush their teeth, they are certainly old enough to apply their suncare.
The trick is to make it fun –which is where Supergoop! comes in. We’ve got some great ways to make getting “goop-ed up” a bit more playful. Parents can encourage their kids to make a living art project by creating fun shapes with sunscreen like squiggles, dots, stars and hearts. My daughter Emery actually loves drawing smiley faces on her pink Beauty Blender before applying to her face, neck and ears. By using a beauty tool, this makes her feel very grown up. I’ve also been known to randomly ask both of my kids if they are wearing Supergoop! at any given time of day. If they can both honestly answer yes, we drop everything and head to the toy store. This also makes them look out for each other when I’m not around because if one can’t answer yes to this question, they both lose!
The trick is to make it fun –which is where Supergoop! comes in…Parents can encourage their kids to make a living art project by creating fun shapes with sunscreen like squiggles, dots, stars and hearts.
What is your favorite Supergoop! product?
While my favorite is always the formula I’ve most recently been working on in the lab, our Sun Defying Sunscreen Oil SPF 50 is in every bag I own. I’ve always loved how bath oils feel on the skin –how luxurious and hydrating they are and how they make your skin glow. I felt if we could layer a beauty oil with a foundation of broad spectrum, high SPF protection without a drop of greasiness, we could prevent photoaging, and this would be the ultimate skincare multitasker. It is really a beautiful formulation and I’m very proud of our work on this one.
What sun protection should we be wearing every day? Not just when we are at the beach, but during our normal city life?
Hands down our City Sunscreen Serum SPF 30 is the holy grail of multifunction. It is super lightweight and milky and it not only protects the skin from day to day sun exposure but it also counteracts the signs of aging and acts as a great moisturizer and primer for under your foundation or CC cream. This is also the go-to product for many of our male customers. It’s not a bit shiny on the skin and doesn’t leave a white build-up on facial hair.
I’ve heard that some SPFs can be bad for you. What kind of ingredients should we beware of on sunblock labels?
Steer clear of parabens, synthetic fragrances and oxybenzone. Oxybenzone, declared Allergen of the Year by the American Academy of Dermatology, has also been connected to hormone disruption and cell damage that can cause skin cancer. Another ingredient to avoid is Retinyl Palmitate (vitamin A) as studies suggest that while this is an antioxidant, it can actually accelerate growth of skin cancers. SPFs over SPF 50 can also be irritating and the SPF benefits reach their maximum at 50.
How did you meet Maria Sharapova and how did you become business partners?
Maria has actually been a huge fan of Supergoop! for years. She really believed in our product line from the beginning for its efficacy and performance in high pressure situations. She also really appreciated that our formulas feel great on your skin.
When we first met in person, I think what quickly resonated with her, and ultimately why she wanted to make an investment in Supergoop!, was the realization that she could genuinely help deliver our message of skin cancer prevention and education to a larger audience and so, here we are!
What is Project Black Dot?
Project Black Dot is our education and awareness platform that is the foundation around which we will launch various activism projects with the mission to end the epidemic of skin cancer. Maria and I are both so excited to share our passion and help start this critical conversation about skin cancer prevention while delivering simple, convenient tools to help everyone embrace healthy sun protection habits.
Our first project, Project Permission, calls attention to the current regulations on sunscreen in U.S. public schools. Because children are exposed to three times more UV than adults, and we know that no SPF provides all day protection. Most people are surprised to learn that because SPF is an over the counter drug, per FDA, this classification restricts children from carrying and applying sunscreen during the school day without a signed permission slip. Kids really need to have access to suncare during the school day. By providing a simple, sunscreen permission slip found on ProjectBlackDot.org, we can tackle this issue as well as educate parents and policymakers about the importance of updating antiquated laws that exist today.
Children are exposed to three times more UV than adults, and we know that no SPF provides all day protection. Most people are surprised to learn that because SPF is an over the counter drug, per FDA, this classification restricts children from carrying and applying sunscreen during the school day without a signed permission slip. Kids really need to have access to suncare during the school day.