Shannon Dellimore of GlamGlow

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Meet Shannon Dellimore, co-founder and Creative Director of GlamGlow, a buzzy skincare brand best known for its line of face masks that target an array of skin concerns, from blemishes, to dullness, to signs of aging.

Having founded the brand with her ex-husband without any prior experience in neither beauty nor business, Shannon explains that she never really set out to start a company. What started out as a personal project and a calling to go above and beyond to provide a skincare solution for a celebrity acquaintance, Shannon was taken down a winding road that brought her to try and develop something new. That road would eventually lead her to build and grow GlamGlow, a brand of iconic skincare staples and a company that sells hundreds of millions of dollars worth of product each year.

Acquired by Estée Lauder in 2015, Shannon now acts as the brand’s Creative Director, leading the brand’s creative team and overseeing GlamGlow’s vision and philosophy, making sure that as the brand grows, it maintains the glamorous Hollywood charm that helped make the brand a household name.

I chatted with Shannon about everything from how she started GlamGlow with $80, to the brand’s partnership with Estée Lauder, and the brand’s newest launches.

THIS INTERVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED AND CONDENSED FOR BREVITY AND CLARITY.

So I’ve been told that there’s an amazing story behind GLAMGLOW that involves a certain celebrity. Can you tell me one about the beginning of the brand and what led you to start it?

“This was back in 2008, my co-founder and I -we were married at the time- lived up in the Hollywood Hills and we were at a party and there were a bunch of actors and people in the entertainment industry, and Keanu Reeves happened to be there, and my co-founder had met him previously through mutual friends, and the conversation just came up about skincare. He had asked if anyone knew of a product that he could use that would work really quickly to get his skin camera-ready. Nobody really knew anything that really delivered this instant, fast result and did a multitude of things. He said that he wanted something that would fix it all. Everybody started talking about what they use and a lot of it was a whole routine of products, and you needed to use several different things. There was nothing that really delivered the instant results he wanted. My mom worked for Chanel for almost 25 years at the time and I thought Chanel must have something. I also asked my partner, he knew a lot of doctors and estheticians because he worked with spas and helped developed spas. So we finished the party. We laughed we went away and we said, "OK well let's see if we can get him something." So I called my mom the next day and she said he would need to use [a multitude of products] for at least 30 days to see some difference in the skin. So my partner, Glenn, he went to some of the doctors and estheticians that he knew and they said that they had really amazing things, but [Keanu would have] to come in because it's not an at-home product. There was nothing they could give us to take away. And so we went back and we couldn't find anything. And so we thought how could we go back to Keanu and tell him we couldn't we find you anything, we kind of failed. We thought there's got to be a way to make something, let's research ingredients and what ingredients would we want to see in a product. We just googled exfoliation and brightening, all these different things that we were talking about. We started pulling things out and reading about them and we found things like green tea, etc. So then we thought, "OK well now what do we do?" We didn't know how to make this stuff. I started calling a bunch of labs around L.A. and saying that we wanted to make this one product and they would tell us that they had a 50,000 minimum and I just wanted one little jar. Somehow I found this little lab down near San Diego and got on the phone and the owner happened to be on the phone with me and she said that they have minimums and they couldn’t just make one-off formulas, but she sensed something in my voice. She was a massage therapist who made massage oils in her garage and then she built this manufacturing company and she said that if I was willing to make the trip down to San Diego, she should sit down with me and we could talk. So we went down there, I called in sick from work and I came with my little list of ingredients and sat with her and her chemist and went through what we were looking for and she said she could definitely help, but it was going to cost at least several thousand dollars. Somehow we convinced her to do it and she ended up agreeing to do it for only the cost of the raw materials and it was $80. We had lots of conversations about the ingredients, and one of the things that we wanted to see in the product was Green Tea because we noticed that it was a common ingredient in a lot of skincare products, but we also knew that green tea was really good for your body, but we kept seeing Green Tea Extract. So we asked the chemist what that meant, and they explained how you distill the ingredient you get this extract, but it's not as potent as using the actual raw ingredient. So we asked why they don't use the real green tea leaves, and told us there's no way you can use a leaf in a skincare product, it's going to have mold and bacteria, etc. So we challenged the chemist to find a way to make it work. We gave them this challenge and they ended up figuring it out and they sent us the first formula. And still to this day, it's our YouthMud in the black packaging and that's the original. And they sent it to us the product to try. They hadn't tried it, but what they did notice was that the green tea leaves were actually steeping in the mud. Like a cup of tea, all the nutrients were releasing right into the mud. So they send it to us, we tried it, and I noticed instant results; my skin looked softer, smoother, brighter, it was glowing. They sent us this little tiny batch and we had gotten these tiny plain white jars and we put it in a jar and gave it to Keanu and a few other people to see if they would like it and they all came back and said, "Oh my gosh, this stuff is amazing! Where can I get more?" And we didn't tell anyone it was ours or that we made it. Keanu came back and asked for a few more, and all of a sudden we got a call from the V.P. of Talent for 20th Century Fox and she said, "I got this product and I want to use it for some of my talent. I think this would be great to prep the skin before makeup." At the time, it was Desperate Housewives, American Idol, and a few other shows. So we got another little batch made and we started filling the jars and giving it out. For about a year and a half, it was strictly studios calling, makeup artists, different actors in the industry, and then all of a sudden we got a phone call from the Vice President of Beauty for Neiman Marcus and she said she got this product from a friend and she thinks it's fantastic and that it would make the perfect add-on and it could be in all 40 stores and online. And that was the start of GlamGlow.”

When did you decide to really turn it into a business

“We literally sat down that night after the call and brainstormed names, packaging, design. We did it all at home at our coffee table. We launched in Neiman’s in July of 2011, it was our first retailer, we launched in all of their stores and online. That was really the start of it.”

What was it like being approached by Estée Lauder and how has that process been for you as an entrepreneur?

“So we launched in retail in the Summer of 2011 and it was crazy from Day 1. We went from launching at Neiman’s, the next year we launched in all Sephora stores, launched a second product, and literally in3 years, we went from zero to 80 countries, over 6000 stores. We had a very small team. We had 5 masks at the time, and that was it. We were winning every beauty award. It was crazy. We came at a time when there weren’t many beauty brands. It was all of the big boys, they were the big players, the powerhouses… and we sort of came out of nowhere. They were like, “Who the hell is this mud mask in this tiny little jar for $69?” We were beating [all of the big beauty brands]. We were approached [very early on], different people wanted to buy the brand, buy the name, etc. We were never interested. We had no loans, no debt, no investors. I cashed out my 401k when I quit my job, and that’s how we did it. We had all these people approaching us and we would politely decline. We finally got to a point, 3 years in, where we had turned it into a $40 million company. We had never done this before, we learned everything along the way, and had nobody guiding us or helping us. Everything was going so well, [we were worried that] at some point, we were gonna make a mistake and won’t know what to do. We were going down the path of going to market and Estée Lauder called and said they were interested. We needed to find someone who was a right fit for us, because we’re a family business and had a small team, it was our baby. We spent a year meeting with private equity firms and potential strategic partners and we narrowed it down and decided to partner with Estée Lauder. It’s been great. They’ve really helped the brand. We were already in a good place, but they have a bigger network that we can tap into and manufacturing facilities, etc. So it was a great decision and they really wanted us to stay involved. They said that having me on was a big part of the deal and they would only want to do it if I stayed.”

What does a typical day look like for you now?

“Well part of the reason for selling was to have a little more work/life balance. My daughter was basically born and GLAMGLOW started. She’s 10 now, but the first several years of her life, we were so busy. We really wanted to still be involved with the brand, but deal with the creative side… I didn’t want to deal with contracts and all of those responsibilities and I didn’t want to travel as much. So now, it’s meeting with the creative team, doing photo shoots, dealing the product development team, testing products, etc. It’s a much happier balance, that’s for sure.”

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What does the creative process look like for new product development at GLAMGLOW?

“Well we have a team. We decide what category we want to tackle, whether it’s a serum or a moisturizer, we decide what that’s gonna be. From there, we decide what key ingredients we really want to focus on that are going to make it interesting and unique. Then we start talking about textures and what we want it to feel like. We start developing and go through several transitions until we get it right, and then the product comes to life.”

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome in terms of starting and growing glamglow?

“I think it was not knowing anything about the industry and having to learn every single thing on our own. Figuring it out. That was the biggest challenge. We didn’t know anything about skincare, didn’t know anything about dealing with retailers, didn’t know anything about production, packaging, shipping internationally. We had to figure it out step by step. It was also the most rewarding because I knew every single minute detail of the business. I literally could do everybody’s job and I think that’s the only way you can really understand your business. You don’t have to do them all or think you’re the best at them, but just knowing them. Also growing and scaling up. How do you scale up? When you grow into so many countries and so many retailers, finding the right people that can be by your side, that you trust, and that are better than you. You don’t know everything and there are other people with amazing ideas. Finding those people and surrounding yourself with people is a challenge and a positive if you find the right people. ”

What advice do you have for young women looking to start and build their own brands and companies?

“I’d say just go for it. Don’t let anybody tell you know. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. Don’t be afraid. A lot of people are afraid for whatever the reasons are. If you fail, so what? You tried. Then you figure out how to do something else or do it differently. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever be an entrepreneur, but if I never did it, I wouldn’t be here today. There would be no GlamGlow and my life would be very different. I’m so happy that I took that leap of faith and went for it.”

What big projects do you have planned for 2019?

“SuperMud is our second SKU that we launched, and it’s our hero, it’s for problematic skin. The great thing about SuperMud is that everybody feels like they have some sort of problem with their skin, whether it’s pore size, congestion, breakouts, etc. SuperMud just kind of does it all. It’s incredible. We spent a long time developing it, and it was the first mud with 6 different acids in it. We just launched some extensions to the line. We launched SuperToner and SuperSerum. I’m so excited because I’ve been wanting it for quite some time. The toner is incredible, it’s an exfoliating acid toner, it has charcoal, you shake it up…it really deep cleans the pores. The serum is very plumping and refining, and also has the acids in there.”