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It's a Matter Of...Happiness

Two Parts Make a Whole

August 10, 2021 BeautyMatter
August 10, 2021

Divergent needs, competing demands, and diverse personalities are just some of the elements of running a business that have the possibility of creating conflict and chaos.

For entrepreneurs, and especially for co-founders, success requires the ability to navigate and come to terms with these tensions, embracing them and allowing the interdependencies to create richer thinking and better solutions. Dr. Dennis Gross and Carrie Gross are partners in life, and in the business of running Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare. They sit down with Kelly Kovack to discuss how together, they have built the foundation of their dynamic brand and team.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:00:11]: Hi, I’m Dr. Dennis Gross, Founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare.

Carrie Gross [00:00:16]: And I’m Carrie Gross. And to us, it’s a matter of happiness.

Kelly Kovack [00:00:25]: Like the balance between yin and yang, the two opposite but complimentary forces that are part of the Chinese Daoist thought, similar dynamics exist in business. I’m Kelly Kovack, Founder of Beauty Matter. Divergent needs, competing demands, and diverse personalities are just some of the elements of running a business that have the possibility of creating conflict and chaos. For entrepreneurs, and especially for cofounders, success requires the ability to navigate and come to terms with these tensions, embracing them and allowing the interdependencies to create richer thinking and better solutions. We all inherently understand the idea of balance, together two halves make a whole, sharing a little bit of each in the other to create harmony. Dr. Dennis Gross and Carrie Gross are partners in life and in the business of running Dr. Dennis Gross skincare. The yin and yang of their personalities, interests, and skills are the foundation of the dynamic brand and team they’ve built for the past 21 years.

So Carrie and Dennis, thank you so much for making time to chat today. I feel like I won the lottery getting both of you on a podcast because I know what your calendars look like, so thanks for making it happen.

Carrie Gross [00:01:41]: Thanks for inviting us!

Kelly Kovack [00:01:43]: Of course. So, you know, last year represented many things in our collective psyche, but for the Dennis Gross skincare brand, it was also the 20-year anniversary of the brand, among many milestones that we’ll get to. But I also had the pleasure of being a member of your team in the early days, so I have a special appreciation of what you guys have built. And just to set the foundation for the conversation, can we revisit those early days of the brand that started with the professional service, the Alpha-Beta Peel that was in Dr. Gross’s office, and sort of what the impetus was for launching a brand 20 years ago?

Carrie Gross [00:02:24]: So, today that treatment and that at-home version remains our hero, and honestly, the impetus was the transformative results that the Alpha-Beta Peel delivered to Dennis’s patients initially, and honestly, from my perspective, the Alpha-Beta Peel had a life force and it just begged to give birth to a brand. And that’s what we did. That’s my take on it.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:02:54]: I hear you and I agree with that, and I think that the thing I’d add to it is that we had the guts to think out of the box and stick to that. Our marching orders were: hey, you can get great results from a peel and you don’t need a down-time. It only takes the fact that you need two steps, because that’s what doctors do. And that was the top of the food chain thinking of the Alpha-Beta Peel that diverted from the people, the press, the industry, which at the time, was all about you’ve got to destroy the skin, like Samantha on Sex and the City, make it really pay its dues, and then it’ll heal up and look better than ever. And that, dermatologically, which I am 100% sure of, and since then have proven, that whole premises is ridiculous, it’s flawed – there’s no organ in the body you damage to make it come back better. Skin is no different, and health is definitely included in beauty. So you just never, ever throw the skin off-balance by threatening its health. That’s what we do. That’s what I’ve perfected, I believe, in the skincare line. It’s definitely the mantra of every single product. And to do that with a peel right out of the box back then was really the bottom line, was the anchor. It was the Rock of Gibraltar for the brand.

Kelly Kovack [00:04:13]: Yeah, no, I remember those early days and trying to convince people that they could peel every day and that it wasn’t actually peeling, and kind of the three-ring circus we would roll around to Nordstrom’s doing professional peels. It is one of those miracle products: instant results.

Carrie Gross [00:04:33]: You were there in the early days and helped us solidify our go-to-market strategy and our brand messaging, and as I said, the Alpha-Beta is still our hero today, and a lot of that foundational work we did together, and we’re still using it.

Kelly Kovack [00:04:48]: But over the past two decades, you’ve not only built what has become an iconic skincare brand, but simultaneously, you’ve also built an impressive medical practice in New York City, you’ve raised four amazing children, and I think having spent evenings with you over dinner, the way you run your company is kind of like those dinners, where everyone pitches in, makes the dinner, has fun, plays a game, and it has a fun and spontaneity and care that goes into everything. And now, I mean, I’ve told you what I perceive your secret sauce to be, but what is your secret for making it all work? I mean, you have a family, you’re married, you have a practice, you have a skincare brand. It’s a lot for anyone.

Carrie Gross [00:05:36]: I think distilling it into a word, maybe, is ambition. I mean, I think Dennis and I are both ambitious and we did jump right in and have a significantly large family at the same time we started our business, and we just have a purpose. We’re very ambitious and I think our kids share that and our friends feel it. It’s a lot of energy.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:06:03]: And I’ll add to that, the fact that I truly believe we’ve proven that we both have our individual talents, too. Like I do know that science and formulation and chemistry and skin cells and molecules interacting, that perspective is really not in the industry, period. There is no dermatologist like me with a skincare formula he formulates.

Kelly Kovack [00:06:28]: Well and there is definitely a yin and yang too.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:06:31]: Well, and I must say – no, no, no, that was a comma. So that I know is my talent. Here is where my talent stops and falls short: running a company. And, here’s Carrie’s native proclivity, her natural talent: she truly has a gift. Mine is a science, nothing else, no ego. Carrie really has the ability to run a company, to organize a company, to create a culture in the company that is productive and positive and is that dinner table of a happy family kind of a thing. By the way, the family is a lot happier when it’s the family of the company than it is when it’s the family of our kids, let me tell you, okay.

Carrie Gross [00:07:14]: Certainly in COVID.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:07:16]: And that positive energy is Carrie’s creation from the top down.

Kelly Kovack [00:07:19]: Yeah, you definitely have, like, a yin and yang that just kind of creates this amazing whole. And also, I think it speaks volumes that your team stays with you. There’s a person on your team that I hired that is still with you, and that’s, like, almost 18 years. That’s amazing. No one stays at businesses that long. So I think that is a testament to the culture you’ve built.

Carrie Gross [00:07:42]: Thank you, it is really remarkable what kind of foundation we have in our executive team, from finance, ops, product development, marketing. It’s really something that I feel very proud of.

Kelly Kovack [00:07:57]: Yeah, you definitely should. One other thing that I think it’s important to talk about, especially in a time when rounds of funding and valuations have taken on a narrative of their own for brands and founders, you know, you guys built this brand without any outside capital until last spring when you partnered with Main Post and they came on as minority investors in the business. And it’s actually one of the handful of deals that actually happened in Q2. Can you share a little bit about why you chose this path? I’m sure you had options to do it other ways. And why you decided to sort of, 20 years in, to bring in outside capital?

Carrie Gross [00:08:37]: I think a lot of it had to do with the people involved. So I had a meeting with Vennette from FinanCo, Vennette Ho, and I just fell in love with her and I knew that I could trust her, that she understood what we had built and what we had invested personally, and I felt very confident that she could help us with the process. And then it was the same with Main Post. When we met Main Post, I had that same feeling that they had a lot of respect for what we had built thus far and that they could help us scale, and we were really ready to scale. I think that in building our brand and our SKU assortment and our team, it was very thoughtful, it had a purpose to it, and when we got to our 20th anniversary, we were eager. We were more than ready to hit the gas pedal. And Vennette was the person to take us on that journey.

Kelly Kovack [00:09:32]: Yeah, what was the process like? Because I think a lot of founders have really thought outside capital is the only way to go, but then when they go into fundraising, they don’t really understand sort of what the process is like. And especially you were doing this sort of leading into COVID, and a lot of people just put deals on hold or deals fall apart, but I guess the relationship was just there and it was meant to be, because it happened.

Carrie Gross [00:10:03]: So the pitch process was pre-COVID, and for us, as founders, it really was sitting down to the table. We had that strong financial, operational footing, and so for us it was just telling our story. And we really – it wasn’t that we needed money, we wanted partners. So I think the match with Main Post, it felt so great. They’re also entrepreneurs and they run their business and they really just got us. And we were going to close I think like the first week of March, the first half of March, and we paused, but through the pitch process we had a relationship that we developed, and I kept talking to Jeff and I kept talking to Josh and Erin and all the guys, and Tara, etcetera. So as brands were pivoting, as there was lockdown, we kept sharing and touching base. Initially, they were paused, and then they came back a month later and were like, we just want this so bad. This is the one deal we want to do and we’re going to make it happen. And we did it. We got to the finish line.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:11:09]: And what I liked about them, the reason I was on board too, was that first of all, I think Carrie having people of equal mind around her, and I’ve been saying this to her for years, is something that she’s done amazingly well with. At the same time, there’s so much room for improvement for her to have people behind her, with her. She doesn’t even know what that’s like, and I thought they, as a brain trust, as a think tank, I thought they were excellent in that process, and with great synergy for building the business with Carrie. And also allowing us to continue on our path, which is growing innovation. And I think that that, to me, is the fundamental thing that gives results, basically, that’s different, that’s meaningful, that gives you the competitive advantage. And I think that’s what we’re continuing to demonstrate: results, results, results. And how do you get it? Well, that’s another story, but we can get you that.

Carrie Gross [00:12:12]: And sometimes I think people think that it might be a little bit intimidating, but actually, they make us stronger and better. Like our board of directors are so invested in the business and our meetings, our brainstorming sessions, it’s so nice to have a fresh set of eyes who isn’t in the business, day-in, day-out. Sometimes I think as founders, you’re so close to it you don’t get to see the forest for the trees, so it’s been extremely positive in every way.

Kelly Kovack [00:12:44]: I think one of the cool things about this period in time is that brands like the one you’ve built, kind of heritage brands that grew slow but it was profitable growth, have all of the sudden kind of become what everyone wants, and not these kind of D-to-C beauty unicorns. So I think it’s kind of a cool time for brands with real heritage. The past year has been difficult for everyone, both personally, professionally, but it feels like the brand has really come into its own during this period. While many businesses took a “wait and see” approach or were simply paralyzed, you guys immediately dove kind of head first into showing up for your community digitally, which for a brand focused on brick-and-mortar stores is a little out of your wheelhouse, but you made it same easy. What was that moment in time when the reality [hit] that the physical stores globally were going to be shut for a period of time?

Carrie Gross [00:13:42]: It was frightening. Without question, frightening. I was worried about warehouses closing and on and on and on. But we really were just an agile group, we can pivot quickly, and the one thing that we do know so well is how to build a relationship with a client. And we just took that consultative, relationship-building approach that we previously had done through high-touch in-store or in spas and we brought it online, and it really comes from being a doctor’s brand and like everything that Dennis does with his patient population, it’s all consultative. You have an appointment, a consultation, you follow up, you set skin goals, you track your progress, and then you have this beautiful relationship established. And we were able to do that digitally, and we did it with master classes in a group setting, we did it with one-on-one consultations. And in this pandemic environment, the fact that we could have access to Dennis, the fact that we could make science understandable and fun and digestible, the fact that we have these clinical products that you can take home, they’re easy to use, they’re fun, and you get results, our fan base exploded. And a lot of it is word of mouth, and when it’s digital, you call it viral, but I think that’s more or less how it happened.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:15:14]: And there was such a demand at the time, too, for connection. And it was just really the vibe initially for us was, you know what? Skincare is something we can all look at, talk about, see it, and even in a quarantine, it’s something that my patients and our people that we’re in touch with and our feedback on social media, and even the ceremony – we invented this Zoom call where we actually invited our brand fans to this giant Zoom call with a couple hundred people. All these people got to log in and participate and say hi to Carrie and I as we just talked to them. It was like – I understand better now knowing through their eyes what we were doing for them at that moment.

Carrie Gross [00:16:03]: It was a little bit of a love fest.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:16:05]: It was that, it was. It was, like, tear stuff, you know? People thinking, thank you for doing this. That was so great. And them saying, I haven’t missed a class since, and I also got my sister and her two best friends, and it’s just become an organic thing. And here’s what’s crazy: it provided a bit of humanity during a time when we all needed it because by definition, we were secluded from each other. And it was technology that helped us there. It gave us that bridge. And so we were good at talking about things and including people and making it just fun, like Carrie was saying. So the point I’m making, in summary, is it was still high-touch. We remained high-touch, to use Carrie’s term, and we did it digitally, and now we’re still growing.

Kelly Kovack [00:16:55]: Well, I think, you know, Carrie, you’re so intuitive, but you’re also a perfectionist. What I loved watching was you sort of letting go and letting it be imperfect and just kind of unfold. And I think that’s what people wanted.

Carrie Gross [00:17:12]: Yeah, it’s more authentic that way. It’s like, oh, if we have trouble with the technology and the connection and we’re like, are you on mute? I’m not. Unmute yourself. And all of these different elements that were going on, it was real and it was authentic and it was fun.

Kelly Kovack [00:17:30]: And I would imagine that in kind of navigating the last year, you’re probably carrying some of that forward and kind of learned in the process, because pre-pandemic, the focus was very much sort of brick-and-mortar, making products sell kind of on a store level, whereas this has kind of a more global approach.

Carrie Gross [00:17:49]: Oh my god, on any given day, we’re talking to people from all continents, whether it’s South America, Asia, Africa, Australia, and it’s really, really gratifying. It’s remarkable. We kind of went from a New York City-centric vibe to global, literally like overnight.

Kelly Kovack [00:18:12]: Well, and also I have to imagine your practice was closed as well, so you had some free time on your hands that you don’t normally have.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:18:18]: That’s for sure.

Carrie Gross [00:18:20]: That was the game-changer for us.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:18:22]: COVID, for me, was a real game-changer because I always loved to teach. I love it. I love academics, I love being a student and a professor and a writer, and I’m loving it all. Now, basically, I feel like I’m really educating people, and that is something that now, yeah, I had no choice but to spend my time with that. And it’s something that really has developed in me. And I just don’t want to stop, because I just feel like that is my connection, and it boils down to basic stuff, like how to layer. We come up with things that we know people need to understand or at least find very easy to remember. And I called out those highlights, you know, and we definitely build – like getting people to follow our instructions with the fundamental precepts of good skincare, you’d be amazed how many people just don’t know that. So we were able to get off to a great start. We’re Olympic swimmers; so far that was a great dive because we just now were able to control a lot of what people’s skin – where their starting point was. And then it all mushrooms from there, pun intended because the extracts are phenomenal. We’ve been big on this lately.

Carrie Gross [00:19:44]: The super hero ingredient.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:19:45]: Talk about – not to digress, but the data, I’m so big on it, I can’t believe it. So yeah, we’re data-driven, research results driven, blah, blah, blah, and we’re going to be quick to make the turn because we’re so into it. And we already did, actually. We already did. The new products, the body products, has been amazing, crazy, fun stuff to watch soar.

Kelly Kovack [00:20:06]: I know, we’re going to come back to innovation because it deserves its own question. But I want to kind of just close the loop on sort of the past year, and as if a financial and humanitarian crisis of the pandemic wasn’t enough, brands have also had to navigate the crisis of race and diversity in a time where you’re dealing with a call-out culture and kind of tribalism. And I have to believe that all brands want to address these issues. I think many of them are scared to death of making a misstep. But you’ve addressed these issues head-on by starting kind of internally first, but being transparent about the work you’re doing externally. I mean, I saw a post on Instagram where you kind of brought people up to speed with the work you’ve been doing kind of quietly in the background, which I have to imagine is kind of risky because you don’t know how it’s going to be perceived. But can you share a little bit about how you’re tackling these issues, which are – they’re important, but they’re also complicated and kind of loaded.

Carrie Gross [00:21:12]: Yeah, they are. So what we did was back in June of 2020, as a brand, we committed to the ongoing effort to dismantle systemic racism. And what we did initially was we turned to our internal processes and took action to educate ourselves, because I think that we’ve always been very inclusive and we have our policies about how people are treated within the company, but the truth of the matter is we weren’t spending enough time and energy checking in how people are really doing and having some specific, tough, sensitive conversations, and once we started, it brought us all together. And there’s more of a closeness and a comradery than ever before, so that was something that was the initial. Additionally, we made some external investments, so we were working with the Color of Change, and we hired some consultants to help us, some girls that started their own business, Two Black Girls Consulting, and we looked at the marketing materials and the material we were creating to make sure we were sending the right message and using the right models. And then additionally to that, we are now involved with a group called 25 Black Women in Beauty, and it’s a group that is celebrating that contributions that Black women are making today, every day, in this industry. So all of these things have brought us together with a really strong purpose and passion for working on this very, very important topic, and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Kelly Kovack [00:23:05]: No, it can’t, it can’t be a trend, it has to be ongoing. And I think the conversations are what is going to unlock this and that’s the most difficult part.

Carrie Gross [00:23:14]: They are hard, but once you start, it’s actually such a beautiful thing, and so it’s become easier and easier with every very, very sincere, sensitive conversation that we’re having.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:23:28]: I mean, I love the fact that we are making changes with the way everything our company touches is affected by this new perception of things. And I must say, for me – I think it was the Sephora study that was done, I just mentioned that I totally believe in academics, and we’re a skincare brand, we’re with an institute, that’s how we train our estheticians. And so here, this study by Sephora, reading it absolutely was pivotal for me because it was a truly excellent study, data was beautifully analyzed, interpreted, and conclusions that were A through E were absolutely riveting from a social standpoint to me. And it also was great as a mission statement. They tell you what needs to be done, and I learned a lot from that. So now, for example, we had a master class last week exclusively for darker complicated women, and it was the first time we ever really did that kind of thing in earnest. And we had 500 people. It was crazy. And, I learned a lot about this. So here’s why I love this career path, is because even here, for me, there’s the opportunity for growth, personally and to be connected with that society needs to grow is just an opportunity I’m relishing.

Kelly Kovack [00:25:03]: I think we’re living, in many respects, in a really special time right now where we have the ability to rethink and fix a lot of things.

Carrie Gross [00:25:13]: And just take a kinder, gentler approach to our interactions with other people. I definitely agree with you about the priorities shifting and changing in a very positive direction.

Kelly Kovack [00:25:26]: Thinkers. Innovators. Experts. Generating ideas for the business of beauty. BeautyMatter has built its reputation as a must-read resource for beauty industry insiders, delivering future-focused insights and actionable solutions. With the speed of innovation and increased competition in the category, access to the right analysis and intelligence is more critical than ever. Make an investment in yourself and unlock a competitive edge with a subscription to BeautyMatter. Head over to BeautyMatter.com to check out our content. And as a listener to our podcast, use the code UNLOCK25 for a 25% discount.

I think some of the other interesting trends that have accelerated during this time was science became cool.

Carrie Gross [00:26:23]: Totally.

Kelly Kovack [00:26:24]: Right? Collectively, people are kind of turning to experts and consumers are demanding transparency, and I think all of these movements sort of dovetail perfectly with where the brand is. But you’ve also had to sort of manage this meteoric rise of clean beauty, which means something different to everybody you ask. So you’re one of the top skincare brands in Sephora. How have you stayed true to the DNA of the brand from a formulation standpoint while meeting the new desire for clean? And I wish we had a picture of the smirk on Dennis’s face.

Carrie Gross [00:27:02]: I know, I’m going to let him take this question, all the way.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:27:07]: There’s great science to the products, okay? And being clean was just nothing more than just, like, you know what? If you’re a batter and you’re guessing fastball and you see it’s a curveball, you can adapt quickly and hit the curveball. It was nothing more than a little curveball thrown to the company. Hey, you want to be clean? We’ve always been clean. Are you kidding? Oh, you have these little, itty bitty chemicals sprinkled here and there in our product line. That’s just because we need to get them out, we haven’t attended to it yet. That was all the clean transition amounted to for us. It was seamless. And the products didn’t get touched at all in terms of results. We actually continue to deliver incredible results. So the innovation and great results, all results because of the great science, and clean, we check that box. Box checked. Easy. Done. And, more so, by the way, it’s got – I’ve just got to say one more thing. By the way, last thing, this whole clean thing, I think is a good thing, I really do. It’s helpful not to have bad chemicals be in your product. It’s also helpful to – it gives us a question. We don’t use them, so we go beyond that. And then it just begs this whole thing about – public service announcement, the whole physical sunscreen story, chemical sunscreen is getting absorbed into the bloodstream per the Food and Drug Administration, unbiased research study, like ten months ago, that, to me, that’s consumer alert stuff. Not only that, clean can also mean if you’re not sure, just don’t do it. Hello? So of course we’re all going to formulate with physical sunscreen, but also I just think it’s common sense to educate people and let them know that story. So, we’re clean plus, my point.

Kelly Kovack [00:28:57]: So I know one of the big projects you guys are tackling right now is a big refresh and re-platforming of the brand. How is the digital pivot of the last year informing the work and changed the way you’re going to approach building the business in the future?

Carrie Gross [00:29:14]: So I mentioned earlier that we’re now talking with consumers around the globe on a daily, weekly basis, and the thing that everyone is telling us is that they definitely need some reassurance, they want to feel optimistic, they need hope, and they need an emotional connection. And I just felt like more than ever before, we’ve always tried to have a very authentic, ownable voice and look and feel. I mean, everyone knows we’re orange, it’s optimistic, you know, we use Dennis-isms in our marketing, but it just felt like there was a need to pivot a little bit towards more of a conversation about health and wellness, like skin health, health is the new wealth, and self-care at home is so important and it just evokes a different image. So maybe before when we would have done a social media post, we would have had somebody wearing earrings and cozy PJs and there at home doing their skincare and we just wanted to have the right message and the right images that would evoke the emotions and connect with people and where they are and what they need now. And again we said priorities shifted, and so I felt the need to really take a hard look at our brand and make sure that we were talking to our consumers the way that they wanted to be spoken to, delivering to them the information and the education that we needed, and that’s the work that we’re doing. So it’s a super gratifying project.

Kelly Kovack [00:30:58]: And are you focusing more on D-to-C than you have in the past sort of in this work?

Carrie Gross [00:31:04]: We are because that’s the premier tool that we have to connect the consumer, would be our own branded website and we’re refreshing our blog to get a lot more relevant information out there for her. Everyone is hungry for information and they do want science. They want to make sure that they’re doing the right thing for their bodies and their skin. So D-to-C is most definitely the priority, but when it comes to the images that we’re creating and the branding work that we’re doing and sort of the collateral that we’re creating, because that brick-and-mortar matters to me.

Kelly Kovack [00:31:40]: It’s coming back.

Carrie Gross [00:31:42]: It’s coming back. It’s already – I mean, our numbers in brick-and-mortar are pretty good. And so even in store, when she goes into store, what are they looking for? You know, they don’t want fluff, they want science. And so we are fine-tuning our messaging, our education, our communication with our consumers and with the beauty advisors, and it’s all coming together beautifully. And you’ll start to see it’s not a revolutionary project, it’s an evolutionary project. You’re still going to get the same feeling when you approach us, but it’s just going to be a subtle, timely, relevant shift. 

Kelly Kovack [00:32:24]: And that’s really sort of, I would imagine, how you’ve stayed relevant for two decades. It’s this constant sort of evolution of the brand, kind of staying the same, but moving forward.

Carrie Gross [00:32:36]: Fine-tuning, yes.

Kelly Kovack [00:32:37]: Yeah, a little tweak here and there.

Carrie Gross [00:32:39]: Yeah.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:32:41]: But also, I might add, going the other way too, we’ve more cemented our pillars, too. That’s been sort of an anchor to expansion, interestingly enough. So there are certain pivotal ingredients that I definitely believe in, and there’s certain precepts, like what do you got to do with your eyes, and how to break down the different areas of your eye area. Is it the lid, is it the crow’s feet, is it the crepe-iness, is it the under-eye circles, is it a sunken look? If it’s discolored, is it because it’s more transparent, it needs collagen, or because it has too much melanin and needs a change and needs this one. That kind of analysis, you can bring that back to, well, then you need this ingredient for that, this ingredient for that, and here’s what you need. In our product line, this is the orange box.

Carrie Gross [00:33:26]: You’re going to be able to take that journey and learn about all that level of detail and science on our website through quizzes and through consultations and just from doing some homework.

Kelly Kovack [00:33:41]: So you guys don’t speak about it very much, but I know you have a very important initiative that you’ve been working on behind the scenes, which is a partnership with Memorial Sloan Kettering to mentor and fund fellows. Can you share a little bit about the work you’re doing there and why it’s so important to you? I know it’s very, very sort of close to your heart.

Carrie Gross [00:34:00]: Dennis did research at Memorial Sloan Kettering early in his career, and the research papers that he published are saving lives today. And he has strong ties to Memorial Sloan Kettering and he can speak to it, I mean, the head of the melanoma division was his lab partner.

Kelly Kovack [00:34:22]: Oh, that’s really cool.

Carrie Gross [00:34:24]: It’s really remarkable. And so we just thought, what better way to sort of stay connected to them and also do something meaningful for the future of dermatology, melanoma research, than for Dennis to mentor and for us to fund some of the fellows. So…

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:34:45]: Yeah, and I’ve got to say that, look, there’s no question that beauty is one thing, but health is another. And so when we have to make a decision in terms of, like, what do we support? To me, I know that institution and we’re still going to play in our little box of skin, but melanoma is deadly and it’s horrible, and if you know about it, you treat it, you get it early, no question; you can survive it. So it’s still an educational thing, and by the same token, the treatments for those who are less fortunate and suffer from it getting more advanced, Sloan Kettering is the number one place where the practical application of their science is being directed towards patient care and is helping people. So you want to just do more than that. So a fellow is a research doctor in training; that’s what a research fellow is, right? It’s a track for someone who is dedicating their entire future life to research. So these are the next generation of research, and so…

Carrie Gross [00:35:54]: Life-saving research.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:35:56]: Life-saving research that needs to go on. And so yeah, back to wow, what a fun, privileged thing this is to be able to be doing.

Kelly Kovack [00:36:03]: Yeah, it must feel amazing to sort of be able to give back in that way, like doing something you love is affording you to really make a difference.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:36:12]: Yeah, definitely.

Carrie Gross [00:36:14]: We had a ribbon cutting ceremony with them pre-pandemic at their new institution on the upper east side, and it was – it brought tears to my eyes to see Dennis in that setting.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:36:24]: But I guess I could say this, too. One of the opportunities was that I connected Sephora to Memorial Sloan Kettering. I have to say that that’s one of my crowning little secret achievements in my book when I look back, was I had this idea. I said, wow, those two guys, what a mutually beautiful relationship that could be, because Sephora is a retailer, to back health in a big way, not just beauty. I think it was fantastic, and then Sloan Kettering could get some serious bucks, you know?

Carrie Gross [00:36:56]: It’s the proceeds from the Sun Safety Kit that they do every year. We connected Sephora to Memorial Sloan Kettering as of – this is our second year.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:37:07]: Yeah.

Kelly Kovack [00:37:08]: Well, this kind of brings me to my last question, because in my opinion, your collective super powers are kind of intuition and innovation. So this is your innovation question, Dennis. I know you’ve been chomping at the bit to talk about it. But what do you think the future of the beauty industry is going to look like? And how do you envision the role and behavior of brands evolving?

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:37:30]: Oh my goodness. Well, I think the first thing to think about is, what’s the spectrum of possibility in terms of results? I’m all about, that’s what we do. You just use this product and you’re firming, your skin looks this way or that way, whatever it is you’re looking for. So, to me, what I’m going to do is I’m going to be pushing the frontier further and further in terms of results. To just feel that there are going to be new technologies, I personally think that there’s new science that I’m working on right now, I’m excited about it. I love the fact that people are doing great with hyaluronic acid and retinol and vitamin c if they need it, Alpha-Beta Peels increasing cell turnover, increasing rejuvenation, blah, blah, blah. All of that stuff we have, our loyal followers in this company, are doing just that. But I do think in the future the devices have proven to be an incredible new niche. That was breakthrough for us, to bring not only incredible ingredients and science in the conventional way, but now starting to use devices. So I see that also, there’s a lot of exciting stuff we can do with that, and we’re big on developing those products.

Carrie Gross [00:38:51]: I think from my perspective, the innovation and intuition, we have to stay really focused and really in touch with the consumer, meet them where they are. So we’ve reprioritized even in how we think about product development and messaging and the transparency and the trust and the optimism are needed now and content is needed now more so than even new products. So we want to give her all of the support and empowerment needed to enter into this new decade and this new world that we’re living in.

Kelly Kovack [00:39:31]: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know about you, but you know, it’s definitely been a rough year, and it kind of feels like 2020 had five quarters because it doesn’t feel like much has changed. But I’m so inspired by the creativity and innovation happening. I’m so hopeful for the future, and just the amount of creativity and thinking kind of outside the status quo that’s happening right now.

Carrie Gross [00:39:57]: Totally, I totally agree – in every industry, not just ours.

Kelly Kovack [00:40:02]: Absoutely.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:40:03]: As humans, this was a big deal.

Kelly Kovack [00:40:05]: You know, it will forever be imprinted, kind of this time in our lives. I think it’s made us slow down. I’ve been with my mom for the past year, and I mean, that’s a gift. I mean, I had no intention of being in a retirement community for 12 months with my husband and my mom as a roommate, but it’s been really kind of amazing at the same time. That’s a gift.

Carrie Gross [00:40:28]: Definitely.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:40:29]: Yes, yes.

Carrie Gross [00:40:30]: And we have to continually frame them just that way.

Kelly Kovack [00:40:35]: Yeah. Well, thank you guys so much for making the time and kind of sharing your journey, and see you on the other side of this, when we don’t have to be socially distant.

Carrie Gross [00:40:47]: Exactly, exactly.

Kelly Kovack [00:40:49]: Thank you guys.

For Carrie and Dennis, it’s a matter of happiness. 21 years of building an iconic, self-funded beauty brand, a successful medical practice, and raising a family of four certainly has the potential for chaos. But if you’ve met Carrie and Dennis, they make it seem easy. Together, they are a united front that organically ebbs and flows, leaning into their individual strengths. In a time when beauty brands were looking for quick exits, they were building a business on the hero product, the Alpha-Beta Peel, building it the old-fashioned way, one relationship at a time. If you enter into their orbit, you become part of their family. So in the end, it’s a matter of happiness, and that’s what matters. I’m Kelly Kovack, see you next time.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:41:47]: Hi, I’m Dennis.

Carrie Gross [00:41:49]: And I’m Carrie, and what matters to us is happiness.

Dr. Dennis Gross [00:41:52]: And that’s because you can actually, without fail, be happy with your skin. It is possible to love your skin and we’ve seen so many people in my practice and people who have used products that we create that have truly turned around and checked that box, and then some, and that’s what makes people happy.

Kelly Kovack [00:42:14]: It’s A Matter Of is a production of BeautyMatter LLC. You can find more content and insights on www.BeautyMatter.com and follow us on social media @BeautyMatterOfficial.

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