It's a Matter Of... Originality
Old School Brand Building + Self-Funding to Scale with Rose-Marie SwiftMarch 23, 2021 BeautyMatter
March 23, 2021
Today’s venture-backed startup landscape has raised the bar for what it takes to compete, much less succeed. Many brands today focus on valuations, the size of fundraising rounds, top-line numbers, and their exit plan - and that’s one path. Others remain self-funded and fiercely independent defining success on their own terms. In this paradigm, success is not based on size but the ability to execute on your purpose, vision, and strategy all while being laser-focused on profitability. Clean beauty pioneer and makeup artist Rose-Marie Swift, the founder of RMS Beauty, is one of these fearless founders, who shares her insights and experiences with Kelly.
Rose Marie Swift [00:00:25]: Hi, this is Rose Marie Swift. I am a makeup artist and the owner of RMS Beauty, the organic color cosmetic brand, and to me, it is a matter of originality.
Kelly Kovack [00:00:40]: Founders are a passionate group with diverse motivations and definitions of success. I’m Kelly Kovack, founder of Beauty Matter. While the motivations for launching a brand may vary, make no mistake: it’s hard, but incredibly rewarding work, even when things don’t go to plan. Today’s venture-backed start-up landscape has raised the bar for what it takes to not only compete but to succeed. Many brands today focus on valuations, the size of fundraising rounds, topline numbers, and their exit plans, and that’s one path; others remain self-funded and fiercely independent, defining success on their own terms. In this paradigm, success is not based on size, but the ability to execute on your purpose, your vision, and your strategy, all while being laser-focused on profitability. Makeup artist Rose Marie Swift, the founder of RMS beauty and clean beauty pioneer, is one of these fearless founders.
So, Rose Marie, thank you so much for taking us up on the invitation to chat today. We’ve never met, but I’m a huge fan, your story is so inspirational, the products are amazing, and also, we’ll dig into it, but you are sort of one of the rarities of doing this sort of completely self-funded. So, I’m so excited to have you today.
Rose Marie Swift [00:02:14]: Oh, thank you for inviting me, I’m very excited about this.
Kelly Kovack [00:02:17]: Your backstory as a professional makeup artist and the fact that a cosmetic industry-related illness set you on the path to create RMS is pretty well-known, but what stuck me out in kind of prepping for this was how you responded in an interview during that period, and you said, “I started studying what was out there, I got pissed off, and then I started my own brand,” and I was like, “I’ve never met Rose Marie, but I think we’re going to be friends.”
Rose Marie Swift [00:02:45]: Well, that’s very typical me. I’m like this mad scientist, and I’m always analyzing products, and I was always brought up with really healthy food, I was obsessed with bringing organic salads to the shoot for the models, and they’d always ask me to get an organic green juice from Juice Press at the time, and so I got kind of this reputation for being really involved with the girls’ health and telling them what they should do, and I always wanted to do something organic, because here I am, working with girls that are 16, 17, 18 years old, and they’re absolutely drop dead gorgeous, I kind of like to say “freaks of nature,” because they’re so perfect, and I used to always think, “Wow, look at after I put this makeup all on them, all they start doing is looking older. It sits on top of the skin, it starts to crease up,” and I’m like, “This is totally not cool.” I’m a lazy makeup artist; I don’t want to be retouching dried up makeup all the time, and I thought, “I’ve got to start doing my own thing,” so I started looking at brands that were, at the time, your so-called – well, actually, some of them were being labeled as “organic,” and I remember turning the product around and looking at the deck, and on it were the words “organic,” but yet there was only one organic product in the deck, and I’m like, “What the hell? This is all full of chemicals still.” Yes, some of them are natural chemicals, but some of them were downright nasty chemicals that are under scrutiny in the industry, and I’m like, how do they get away with having this organic? And, of course, they really didn’t back in those days, because this is going back quite a while. I just started analyzing what was out there and started studying it, and then I did that website, BeautyTruth.com, kind of talking about the industry a little bit, and so it was funny, it kind of hand-in-hand came with it, and one of the main inspirations, I honestly have to say, is I did so much photography that was on location. A lot of it was Victoria’s Secret – which I can say that on here, right?
Kelly Kovack [00:04:42]: Of course.
Rose Marie Swift [00:04:43]: Good.
Kelly Kovack [00:04:45]: You can say anything you want.
Rose Marie Swift [00:04:48]: I was having the time of my life, man, flying all over the place, staying in great hotels, oh my god, it was so much fun, but the one thing that used to make me really mad is I’d put makeup on them – their bodies were always gorgeous, I’d put a little bit of jojoba oil on, and then I’d look at the skin on their face, and depending on what angle they were in or the way the light hit them, there’d always be this slight little overcast and it always looked makeup-y, and I thought, “How do I get their skin on their face to look exactly like the skin on their butts?” so to speak, perfect skin, and the makeup was not doing it, so I started creating my little un-coverups, and I got it working in the way I wanted it to work, but it really did upset me, the fact that so many chemicals are added in there as flowing agents to give that slippy-slidey feel, it’s all texture and fragrance that’s hypnotizing you, and I thought, “Okay, this is pissing me off.”
Kelly Kovack [00:05:47]: Well, also, you know, because you started the brand 11 years ago. So, what was even possible – you know, because I remember those kind of early kind of natural color cosmetics that lived primarily in crunchy granola Whole Food stores, and the formulations were so clunky, they just drug and they were drying, and people were like, “Well, but it’s organic,” and I’m like, “Yeah, but it doesn’t work, so what’s the point? It doesn’t matter.”
Rose Marie Swift [00:06:22]: 100%, and a lot of them, at the time too, were minerals, like when I was going around to the labs, they just said, “Well, organic is minerals,” and I said, “No, it’s not.” Minerals, for one thing, aren’t even organic, take that right out of your vocabulary. Things that are organic are your oils, your seeds, nuts, butters, herbs, all that stuff, you know? It’s basically agriculture and livestock is what is certified organic here in America, and it was funny, because I had a friend in Canada – I’m Canadian, by the way, just so you know, but I had a friend in Canada, and she worked for a paint factory, and I had this idea of what to put in it, so she started mixing it for me, we’re going back and forth. The more I got into organic, the more I realized organic was just not organic – there were varying degrees of organic, just like there are varying degrees of diamonds. Just because you’re buying one diamond, one that’s $30,000 and one that’s $1,000 at some little store, that’s the same thing that happens in the cosmetic industry and the organic industry. So, you’re getting good quality and bad quality of organic, and so we would do these mixtures where she would get some organic stuff in Canada, and I’d be like, “I don’t know, man.” Having come from a raw food background, I thought there’s better things, better ingredients, the way they’ve been harvested, the way they’ve been processed and whether heat has been added, and I just…I ended up getting this coconut oil that was so unbelievable that the chemist herself said to me she could not believe the difference in the product, from one organic product, which she just bought normal stuff in the store, compared to the stuff I was searching out the purity and for the quality, and you could smell the difference, the texture was different, it just had a completely different – even the energy of the product was different.
Kelly Kovack [00:08:12]: Well, I know you have sort of a thing about coconut oil.
Rose Marie Swift [00:08:17]: Yes.
Kelly Kovack [00:08:19]: I was going to talk about that later, but let’s…what is your thing about coconut oil?
Rose Marie Swift [00:08:23]: Well, just so you know, and I let my dyed hair that I used to have, I let it grow out, and just before I came on, I thought I’ll put a little bit of coconut oil on my hands and I pushed it through my hair, and I thought, “I do have to tell them I’ve got coconut oil in my hair.”
Kelly Kovack [00:08:39]: I love the gray hair; it suits you so much. It’s beautiful.
Rose Marie Swift [00:08:44]: Well, thank you. It was kind of a shock at first, you know, but it’s like, “Whoa, I’m gray.” Well, I hope to be at my age. Everybody always says, “Oh, coconut clogs the pores.” Here’s what I say to people, which freaks people out. I go, “You are 100% correct,” and they kind of look dumbfounded at me and they go, “Well, what do you mean? Why are you using it then?” because I don’t use that kind of coconut oil. Coconut oil…it’s such a long story, I’ll make it very, very short though so we don’t drag on about this, because a lot of people probably have heard this ten million times. There’s different qualities of coconut oil, as you know, but mine is not cold-pressed coconut oil. Cold-pressing still involves heat, and people don’t realize. The reason I use coconut oil is because coconut oil in nature has the highest levels of lauric and caprylic acid. Now, lauric and caprylic acid are anti-fungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral; obviously, the rest of the healing nutrients in it. Now, what’s interesting is in nature, it has the highest levels of those two ingredients: lauric and caprylic acid. Do you guys know at all where the other highest ingredients are in the whole wide world?
Kelly Kovack [00:09:52]: I have no idea.
Rose Marie Swift [00:09:53]: Human breast milk.
Kelly Kovack [00:09:56]: Really?
Rose Marie Swift [00:09:57]: Yes! Lauric and caprylic acid. After breast milk is coconut oil. But, here’s the problem: the cosmetic industry loves to cosmetize things, that’s a name that I made up guys, sorry about that, but I love to make up names, and what happens is, they like to heat things up to sterilize everything to make sure that woo, nothing’s going to happen, they’ve got to fractionate it, they’ve got to hydrogenate it, there’s all of these things that they put all of these poor healing ingredients into, and therefore, in my world, you’re creating a dead product. Once you add that kind of heat to a product, it’s dead.
Kelly Kovack [00:10:36]: So, Rose Marie, let’s take a moment to look back at the beauty industry sort of a decade ago. You know, the concept of D-to-C brands, influencers, and the clean beauty category didn’t even exist. How would you describe the beauty landscape when you decided to launch RMS? And also, what were the biggest obstacles in bringing the vision to life? Because formulations and the whole sort of realm of possibilities in what you could achieve in formulation was not what it is today.
Rose Marie Swift [00:11:11]: Oh, wow, yeah, that’s a very good question, actually. It’s so funny, because I remember when I was going to start this, and I was telling some of my big makeup friends, and they’d go, “Who the hell is going to buy organic makeup?” and I’d just kind of put my head down and go, “Well, somebody will, you wait and see, I’ll prove it.” Anyway, so long story short, you know, I just started working on it on my own, and I was very lucky to have that chemist from Canada that helped me do the formulas, because I’m obviously not a chemist, but I knew what I wanted in the product, and I couldn’t get a lab. I had my starting formulas from her, and as I went around to labs, everybody, again, just wanted to push the mineral makeup, that was their version of organic, and then they say, “Well, it’s too hard, it’s too time consuming,” that was a big issue, was the time, it definitely does take longer to make then traditional cosmetics, and you know, it just was a pain, and I finally did find one lab that would take on the project with the starting formulas, because one of the big pet peeves that the lab had was working with someone else’s formula, mostly one that they didn’t really know what it was, you know, “What the hell is this? It’s got coconut oil in it, it’s got shea butter and color,” and it almost seemed hippy-ish, it’s like, “Well, this isn’t really a product,” but again, back to the ingredients; ingredients are number one. So, what happened was I did find that lab, I created the product, I slowly was getting it out there, and the original lab, just a funny story here – the original lab actually got closed down and had a big, huge law case put against them, and so I had to find another lab, and again, big difficulties. But, it’s funny, through all these years, the labs now are really starting to embrace the green industry and not laughing at it so much, because there’s a lot of brands out there now that are channeling clean, healthy makeup. It seems to be working, it’s going in the right direction, and you know, I’m glad I was kind of one of the ones that kind of motivated a lot of brands that wanted to start doing that. I feel that I was a little bit of an influencer on a lot of people, because I was kind of the first one, and I was really the first one mouthing off about the industry with the website I did, so that kind of, you know, I had moments where people didn’t like me, I had moments where people did like me, because of my stance on the purity of products, and I don’t know, I’m happy, I’m doing my thing, I’m being creative, it’s working.
Kelly Kovack [00:13:53]: Well, I would say that you more than influenced it. I mean, I would argue that you’re one of the pioneers that sort of defined this kind of clean beauty space, and definitely the concept of clean makeup, and also, you know, 11 years into it, you’re still innovating the category. But, you know, I think one of the challenges, at least from the outside looking in, or the inside looking in, I guess, I’m not so outside, but the clean product category has no designation. I mean, it really doesn’t have any meaning, at the end of the day, it’s completely open to interpretation. So, how do you define clean beauty?
Rose Marie Swift [00:14:34]: Oh my god, I don’t know. You know what, I’m going to honestly say I don’t have a clue about how I’m going to define it. What I can say is you know, when I started my brand, I regarded my brand as being very, very clean, and people started doing brands also similar to mine, but now I’ve noticed that more and more unnecessary things are getting added into, and a lot of it is – I hate to say this, but to save grace for the rest of the industry a little bit, because you know, we’re having this whole section, let’s say for Sephora, for example, there’s a whole section of green and clean cosmetics, and then you’ve got this other section, and people are going to think, “Oh, what’s wrong with those then?” So, they’re slowly incorporating more and more chemicals that are allowed, and there’s no defining and no definitive line down the middle, what makes clean and what makes something “dirty” or whatever the words that people like to throw around, like the word “toxic,” which I don’t like, I think it’s kind of a silly word to use, because it’s not really toxic, per se. I think that – I like to call my stuff “green,” and I find myself saying that a lot and I don’t know why. I never really ever say clean, I always say green, I have a green brand, and green is more coming from mother earth, in my opinion, so I kind of put it in that category. Yeah, it’s a tricky one to maneuver, mostly if you don’t know much about cosmetics and you’re going out there as a newbie, and you’re trying to think, “Well, I want to go into a little store and I want to buy a nice product,” and people are saying, “Well, this is all organic,” because what’s happened is a lot of brands say it’s all organic, but it’s not at all, so the consumer now is actually kind of being duped in some cases with marketing and advertising and it’s kind of sad, you know?
Kelly Kovack [00:16:17]: I agree. I mean, you know, really, retailers like Credo and Sephora and recently Ulta have stepped in to fill the void, and let’s be fair, they did it to help consumers navigate their assortments and look for these hot, clean brands, but even those standards are inconsistent, and the category sort of consists of brands like RMS that walk the walk, at one end of the spectrum, and at the other end of the spectrum, you have opportunists that see a high-growth category and they want to tap into it, and they play a little free and easy with the language and claims, it’s the cost of doing business if they get caught. What do you think the future of the category is going to look like? Because at the end of the day, consumers are the ones that lose with all of this confusion, and it’s really not…I mean, it’s strange to say “fair,” but it isn’t. There are brands that really put in the hard work, and I feel like there has to be a way to differentiate them, but I certainly don’t have the answer, but I think that there’s technology coming out there that’s going to provide sort of transparency in the supply chain, and maybe that’s going to be the unlock.
Rose Marie Swift [00:17:44]: You’ve got it. You know, to be honest, it’s really hard to say what’s going to happen, but in my case with RMS Beauty, all I’m trying to do is do my creative thing. I’m coming from a creative avenue, I was a makeup artist, I’ve got a raw food background that I was very heavily into years ago, and I really follow that clean purity, and yes, it is being kind of bastardized a bit, so to speak, but that’s okay, because I’m just going to keep doing my thing, I’m going to keep creating what I do, I’m going to make myself tried and true, so to speak. If you want to get a product that is more pop culture, you know, and more glitz and glam, go for it, but I just want to keep RMS beauty as RMS, right mental state, that’s how I put it.
Kelly Kovack [00:18:35]: You know, and this sort of taps into the fact that – I mean, you should be very proud of it, you’ve scaled this business when competitors have tapped into mounds of VC funding. Why have you decided to keep RMS 100% self-funded, which seems to be a rarity these days? I mean, I’m sure you’re inundated with inbound investment and acquisition requests, so I’m sure it would be very easy to take that path, but you’ve chosen not to.
Rose Marie Swift [00:19:13]: Well, you know, this is kind of a tricky one, because we kind of did this with less focus on a huge, rapid scaling effort, and more on solid growth, and I wanted to be…like, I’m a creative, again, back to the creative thing. My vision does not include all of this money being thrown at me to sort of fly through this by the seat of our pants where things go wrong, and it’s just too fast, too many Excel sheets thrown at me, you know what I mean? It’s got to calm down. I can’t function doing something creative with that kind of momentum that’s really gang busters, because we all know, these guys, they can really take a brand to gang buster territory. But, at the same time, I feel like a part of me would be lost because I’m really trying to do something creative, something new, that people have faith in, that stands the test of time, and I want my brand to be a classic brand. I’m not in a hurry, and I tend to throw this in every once in a while, it’s kind of sad to say, but it’s true what I’m saying here – I don’t have kids. I don’t have anybody to give my money to, so I’m not in a hurry for anything. I don’t want a private jet. It’s just not my thing. So, for me to take on big, huge investors – and believe me, they’ve come to us and we’ve talked to them and got to know some. I really need to know that somebody is into what I’m doing and is not going to say, “Oh, get rid of the coconut oil and put in…” I don’t know, some other cheap oil. And, I just want it focused on where I want to leave when I leave this lifetime. I want to make sure that my brand has a reputation of being what I wanted it to be, not what some flash in the pan source of income for everybody else but myself.
Kelly Kovack [00:21:11]: Well no, you know, it’s how businesses used to be built, and I think that building brands organically, you know, nothing happens quickly, and I think one of the things that has been a big takeaway for me, kind of through the past ten months, is that brands that were kind of a little old school in their approach, the heritage brands, are weathering the storm almost intuitively better than some of these venture-backed, high flying brands, because at the end of the day, you know who you are, you don’t have to sort of second guess your decision making because it’s so ingrained with what you do every day.
Rose Marie Swift [00:21:57]: Exactly. Very, very, very true. You know, and it’s funny because we’ve taken the time and the energy to just slow down, we’re into quality. We’re also spending the time getting the right people working for us, whether it’s on a part-time basis or on a full-time basis, really good marketing people, getting really good photographers to help out with things, and we’re just not, like I said, flying by the seat of our pants, we want just to establish this, you know, strength, and being respected, and you’re right, I do find that some of these older brands that have all of the sudden appeared out of the blue, and I’m not going to name names, they’ve got a really good standing power.
Kelly Kovack [00:22:40]: You’ve been in business a decade, you’ve gone through tough times before, and listen, you know, the past ten months are definitely not like the recession in 2008, but if you’ve managed through sort of crises before, it becomes a little less reactionary, because you know you’ve got to conserve cash, you kind of have a little bit of visibility to what might be coming around the corner.
Rose Marie Swift [00:23:57]: Well, you know, I’m coming from old school. My mother would always say, “Save your money, save your money,” and I remember friends laughing in New York, “What do you mean, you don’t want to get a car service?” I said, “Hell, you guys go uptown, take a car, and I’ll be on the subway. I’ll be up there a half hour before you guys.” That’s my kind of thinking, and with the brand, I always wanted to make sure there was money for the times when things were going to get bad; a lot of brands don’t operate that way. Yes, it is old school, but it’s working for us. When the COVID hit, we’re still sailing right through, we even kept on our part-time people, everybody got paid, nobody was laid off, because we were prepared for this, and we didn’t have to franticly go, “Oh my god, we need money,” and sell out my brand. So, in a way, I’m really glad that my mother brought me up with that kind of mentality and that I could…what do they say, save your money for a rainy day? I definitely did that. And, it’s funny, because sometimes when we show our paperwork to the investors, they’re kind of in shock that we’re actually making a profit, and another thing is, we don’t need to be fancy schmancy. I remember years ago going into an office a brand new brand in New York, they were going to sponsor me for giving credit for makeup in the magazines, and I walked in and it was like, “Whoa! 24,000 square feet! Beautiful girls everywhere!” That must have cost them a fortune. Of course, they’re not around anymore, and it was a good brand, it’s really sad, people get very hung up on the fancy aspect of it, you know, the show-off aspect of it, and I don’t need to show off, I’m just doing my thing, just doing my thing, that’s it, I’m happy.
Kelly Kovack [00:25:43]: Well, Rose Marie, I think you should just keep doing your thing, because it’s working.
Rose Marie Swift [00:25:49]: What can I say, I’m a creative. It’s so funny, because when I was asked to do this with you, Kelly, I was like, “Oh my god, I can’t talk about that stuff, I don’t know about all the money stuff and all the business stuff.”
Kelly Kovack [00:26:02]: No, but I think at the end, that is the beauty for me about founders, is the honesty. I’ve started brands as well, and when all of these venture-backed brands were kind of raising all of this money and these crazy valuations, and I’m like, I know I don’t have an MBA, but I know how to keep the lights on and keep people paid, and these numbers don’t add up.
Rose Marie Swift [00:26:34]: Yes, yes, exactly. Love that.
Kelly Kovack [00:26:37]: You know, it’s like I call it “Kelly math,” it’s like I know how to keep the lights on and get everyone paid, but…
Rose Marie Swift [00:26:45]: Can I use that word, “keep the lights on”? I like that.
Kelly Kovack [00:26:48]: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. You know, I want to go back to kind of the positioning and these clean, green claims. I think on the formulation side, we’ve definitely made way more progress than we have on the packaging side, and they kind of, at least from a perception, go hand-in-hand, because how can you have a clean brand and not think about kind of the packaging, but listen, let’s be honest, the beauty industry has been a big part of the plastic problem, but innovation just hasn’t been there and it’s happening so much slower than product formulation, but it does feel like we’re making progress, but it remains complicated and nuanced. I know sustainable packaging is one of your initiatives as a brand; can you share a little about how you’re tackling it?
Rose Marie Swift [00:27:45]: Well, when I started, I would go around to these companies that do their packaging, and I’m like, “Guys, if you send me one more piece of plastic, I’m going to freak out. I want glass, I want little, little glass like in the ‘50s, and I don’t want it sprayed,” when they’re sprayed, they’re not recyclable, people don’t realize that, because they’re all chemicals, and I ended up getting asset etching on my glass, which I still do to this day. Yeah, there’s issues with that also, but the thing with the whole sustainability and getting new, modern approaches to this is these huge companies aren’t up to par. Are you guys still there?
Kelly Kovack [00:28:24]: Yes.
Rose Marie Swift [00:28:25]: Okay. You know, if somebody does come out with something good, who does it go to? It’s going to go to the big L’Oréal’s or the Estee Lauders because they can buy millions of them; the smaller brands, they’re not buying things in the tens of millions, and you know, you have to figure out how the smaller brands are going to get noticed by these companies that are doing all the plastics. Now, what I found out the other day is the plastic companies are making more money than they ever have. There isn’t a lot of money in there, and they don’t really care. People get mad at us online, people say, “Why are you doing this? Why are you doing that?” We are not a packaging company. We are a cosmetic brand. We can only do what we can do by bitching, and we’ve been bitching so much, and you know, they’re starting to listen, for sure, but again, when they do come up with something, believe me, we’ve looked at a lot of stuff, and there’s still issues with it, mostly when it comes to ingredients being on the product, for how long it’s going to last, whether it’s compostable, whether it’s recyclable, whether it’s post-consumer recyclable, there’s so many things to look at, and they still aren’t there, and I’m going to be honest, I think they’re not putting a lot of energy into it because a lot of these big, huge companies don’t care. There’s too many shareholders, there’s too much pressure to make that money that they made last year, and there will be definitely a drop in finances when it comes to research and development for a lot of these products, so right now, it’s really basic, what we can do. We are coming out – we really pay attention to this, honestly, my girls are really on top of this, so we’re coming out with…actually, I don’t think I can even say. We’re coming out with something, something’s coming. It’s going to be very, very new, and we’re kind of excited about it. We had it actually made for us, we’ve been working on it for years. There’s a few little issues coming up, but when this comes out, this is going to be major, but right now, we’ve been lucky just with our little glass pots. This is why my brand lasted so long and I could do without the financing, because I had my un-coverups in it, my eyeshadows were in it, my eye polishes, you know, my lifted cheeks were in it, my luminzers were in it, so that just saved me tons on packaging, and it was recyclable.
Kelly Kovack [00:30:48]: Yeah, you know, I think the packaging, it’s one of those conversations that it becomes incredibly divisive, because there are people who are brands that are, I think, well-intentioned, but it comes off as kind of calling people out, and I just…I feel like any time I have a packaging conversation, it ends with, “Well, it depends…” and it really does. For some people, glass doesn’t make sense because of the weight of shipping and the carbon footprint. I mean, there’s so many things that come into the sustainability question that go beyond sort of just the material, it’s so complicated.
Rose Marie Swift [00:31:35]: Oh, it’s more complicated than you can ever imagine, and what’s going to make it worse is what I’m going to tell you right now: they don’t recycle. Everybody thinks stuff is being recycled; nothing is being recycled, very little.
Kelly Kovack [00:31:46]: No, because there’s not a market for it. Yeah. And, you know, I think there’s a lot of innovation happening, and it’s happening in schools, in kind of Master’s and Doctorate programs, so you have these very cool technologies, but they haven’t been commercialized, and as a small brand, you’re not going to be the one to commercialize it; you don’t have the volume, but you also can’t take the risk. So, there’s got to be – someone’s got to step up and kind of move things forward. There are some – like Colgate has done things around sort of making toothpaste tubes recyclable, and one of the things I do find sort of encouraging is there’s this willingness to open source information that has never existed before, because we’ve always been this super top secret kind of industry of proprietary knowledge, but all of the sudden, people are willing to share when they unlock things about a new sustainable solution or product, which I think is encouraging, it’s the only way we’ll solve the problem.
Rose Marie Swift [00:32:54]: It’s 100% encouraging. There’s a whole new generation out there of all these kids that are really, really obsessed with this. It’s usually the older generation. They’re starting to change their minds a little bit, but a lot of us, we didn’t pay attention to things like that in our era. And, these young, young kids really care about what’s going on with the world and the earth and mother nature, they tend to care, but still, we have to influence the consumer, the normal consumer out there, to not just throw their product just in the garbage or to rinse it out, because I also found out too, you’ve got to rinse things out, you’ve got to take labels off and all of this. And, I found out too, I’m in Savannah right now, I love it down here, but I found out the other day that even if one piece of Pyrex glass gets in a big huge shipment of recyclable glass, it has to be thrown away because the Pyrex explodes. I didn’t know that. Most people would never know this stuff. The more research you do, the more kind of sad it gets. So, we’ve got to just…everybody has got to play their share in all of this, not just relying on RMS beauty to come up with something or Estee Lauder to come up with something, it’s got to be a bigger picture, and these big huge manufacturing companies, they’ve got to start paying more attention, I think, because if you look at where all of the manufacturing companies are, they’re all kind of doing the same thing, you know what I mean?
Kelly Kovack [00:34:21]: Yeah, and I think the manufacturing companies are often a source of a lot of the misinformation that finds its way to the consumer, because this stuff gets very technical very fast, and as a founder, if you give a brief to your supplier, you know, you kind of take the information that they give you as truth, and sometimes it’s veiled in truth, so I think there’s got to be more transparency, and yeah, these big packaging companies need to make the investment – if they make the investment, there’s a market for it.
Rose Marie Swift [00:34:57]: Oh, 100%. For sure. It will fly. But, you know, it’s still in its new stages, so I think it’s still going to be a bit of time, but as long as some brands are out there, in fact, hopefully most of them I think are really realistically thinking about changing their past packaging, so to speak. We had a beautiful set of packaging for our luminizing powders, it was made out of acrylic, absolutely stunningly gorgeous, and we found out that acrylic can’t even be recycled, so we’ve had now to discontinue all of those, but we kind of had them as a little showpiece you could keep on your counter, you could put jewelry in or your spare change, whatever, chlorella tablets for traveling. But, again, it was really sad because acrylic doesn’t scratch and it always looks beautiful, but we can’t even do that now. Displaying units, too, if you think…all of the display units, man, and it has to be new every cycle or every quarter, something new that’s coming out.
Kelly Kovack [00:36:00]: You know, I want to talk about – you were talking about kind of the passion of this new generation for sustainability. I know that you have a new role as a mentor at SCAG for the Beauty Divison, and I also know that you – you mentioned that you’re in Savannah, so I’m curious how you arrived in Savannah and why you decided to make it your home. It is a beautiful city, but although I did read in the New York Times it’s becoming a little bit of a hot bed for clean beauty, but it’s not necessarily the first city that comes to mind when you think of a beauty brand.
Rose Marie Swift [00:36:36]: Exactly. Well, you know, interestingly enough, I came down here with Louis Vuitton years and years ago, and we were very fortunate to be able to shoot at some amazing houses and plantations and that, and I just freaked out – I totally freaked out when I got here, because I thought…I have this little spooky element to me, I like that haunting gorgeous stuff a little on the dark side, and this city has all of that, and not even that, you can buy a big, huge house for next to nothing, which is exactly what I did. I could run away and hide. I love it down here, and they had – SCAG had their big beauty event, I guess it was about a year and a half ago where they had Linda Wells was there, and a few other brands, Milk, one of the guys from Estee Lauder, I forgot his name, he’s a very fabulous guy, and they had a big, huge beauty event, and they asked me to speak to everybody, so I got to know the head beauty lady, who is Melanie, and we became friends, and so one thing led up to another, she asked me to come in a couple times to her classes, I would critique some of the things they were doing, give them some different ideas, because I think what happens sometimes with students when they’re getting mentored or when they’re hearing stories from podcasts and things like that, everybody’s so positive. I tend to have a little bit of a negative thing – actually, it’s not a negative thing, it’s a reality check. I am known for a reality check, and that’s one of the reasons they liked my approach to when I speak to the kids, and I love the kids, they have so much enthusiasm and they’re so creative, and yeah, I am so glad I got this mentorship. Yeah, it’s a fabulous city, they’re free to do everything they want down here and create their art form, and the school is probably a very beautiful school historically, if you look at the buildings down here, it’s gorgeous. Anyway, so here I am, I start January 1st will be my first one, and I’m looking forward to it. February 1st, sorry, February 1st.
Kelly Kovack [00:38:50]: Yeah, I’ve heard a lot about the program, and I mean, obviously just the design talent that comes out of the school is really, really impressive. So, I think there needs to be more and more beauty programs in kind of secondary education, because it is sort of a unique industry, and this – there’s only a handful of them in the country that I know of.
Rose Marie Swift [00:39:12]: Well, you know, it’s funny, because I was speaking to Melanie the other day, and she said that the beauty sector that they’ve created down here is just booming. Classes are booming, and you know, this is saying that there is a thirst for this industry for young people to learn, learn about marketing and social media, and design, and it’s a very positive thing for young people, rather than having to go and become doctors, lawyers, kind of a thing, you know what I mean, and keep the parents happy. Wouldn’t it be great, not forcing them to do something they don’t want to do? It’s a great opportunity to come down here to this beautiful city.
Kelly Kovack [00:39:56]: Yeah, and you know, at least for me, when I kind of fell into the beauty industry by accident, but it was – all of the sudden, I was in this situation where I realized I could be very creative, but also run a business, which I didn’t even know that was an option. So, you know, I think that’s what enamored me with the beauty industry and why it felt so natural, is kind of the intersection of the business and the creative.
Rose Marie Swift [00:40:29]: Well, you know what’s really cool down here too is the fact that we can hire the kids down here to be interns, we’ve actually even hired our interns to actually come and work for us, because my company runs out of Charleston, I just liked Savannah, I found my house I wanted so I stayed in Savannah, it’s not far, it’s like an hour and a half, two hours’ drive, with my driving it’s an hour and a half because I always speed, I’m a naughty girl, I keep getting tickets. But, yeah, we’ve got some great, great kids from the school; when they graduate, they’re working for us, we’ve got quite a few of them. And, I know some other brands and companies, Estee Lauder is using a lot of them also and offering them opportunities.
Kelly Kovack [00:41:08]: That’s fantastic. I have one last question. We’re in a really interesting time. I mean, it’s difficult for sure, but there’s also so much opportunity, because I think that you know, listen, crisis and chaos create opportunities, and creative people are usually the ones who solve the problems. What do you think the future of the beauty industry holds?
Rose Marie Swift [00:41:35]: I think the beauty industry is going to go through a lot of changes, a lot, and I think a lot of – this is going to sound terrible, but I think a lot of brands are going to die out, and it might even be some of the bigger ones that are least expected to die out, and here’s why: the young people want something new. They want something exciting. They want to feel like they’re part of a brand, and sometimes I think it’s time for…oh god, I’m going to get into some trouble saying this. The dinosaurs, they become extinct, you know, and I hope I’m not a dinosaur, I think I’ve excluded myself from that category because of the fact that I’m doing clean and green makeup, so to speak, but I do think there’s going to be a lot of changes, and I do think it’s going to get cleaner and cleaner – it has to, it has to. There’s too much research coming out on ingredients, and there’s too much scrutiny on some of these ingredients that really it’s something that you’re not just going to push off to the side and not pay attention to any more. The big companies have been able to do that for a long, long time, they’re not going to be able to anymore, because the young consumer is smart, they’re becoming very smart and they’re asking questions. Sometimes, they ask too many questions, but they are asking questions, and some of them are brilliant questions, it’s not silliness, and they want to learn, they have a thirst for this, and I really think the beauty industry will change. I don’t know exactly how, obviously it’s going to be cleaner packaging and cleaner cosmetics, more sustainable, but I definitely think they’re going to go through some changes.
Kelly Kovack [00:43:12]: I agree. You know, I am a little obsessed with Gen Z, I’m just fascinated by them. They are like wise beyond their years. It is – and I really do think they are going to be the ones that solve these big problems that sort of older generations have created, and you know, one of the things I think is…I think the brands that are going to make it through and are going to be like those next iconic brands are the ones where there are teams of multiple generations working together, from Gen Z to boomers, where you can actually be at a conference table and have a conversation without eye rolls, because there’s so much to learn from one another. So, I’m really excited for kind of what’s in store for the beauty industry, but I do think it’s going to be driven by Gen Z.
Rose Marie Swift [00:44:14]: I agree with you 100%. You know I’m an astrologer too, right?
Kelly Kovack [00:44:19]: I didn’t!
Rose Marie Swift [00:44:20]: Yeah, I’m a professional astrologer. I’ve been doing astrology since I was 15, and I’m hooraying big time for the Gen Z. They’re the ones that are going to come in and clean it up, because they have a great sense of logic. Somehow, I feel logic is dead nowadays. I don’t know what’s going on, but there’s no sense of logic, and these young kids have more logic than some of the people that I know that are very well-educated, and these young kids have more – in fact, I was thinking about it the other day. I’m doing all of these photoshoots in my house because I have the perfect place with the lighting and everything, and the different rooms to go into, and I’m inviting these kids for lunch, they come over for dinner, we go to a restaurant; I realized, oh my god, I’m a baby boomer, I’m hanging around with all of these Gen Z-ers. I feel there’s no age gap. They’re thirsty to learn, they don’t reject what you say, which a lot of the younger generations do reject it, and once they see you’re old, game over. And, I’m really, really thriving on their creativity, you know, we’ll do a video and I’ll kind of go in there directing a little bit, and they’ll just say, “No, I’ve got it, I know what to do,” and so I just leave them alone, and I let them go and edit on their own, because they want to do it themselves. They take very, very strong action on determining that it’s their space, and I let them, and they send me back a video, I’m going, “Holy shit!” It’s that good.
Kelly Kovack [00:45:45]: Yeah. I mean, they’re natural content creators; they don’t think about it, they just do it.
Rose Marie Swift [00:45:48]: Exactly, exactly. No, I’m really enjoying my time down here with them, because there’s a lot of them around, there’s a whole new class starting, and I’m glad I’ve got the Gen Zs and I’ll be mentoring.
Kelly Kovack [00:46:07]: Aw, I think mentoring is so…I mean, is so important. I always find it so fulfilling, and sometimes I feel like I get more out of it than I give, so it’s a selfish pursuit, sometimes.
Rose Marie Swift [00:46:21]: Yeah, well it’s funny, I’m learning about myself too, listening to them. It really opens up your thinking.
Kelly Kovack [00:46:26]: Thank you so much for taking the time today, and I hope that you’ll keep us in the loop for whatever launch you have coming in the future that you weren’t supposed to talk about.
Rose Marie Swift [00:46:39]: You know, it’s not so far away, it’s not so far away.
Kelly Kovack [00:46:42]: Alright, well you’ll have to let us know.
Rose Marie Swift [00:46:45]: Kelly, it was really, really nice, I really enjoyed this.
Kelly Kovack [00:46:47]: It’s such an honor, Rose Marie. Thank you so much.
Rose Marie Swift [00:46:50]: You too.
Kelly Kovack [00:46:55]: For Rose Marie, it’s a matter of originality. Creative minds often view the world through a different lens; they’re not confined by the status quo, but live in a visionary world of possibilities. While Rose Marie is the embodiment of a creative, she’s also fearless in her willingness to challenge the beauty industry, to do better, and to be better. She confronts challenges, and most importantly, she leads by example, with tough love and collaboration. A cosmetic industry-related illness set her on the path to create RMS, which has become the origin story for many clean beauty brands, but for RMS, it was just the impetus, not what has defined the brand’s DNA. The industry may have caught up with Rose Marie’s visionary thinking about what beauty products could and should be, but 11 years later, RMS is not only one of the pioneers that helped define the white space, they continue to innovate a category with no real designation. The expectation of clean may have become table stakes, but remains completely open to interpretation and rife with misinformation. Rose Marie and RMS not only talk the talk, they walk the walk on their own terms, driven by passion and constant evolution. So, in the end, it’s a matter of originality. I’m Kelly Kovack, see you next time.
Rose Marie Swift [00:48:25]: Hi, this is Rose Marie, and to me, what matters is originality, doing it my way, step-by-step, and never taking no for an answer.
Kelly Kovack [00:48:40]: 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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