Ep.9-Guest Series: Lorraine Dallmeier, Ceo, Formula Botanica on What Beauty Founders Don't Know
In this guest series episode of JumpStart Beauty Brand Podcast, I spoke to Lorraine Dallmeier, super-driven and rockstar CEO of Formula Botanica, a school focused on organic formulations, she took the school from a tiny startup to a team of 40 staff members whilst making a difference to 20,000 graduating students and 100K formulators!
Timestamps & Key Moments
02:53:00-Lorraine’s life & career transitions
07:14:80-Why Formula Botanica?
0:17:51-Difference between students who create breakthrough formulations vs. not quite?
14:01:09-The other top 2 mistakes skincare formulators make?
15:27:70- Why do some beauty formulators still fail even after 5-star formulations?
19:06:30-Fake in the organic beauty world?
24:36:30-Everyone can formulate!
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I think the number one that I see people make is that they formulate for themselves.
[00:00:05] So a lot of people will come onto the course and they’ll be like, I really like this body butter or I really like this facial cream. It works really well for my skin. That’s the one I’m going to sell.
[00:00:17] And again, I mean, it ties in with what we were talking about before, but that is a classic mistake that I’ve watched hundreds of people make. And I really hope that we’re starting to get through to people by saying, if you’re making a brand, you’re not formulating for yourself. You may be your target market. But you may also really not be your target market.
Hey Lorraine, I welcome you to Jumpstart Beauty Brand Podcast, which is all about what is it that beauty founders do not know. And for all my listeners and viewers of this podcast, let me introduce Lorraine to you.
[00:01:27] Lorraine is the rock star CEO of Formula Botanica.
[00:01:31] She started out as a student and in 2014, she became the CEO when Formula Botanica was just a small, fledgling, tiny startup and she’s grown it to where it is today and in my opinion, it’s having the biggest impact, I call it the first floodgate of democratizing indie beauty. She won
[00:01:51] The Most Influential Person In Natural Beauty Award in 2020, and before that, in 2018, she had won The Digital Achiever Of The Year Award by Google and Cosmetic Executive Women.
[00:02:04] Phew! I wish I had those credentials to speak about myself, but yeah, Lorraine, I welcome you to this podcast and do you have anything to say? Shall we rock and roll with the questions?
I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you so much for the wonderful introduction. And yeah, let’s do this.
Perfect. Like I said, in my honest, humble opinion, I feel you’re having a much bigger impact than labs, beauty unicorns or nine-figure beauty brands. You have trained over 20, 000 students and 100, 000 organic formulators. So let’s start with your story, mission, the transitions in your life. How chartered environmentalist and biologist by training, which I forgot to say in your introduction,
[00:02:46] how did somebody like that venture into digital and formulations and where you are today?
Oh my goodness. So that’s a big question. Well, I, thank you very much for the kind words about Formula Botanica, by the way, because we’re actually, well, I think one of the beauty industry’s best kept [00:03:00] secrets because a lot of people don’t know who we are, what we do in the background. So this all started, gosh, over 10 years ago, I was on maternity leave and I think like some women have at that point, I had some headspace and I sat there thinking, I really want out of my day job. I’d worked as a chartered environmentalist and environmental scientist consultant for many years in the international energy industry. And I always wanted to go back to my roots because I studied biology originally, and I loved plants. I always sat there going, what else could I do?
And my partner said to me “you really should start your own business” because I really struggled hitting the glass ceiling at work all the time and constantly being told you’re too young, you’re too inexperienced, you can’t take on this next step. But I really wanted big challenges. So I thought I’m going to start my own business and I was watching the BBC’s Apprentice whilst nursing my baby on the sofa and I mean the people on “The Apprentice”, I’m sure if I sat with them face to face, they’d come across as quite competent, but on television, they really don’t. And I was sat there going, my God, if these people can do it, then so can I. And so I started, I created my own iPhone app whilst on maternity leave to teach people how to make DIY beauty recipes. Using really simple ingredients that they could find in the supermarket, nothing, nothing professional, but just fun. And that took off. I launched it into the App Store a year later, and it was downloaded in over 100 countries, and I got featured by all these major magazines. I was like, okay, we’re onto something here. What can I do next? And I started to bring my science background into it and write about beauty ingredients online and gained quite a following actually. I was, you know, all of a sudden I was getting 30, 000 readers a month on my blog and I was like, wow, this is going somewhere. What could I do next? And then I thought I’ve got to learn how to formulate and I can start my own skincare line. And I took a tiny online course. Loved it, rocked it, started making my own skincare formulations, decided to launch my own brand. At that point, I had another baby. And then I sort of went, okay, reality check here, Lorraine. We’re in this tiny house, two children, surrounded by baby things, and I thought, actually I don’t think this is going to work just yet. I’ll put it on hold. And at that point, I had the opportunity to buy the school that I trained with. It was a tiny one-woman startup at the time. It was very much along the lines of, this is going to be your hobby business, one hour a day max. There’s only a couple of hundred students who’ve been through the school. This is honestly super simple. It’s just a one-woman side hustle. And I don’t do side hustles apparently because I bought the school, threw myself into it.
[00:05:28] Within four months I’d quit my job and here we now are, ten years later, it’s not a side hustle, I don’t work an hour a day. I have over40 staff and we’ve trained, yes, almost 20, 000 students in 191 countries.
[00:05:41] It’s been fantastic to see the impact that we’ve had all the world.
Wow! I’m absolutely amazed by the success you’ve had.
I cannot believe you had 30, 000 visitors to your blog just out of something you did as a hobby. Wow. That’s just amazing.
I love it. I loved creating [00:06:00] content. I’ve created my first website in 1995 when I was 15. So I’ve always been a content creator and it just comes very naturally to me.
As it usually happens in my podcast, one answer leads to another so I do have my list of questions, but I’m very intrigued. Tell me,
have you always succeeded in everything you have done in your life? Now, of course, success means different things to different people
I get a feeling that whatever your touch, turns to gold.
Well yeah, I suppose. I mean, obviously I’ve failed at things. We all fail at things, but I have an incredible amount of drive. I’ve been told many times that I’m the most driven person people have met, and I don’t stop until I get to where I want to be. And I do that because I always have a reason behind it. So, yeah, I generally have done pretty well at everything I’ve done, which has been phenomenal. But obviously behind that sits a huge amount of drive and hard work.
I just love it. Another pattern I see in my podcast is when I interview such great entrepreneurs like yourself, within five minutes, I start feeling like my whole life has been underachievement.
[00:07:04] But I love everything you have done. So let’s get into Formula Botanica. Obviously, you teach them organic formulations. You do much more than that but your core is teaching them organic formulations.
[00:07:14] So why Formula Botanica?
[00:07:16] What is the difference between a student who learns formulation from you versus who would do it on their own or go somewhere else? What’s that secret sauce or what’s the USP of Formula Botanica?
For us, it’s all about learning how to formulate with organics first of all and we want people to do so safely and stably and sustainably as well.
There aren’t many places where you can learn formulation. There’s typically like cosmetic science courses and degrees out there and they’re absolutely fine, but you’re not going to walk out of those at the end of them and be specialized in naturals and organics. The other thing we do is we bring the business aspect into it because almost every single person who studied with us wants to start their own business. It’s very easy to think we’re a formulation school, but we had to bring the business element in from the start because even the people, who don’t think they want to formulate, within a module, they’ve changed their mind and they’re like, maybe, maybe I could sell this. Maybe I could do this. So we also bring the business component in where we teach people how to turn a formulation into a business. That makes us different because you could go to university and study cosmetic science and become a cosmetic scientist or a chemist you still won’t be able to start a business at the end of it. But if you come and study with us, we will give you the practical skills you need to formulate and then also become an entrepreneur.
Love it. Absolutely love it. This is just amazing because formulation is a means to an end, right?
And I’m absolutely amazed when you said that obviously it is towards something they want to start a business because I was wondering why would somebody want to learn formulation? If they don’t want to do business, maybe there are people who want to learn it as a hobby or want to create their own products, nothing wrong with that, but if there’s a goal, then it’s easier to help people get to where they want to go, right?
Absolutely. I think a lot of people who do want to just learn how to formulate also do so because of the joy they get from it. I’m repeatedly told by our students that formulation brings them so much peace and it grounds them and it brings them happiness and it fulfills them. There’s a real stillness about it. It’s like when you throw yourself into cookery and you are creating something beautiful. I think formulation has that same effect for a lot of people, but I think a lot of people also mistrust the products that are out there made by mainstream brands, for right or wrong reasons. So they want to make their own. I just think it’s, it’s wonderful. I think formulation is really becoming a democratized skill that we’re seeing take off all around the world, because the number of people who are now becoming aware of the fact that they can do this for themselves is just growing exponentially year on year, which is of course, why Formula Botanica has also been so successful because people are searching for this information and then they come and enroll with us, which is awesome.
That’s great. That’s very insightful, the way you gave the analogy of cooking, and now I get it like why women are better at clean and organic formulations than men because they know how to create that perfect recipe or the formulation. That was Formula Botanica versus what is outside of Formula Botanica, the other options that students have. Now, let’s get inside Formula Botanica. In spite of all the teachings that you do, the amazing formulations you teach, what is the difference, some who are able to create breakthrough formulations versus those who create very good formulations, but not as breakthrough or they don’t hit out of the park, so to say?
I would change that question slightly and talk about the people who make breakthrough brands rather than formulations, because behind me, I have lots and lots of products in my office. They’re all sent to me by graduates. All of those people took the same course, but they all make different products, which is awesome, because we teach them how to create their own formulations. Some of those people purposefully want to stay really, really small with their brands, some of them go global and they soar. The thing that differentiates them is always the big mission that they have in the world. We’ve seen some of our graduates absolutely go meteoric, and if you break down their formulations, they’re beautiful, They’re not hugely, but they have just tapped into something that everyone wants to hear.
Then, on the other hand, we also watch people create really complicated formulations, they don’t have that brand with it and that means they won’t necessarily go as big. So I think the differentiator is the big vision that someone has behind a brand. And that’s the case in every industry, of course, with every entrepreneur. If you know how you want to change the world, and you have a really powerful message to put out there, then the products, they need to be good, but the brand is almost more important.
I could not agree more. This is something that I tell people, everything has to come together, right? And that coming together happens with the brand, you need the mission, the change you want to bring in the world. So I’m absolutely with you. Before I get to the next question, you said some people complicate formulations and there are people who understand their brand and they align everything with it. Is that what you meant by complicating formulation or there is more to it?
I mean, it can also mean that people want to infuse 70 different ingredients in one product, which is not our ethos either.
We very much stand for simplicity because ultimately I think that makes everyone’s life a lot easier. But I do see people make incredibly complicated formulations with lots and lots of ingredients in there.
[00:12:15] So I meant that by it as well.
And just a little follow-up on that, I have this very bad habit of poking and getting deeper and deeper. So you’re saying people who have focused formulations, towards something, do much better than who try to do everything, is that what you mean?
Absolutely. Your formulation needs to represent your big mission, your vision and there are so many examples around that. But for instance, if your mission is that you want to have a more sustainable brand, then a no brainer, of course, is that you’re going to work with upcycled ingredients in your formulation. You have to make sure that everything ties together, the customer won’t let you get away with making claims that don’t stack up anyway. So yes, the whole picture needs to come together and sing. We’ve got this graduate in the U S called Sandra, who runs a brand called Nopalera.
She’s going to be on the podcast pretty soon, by the way.
Awesome. She is incredible. We love her to bits. She’s a superstar and everyone should go and buy her products. Her brand is so strong because she wants to basically say, come and buy this Mexican heritage brand. Don’t buy into the Eurocentric ideals. She’s been told all her life that Mexican products are cheap and so she said, no, I’m going to prove to everyone that I can make a luxury body care brand. I think that’s just beautiful and her brand is soaring because she wants to change the world. It’s such a powerful message that everything ties together in her brand and I wish her great success with it.
Great brand she has, and also to your answer, the more I’m listening to you, the more I feel that you and I talk exactly the same language. No wonder where you are, I still need to catch up, but it’s evident to me how refined your thinking is when it comes to succeeding with the business, and a venture. So, this question leads into the next question of mine, which was, what are the top three mistakes? You already covered the first one. The formulation [is not focused, but the other two mistakes that you see, students who come to you or the beauty entrepreneurs, make around their formulations? Let’s just stick to formulation first.
I think the number one that I see people make is that they formulate for themselves.
[00:14:14] So a lot of people will come onto the course and they’ll be like, I really like this body butter or I really like this facial cream. It works really well for my skin. That’s the one I’m going to sell.
[00:14:26] And again, I mean, it ties in with what we were talking about before, but that is a classic mistake that I’ve watched hundreds of people make. And I really hope that we’re starting to get through to people by saying, if you’re making a brand, you’re not formulating for yourself. You may be your target market. But you may also really not be your target market.
[00:14:42] The other one is that people design the formulations before they design the brand.
[00:14:46] They’ll often go through the course and they’ll be like, okay, I’ve made a cleanser, a toner, I’ve got a body scrub, I’ve got whatever it is I want to sell. I’ve got a shampoo, a conditioner. Now, how do I fit that into my brand? And of course it has to be done the other way [00:15:00] around, which ties again in with what we were just talking about where you have to figure out your big mission in the world first and then create the formulations that fit with that.
[00:15:07] But I think a lot of people get so excited. They just sort of run with it and think, I’ve got something, everyone tells me it feels great and it smells great and it works really well, So this is what I’m going to sell rather than doing it the other way around.
and what clarity you have, Lorraine. I absolutely am awed! Moving on to the next question. Lorraine, have you seen beauty founders with five-star formulations where they have not made any mistake, their formulation was focused, and they knew about the brand, the impact they want to have, still fail? And is there a pattern there?
I have, and it breaks my heart actually, because I know how hard these people try and I’m not going to name any names, but I, I mean, there was one brand I saw recently, who launched, I think in the last 18 months or so, beautiful products. They were sent to me, absolutely beautiful, and this person made no sales. It’s heartbreaking to hear this, but this person also created a brand that was confused; the products weren’t really what the market wanted, and they were also priced incorrectly. You look at that, and you go, this is a five-star formulation, you’ve made several five-star formulations here. But you’ve got the messaging wrong, and you’ve got the idea wrong behind it. At that point, it’s too late for us, we can’t really sort of step in. We’re also not there as a consultancy. We’re a school. People come and enroll with us. But yes, I do see it happen. Also, I do some mentoring through CEW. And I meet some people through there who are starting brands. And I spoke to one who I actually didn’t mentor, but who came to me and asked for some advice. And again, a beautiful brand, lots of lovely products, but completely the wrong messaging. And you sort of sit there and you go, this breaks my heart because these people have put so much time into this. And actually, if they’d come and taken our business course, we could have headed off all that. All that heartache, we could have saved you a ton of money. You would have done it 10 times faster and you could have learned from the best in the process because we’ve got all these guest speakers in there who are experts in their field. So yeah, I do see it and it’s really heartbreaking.
Well, thank you. I can see that you absolutely feel it. How committed you are to the success of your students and beauty founders. And I share your feelings wholeheartedly. Just a little follow-up on that, is that the reason that you started adding these additional offerings or teachings or trainings around your core offer?
Well, we knew that everyone wanted it so we knew we had to add it in. When I first bought Formula Botanica, we didn’t have a business diploma so we wrote one a few years ago. Gosh, I think about five or six years ago now already. And It’s incredibly popular because we sell a whole bundle of courses called the International Organic Skincare Entrepreneur Program, which will take you from complete beginner to entrepreneur at the end. But we put it there because the market was asking for it, which is what any good business owner should do. If you’re, if your
[00:17:53] customers are coming to you and saying, give me this thing, you go and make that thing. So that’s why we created it. But more than that, also, like I said, we wanted people to not have to go through that pain and heartache of not knowing how to do it. And we actually interviewed quite a few of our graduates and beauty brand friends, who I have,
for the diploma. Those interviews are all in the diploma, and absolutely every single one of them said to me, gosh, I wish I’d had this course when I first started. It would have just saved me so much time and money and heartache.
Well, thank you. I truly appreciate you doing this. Because a lot of people stick to what their core is, they might think that if I dabble into this it might impact my results or my reputation. Everything that you’re saying, I share those feelings and sentiments. Well, now we will come Lorraine to our speed round.
[00:18:43] I’ll give you a small phrase or I’ll ask you a small question and you can respond with one, two or three-word association, first thing that comes to your mind, or you can just answer in one line. And I have another question after this, but let’s start with the speed round.
What is fake in the organic [beauty world?
Okay. What’s fake in the beauty world?
[00:19:06] Organic beauty world.
That’s a really hard question. In one answer.
Greenwashing. I do see quite a few brands greenwash and make sustainability claims that just don’t stack up, but that isn’t just organic.
Got it. So just a little follow-up. So there’s 100 percent organic and certified organic, and there might not be something that people claim organic ingredients at times, right, which might not really mean that with it?
It’s more that I see people in the organic space also make sustainability claims, and they’re often very well meaning, but they’re often wrong. So they often say things like I’m more sustainable because I’m organic or natural, whilst organic farming and organic production methods can be more sustainable that doesn’t mean that their packaging or their supply chain or their labor policies or anything else feed into that as well. That was not a one-word answer. I appreciate it.
I absolutely appreciate you elaborating because I think that’s very insightful, I wouldn’t have thought of that at all. What’s fake in this, this, it’s linked to the previous one, the first two on fake, the word has become very popular in the last few years. Right? So fake, fake, fake. What’s fake in clean and green beauty?
[00:20:13] You kind of answered it, but more towards clean and green beauty. What do you find fake there?
I have to admit, I don’t really think a lot about what’s fake in these industries. I think about a lot about what’s fake in the mainstream beauty industry. I think it would be the same answer, to be honest.
[00:20:27] I know a lot of people get very upset about the word clean and green. I mean, we don’t, we don’t work with the word clean. We work with organic because that means something and you can be certified organic. But, I’m going to pass on that one.
That’s a very honest response, and I appreciate it.
What’s your favourite book and favourite line of all time and why?
Oh my God. You should have sent me these questions beforehand. My favorite.
I did actually, you know, but you didn’t get the email, I guess.
I’m so sorry. My favorite book. Okay, I’m going to admit something to my shame. I don’t read business books. I hate them. Like, I absolutely, I have a whole…
Maybe that’s why you’re so successful.
People keep sending me business books and I’m like, Oh, it’s another one. And I put it on the shelf and I don’t read them. I don’t have time for that in my life. I’m not interested in other people’s stories. I’m just super driven. So when I read, I read fiction.
Or just a quote, any line that you love, any movie, do you like movies?
Yeah. I don’t have time for those.
You are the idiosyncratic, the typical entrepreneur, you know, who should be on my podcast. So I love it. So that’s the right message to people who think success is so easy, you can watch movies in the evening, right? You can go swimming, et cetera. You are not a typical entrepreneur; those who don’t succeed, right? You’re one of those who really made it. That’s why you’re atypical. I always say it. There’s a power law. There’s no normal distribution,so, every successful person will teach you something that you won’t learn from the average.
[00:22:00] So, work around life, life around work or work-life balance?
At the moment, it’s still work around life. I would like that to be different but I work from home. I’ve always collected my children from school. We’ve retired my partner. We have our dream home. So maybe the balance is there more than I think, but I’d like to get more of a balance.
Love it. Love it. perfect. So we have come almost to the end and before ending, I was supposed to ask you a question before the speed round. It’s kind of a serious question, but like in entrepreneurship, right? Things happen to you and you want to respond. So I’m going to put you on the spot one more time.
[00:22:42] Was it a time with Formula Botanica, when the going got really tough, all seemed lost, you didn’t see any hope, no light at the end of the tunnel?
I have luckily never been in that situation. However, there have of course been dark [00:23:00] times. I’ve talked about this before actually, I’ve really, really struggled with hiring a team. A team that can do the work that I need them to do. It’s still something I struggle with all the time,
[00:23:10] Hiring and HR is not my favorite thing in the world. I have about 40 staff and it’s really hard and at times that can be incredibly stressful. But at those times, I just remind myself of what we’ve created and every single time something goes wrong, I dust myself off, I pick myself up, and I just keep going. Because these are just small bumps in the road. So no, I’ve never thankfully been in a situation where I didn’t see any hope. It’s always been: okay, we’ve got something great here. We know it works. And most importantly, we know it changes lives. And if we didn’t have that sort of profound impact on people’s life, then we wouldn’t be a success. So, I know that we will always keep going because of the fact that we changed those lives around the world.
Perfect, Lorraine you were just so absolutely wonderful. Your responses were so insightful. I absolutely loved everything that you said. And the best part is, this is what I love about entrepreneurs who are really, really making an impact. They are very original. They don’t give cookie-cutter answers so, I truly thank you for being on Jumpstart Beauty Brand podcast. I know I asked for 15- 20 minutes. I always take 10 minutes more and I drag it to even 40 minutes, but yeah, so one, what is your message? Like any message you want to leave, if there are any aspiring students, what’s next for Formula Botanica or what is in store for people who are following you in the near future?
Well, my message to everyone is that everyone can formulate. There’s been this message that’s gone out into the world for many, many decades that you have to be a scientist in a lab coat, stood in a sterile lab or a sanitized lab making skincare, but everyone can do this. And we’ve been seeing this for hundreds of years, that women
[00:24:52] can just start a brand at home and turn it into a success. So if there’s anyone out there thinking, my goodness, I don’t know if I can do [00:25:00] this, my message to you is, yes, you can, because over, well, almost 20, 000 people have gone through Formula Botanica’s courses before you and done so very successfully. And formulation, it’s fun, it’s easy, it’s empowering, and it can completely change your life. And if anyone’s interested in coming to do some of our training, we always have a free training course on our website. So just come on over to formulabotanica.com, sign up and have fun with it.
You know who the first student is going to be after this podcast? Me. You have really sold me on why I should learn formulation. So yeah, you’ll see my email ID in your subscription base pretty soon.
Amazing. Thank you.
[00:25:36] Well, Lorraine, thank you so much. It was truly a pleasure. The insights you shared, I’m pretty sure they will help everybody who listens or watches this episode. Once again, thank you so much. From me, this is Rohit Banota, founder of Jump Accelerator and host of Jumpstart Beauty Brand Podcast, wishing you all the very best.
Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Thank you. Take care. Bye