In this episode of Inform & Connect, Melody speaks with guest Jasmine Glass, founder of Spktrm Beauty. Listeners will learn firsthand of the creation of the world's first beauty brand to ban model re-touching entirely. With this focus on natural beauty, Jasmine shares the story behind her desire to help reshape the industry by making it more inclusive and transparent.
Melody Goodspeed: Welcome everyone to the fifth episode of The American Foundation for the Blind's Inform & Connect series.
Jasmine Glass: Thank you so much for having me Melody. It's a pleasure.
Melody Goodspeed: Yes. We are so excited and I have just enjoyed so much hanging out with you and talking with you and hearing your story and how you got your business started. How you're just breaking down barriers, which we like to do that here at AFB too. Can you tell us a bit about your story and how Spktrm was created?
Jasmine Glass: Sure. I had a very turbulent journey to entrepreneurship. I was on the streets as a teenager, left a very difficult home situation early on. Following that, found myself with a very abusive employer who pretty much made my life a living hell for most of my twenties, but I always held on to hope for creating a beautiful life for myself.
Then after everything that I went through, I developed a lot of empathy and compassion for others. Regardless of whether I knew their struggle personally, the thought of people struggling at all just pained me. I knew that the way to move past that was to take action.
I first started a magazine called Last Book and it has a lot of the same brand values as Spktrm Beauty now has. It was a print publication. I never had adequate support or funding. I still managed to get us on newsstands in 17 countries, which was wonderful. I wanted to start a business that had a different structure.
Something product based where through providing something that people use in their daily lives, we would have a means to connect with more people and share the messages that I wanted to communicate because I'm very values driven.
The mission of Spktrm is by large far and away, the most important aspect of it for me. The products are really just a vehicle for connecting with people from different communities.
Spktrm was born from a core desire to transform and redefine beauty standards because since the beginning of the beauty industry, they've always been very harmful and exclusive. As I've been on this journey, I've realized so many new areas where the industry has been doing the least.
It's helped expand our mission on a month by month basis as we have new conversations, gain new insights from these conversations. It's really allowing us to step into new areas, which is how we've arrived at our product that we're going to talk about today.
Melody Goodspeed: That is so incredible. I love how you want to bring hope and just kept that value of bringing hope to yourself and defying a very difficult situation. We talk a lot here about our why story and I just love that you shared that with us and your mission.
Do you want to talk about a little bit about bringing your product to life and to the blind community in particular?
Jasmine Glass: Absolutely. About eight months ago, I joined forces with an incredible female led creative agency called Scout Lab. Prior to that, I had been building Spktrm Beauty by myself for about a year and a half. It was a really exciting moment because with additional creative minds, new resources, new energy, we can obviously expand a lot faster.
They began organizing a rebrand to launch alongside our collaboration that we were launching too. They came to me with several concepts that were expanding on the core mission, what I'd accomplished already in terms of inclusivity. One of these was incorporating braille into our overall branding as a nod to inclusivity in a broad sense and as a conversation starter. A way to get people thinking about other individuals human experiences.
Then also for us to begin the journey of adding braille to the packaging for all of our products moving forward. We'll be beginning that with the launch of an inclusive range of nude lipsticks, just in a couple of weeks from now. We've had to push the launch back a couple of times with respect to some things that are going on in this country right now, but finally we're around the corner from it.
We have learned so much during this process. It's been one of the more rewarding things I've ever experienced in my career to have conversations with people like yourself, collaborate with Bold Blind Beauty, that we have acted as incredible consultants for us along this journey. Just hearing the excitement surrounding what we've been working so hard on is really heartwarming.
Melody Goodspeed: That is great. When you talk about the experience for this particular project and making an inclusive product, including braille. What has been the most just heartwarming thing or what you've learned from this process about people that are blind and vision impaired and what they're looking for?
Jasmine Glass: I think when I try to put myself in the shoes of another person who exists in a different way than me, obviously to the best of my ability, which is limited. I pictured going into a large department store and having not a single brand in that store having braille on their packaging. That was such a powerful and also very unsettling realization.
We really hope that by launching this, we can inspire other brands to follow suit because together we can create a lot of positive change for the visually impaired community. Certainly we're taking a small step forward because we're just a new startup, but we have seen these really big brands that have a lot more resources than we do following the lead of little indie beauty brands that are making progress in certain areas or so, that's the hope.
Melody Goodspeed: No, that's great. No, I mean, I know about myself, I'm very excited. I know a lot of my friends, being blind and just having that ability to have access too, it's such a breath of fresh air. I can't put it any other way because things can get so frustrating, but I really appreciate all the efforts that you're doing.
Can you talk about was it a very difficult thing to do to go to that transition? Because I think that when people think about making something inclusive or accessible, they think, I truly believe they think, oh, this is going to be expensive or it's too much. Did you find it hard to do?
Yes. It's funny, somebody on my team, her family's been in beauty manufacturing for 50 years. While she was doing research into this, she ended up uncovering that one of the largest brands in the world, I won't mention them by name, but that owns a lot of beauty and personal care brands, they actually were looking into doing this about a decade ago. Looked at the profit margins and what the cost is going to be to bring it to life and decided to scrap it.
For us, at Spktrm, I'm always people over profits. There's no point in growing this brand unless it's going to align with my values. It just doesn't matter for me that it changes our profit margin because it's important and it helps people. That's how I feel that companies should be operating.
I also think that by being a self-funded startup with such limited resources and bringing this to market, it's going to put pressure on brands that do have so many more resources than we do because if we can do it, so can you. If you're not doing it, you really have to start questioning in a company on an internal level, why are you not doing this?
Melody Goodspeed: Yes, no, I totally agree. I think you have such a loud voice in that and will go into other different areas. I love that it started here because it's so true. I think people just keep going with the norm and they lose sight of things that's so innovative and inclusive and there's a lot of untapped market. I definitely love that you stick by your values and go through that because we are people first. That's how we have to be.
Especially as we talked a little bit earlier in this current environment. We are people first. I appreciate you sharing that with us.
Can you tell us a little bit about your product? Because you do have foundations, but can you tell us a little bit about the formula and what your beliefs are as far as your product base?
Jasmine Glass: Sure. We launched our premier product in 2018. It's an inclusive range of foundation shades, we currently have 50. I worked alongside multiple women of color makeup artists to bring this to life because one of the other issues that exists in the beauty industry, or has in the past historically, or that women of color were not in the room when these decisions were being made. Obviously you can see that when 95 or 98% of brands are not offering shades for people with deeper skin tone.
That was a product that I really felt encompassed the mission very well and so we started there. Of course with self-funding takes longer to move the brand forward. Since then, we've been doing a lot of work behind the scenes.
As I mentioned, our current product it's been about an eight month process. We're just building slowly but surely, but I should also mention, we have an incredible tech partnership with a woman named Atema, who created with her team, skin tone matching technology. Where you can upload a photo of yourself and AI technology scans that photo, and then will immediately tell you what your closest match is in our range of 50 shades.
That's something that's been really good for that e-commerce specifically and even more so now because of COVID, less people are encouraged to go shop in stores. This really helps eliminate a lot of the guesswork surrounding shopping online for shades that you need to match your skin tone.
Melody Goodspeed: I was just about to ask how it would match your skin tone, that's super exciting. Talking about stores, what stores do you sell your product in?
Jasmine Glass: We're online only right now, we definitely have major retailer plans, but it's quite expensive to get set up in those stores. All of the display cases and print advertising and stuff that surrounds selling those products there is the responsibility of the business owner. We're going to raise some funds from investors first and hopefully we'll be able to get into the Sephora’s of the world by next year.
Melody Goodspeed: That is incredible. I'm very, very excited. I also loved that I've read that it's the animal cruelty free too. I wanted to add that too.
Jasmine Glass: Yes. Now we're actually going to be making the transition to Sephora’s standard of clean as well. That's something that you need additional resources to do. We are just starting that process as well. We're going to reformulate our foundation and all products moving forward whenever we secure funding, we'll be clean, and cruelty-free, and vegan. I'm excited about that.
Melody Goodspeed: That is very exciting. That is so, so, so exciting. You talked about the touch of how you started your business, which is very amazing thing to me in how far you've come in such a short time because 2018, it's really incredible. What made you decide to move into the lipsticks and go through that way too?
Jasmine Glass: That is another area product wise, where there's a significant hole still in the market. We work with a beauty consultant who's a prominent makeup artist, Julissa. We had multiple conversations about this and there's really only a handful of brands still at this point that offer a true nude match for women with deeper skin tones.
That's an area also where we can provide added value rather than just adding to the noise where there's so many products that would be just like ours with different packaging. It actually speaks to the core of our mission once again and allows us to make progress in an area that hasn't caught up to where foundation is at. There's been a lot of brands that have expanded their foundation ranges in the past three, four years, but not yet with lipstick.
Melody Goodspeed: That's exciting. One thing that I really also loved about reading about your journey is that you've just changed the thing that you don't do any photo touch-ups on your pictures. Tell us about that.
Jasmine Glass: Right. When I was working as a beauty editor at my previous, the publication that I started, I experienced the harm of viewing heavily retouched images every day. I've always been a bit of a workaholic and also an introvert. There were definitely a lot of days where I was viewing more images of people than seeing real people. It started to really distort my perception of how people are supposed to look.
I noticed as I started aging, once I hit 30 and beyond, it was really doing a number on my self-esteem. I've had acne for half my life, it's mild to moderate, but when I would ever have a couple of pimples or I see fine lines appearing on my face, I would feel a rush of anxiety because in all of these ads that we're bombarded with all day, every day, those elements have been removed. That was really important for me.
Then while I was doing research surrounding starting this brand, I found out that no other beauty brand had ever entirely banned model retouching. There are several brands, including Dove that have certain aspects of retouching that have been banned. Dove has a no digital distortion mark on their images where they don't change the shapes of women's bodies. At that time we had the opportunity to be first to band it entirely, which was a great conversation starter as well.
I love telling people about why we did that. The response that we got was so overwhelmingly positive. So many people saying, "Oh my gosh, thank God. I finally found a brand that doesn't do this to photos." Or, "Why didn't I discover this brand sooner?" To which I would say, "Well, we just launched that's why we're here now." Yeah.
That's one of the things I'm most passionate about actually, because I just feel like human beings are beautiful as we are. Skin textures beautiful. We do not need to be making people look like cartoons or robots or whatever. We can just celebrate real skin.
Melody Goodspeed: I love it. We do need to do that because we are a beautiful people. Speaking of beautiful people, if people want to learn more about you, Jasmine, where do they go? Because I know you're revamping your site, you had mentioned … to hear about your launch and all the wonderful things you're doing?
Jasmine Glass: It would be awesome if anybody who wants to be notified of our launch would follow us on our Instagram account because we have some pretty big content release plans. There, it's certainly the first place that people will hear when we've finished a lot of the updates we're doing on our site. That's instagram.com/spktrm.beauty.
Speaking of the website, we have just spent a significant amount of time after speaking with Bold Blind Beauty and getting some incredible feedback from them about our functionality and compliance. Just been going through the process of making sure that we've applied all of that feedback that we've gotten.
Yes, soon we'll be ready to announce to everybody and we will continue to be open to feedback. If anybody has any issues at all, please reach out to me directly and we will apply that feedback to our next round of updates.
Melody Goodspeed: That is so awesome that you're so open for feedback. One thing I do want to share with everybody, is you can tell Jasmine is just such a very warm hearted person. We are people first and I would feel a mess if we didn't talk about what we're facing these times of riots and COVID and just the way the world is. Jasmine's been very much an advocate. If you'd like to share with people, the resources you've pulled together Jasmine?
Jasmine Glass: Sure. Like many of us, I've been very horrified with what's going on in this country. Not specifically with COVID, although that's certainly set the stage for increased frustration and anger that we're seeing now, but surrounding racial inequality. A lot that I've been educating myself about on my own for years now, but seeing the people's anger and frustration and heartbreak, I really increased my commitment to supporting this cause.
I've spent the past week or so donating to as many organizations that are on the front lines of this fight as I can. Listening to the voices of black men and women who are speaking about what they need from non-black individuals right now to join them in this fight, which is for human rights, which we all deserve absolutely.
I put together a list of resources that I've attached in the bio of our Spktrm’s Instagram. There are petitions that you can sign. That just take 30 seconds to add your voice to the hundreds of thousands of people that are calling for justice.
There are funds you can donate to the families of people that have lost their loved ones due to this senseless violence. Also educational resources. There's a few anti-racism educators that I follow and have learned so much from. I wanted to elevate their work as well and encourage others to pay attention to what they're teaching. I think the world is going to be a much better place once a lot more of us learn what these people are sharing.
Melody Goodspeed: Jasmine, thank you so much. We really, really appreciate it. I just want to add to that, we are better together at creating a life of no limits and during situations like this. I just thank you so much for voicing that and telling us about your journey and all of your passions. Thank you for just being the person you are and joining us today.