Interview: DTC Cannabis Brand Feals On Making CBD Approachable For All Consumers

Roseanna Roberts sat down with Feals’ Drew Todd to learn about how the brand diversifies itself in an increasingly crowded space by prioritizing approachability through consumer education and offering a live, human-staffed CBD hotline.

Since the passage of the U.S. Farm Bill in late 2018, brands have been racing to develop and market the best CBD-infused consumer product. With applications from sleeplessness and anxiety to pain management, Feals is a new direct-to-consumer brand making moves to acquire customers via shopper education, easily measured dosages and a subscription service. A hotline gives customers contact access to representatives of the digitally native brand, and “flights” of different dosages help new customers understand their own needs.

Roseanna spoke to co-founder Drew Todd about how Feals is navigating an evolving space and what the brand has in store for the future.

RRHow do you see the CBD space evolving currently?

DT: Recent studies have mentioned 7 out of 10 Americans having trouble sleeping, at least once a week, 8 out of 10 Americans suffering from stress and anxiety and 2 out of 10 suffering from chronic pain.

Most people are addressing these through a myriad of solutions, both natural and unnatural. However, the modern‑day consumer is much more aware of what they’re putting in their body. We’re seeing a huge emergence of natural solutions and alternative medicine, and people are turning to CBD as a solution.

With the legalization on a federal level in December, we’re really just at the early onset of a very nascent market, and one of the biggest issues with CBD to this day is there has not been enough research. What you find is a tremendous amount of anecdotal evidence but limited research in terms of the benefits that CBD can provide. We tuned into this gap early on with Feals.


What do you think are the big factors driving the potential of the industry?

We see a market that’s heavily fragmented and lacks a lot of consumer trust. It’s very overwhelming for consumers. There’s an endless number of options. It seems like everyone is selling CBD or adding CBD to something. There’s CBD face lotion. There are CBD pet solutions. There are CBD tinctures. It comes in every form, but when you talk to the average consumer, it seems that most options available on the market right now are failing them. They’re either too holistic or too cannabis.

No one really knows how much they’re taking or how much they should be taking. There’s poor consumer education, and because of this being such a nascent market, there’s a mediocre ecommerce experience, with a lot of these brands focusing more on retail.

We’re seeing an opportunity for creating a personal relationship with consumers and bringing more of the conversational commerce to the industry with Feals. We’re providing an approachable, simple brand— and education plays a huge role in that. We just wanted to make this as approachable as possible.

Could you explain your decision to market to a wide audience? Who are your consumers?

What we found is that the issues that CBD is helping with are not segmented to age, sex, or any different demographic. When we look at the bigger picture, we really wanted to address a wider market, because the issues it targets affect everyone.

We wanted to create an approachable brand that not only could be cool with our millennial peers and contemporaries as well as their moms. We found in our research that the conversion between consumers works both ways f or CBD:  Maybe a Baby Boomer is the first family member to try CBD and they introduce it to the kids, or equally maybe a millennial is tries it and introduces it to their parents. It’s cross-generational.

We worked with a branding agency by the name of Herman‑Scheer here in Los Angeles. We didn’t want something that was too holistic or too cannabis. We really wanted to build something that could stand on its own with the simple messaging, “A better way to feel better.”

I’m curious to hear about your approach to building consumer trust. How does education play into that?

Building trust starts with the product offering. Our less‑is‑more approach with 100% organic MCT oil as the carrier paired with premium organically grown hemp is something we really could build upon, because there are no additives. There’s nothing else in our product other than those two components. Starting there with a foundation of transparency and being able to provide the highest‑quality products to consumers is crucial.

Beyond that, as a CBD brand you have to be testing every step of the way and providing transparency to consumers. Every bottle that consumers buy has a QR code on the bottom of the bottle that they can scan and see the batch tests. It shows pesticides tests, the cannabinoid percentages and gives a bit of a summary in terms of exactly what the product that they have in their hand exactly contains, along with third‑party test results.

Education plays such an important role. We’re going to continue building upon our education and content portion of the brand as we continue growing. We see that that’s playing a pivotal role in just getting people that may be naysayers warmed up to the potential benefits that CBD can provide for them.

How has selling DTC benefited you as well as your consumers?

The way that we look at modern consumerism is we believe digitally native brands are going to thrive by controlling all consumer touchpoints. It really allows them to elevate the customer experience.

That means everything form our digital touch to our customer experience support line, where people can actually talk to a human, to the product itself. I think that by providing an approachable brand consistently across all of these touch points, it inspires a much stronger consumer relationship.

It helps us to establish customer trust. It also allows us to implement a customer feedback loop, where we’re able to learn and enrich the experience for our consumers on an ongoing basis.

My co‑founders and I came from ad tech, and so everything that we do in business we take a very data‑driven approach. We use that data to help enrich the end‑consumer experience. At the foundation of the company is helping  people feel better, and we want every touch point of Feals to be an enjoyable experience that contributes to that.

Can you give an example of how the data has informed your decisions?

When we originally concepted Feals, we had not planned on launching a membership as an option. As we were going through the pilot, however, we found that people who responded well to CBD wanted to get it on an ongoing basis.

We decided to create a membership platform that’s fully flexible. It’s non‑committal. If you decide to become a member today and you need to cancel tomorrow, you’re not penalized for it. You have full control in a membership dashboard. If you need to snooze your membership for a month, you can take pause. The decision to have a membership program was entirely data‑driven, based on what we had seen with our own proof of concept

Could you tell us about designing your one-on-one CBD hotline experience?

This is another great example of a data‑driven decision. When we launched our pilot, the CBD hotline idea was driven by my co‑founder Alex, and his empathetic voice and how he approached every single call as if he were a counselor.

What we found is that when it comes to people’s health, empathetic human touch goes a really long way. I think that in this digital world that we all live in, it’s nice to be able to talk to a human when it comes to something that can benefit your well‑being. Sometimes questions can be answered online, but oftentimes people want to talk to a human being, and we wanted provide that support for them.

Finally, now that you have launched, where do you see the brand going, and what can we expect from Feals?

We’re looking at how many people we can help feel better. We’re starting to explore what Feals looks like in real life and taking our brand further from just a direct‑to‑consumer online presence to some real‑life activation. For the time being, we’re really excited to just start introducing the world to Feals.

Feals co-founders

Feals co-founders

This article was originally written for and published by PSFK

Interview: How Aromatherapy Brand vitruvi Blends Skincare With Wellness For Next-Generation Beauty

Screen Shot 2019-04-19 at 10.15.47 AM.png

As vitruvi branches out from essential oils into skincare, the company's co-founder explains how it takes a wellness approach to beauty, empowering consumers with quality, and natural ingredients to care for their skin on their own terms

The influence of wellness continues to bleed into other categories beyond supplements, fitness and health food, reaching particular resonance in skincare and beauty categories. Meanwhile, consumers are becoming more educated and empowered, demanding to know what’s in their products and why.

Billing its product range as “dynamic skincare,” Vancouver-based brand vitruvi is quickly establishing itself within an increasingly crowded market for natural and organic beauty products. Key to vitruvi’s retail strategy is an element of customization, allowing shoppers to tailor their own blend based on specific needs. The brand provides education when necessary, encouraging self-care above simply seeing physical results. On shelves and ecommerce storefronts with retail partners including Sephora, Anthropologie and Goop, vitruvi is building its brand by simply being in the places its core demographic might already be shopping for skincare and personal care items.

Roseanna spoke to virtruvi co-founder Sara Panton about how she uses knowledge gained from medical work around the world to inspire a new kind of wellness brand, and how she keeps in touch with a customer base as it grows.

RR: Could you describe your background and how you came to found vitruvi?

Sara Panton: vitruvi was really a passion project. My co‑founder and brother, Sean, and I grew up in a really small farming community that didn’t even have a traffic light and was right on the water, with lots of farms and apples and fruit stands. Our parents were early adopters of the organic movement, way before it was cool, which we really took for granted.

It instilled in me an interest in wellness and different cultures. I went on to do a degree in Global Health with a focus on immunology and infectious disease, and took a lot of courses in medical anthropology, working abroad in Kenya and Morocco.

I was so fascinated by cultural practices from different places in the world and what we could learn from them. From there, I went on to medical school. My hope was to specialize in women’s wellness and preventative medicine, and work abroad. I helped set up a safe birthing center in Kenya.

I thought I was going to be working in a tiny town in the middle of east Africa. What ended up happening is that, in my first year, we were learning about the cranium and the olfactory nerve. It’s how you smell.

I became so fascinated by the senses. It’s so powerful how smell affects the brain, and so underutilized. Fast forward, I came home one day, and Sean had moved to Vancouver to go to business school. I had created a scent blend that helped me during studying, because I was having test anxiety. From there, we started creating our own product line.

It began as a blog. It was a website where I would write articles from my bathtub about different health and wellness practices in different cultures. I would interview people about their daily wellness rituals.

We created a super‑simple line of products, really just for our friends and family. Then we started getting interest, right around the time that the wellness movement was starting. We quickly got inbound interest from stores like Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie. It all compounded from there.

I never finished medical school. By my second year it was all that we were doing on our lunch hours. We were bottling products there by hand and mixing them. I still have dents in my left hand from assembling roller balls.


How do you see the wellness industry evolving?

I definitely see it evolving towards incorporating different practices—everything from acupuncture to scent and botanicals.

At vitruvi, we think about taking traditional botanicals from around the world and repurposing them in a modern way. I think that our current North American society has lost a sense of ritual and ceremony, which is the basis for a lot of cultures around the world.

Whether that’s drinking chai together or making rice and having dinner as a family, or different bathing practices in Morocco with block soap and scrubbing, it’s really important for the brain and body to have ceremonies that help establish a sense of consistency.

We have such a frenetic life with alerts and our phones and travel schedules and time zones. What I’m seeing is an exploration of modern ceremonies that people are looking to create throughout their day that add smaller wellness moments. The former wellness movement was really focused on fitness and sweat and intensity. I’m seeing that softening in my experience.


How do you see wellness crossing into the beauty space? What was behind your decision to move into that category with skincare?

Look at some of the larger retailers, like Sephora launching wellness and bringing on some vitamin companies, and companies like us that talk more about managing stress and different ways to take care of yourself, as opposed to topical treatments with instant results.

People are applying that understanding of wellness, understanding that stress shows up on your face, and that there are ways to get to the root of some of those issues like blemishes or breakouts or that could be tied to diet, or weather.

For me I’ve always thought that it’s really important for a woman to take time to check in with herself and think about how the things that are happening in her life might be showing up on her face. I would feel relatively confident in saying that a lot of women put other people before them.

When we went to launch into skincare, I couldn’t think of just creating one product that could keep up with our community. The women of vitruvi are dynamic, discerning, interesting, full‑force women who are smart. I thought, “Let’s create a system, instead of creating a product.”

Our face oil collection is the first under our dynamic skincare umbrella, and the idea is that a woman should have skincare as dynamic as her life, changing by the day and the time of month and what’s going on in her life.

We launched it because there was an interest from our community. We’re always talking to our fan base on Instagram and through our blog. We wanted a way for people to use essential oils, which at our core is the foundation of what vitruvi is, and create a home apothecary for their skin.

How does the skincare line fit into the larger brand strategy for vitruvi?

That practice of being able to create your own products really will be the foundation of it, much like how we launched our essential oils.  The three‑step system that I designed is meant to be customized, but is also really simple. The first step is choosing a base oil, based on the moisture level that your skin needs. The second step is choosing complex oils. Those have a little more punch to them and have more targeted benefits, whether it be calming, or glowy skin. The third is adding one to three essential oils, for both the scent as well as the properties of those oils.


Was the customization aspect important for your consumers? What is your target market?

We know our customer really well because we talk to her every day. We ask questions and create two‑way conversations as often as we can. When we were building this line, we thought a lot about how much time our customer has. All of this should be able to be done in less than two minutes, and to happen in the palm of your hand.

It’s a Choose‑Your‑Own‑Adventure. We have products that customers can just buy and use if they want to start integrating essential oils and natural body products, and then we have things that are a little more customizable. It’s a two‑way conversation, with our influencers online and our customers. Having customers use and be curious, mixing our products in different ways, is really exciting for us.

Besides online, how else do you build engagement with customers?

It’s still early days for us. We do blending events and I’ll design a facial for someone. I think the customers are still used to being told what they should put on their face. We’ve seen that empowerment in the food movement with people being really discerning about what’s on the ingredient label and when to eat it. I haven’t seen that switch in beauty yet, and customers are still apprehensive if they’re using things correctly. They’re still looking for that guidance.

But if they’re using high-quality, pure, natural ingredients, they really can’t mess up. What’s exciting for us is people taking ownership of their skincare.

Our customer experience is incredibly unique. We’ve scaled it so that customers can call our team and have a conversation with them. We’re happy to help blend the oil on the phone with them or walk through the different set profiles of our essential oils.

It’s a digital first brand. Our website is our storefront. We interact with our customers as if they were just walking into our store. On social media, how we speak to them just like if we were talking face to face, and that extends to our customer experience and how we design products. We ask a lot of questions through our social channels as well as when we’re at an event. Then our customer experience team tracks data around things that are being asked for.

Finally, can you tell us about your partner strategy, and how it’s helping to build your future?

Because it was Sean and I just building it from the get‑go, it was really important for us to partner with retailers. We wanted to take a new approach that really understood our customers and what places she already shopped. We were discerning where vitruvi would show up in real life. We thought about where she shopped for beauty, body and home, places that she’s already going to when she wants to try or smell a product.

We have partners at GOOP for over three years now. It’s exciting because they are willing to push the boundaries in terms of content and discovery, which is something that we feel passionately about. They’re an incredible team to work with. They’re outstanding at what they do and are some of the kindest people I work with professionally. They listen to their customer in a similar way that we do at vitruvi.

Sephora had actually reached out to us about two and a half years ago for me to be part of the Sephora Accelerate program. They would invite 10 female CEOs and put them through a program where we were able to meet their whole executive team and learn from them.

Part of that was a lot of learning in focus groups and understanding how wellness is evolving for the Sephora customer. A lot of our products have been designed in talks with the Sephora team and understanding beauty trends on a North American and global scale.

We’ve been the first test kitchen and supplying a lot of information on our end as well around how the wellness and beauty space is evolving and even understanding projections and forecasts for how we plan accordingly for store experiences. It’s been definitely a two‑way learning experience.

Sara Panton

Sara Panton

Written for and originally published by PSFK

Interview: How Women's Health Clinic Tia Is Enabling Relationship-Driven Care In A Fragmented Space

Tia's founder explains how the women's health platform aims to fix a broken model by setting new standards of care, focusing on holistic and personalized attention as well as greater accessibility

Despite advancements in many sectors, and disruption in nearly every retail or service category, women's healthcare remains a pain point for many consumers, especially in the U.S. To compensate for female patients feeling like care is fragmented, or that their complaints are not listened to, startups like Tia are taking a Silicon Valley-inspired approach to developing a better women's health system.

Tia began as an app, where women could track health and menstrual cycle information in order to better support visits to their existing doctors. Earlier this year, the company expanded to brick and mortar, with a membership-based New York City clinic. With a colorful and less clinical feel, the space is designed to invite its patients to feel better in uncomfortable situations and with sharing sensitive information. Working within the existing insurance system, Tia faces many of the same constraints and operational challenges as a traditional medical office. However, it remains committed to creating a better experience for all patients, with a needs specific to women.

Roseanna Roberts spoke to Tia founder Carolyn Witte about the evolution of women's health and how approaching the healthcare space as an outsider gives her a unique, patient-first perspective.

Tia Clinic_exam room_photo credit- Kezi Ban @ Blonde Artists courtesy of Rockwell Group.jpg

RRWhat are some of the gaps that currently exist for consumers in the healthcare space?

Carolyn:  As a founder who doesn't have a healthcare background and who's not a doctor, we're taking a new approach to the space, from the patient's perspective. We've been listening to and learning from patients, provider  and people working in the healthcare system more broadly about the challenges and opportunities in the space.

I dove into the startup space after going through my own frustrating series of women's healthcare issues. In my early 20s specifically, I dealt with a three‑year long PCOS diagnosis process. It got me very fed up with healthcare not being designed for women, and being fragmented, very focused on treating illness, instead of supporting wellness. It wasn't personalized, lacking the soul and any emotional intelligence at all.

Women feel alone, confused, not heard, not seen and ultimately, not healthy. These are systemic issues that affect patients and providers. We need to fix both of those to build a new better model for women's care.

Look at the state of women's healthcare. Women's health is getting worse instead of better with respect to almost every metric that matters. Maternal mortality is going up, and not down. The U.S. has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developing world, which is shocking and horrifying. A crisis that needs to be addressed. Endocrine disorders, like PCOS, and autoimmune disorders are at higher rates than ever. Women are diagnosed with anxiety and depression at three times the rate of men. There's a ton of research coming out about how all too often their pain is ignored or trivialized by the healthcare system.

Women are on waitlists to get a pap smear, even in a place like New York City. Access to basic reproductive healthcare, birth control, abortion, STD testing, you name it, is difficult.

Then you look on the provider's side, and it's also getting worse. There's a massive OBGYN shortage in this country. OBGYN has the highest burnout rate in all of medicine, with the average OBGYN retiring at the age of 40. How are we supposed to address these issues in women's health when there are not even enough providers who want to work on the front lines of care? Doctor burnout rate and mental health issues amongst providers of all types is a serious issue in the spotlight.

We believe wholeheartedly that to build a better model requires deep systemic change in the healthcare system. It requires enormous compassion and empathy for patients and for providers, and pairing those patient wants with provider needs. Those are some of the themes that underlie what we do at Tia.

Where did you decide to start with Tia?

With all of the challenges I just listed, it can be intimidating to figure out where to start. How could any one person, company, set of doctors, you name it, solve all these issues? What we've really homed in on is our superpower and an opportunity that we think we're uniquely suited to address in the market.

At a time when women's healthcare is becoming more fragmented than ever and more commoditized, there's a rise of what I'd call point solutions, whether they're birth control delivery companies, one‑off telehealth products or new diagnostic packs. All of these things are wonderful from an innovation perspective, but a lot of them aren't connecting the dots between. What Tia aims to do is connect those dots. Listening is our superpower in building our relationship‑driven care model.

As we think about everything we've built, from our women's health advisor app to now the first brick-and-mortar Tia Clinic, we think about what makes us different. We really innovating on what we want to set as a standard, a norm for what women's care should be.

It's about maximizing patient‑provider time, collaborative decision making and a space that makes women feel heard. It's a community to support clients, leveraging best-in-class innovations and clinical research, instead of just technologies available in the space, in the context of a relationship‑driven care model.

What do you think of the direct‑to‑consumer brands emerging within the healthcare space? What are they getting right, and what could they improve upon?

The rise of direct‑to‑consumer solutions instead of patient‑centered models puts the control and onus back on patients to dictate their care. A lot of these require a new business model, service models outside of the existing ones, like insurance‑based reimbursement structures, in order to enable them to happen.

In Silicon Valley, they say, “Move fast and break things.” I say, in healthcare, we move fast and shake things up. For us, that means figuring out how we innovate on certain things while working in the context of existing payment models, chiefly insurance-based reimbursements, which is the basis of the vast majority of our service offering at Tia.

It's a hybrid model. On the one hand at the far end of the stake, you see pure cash‑pay models that are like, “Screw insurance. Put some pretty packaging on a generic drug and just sell it directly to consumers.” Then you see on the other end of the spectrum players who are working within the confines of the existing system. Tia is somewhere in the middle, and we're trying to figure out how to make healthcare something people want to engage in and not something to avoid.


Can patients get care if they are not part of the Tia network?

Yes. We do take both women who are uninsured and women who are out of network. We function like any gynecologist who is out of network. Customers pay cash, and they can submit claims to their insurance provider for reimbursement. We help them through that.

How has the idea of treating the whole patient influenced the evolution of your business model? Why was it important to start from that baseline?

It is connected to the technology piece in the way we have these rapid feedback loops from our online products to online care that inform our service offerings. For example, you see women ask questions in our Tia app, everything from, “Hey, Tia. I missed my birth control pill,” to, “Why do I have pelvic pain?” to, “Can you recommend an organic tampon to me?” to various things they track on our app, from their period to headaches to anxiety.

If you have problems with your ovaries, you go to a gynecologist. If you have a thyroid issue, you go to an endocrinologist. But what about things that don't neatly fit into those boxes, where do patients go? What about those things that probably are related, but no one's connected the dots? We wanted to offer women a place to go where they are treated as a whole.

We're trying to put together Issues that are all too often treated in silos. We're connecting the dots between them and thinking about how we can build a care model that helps women see the connections. We talk a lot about body literacy and giving providers more tools and more data points to make connections.

It's our challenge to figure out what, from a care quality perspective, we can feasibly deliver in the confines of a one-stop-shop without ever sacrificing on quality.

The marriage of the traditional Western medical approach with a more holistic approach like acupuncture is interesting. Why was it important to bring elements of wellness into healthcare?

Two reasons. One, women told us they wanted it, so we listened. The second goes back to care philosophy and a belief in a growing body of evidence to support non-pharmacological interventions, like acupuncture and nutrition and lifestyle changes, in support of your overall health and wellbeing.

It is important to include those interventions and schools of thought in our practice and not have wellness be the afterthought. We're about not just treating sickness but supporting wellness at Tia.

Can you explain how the app personalizes the patient experience? 

The way that Tia technology personalizes the experience from the get‑go is we ask patients what they want to talk about when they book an appointment at the clinic. For the initial well‑woman exam, patients can choose everything from cycle irregularities to mood swings to recurrent UTIs, pain during sex, you name it, a whole host of issues. Then we personalize their health record or intake in the context of that issue.

You don't get a clipboard at the doctor's office or a bunch of paperwork. You fill out your entire health record digitally on your phone beforehand, including this personalized intake. All of that information is shared with your provider ahead of time.

Tia helps flag, so to speak, important components of that health record for you or for your provider so they know what to focus on. When you show up at the Tia clinic and you walk in the exam room, the provider is prepped already on your health record. That appointment time is focused on conversation versus data collection. All that data is visualized so you and your provider can look at it in tandem.

What are some of the core digital services that you offer to the patient as they're sharing this information with you?

Our hallmark feature today that's live at the Tia clinic is something we called Cycle‑Connected Care. We have a tracking feature, encompassing everything from stress to your period to anxiety to pain with sex, in the Tia app.

This is a tool we built that's about bringing more transparency and collaborative decision‑making around self‑supported data as a way to diagnose certain issues, manage outcomes and improvements over time, and share data between the patient and providers seamlessly. That's one thing we're excited about.

What prompted the decision to create a physical clinic in New York?

We found in the early days of the Tia app when we were essentially a pre‑post clinical tool, that women were bringing Tia with them to the doctor's office, specifically to gynecologist's office, and messaging us in a care context.

We were their wingwoman for healthcare or a translator there to guide them through that experience. This was not by design. Women were hacking our products in many ways for use cases outside of our original intent.

This was shocking to us, to see women messaging us in the waiting room asking us, “What is the copay,” or in an exam room saying, “What IUD should I get?”

It's trust. It's also the fact that we're just listening. We were there, ready to listen when other people weren't. It sounds so simple, but it's true. That was the light‑bulb moment, the company moment when we realized that our patients want their whole care experience to be more like Tia.

In pursuit of the relationship‑driven care model, we decided to make a bet on real‑world care. Care building in process and evolution will always be changing, always be evolving. We hope it can raise the bar for what women's care could be and should be for all women, not just Tia patients.

We're constantly iterating and listening to our patients and providers' feedback on what they want from care. Proving that we can deliver better care to women is our north‑star aspiration.

Can you tell us about the design and the services offered in the space?

It's a 3,000 square‑foot clinic. In many ways, it's the anti‑doctor's doctor's office, the female oasis. We spent a lot of time thinking through the patient‑user journey. What doesn't work about the gynecologist? Why do women want to avoid it at all costs?

How do you make this a place people want to go to, not just when something is wrong but to proactively check in on their health? We partnered with the LAB at Rockwell Group to have amazing architecture and experience design.

It's not just about the couch or the waiting room but every touchpoint. I call them shoulder‑drop moments or exhale moments when consumers walk in, that make them feel that, “I am safe here. I can bring my whole self here. I don't need to leave part of my health history at home. I can advocate for myself in a care context.”

I'm especially proud of the exam room. For obvious reasons, it's the most important room in the whole space. At the Tia Clinic, we re‑imagine making women physically, emotionally and mentally more comfortable, and able to advocate for themselves. We designed the space and built some amazing pieces of furniture that hides those things like speculums, all the doctor stuff. We also built the space around maximizing eye contact and personalization.

We built a second part of our platform called TNV that is an iPad app on a TV screen that visualizes patients' health record, and allows them to design their care plan in cooperation with their provider. It's the quintessential example of what we're trying to do at Tia, blending experience, design, and the best‑in‑class clinical care and technology, all together, in a super tiny space to deliver the new patient‑provider interaction.

Your space also includes some retail and lifestyle elements. Why was it important to include that in the space?

We want Tia to be a place patients go to not just once a year, but to proactively check in on their health. We view health as an everyday thing, not a once‑a‑year thing, so we built a space to support that. Building out more spaces beyond the exam room was important, so we included what we call the living room and a retail space that sells non‑pharmacological products that our care team often recommends, all backed by science.

We're also innovating on the wellness model through a community‑based program. We'll host special panels and events, everything from bringing in clinical researchers around a given subject matter to discuss the latest research on a particular topic to more socio‑cultural discussions around sexuality, for instance.

We're really about holding conversations, cultivating connections between women. It's about building programming that supports the lifestyle‑based interventions that are key to foundations of health that tend to be difficult to master in a 20‑minute exam.

Women want highly personalized care from their provider, from a doctor, and they also want to connect with other women. We want to support all of those things in our care model.

What can we look forward to in the coming years as Tia continues to develop?

The key focus is how to scale that to all women, perhaps countrywide or even the world one day. We're not trying to build a boutique care model for a few women in New York City, but really innovate on the patient‑provider relationship, prove out how technology can help to reinstill that relationship and be a broker, not to be a replacement for care. We want to prove that community is powerful when it comes to making women healthier, happier and more informed about their health.

I'd say that's the thing that I'm most excited about: continuing to hear from women around the country and the world, what they want from healthcare and helping Tia be a platform that can help bring those wants and address those needs. My hope is for it to be a byproduct of a crowdsourced, bottom‑up care model that accounts for the diversity of women's experiences.

Tia founders Felicity Yost and Carolyn With

Tia founders Felicity Yost and Carolyn With


This article was originally written for and published by PSFK

Interview: Girlboss Founder & CEO Sophia Amoruso Is Building A New Kind Of Community For Professional Women

In the wake of #MeToo activism, Girlboss founder and former Nasty Gal CEO, Sophia Amoruso, is taking her efforts in supporting women's success to the next level with a new professional community

Sophia Amoruso is the founder and CEO of Girlboss, an organization dedicated to providing support for women at all stages of their careers, with everything from wellness resources to financial advice. She got her start as the founder of online retailer Nasty Gal, which rode the wave of early millennial-oriented ecommerce to great success until its very public bankruptcy filing and acquisition by BooHoo Group in 2017. Along the way, Amoruso collected her wisdom gleaned as leader of what was once one of the internet’s fastest growing retailers into #Girlboss, an autobiography offering advice to other ambitious young women.

Since stepping down as CEO of Nasty Gal, Amoruso has dedicated herself to building Girlboss, creating an annual Girlboss Rally, online content, a podcast, and a recently announced private networking platform for professional women. Launching in 2019, Amoruso hopes the Girlboss community can help provide women with the resources that platforms like LinkedIn have not, filling a niche in a time of rapid social change.

This year’s New York rally welcomed 1,100 women from 31 different countries over two days of programming. PSFK spoke to Amoruso following the event for an inside look at how she is using her past experience to build a community of women supporting women across industries and at all levels of achievement.

Roseanna Roberts (PSFK) : You’re about a year into running the Girlboss platform?

Sophia Amoruso:  It’s actually two years. Our first rally was in March of 2017—this is our fourth. We’ve also been creating content on, and our podcast network.

Then there’s the product I announced yesterday in terms of bringing the community and this feeling and all this content on to a single platform—we’re in beta. It’s a closed early environment where we have women and they’re using it, but it’s not fully baked. What we shared [at the Girlboss Rally] was an iteration of it that will be completely built the next few months.

What do you feel, in the time that you’ve had the platform, that you’ve learned about your community?

What was really the basis of it was this Facebook group, called the Girlboss Gang, that we’ve been watching for a year. They’re asking questions like, “I have three logos. Can you guys help me choose one?” “I have a website that’s not converting. Can you click through and tell me where you’re getting hung up?”

Or, “I’m going to Austin. I need WiFi and an outlet to work for the day. Where can I do that for free? Do you guys know?” Then stuff like, “I’m having a really hard day. I need some words of support.”

It really runs the gamut. The general theme is that they’re entrepreneurial, whether they’re in a career or they’re building a career. We have women from Uber, Google, Heineken, women who are really in these incredible positions in their companies. There are entrepreneurs, but there are intrapreneurs. We have these women who’re actually building businesses.

Then there’s everything in between, where they may have a career, but they have a side hustle—they don’t know if they’re ready to make it their full time, or face fear about doing so.

What do you think is the key to engagement and getting these women to start to have these conversations on the platform?

It’s going to be built woman by woman, or relationship by relationship, individually. I don’t think this is something that we can really broadcast because it wouldn’t be as authentic as the way the community has already grown. The hashtag has been used 13 million times. That’s not because of us on Instagram. That’s something they did.

In many ways, the Girlboss community has built itself. We’re just showing up now four and a half years a later saying, “Hey, we’re going to give you a place to do this.” We started with Girlboss Rally and we’re taking that online, and creating an environment where it can happen all day every day.

Have you seen the conversation change since you first launched?

I’d say identity and activism have become a part of the conversation where they weren’t when I wrote Girlboss, because we were in a very different time. I took feminism for granted because I was in my bubble and I thought everyone was already there.

I also had the privilege of only having been in companies that I invented or created rather than being in a corporate environment with the kinds of things that we’ve seen come to light.

It seems that community is at the core of what you’re building. Could you explain how that’s manifesting through Girlboss, and why also it’s important to create offline experiences?

We just want to be the conduit for something that already exists. Girlboss is part of it, but it’s a much, much larger conversation that we’re part of. Experiences are a way for people to have a sense of discovery that we want to replicate online, but I don’t think it’s been done very well. Especially when it comes to professional networking or professional resources.

Where you Google something, you might end up on WikiHow or a YouTube video of somebody who’s giving you advice to start a business who’s probably never started a business.

Having that level of credibility when you can see people’s faces is really powerful. The way we curate such a diverse group of women on our panels who are seasoned executives to women who are just starting their businesses is important, because our women are at different stages in their careers.

Just highlighting people who have had a long‑storied career—there’s a lot of inspiration there and a rich experience that women who’ve been in the workforce for 20-plus years can share, as well as the businesses that are innovating and marketing in new ways. I’m inspired by it because five years ago when I was building Nasty Gal, marketing was different. It’s changed so quickly.

It’s a completely different game now. How do you feel like you’re empowering women to participate in your community ? How does their feedback inform what you’re developing?

At the beginning of each day, I asked everybody to turn to one another, introduce themselves and exchange either business cards or email addresses. Often you just introduce yourself to someone, maybe you see them later in the day but you don’t have the confidence to ask them to stay in touch. Each one of those relationships creates opportunity. If I hadn’t said yes to so many things over the first 10 years of my career, I’d be in a really different place. Who knew that a book would turn into a second career? What else would I be doing right now? Consulting for fashion companies?

In terms of encouraging interaction, we have the conversation pitch. It happens naturally because that’s what people came to do. I opened up yesterday saying, “At some point in your career, have you thought networking is kind of creepy?” Because I have. That word can be kind of creepy.

Then I asked, “How many of you came here to network?” Everybody raised their hands. What is the stigma around networking? Is it that we want something from one another? Is it that we have to admit that it’s awkward? What is it? We want to create a place where it’s expected, it’s mandatory.

They’re here to take action. With one another, with themselves personally. There are notebooks out, not phones. These girls are soaking it all up and they want to go home and immediately implement what they learned.

Have you noticed any ideas or themes at this particular rally that are new?

Wellness is the theme. The Museum of Ice Cream founder, Maryellis Bunn, was here yesterday. They’re banning phones from their experiences. That’s a huge risk to their business because that’s been all of their marketing—inherently shareable.

What these devices are doing to us and our memory, how much time we spend on them, how they affect our mental health—it has become evident that there’s a negative impact on us. Bumble introduced a news function. and the new iOS can babysit your time.

The dopamine rush that this created, companies are now trying to help us solve. Arianna Huffington came on stage yesterday and told us about the sleep revolution that she’s created and everything they’re doing at Thrive Global. She’s really done the grind. The glory of the hustle is over‑glorified.

I was partly responsible years ago in propagating that. It’s something I’m a lot more careful about evangelizing, even though it’s important at times. It’s a question of how do you make sure you’re also taking care of yourself? That integration is now essential. That’s what we’re doing with the Girlboss community.

It’s a place where you can share not just what you do, but who you are, your personality. Monday through Friday we’re a professional networking platform and on weekends we’re sharing our fun drinking adventures. We’re living all of those together all the time.

What would say are the most significant signs of progress based on the female empowerment community?

The KPIs we want to tackle: Are these women making more money? Are they making one another richer? How can we facilitate that? Are they negotiating more? Are they starting more businesses as a result of being a part of the Girlboss community? That’s what we want to build this around more than revenue metrics or daily active user metrics.

Of course, we want people using the platform. The most important thing is that they’re deriving value from it.

Is there anything else that we can expect coming down the pipe that you would like to share?

Bigger and better rallies. So much substance comes out of these two days. It’s a lot of work, but it’s easy for us because women are so underserved.

One final comment: You’ve been incredibly honest in a lot of the interviews and information that’s out there about you, which really breaks down that barrier so that women can actually start talk honestly and openly.

Thanks. I could have gone into hiding, but everything was already headline news. I might as well turn lemons into lemonade. Nothing is really ever a lemon. It’s all an opportunity to learn.

Written for and originally published by PSFK

Is Waterless The Next Wave In Beauty?


If the word anhydrous sounds more scientific to you than skincare, let this be your introduction (and cheat sheet) to the world of waterless beauty.

What Is Waterless Beauty? The Facts.

From a technical perspective, the definition of anhydrous is a substance that contains no water. When it comes to beauty, anhydrous products are those that are water-free.

You might be surprised to learn that most beauty products contain anywhere from 70-80% water, with shampoos, gels, and toners ringing in closer to 95%.

A quick scan of the back of your beauty products will prove this point, listing water (or aqua) as one of the first ingredients. This means that the products are going to be diluted—and likely not as effective.

Most Common Anhydrous Beauty Products:

Oils: It can be counterintuitive to use an oil to cleanse (read: like attracts like, oil attracts oil and also dissolves residue), but cleansing oils are the latest in complexion care. They are also great moisturizers, operating on the philosophy that oil traps water on the skin, encouraging long-lasting hydration. Look for options that use oils such as almond, jojoba, and rosehip, which absorb into skin without leaving behind a slippery slick.

Balms: One of the most effective solutions for solving winter skin woes, balms are the ultimate hydrators that can also double as makeup remover. The uber-concentrated formulas are often luxuriously dense blends of oil and wax that soothe the driest of dry patches but work equally well for oily, break-out prone complexions.

Powders: Cleansers have dominated the category (a little sprinkle of one of these is perfect for gentle exfoliation), but a number of brands have started to experiment with other product applications, such as topical vitamin C. When mixed with your favorite serum, they become potent upgrades to your skincare routine.

Bars: These are the compact answer to your space- (and environment-) saving dreams. The minimal packaging and concentrated formulas cut down on waste. Best of all, bars have moved beyond traditional soap; you can find your full arsenal of products, from shampoo and conditioner to body lotion, in bar form. Added bonus: they’re TSA approved!

Key Benefits Of Waterless Beauty

Water has reigned supreme as an additive because it’s both an affordable and neutral ingredient—it can be added to virtually any product without concerns over skin reactions. However, H2O does promote the growth of microorganisms, which means that preservatives must also be present, raising questions, particularly within the clean beauty community, over potential negative impacts. Waterless enthusiasts will also argue that water actually dries out the skin, taking natural oils away as it evaporates.

Anhydrous products, on the other hand, are naturally self-preserving and often use concentrated forms of antioxidants to keep their formulas fresh, which can carry additional skin benefits. When you remove the water, you can produce more highly concentrated formulas, which means lighter applications of a product with the same amount of oomph. In other words, a little goes a long way. What’s more, this smaller footprint requires less packaging and reduces transportation costs.

To me, anhydrous beauty represents the ultimate luxury in skincare. The rich formulas and high concentration of ingredients literally feel expensive to the touch. Because you only need a small amount of product, I have found that I am more mindful in my application of these products. The ritual encourages me to take pause and think about my skin and overall well-being, which feels more like an act of self-care than a means to moisturize.

Potential Challenges:

Since water acts as filler for a lot of beauty products in the market, it can be expensive to go “waterless.” Higher concentrations demand higher price points.

Why Is This Relevant Now?

Beyond daily showers, flushed toilets, and washed dishes, there are many under-the-radar elements that add up to a heavy water footprint. Case in point: the amount of water that goes into making all of those products sitting pretty on your top shelf.

The Nature Conservancy estimates that the average American uses what’s equivalent to 32,911 glasses of water a day. That’s a lot of water that we can’t afford to waste. Experts believe that 1.2 billion people currently lack access to clean drinking water. By 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas. As reality sets in, water conservation becomes a key issue for the planet.

Originally written for an published by Counter Intelligence and reposted by BeautyMatter

5 Of The Most Engaging Activist-Inspired Installations at 29Rooms

Refinery29’s sold-out event produced experiences centered on art and activism that went well beyond branding.

As New York Fashion Week comes to a close, we look back on one of the hottest tickets in town this season. Refinery29’s 29Rooms had over 20,000 visitors from 45 states and 13 countries—a testament to the far-reaching appeal of the lifestyle media outlet.

In its third iteration, Refinery29 brought together a curated selection of independent artists and musicians, brands, and a handful of celebrities who collaborated to create 29 unique installations within a Williamsburg warehouse. The space was a funhouse of color and distraction, like a whimsical Instagram wonderland. Beyond that surface layer, it was an experience with substance, symbolism, and in-your-face activism.

Creative director Albie Alexander Hueston said this year’s “Turn It Into Art” theme “celebrates the transformative power of creativity in its ability to lift spirits, shift perception, and drive change. From controversial issues like gender bathroom laws to riding a carousel with unicorns, 29Rooms 2017 is our most thought-provoking and joyful experience yet.”

29Rooms tapped into the ways that art and social issues are intertwined, and—if the crowds are anything to go by—people are interested in engaging with this conversation. Below, we highlight five of the 29 rooms that explored feminism, self-acceptance, and other culturally relevant issues head-on.



Room 3: Erotica in Bloom

At the entrance of 29Rooms, ‘Erotica in Bloom’ hangs like picture of floral decadence. Upon closer inspection, this swirling world of oversized blooms reveals these flowers as symbols of female fertility. In collaboration with Maisie Cousins, a photographer known for her provocative use of nature as expressions of sensuality, this modern garden of (She)-den invites you in with playful giggles and whispers coming from behind the petals. Short videos are hidden deeper inside the buds, with beautiful imagery celebrating the female body, sexuality and nature. A sweet clean fragrance, like fresh picked wild flowers, lingers in the air, subtly persuading your senses to drift into this dreamscape.


Room 11: The Future Is Female

We’ve all had those days where we would just love to put on some gloves and take it out on a punching bag. Artist Jen Mussari and drummer Madame Gandhi capitalized on the sport’s current popularity, producing the ultimate creative expression: turning that aggressive energy into music. Hitting one of the punching bags inside this installation activates sounds. Both the bags and the gloves have painted lyrics like “The future is made of what we do each day” and “Fight for the future” to set the tone. The more you punch, the more music you make. The installation celebrates inner and outer strength and the power that can come from them.


Room 22: NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism

As you swing into your chair in this conceptual salon, you are transported into the body of a young black woman. This is no ordinary trip to the hairdresser. Hyphen-Labs has created a transhumanistic experience that forces the viewer to walk in another person’s shoes (via her hair), if only for a few minutes. This virtual voyage confronts some larger themes, such as how do we harness synaptic plasticity to free our minds so can we reprogram our mental maps? When will we move past the limitations of our memories, and who is building our future? This experience confronts an empowered future, limited only by one’s own imagination.


Room 24: Hear Our Voice

The women responsible for organizing the January 21 Women’s March on Washington (and worldwide) have created a bustling activist headquarters, engaging passersby while bridging the gap between art and political activism. The point here is clear: Art can be a catalyst for change. Colorfully illustrated postcards carry hard hitting slogans such as “Hope Over Fear” and “We Can. We Have. We Will.” These messages encourage everyone to get involved. Pens, senator’s addresses and an in-house mailbox (and postage) create an immediate call to action in a fun, creative setting.


Room 26: Gender Neutral

Walking into Room 26 is like a time warp, bringing you back to your first day of middle school, hiding in the bathroom stall at lunch – but this time, all of the graffiti on the walls are kind and compassionate words of encouragement. Transparent’s Jill Soloway and artist Xavier Schipani have reimagined a space like those old-school restrooms but in a trans-safe environment that garners feelings of positivity, confidence and love in a time when the place you do your business is everyone’s business.

Written for and originally published by PSFK, and republished by BeautyMatter

Case Study: The Rise of Pink


Pink, a color that was once thought of as the quintessential mark of femininity, now represents something quite different in 2017.

Beginning in fashion and then quickly adapted by beauty, pink has been reclaimed by women as a modern representation of female strength, repositioning the former ditzy association with the lady-like hue.  Women now wear a bold fuchsia lip or pale pink pantsuit as a symbol of female strength.

This shift in rosy outlook has been in the works for some time.  Over the past decade, the role of women has seen significant change. Women have asserted their position in the workforce (and beyond), becoming confident in their identity, celebrating individuality and creative spirit. Strong female role models, from Beyoncé to Hillary Clinton have encouraged women to lead as women, celebrating the differences from their male counterparts. Instead of rejecting classically feminine colors, they have been embraced.

Over the years brands have used the color to appeal to the female demographic – imbuing it with meaning. The cosmetics magnate Mary Kay empowered women to enter the workforce on their own terms, and rewarded hard work by gifting top performers with blush pink Cadillacs.

Fast forward to 2017, where “millennial pink” is representative of a “post pretty” movement ruled by ironic, honest beauty. Indie cosmetics darling Glossier is the poster child, wielding the color like a product itself.

As businesses start to gain a conscience and align themselves with social movements, pink continues to be a beacon of female strength. Social justice driven brand The Lipstick Lobby donates 100% of net profits from the sale of their signature shade, Kiss My Pink to Planned Parenthood.  The high impact color brings attention to the cause, while at the same time being a fresh and flattering tone on the lips.

Like kale and avocado toast, Pink is currently having a moment. It is yet to be seen what lies ahead for the hue, but it is safe to say that it is no longer just a color, but a symbol of the modern woman – whether she’s wearing makeup or is au naturel. 


Written for and published by Counter Intelligence

Images courtesy of Pinterest, Glossier and The Lipstick Lobby

Creating Color: Behind The Scenes of Trend Forecasting


Whenever I tell someone that my profession is working as a color trend forecaster, I often get a lot of blank looks. It’s a relatively under the radar field, and those that have heard of it rarely understand what it involves.

At its root, color forecasting is a tool that helps companies gain an edge by understanding shifts in the consumer landscape and the trends that will appeal to their customers.

What's It All About?

Have you ever wondered how products go from a concept to the runway to the sales floor? There is a reason that all of a sudden, it seems like everyone is wearing fuchsia lipstick. This is the work of color trend forecasting.

A trend forecaster seeks to anticipate cultural nuances, socio-political shifts, innovative design and technologies to inspire the latest and greatest within a particular industry.  There is no magic crystal ball, but instead a practice that relies on research, observation, analysis and intuition to connect the dots.


What Does The Process Look Like?

These Are The Basic Steps That Go Into Creating A Color Trend Forecasting:

1. Observation: A key component to trend development is watching to see what is going on in the stores, on the street, at events and on the runway. Pretty much everywhere you look can be considered a source of inspiration. As a trend forecaster, your brain never fully gets to rest.

2. Research: Investigating what is on the horizon is what sets apart a trend forecaster and a   cool hunter. Since we are generally working up to 2 years ahead of the selling season, it is important to keep on top of new innovations. Visiting tradeshows, speaking to manufacturers and learning about new technologies all help to create a vision of the future. Understanding what the world will look like for the season in question is an important part of this step. This includes reviewing the art, design, architecture, film, entertainment, and sporting events that will help shape our tastes

3. Analysis: After collecting all of this information, the real work begins. Recognizing patterns is a central part of the process.

4. Intuition: This one is hard to teach. It’s all about instinct, understanding cultural cues and trusting your gut

Some trend forecasting agencies rely on the intuition of one particular expert, a method I refer to as the “guru model,” to analyze market trends. Decisions are made based on the thought leadership of this leading specialist.

Others, such as The Color Association of the United States, embrace a slightly more democratic process by enlisting the help of a panel committee of experts. These influencers are tastemakers in their specific industry. They are often designers, retail buyers, stylists or merchandisers. When they come together it is an explosion of creative energy. At these committee meetings, any source of inspiration is fair game. 


What happens at a Trend Forecasting Meeting?

Sharing of Ideas: Each panelist brings in what they think will be the driving influences for the season. These resources are often magazine tears, color swatches and found objects, though sometimes, people get very creative. I have seen everything from dried flowers and artisanal salt to vintage playboy magazines to inspire the development of a nuanced color palette. Influences can be researched and be presented as fully formed concepts, or they may capture a feeling, moment or simply, a color.

After everyone has presented their seasonal inspirations, the next step is to identify synergies within all of the committee members’ inspirations. Often times, panelists have picked up on similar influences, which means the trends  - and colors - overlap. This process begins to outline dominant themes, and highlights commonalities in inspiration as well as colo

Once the trend stories have been confirmed and the color palettes are developed, each trend color is named. These names connect back to their driving influences

Depending on what company is producing the forecast, colors may be appear on color cards as dyed swatches, or have a reference to a color notation such as Pantone so that designers can match the color to a reference in their library.

From here, designers, marketers and merchandisers buy subscriptions to these color cards, influencing their creative output, be it the products they develop, in-store displays and promotional materials


When it comes to beauty, trend analysis can assist in the development of everything from scent – and what we want to smell like – to whether or not matte nail polish will be in this season. Color is one of the biggest influences that encourage purchasing behavior, and as such, color forecasting is big business in beauty.

In recent years, color forecasting has been given a more visible role in retail through the marketing practices of color agency Pantone. The brand has worked to popularize their “color of the year” through partnerships with industry relevant businesses such as Sephora. Despite my personal view that there is not a one-size fits all color for the year, Pantone has become an industry authority, leading many brands – from boutique to mass market– to follow its direction. 

Written for and published by Counter Intelligence