Jul. 2 2020
She’s made in the shade. Holly Thaggard founded Supergoop! with the goal of establishing SPF as an essential part of everyone’s skincare routine. “Someone needed to make sunscreen cool,” she explains, “in order to stop the epidemic of skin cancer.”
Now, Supergoop! is a must-have product for Insta-influencers and skincare gurus everywhere, with a reported revenue of $40 million and a range of products including makeup, body care, and even a neon fanny pack.
Here’s how Holly started her successful business, and what SPF means for IRL beauty.
Can you tell us Supergoop!’s origin story?
My background was not in the beauty industry, actually. Before this, I was a teacher. A good friend of mine was diagnosed with skin cancer, and my college roommate was going through her residency in dermatology, and I asked her, “How does this happen?” And she explained that sun exposure didn’t just happen when we went to the beach, it was a cumulative buildup of exposure every day. At this point in 2005, SPF was an incredibly sleepy category that was owned by the mass drugstores, and it had no innovation at all… and I just started looking at the category and decided someone needed to do it better.
How did you approach the challenge of getting people to care about sunscreen?
Innovation. If you want people to wear something every day, you have to have options and you have to make it cool. I also understood that we couldn’t change consumer behavior by scaring people into it. All of the nonprofit [skin cancer foundations] seemed to just be sharing scary photos of what skin cancer looked like, and I knew if we were going to change consumer behavior, we had to make it fun and playful. I wanted to make it a point of joy. There’s a reason we have an exclamation point after our name.
Are there any skills from teaching that carried over to starting a company?
I still feel like I’m teaching, I’ve just opened my doors of education to the world. In everything that Supergoop! does, we’re teachers, and we have to educate about the importance of SPF every single day. It also helped with branding, because when I was teaching, I was always thinking of how I could build something around a thematic unit. For example, one year, everything was centered around the rainforest… from math to science to social studies. It helped shape the way I approached SPF. It’s part of everything we do.
Do you believe that you can have skincare without sunscreen?
It’s funny you say that. One of my old taglines was, I think, “It’s not skincare if it’s not suncare.” That was back when the company was just me. I never understood why, when I looked at the walls of skincare, that there were no products [with just SPF]. That’s actually how I sold Sephora on our brand. I told them they needed a brand in their skincare section—not the sunscreen section—that is built on the foundation of all things protecting the skin. We believe in a wardrobe of SPF.
Do we need to wear sunscreen even if we aren’t going outside?
Absolutely. Even if you’re not outside, you’re sitting near a window, or looking at a screen for work, especially now. Our Unseen Sunscreen and Glowscreen products go beyond UVA and UVB and actually protect from blue light [from your computer]. These are still the number one and two SPFs at Sephora in all of skincare. The damage from blue light that comes from exposure to your iPhone and laptop is real, and it causes inflammation.
How do you want to continue to innovate and expand the sunscreen market?
Oh my gosh, I dream about SPF. I can’t get it out of my mind. I’m not lying when I say even over this phone call, I’ve been coming up with new ideas for SPF. I think that’s important for anyone who wants to go down the path of entrepreneurship; you literally cannot escape the idea. I guess, to my benefit, innovation has been the easiest part of the business.
Can you turn it off? How do you step away when you need a break?
More recently I’ve been better at it. We’re still small, but I have so many people on my team that are so much more talented than I am in the job they’re doing. [It has] allowed me to not have to think about everything. I also love Pilates, and sometimes I’ll do it twice a day.
Quick: recommend one must-read book!
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It talks about creative learning and not being fearful. One thing that I took away from it… is [that] ideas happen for everyone, everywhere. Usually, they stick around and nag you for a bit, and for people that don’t do anything about it, the idea will just go to the next person. So if you have an idea, do something with it! Or it’ll find someone else.