Hey everyone, it’s Renée here at the start of a new year—one we have all been waiting for, right? I hope 2021 brings you a fresh start with a new perspective, and that you can put some goals into action. Since we are a small, founder-owned, founder-led company and we feel so close with our customers, I wanted to share where we have been and some amazing things we have in store for 2021! Here goes!
2020: What a year at Renee Rouleau Skincare!
Needless to say, 2020 was a wild ride of highs and lows. These were some of the most memorable moments and events at Renée Rouleau Skincare last year!
A Chapter Closes for Our Spa Location
In January of last year, our lease ended for our spa in Plano, Texas. This spa location had been open for twenty-three years, and for eighteen of those years, I was a service provider there (along with five other estheticians offering skin treatments to clients).
Along with being a hands-on esthetician, I developed a product line that I started selling from our website in 1999. Every year, we have experienced tremendous growth in demand for our products from customers all around the globe. The decision to not renew the spa lease was not an easy one, but with our corporate headquarters and warehouse being based in Austin for the last five years and my home being in Austin, it just seemed time to focus 100% of our efforts on being an e-commerce company.
We took great care of our long-time estheticians and they are all thriving in their new places of employment. I am super proud of the great services we provided for all those years and am so grateful for all of the support from our clients, then and now.
Awarded “Best Place to Work” by the Austin Business Journal
I have won various awards throughout the years for being a female CEO, being a skincare expert, and for our products. But I must say, getting acknowledgment for being a best place to work felt like winning an Oscar.
You see, when Florian, my husband/partner of twenty-two years and our company’s COO, passed away in November of 2018, one of his dying wishes was that I continue to build a great company that would be deserving of an award. He said, “Renée, we have worked so hard to do right by our people. I know you’ll continue to make me proud.” The award wasn’t about our sales growth, profits, or any of those business-y type metrics, but rather about our culture and how we treat people who choose to work in our company. I have always been about “people over profits” and have run my company with my heart. I will never sell my soul for the almighty dollar but instead will always look at how we can continue to build a great working experience for our team. To me, this is the ultimate success. (Read this interview with Inc about why I believe bigger is not better.) This award. Wow…a dream come true.
The COVID Life—Skincare During the Pandemic
When the pandemic hit, it was the ultimate unknown as to how to navigate both our personal and professional lives. But like everything, you just have to put one foot in front of the other and problem solve the best you can.
For our company, being exclusively direct-to-consumer online (meaning, not being in retail stores that now had all closed), we knew we thankfully were probably going to be okay.
But then, the focus on skincare became even bigger for these five reasons:
- People were wearing less makeup and now looking at their skin. This made them want to address the issues they were previously hiding under makeup.
- People had more time on their hands and they wanted to feel better. This meant taking extra time for some self care with the “extras” like at-home peels and masks, things that their busy lives previously didn’t allow for. This created a renewed interest in skincare.
- “Maskne” entered the scene (and is still a big concern). Since we have a lot of products that address acne, we were the go-to for so many people looking to keep their skin clear. (Read my expert tips for helping maskne.)
- People relied on online shopping to deliver products to their door without leaving home.
- People were seeking experts via Zoom to receive guidance on how to best care for their skin and get on the perfect home routine. We have offered virtual consultations for the last ten years, but now the demand has really increased during COVID. You can book a virtual consult with one of our two expert estheticians, Polina and Jessica.
Helping Out Where We Can
At the start of the pandemic, our company donated supplies and face cleaners to hospitals in New York and Jersey through Donate Beauty. We realized it wasn’t much, but wanted to help in any way possible. We also developed a really nice hand sanitizer that was randomly added to orders to surprise and delight our customers. Some of them were donated to service workers in Austin as well.
COVID—No Layoffs or Paycuts
Because of COVID, we as a company made a number of internal changes to handle the crisis. These changes were not easy, but I am so very proud to say that we did not have to lay off any of our employees or reduce their pay or schedules in any way. We gave everyone complete flexibility as to how they wanted to navigate this new reality to keep themselves and their families safe. We are so thankful that we were able to offer this kind of flexibility and that we could continue to take care of each other during these unprecedented times.
All in all, we survived and thrived during the worst of days. Thank you for all of the continued support and loyalty that you show our company. We are truly grateful.
Despite the tremendous surge we experienced last year, I’m super proud to say that we never had any backorders. We hate ever disappointing our customers when something is out of stock so we have perfected our supply chain process to keep this from happening. We are always thinking of the customer experience!
Our Focus on Learning and Growing
As a company, we are always striving to get better. We took the time to focus on new initiatives to make Renée Rouleau a more inclusive workplace by expanding our diversity outreach when hiring for open roles, as well as donating to a number of minority causes.
We had meetings with the Texas Civil Rights Project, Austin Justice Coalition, and the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at UT Austin to understand their organization, their scope, and their cause. All of this is to educate ourselves on how we can be better in our community.
A Year of Giving Back
We made a $5,000 donation to each of these three non-profit organizations: Texas Civil Rights Project, Austin Justice Coalition, and the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at UT.
We developed a year-long partnership with Tankproof, an organization that teaches underserved children with limited or no access to a pool how to swim, and provided monthly donations to help them further their mission.
I personally donated to Beam (formerly named Women@Austin) and am now on their advisory board. This is a local organization created to support women who are looking to scale their companies through knowledge, connection, capital, and mindset at the most critical moments in their entrepreneurial journeys.
Award-Winning Products and Reviews
We have always gotten a lot of love from the media and 2020 was no different. I’m proud to say we won NINE beauty awards!
These skincare awards included:
- Cosmopolitan Holy-Grail Award for Rapid Response Detox Toner
- Glamour Beauty Award for Anti Bump Solution
- GQ Grooming Award for Anti Bump Solution
- Health Best Skincare Award for Rapid Response Detox Cleanser
- HelloGiggles Beauty Crush Award for Rapid Response Detox Toner
- Real Simple Smart Beauty Award for Rapid Response Detox Masque (in the print magazine)
- The Healthy Best Summer Serum for Skin Correcting Serum
- Women’s Health Best of Skincare Award for Rapid Response Detox Cleanser
- Refinery29 Beauty Innovator Award for Rapid Response Detox Cleanser
Here’s the truth about skincare—there are an incredible amount of products out there, and that number is growing by the minute.
For me, creating a truly innovative product is a fun challenge when it seems like everything has already been done. My process requires a lot of research on things like ingredients percentages, pH levels, and cruelty-free testing for efficacy. My number one focus is always solving a specific skincare problem. Developing a product is not only a science, but an art form, and one I have been perfecting for the last thirty years. Getting all of these awards is truly an honor!
As you can see, our Rapid Response Detox products are pretty special. Did you know we sell all of them together in this handy kit?
Smart Beauty Award for Rapid Response Detox Masque in Real Simple Magazine
A New Product Launched
Despite our labs being shut down for a while due to COVID, we still managed to get out a new product! Meet Mint Renewal Cleanser. Whenever I develop a product, I say, “What problem am I trying to solve?” For this product, I wanted a cleanser that would wake up tired skin in the morning, brighten dull skin to give it a glow, and provide some skin-smoothing benefits. I have to say, I hit it out of the park with this one, and the responses from the media, influencers, and our customers have been so positive. If you haven’t tried it, get it now! You’ll be addicted. It’s so good.
A Year of Podcasts!
I was asked to be interviewed for so many podcasts last year, which was super fun and an honor. At age fifty-one, I would hope I have a few nuggets of wisdom that can provide value for others!
Topics I cover on the various podcasts include:
- Skincare and beauty advice
- Career advice for estheticians
- Life advice
- Grief and resiliency
- Running a company and lessons I’ve learned
You can give all my podcasts a listen here. Enjoy!
The Blog Continues To Thrive
Since 2009, I have been delivering my expert advice through my popular blog. For so many of those years, it was just me doing all of the work. Fast-forward to 2020—I now have a small team, led by our Content Editor, Ella, who helps me so we can push out content more frequently than in years past. And new to the blog this year, we have had eleven outside experts contribute their expertise!
Experts on the blog include:
- Cosmetic chemists
- A self-tanning specialist
- Dermatologists in this post and this post
- A therapist and a skin positivity influencer in this post
- A tattoo artist
In previous years, the blog has always just been my information, so it’s great to invite others to share their thoughts and tips.
Moved Into Our New Austin Headquarters!
Before the pandemic, we had been looking into moving because our original warehouse and office space no longer fit the needs of our growing company. When the pandemic hit, we still continued with our original plan to find a new home. We eventually found an 11,000 SF space, and it’s beautiful and perfect. We moved into it in September and the warehouse is now fully operational, but we’re still waiting on office furniture for our marketing and customer care teams. While we do offer work-from-home (which many people prefer right now), we also have some people who want to come into the office for a change of scenery from their house. Of course, we have all the appropriate safety measures in place.
Our Renée Rouleau Team—My Family
When I relocated the company to Austin five years ago, Florian and I didn’t know anyone. We just knew we wanted to create a positive environment where people would enjoy coming to work every day and feel like they were part of something great. Since Florian’s passing, my team has become such a point of strength and stability in my life. They are also one of the reasons I want to stay small and have full ownership. I would never want to lose the spirit of our team or have my people feel like just a number.
What I miss most since COVID hit is having my entire team gathered around for a lunch or for one of our famous “Lotteria” giveaway days. My team is my family, and I am so grateful for each of their contributions.
2021: What We Have Coming!
As COVID Continues
We are continuing to follow strict COVID guidelines for both our office and warehouse. This includes a cleaning crew twice a week, wearing masks at all times, maintaining 6′ distance, no double occupancy in bathrooms, no in-person group meetings, and complete work-from-home flexibility. Out of our team of 17, no one has been affected by COVID and we plan on keeping it that way. (Fingers crossed!)
We Are Hiring
We have an open position available for a Junior Content Writer. Interested in employment at a “Best Place to Work”? Get details here!
One of our biggest projects of 2021 (and an ongoing program moving forward) will be the reduction and offsetting of our carbon footprint as part of our corporate sustainability strategy. This is an initiative that is close to all of our hearts. It’s something that we all (both as a company and as private citizens) must take responsibility for by changing our habits where possible.
Over the years, we have been doing the best we could internally: we use simple, recycled cardboard boxes with craft paper for shipping, we don’t make sample sizes (learn more about why they’re wasteful in this great article), and we try to be as intentional as possible about everything we do. As we continue to work on our internal goal of becoming carbon neutral, we know we’ll need help from outside professionals. We recently engaged with a consulting firm that specializes in carbon- and water-footprint analysis for companies. They are completely unbiased and independent and will give us an honest inspection. This makes them the ideal partner to help us assess and improve our environmental impact. They will develop a bespoke carbon footprint calculator for Renée Rouleau Inc, applying relevant US emission factors to translate activity data into emissions.
We will be very happy to update our community once our assessment is complete and let everyone know what our next steps, along with our timeline, will be.
New Products Coming!
I’ve been working with my lab on quite a few new products. As mentioned in this post, I am working on two new products that will help repair the skin’s barrier when it’s compromised. One thing that can damage the skin’s barrier is using prescription retinoids or other topical acne products. Barrier repair is a big area of focus since at-home products are driving better results than ever for improving the skin. But when used too often, your skin can be thrown out of balance.
I’m also working on a new cleanser as well as a facial scrub. As for when the new products will launch, it will be much later in 2021. The process takes a long time when I’m seeking absolute perfection.
Our 25th Anniversary!
This upcoming August, we will be celebrating twenty-five years of Renée Rouleau Skincare. We’ll definitely be doing all sorts of celebrating! I can’t believe that it’s been a quarter of a century since I moved to Texas by myself without knowing anyone and took out a small business loan to start a small skincare spa in Dallas. Sometimes it’s just so hard to believe how much the company has grown since my humble beginnings. Pinch me, is this all a dream? Grateful for what was, what is, and what will be—and all who helped along the way.
Lastly, As For Me Personally…
Like everyone, life as we knew it came to a halt when the pandemic started. For me, I went from traveling at least three times a month to no traveling at all. Having a life of constant go-go-go and then feeling like it stopped so suddenly was an adjustment for sure. I feel like I’ve been living a European lifestyle (having spent a lot of time in France with my late husband, who was French). I quickly saw the pandemic as an opportunity to see what I could achieve at a slower pace. Longer lunches, mid-afternoon naps, more meaningful conversations and connections, being of service to those in need, and just more time to THINK without the busyness of life getting in the way. So in this way, it was a beautiful year and there was so much good that came out of it. There are always silver linings if you look hard enough.
Wishing everyone safety and comfort and a great start to the new year with a fresh perspective. Let’s all do our best with the short time we have allotted on this earth.
You can follow my journey on Instagram to see all the things going on in my world. And of course, for all my expert advice on how to best care for your skin, read our blog. It’s been a labor of love since 2009 and is still going strong!