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Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
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Sarah Moret, founder and CEO of Curie, was raised and is currently based in San Diego. In the midst of struggling to find a clean deodorant that actually worked, Sarah decided to create her own. Clean, sustainable and aluminum-free, Curie’s inspirational and ever-growing products help you in finding a more confident version of yourself.
As a huge fan of the brand, I was delighted to have the chance to hear all about Sarah’s journey. See below for the transcript of our interview.
Tell me a bit about how Curie came to life.
I started Curie about five years ago. Previously, I worked in venture capital and finance. I was living a really active, busy lifestyle. Out the door at 7:30am every day, home at 9pm after dinner – going from work to happy hours to dinners and also running marathons on the side.
In the midst of all this business, I felt really drawn to making the switch to cleaner, more natural products. I remember reading a couple of articles and being shocked by the realization that what goes on your skin actually gets absorbed into your bloodstream. So I started on this quest around 2016, and deodorant was one of the first products I focused on. It’s something you use on your skin every single day, especially in a vulnerable area like your underarms. I wanted to make the switch from the antiperspirant I was using to a clean, aluminum-free deodorant and could not find anything that worked for me. It became almost an obsession over the course of that year, and after countless conversations with my friends, I realized I wasn’t the only one having this problem.
So that's what really started this idea in my head. I kept researching and eventually found a team of formulators in LA that I ended up working with. After a year we created our first formula, which was not only focused on being clean and aluminum free, but mostly on efficacy, because I believed and still believe that nobody's going to use a product if it's not effective. Deodorant has a very important function for a lot of us and I wanted to center that function at the heart of what we did. So I put $12,000 of my savings into the business, and named Curie after Marie Curie. She was a famous physicist and chemist in the 1800s, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, she got her PhD during a time where women weren't even getting an education, and she made some amazing discoveries that led to technologies like chemotherapy and x-rays. She did all this while building an incredible family; her daughters went on to win Nobel prizes themselves. She was a trailblazer. And to me, she really embodies the type of woman I was building Curie for: go-getters that are building companies, careers and families, and need products that can keep up with them.
Many of us are craving natural products that actually work. What did you learn along the way that helped you get the results you want?
It was a lot of trial and error. The first formula that we've launched with, was super effective but I quickly learned from customer feedback that people were getting irritation from it, so we made some tweaks by exploring alternate ingredients to baking soda. We also started developing our deodorant with ingredients to help soothe sensitive skin or any irritation, like razor burn. Those ingredients include coconut oil, chamomile extract and aloe vera. We continue to make modifications to our formula about once a year, just based on customer feedback. We still work with an incredible team of formulators that really have their eyes peeled in terms of seeing what's out there on the market. I know they’ll continue to discover new ingredients so we can make improvements to our products accordingly.
Tell me about all the different products you offer.
The Deodorant Stick ($14) was our only product for the first two years, and it's still our best selling product. Then, year two, we launched our Deodorant & Body Spray ($16), which was really inspired by humans in motion. This is the type of product you throw in your bag, your purse, your gym bag, your car, to freshen up throughout the day. If I go play tennis and want to run errands after, I'll spritz it all over and automatically feel cleaner.
In those early days, we were doing a lot of co-marketing with fitness studios, because we created this brand for active people that are on the go. I realized that a lot of those fitness studios offer free amenities to their members and clients, and those amenities include deodorant. But in order to make deodorant shareable, it has to be a spray, so we developed our spray deodorant and forged a partnership with SoulCycle. We're now in hundreds, maybe even 1000s, of fitness studios, SoulCycle and Equinox being our biggest partners. And as you mentioned, we’ve now also launched our Whipped Body Wash ($14), our Hair Freshener Dry Shampoo ($18), our Moisturizing Body & Hair Oil ($18) & more.
What differentiates you from other brands in the industry?
The common thread between all of our products, and also the thing that sets us apart from others, is our fragrances. We worked with a world renowned fragrance connoisseur named Ann Gottlieb. She's the nose behind basically the entire CPG industry. When I was creating the brand, I tried other products in the clean or natural space, and it always felt like fragrance was always an afterthought. I wanted something unique that smells amazing and is still formulated with clean ingredients. I kept thinking: how great would it be if I couldn’t get enough of the smell of my underarms? So scent became one of our markers, and if you look at our reviews, every other one mentions our incredible fragrances. Also keep an eye out for a new scent we're launching, in partnership with Ann Gottlieb. I think it's going to be our new best seller.
Efficacy is another thing that sets us apart. Again, there's still a lot of deodorants out there that simply don't work. 80% of our customers are coming from other brands, not as first time aluminum free deodorant users. But they've never found something that worked for them, until they tried Curie.
Then, our transparency around ingredients. We put every single ingredient on our website, including every fragrance ingredient, which is pretty unique in the industry. We really try to explain the thinking behind our clean standards, and extend those beyond just our formulas. All of our packaging is post-consumer recycled plastic, even our shipping boxes are made of recycled materials and we have sustainable shipping methods too. Sustainability goes through every touchpoint in our supply chain.
And lastly, something we heard a lot from our customers in the early days, is the struggle of making the switch from an antiperspirant to an aluminum free deodorant. Your body kind of goes through a purge because you've been clogging your sweat glands with aluminum for so long. During this week to two week transition person, your body doesn't quite know what to do. That’s why we developed our Armpit Detox Mask ($16), which is one of our best selling products, to help with this transition period. It's a clay mask, but instead of for your face, it's for your armpits. It helps draw out all the aluminum and all the product build up, and helps you make that transition faster, smoother and less smelly. We aim to be a brand that holds your hand through that transition process, so that we’re giving our customers both a better product and an education.
For those that engage with your brand, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
Our customers are juggling a lot at once, and still want to make better decisions for their bodies. But that takes time. You have to do your research or turn over your deodorant or your body lotion and read the ingredients, and most people simply don’t have time for that. For a lot of our customers, Curie feels like a step towards living a healthier life. And that really makes me proud. When we hear from customers saying: “I saw you on Shark Tank and you really inspired me to take a closer look at the products I'm using on my body”. That’s really all I care about - knowing we’ve aided others in starting their journey to use safer, cleaner products. We’re not only giving our customers that confidence, but we're also inspiring them to make healthier life choices.