The environment is asking for help. And although it is hard to believe one person can make a world of difference, being an “eco optimist” pays off. That’s what Jayme Jenkins, Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer for beauty brand Everist, believes.
Looking to create a brand that actually makes a difference and still fits the lifestyle of its clients, Jayme and Co-Founder Jessica Stevenson dove into the waterless products market with aligned beliefs and complementing strengths, knowing that, in order to make change happen, they would need to let go of control and embrace the uncomfortable for a little while.
What did you dream you would be doing as a career later in life?
It’s been so many different things! But none of those things was ever being a founder. That’s something that came later. From a young age, I’ve always been very creative and also interested in helping in different ways.
My youngest memory was wanting to be an artist, from wanting to work in advertising for a social good business to want to be a vet at some point. It’s changed lots of times, but I guess by the time I was ready to go to university, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.
So I ended up studying business with a focus on marketing because it was somewhere that I thought I could flex my creativity a little bit more.
You worked in the beauty industry for an extended period of time before launching Everist. Who were the sources of inspiration for you? Did you have role models?
We have a lot of great contacts in beauty, but in terms of brands or individuals that we looked up to it was really founders who had done something really different in the space. Brands like Bite Toothpaste, tabs that were a first-to-market innovation and toothpaste. There are a lot of different innovations now in shower care and hair care that are doing new formulations and new form factors.
We leaned on our network for more support in terms of marketing and launch support. And a lot of the pieces that we knew from our beauty backgrounds on the innovation side. We were really trying to approach it from a different angle and create something that hadn’t existed before.
It really came down to a lot of grit, I think. And perseverance to keep trying different things until we found something that worked.
You have a business partner, and you decided to be co-founders and build this together. What does the partnership bring to you, and how do you approach sharing work between the two of you?
Yes, Jessica Stevenson is my business partner. Sometimes I feel like she’s my life partner! We spend so much time talking. She’s wonderful, and we are actually long-time friends. A lot of times people will say, ‘Don’t go into business with friends’, since It could probably go either way.
But I think we’ve been really fortunate. We know each other from business school. She was in the beauty industry as well. And what makes our relationship work is we are very different in terms of our strengths, but very aligned in terms of the vision we have for the company and our values.
While I’m more creative on the brand strategy and a lot of the product stuff, Jess is really a wonderful operator. She’s very analytical. She’s a wonderful business strategist as well. So we work together on all the key decisions, and we try to divide and conquer when we can.
I think it’s important for us that we have as much mutual alignment on the big pieces as we can. And I think for some people, you know, it depends on your personality.
Some people would do better independently and want to be that independent leader of their business. For me, it’s been a game-changer. For me to have somebody that I really respect and feel really accountable to push through some of the challenges. Because when you start your business, there’s going to be a new challenge every day and lots of problems to overcome.
Having somebody to discuss it with and having somebody to feel like I need to be there to deliver with has really helped us. Helped me, personally, have that forward momentum. It’s been a game-changer for me.
Was it hard to educate consumers about why you’re making your products the way you are?
One of our biggest challenges with Everist is we have so much to say. We were the first ones to do waterless concentrate paste – we have a patent pending on it. But waterless has really become a big trend in the beauty industry in the last little while.
There’s starting to be more awareness of it and there’s starting to be more ingredients that are waterless that we can use from our raw material suppliers, more opportunities for waterless products. But when we were starting on it three or four years ago, it was more limited.
No one had heard of it. When we say waterless shampoo, a lot of people think it’s a shower-free product or a dry shampoo. There’s still a lot of confusion around it. Actually, for that reason, we’re now leaning into calling our products “concentrate”.
We’re doing a bit of a rebrand this fall, launching some new innovation, tweaking a couple of things after we’ve learned after our first year in the market because we launched last spring, so making it even more clear and leaning into that concentrate name.
That’s a little bit easier for people to understand. Our products are three times concentrated, and you activate them with water, but you still use them in the shower. So it’s been a progression. And then also, there’s a lot of benefits of waterless too, which I think we’re just cracking the surface on.
Right now, I feel like we use up a lot of our real estate and our site, and if we do an ad it’s explaining what the product is – because people haven’t seen it before. But there are so many other conversation points that we can go into. For example, the products are 100ml, they’re travel-friendly, and TSA size.
Also, because water and cosmetic products are what cause bacteria to grow, the products can be safely free of added preservatives. There are super clean formulas as well, like the cleanest of the clean and beautiful formulas that are filled with actives and skincare ingredients.
There are so many stories to tell, but I feel we need a lot of that time, in the beginning, to explain what the product is because people haven’t seen it before, how to use it and make sure we have as much education as we can to get over that learning curve. But it’s still early, and I think just as we’re starting to see more waterless and more understanding of concentrates and that kind of evolution happening in the market, I feel really happy with how that’s developing.
People are really looking for solutions that help them go more eco but also fit their lifestyle, and it’s beauty, at the end of the day, that is working and giving them that experience that they love without that compromise. That’s really key for us.
What would you like to see happen in terms of changes in your industry? And what would you like to see beauty entrepreneurs doing more of in the near future?
There’s so much gray, and there’s also so many different ways to tackle this problem. There’s like so many different problems. There are many different ways brands can approach it.
One of them is packaging, obviously moving away from single-use plastics, which we know don’t biodegrade. If they’re biodegradable or compostable, depending on how they’re formulated, can biodegrade into microplastics, which is a problem on their own. Then there are ingredients, what’s going down our drains into our water systems, which linger in our systems.
You know, there are a lot of forever chemicals that are used in beauty products. Another one is sourcing, where do your ingredients come from? There are so many different ways brands can tackle it based on what feels natural for them or the easiest kind of first step for them.
It’s such a complex problem that people and brands sometimes feel unsure of where to start and afraid to be seen as a hypocrite because you were never going to be perfect. There are always going to be things you could do better, and you’re always going to be making some sacrifices or some tradeoffs as you make these choices.
Our philosophy with Everist, for our customers as well as for ourselves as a brand, is progress, not perfection. We’re a brand for imperfect environmentalists. We say “eco optimists”, that’s who the brand is created for. It’s all about trying to do better and making those changes.
And oftentimes people and brands can feel hypocritical because they can’t be perfect. And I sometimes think that stops people, companies and brands from even trying to take a step in the right direction. If you are still going to order something from Amazon or get takeaway, why even care about this other thing?
That kind of all-or-nothing thinking leads to a lot of stagnation. Our goal, as a brand, is really to make it easier for the customer to have an option that fits with their values and also their performance and lifestyle goals that they want from their beauty products.
There is so much greenwashing out there as well, but there’s also so much opportunity for brands to tackle it in their own way. And consumers are really great now at holding brands accountable and asking questions, and brands are increasingly becoming more transparent, which is great to see.
The key is starting somewhere and taking that first step and being open to feedback and listening, and then continually evolving. That’s the part that’s kind of exhausting, especially for us as a small brand. We launched a year ago, we’ve changed 150 things since we launched, and we’re always changing and getting better.
You learn more, you have to keep improving and that’s the part where it really is a lot of work for the brands to keep innovating and formulating, learning and adapting. But that’s what, to me, is a real commitment to progress over perfection. It’s continuing to grow and learn and to do better as you know better.
That’s what I would encourage other founders to do. But don’t be afraid to start because you’re going to start, it’s not going to be perfect somewhat with everything, with your eco positioning, with the branding piece, with the product piece. Then you have to just be willing to put in the work to continually learn and innovate and improve. Otherwise, you’ll never start, and those solutions will never be there out in the world.
How would you say your life has changed throughout your career?
It’s always been crazy, I’ve always loved what I do and all the jobs I’ve had. I’ve really loved the companies I’ve worked for. And obviously, I love what I’m doing now. So I’m always thinking about ideas and ways to improve, and always thinking about the business.
But it is really challenging, I won’t lie. Having a young family, the last couple of years, in particular, have been incredibly challenging. When we set out to start Everist, we raised a little bit of money to start and then Covid hit right around the same time.
The week that we launched Everist was one of the weeks all the schools closed. And my children were home and I had a week full of interviews lined up with all the big beauty editors. And it’s just been a really tricky couple of years with so much change happening.
I’ve had to be really flexible and lean on my partner, on family, the team, and Jess. And take that support that you need to make it all work. But at the end of the day, the business is important to me. Obviously, my family is the most important to me and being there for my kids as they’re growing up.
But trying to find as much balance and carve out a little bit of time for me or else I will go crazy. You have to find what works for you in your lifestyle. For me, I love to run and listen to podcasts. That’s how I clear my head in the morning before the day starts.
That’s the time that I try to find for myself. I don’t do it every day, but I try to do it as much as I can. There is never balance. It’s just trying to do the best you can. You have to be willing to surrender, if you want to go hard in both areas of your life, that feeling of having everything under control. There’s always going to be something that needs attention.
There’s always going to be something that’s a mess that needs to be cleaned up, and if you’re a control freak like me, it can be challenging because the house is a mess or there’s a million emails that need to be answered. But if it’s something you’re really passionate about, I think it’s worth it to have to live with a little bit of that chaos for a while.
What’s one thing you wish women would do more of and one thing you wish women would do less of?
I wish women would be more bold. Anytime in my career that I’ve done something that was terrifying, taken a big risk, it’s been scary. At first, I’ve thought for a little while that I made a huge mistake, and it’s always been to move things forward. Just leaping into that uncomfortable space and committing to push through it and live with it a little bit is what will really unlock that next level.
I, personally, have a tendency to overthink a lot of things. I know a lot of women do. So just living a little bit more boldly and taking a little bit more risk – calculated risk, of course. But I think living in that uncomfortable space and pushing a little bit outside your comfort zone can really make a huge difference in terms of the opportunities that you have.
In terms of stop doing, the guilt is really tough. Feel like you don’t want to let anybody down, you want to keep all the balls in the air, and it’s hard because you can’t do everything but just aren’t accepting your own limitations and living without perfection. I think that doesn’t really exist. You just do the best you can.
Listen to our full podcast interview with Jayme Jenkins, Co-Founder of Everist HERE.