Stephanie and Rebecca tell us a bit about how you two met before you launched SHESPOKE?
Stephanie: We met on the set of Law & Order: SVU. Rebecca was the head of the Makeup Department and I played the role of ADA Alex Cabot. We immediately bonded over travel to Southeast Asia, good restaurants, and our desire to sneak a little sparkly eyeshadow onto Cabot's eyelids during trial.
Rebecca: Our very first conversation was about makeup and then we bonded over the very long days and nights on set.
You are product pioneers. Tell us about the process of developing your custom lip shades and the formulation process.
Stephanie: Rebecca really is the color genius here. She is the one who developed our process and sourced the pigments and bases she felt were the most nourishing, clean, and high performing. My skill is in spotting quality and articulating the needs of the client. It's not enough for the color to be beautiful. The lipstick has to hold up in your purse, it has to be easy to apply, it has to have a pleasing texture, the bullet has to be shaped just so. It is very helpful, in any endeavor, to have two sets of eyes on it- keeps it honest.
Rebecca: The process really drove the development and was quite a journey. We were driven by figuring out where we can source top quality formulations to create not only customized color but also textures. We sourced formulas from an incredible chemist and found pigments from companies mindful of responsible sourcing. The custom shades are the end result of a lot of thought and care.
Share with us a bit about your SHESPOKE custom shades.
Stephanie:: I am all over the place with color and that is what is so fun about SHESPOKE. Right now, I am sporting a sheer coral with just a little shimmer- similar to our "Ruth" but slightly pinker. It is a kick to think about what I want to do for my spring "wardrobe." Very pink? I am not sure but whatever I decide I will get three versions of it and it will be my signature look.
Rebecca: Honestly, I have so many. I recently whipped up a tinted balm, Cabin Fever for our "Quarantine with Me" Valentine's collection. I decided that the lipstick needed to be its own party in a tube. It is chock full of sparkles and a nude shimmer. It's pretty effortless and universal but also festive in a challenging time.
How do you go about creating the shades for your non-custom lipsticks, lipglosses and cheek balms? Does it tie into fashion trends? Skin tones?
Stephanie: We have applied lipstick to thousands upon thousands of women over the years. The need for the same few shades kept turning up. So we made those shades and proudly continue to sell them. No false scarcity here! The point is not to dangle a color in front of a customer and then snatch it away- forcing her to buy 3 other lipsticks to approximate her original shade. Our mission is to be sure that our clients have exactly what they need, and our core collection functions as a kind of LBD for lips.
Rebecca: We really listen to what our clients over seven years of having a brick-and-mortar shop in Soho were interested in and put our spin on that. The perfect red? We have a vibrant warm red, a bright cool red, and what we call our Hollywood Red that has that perfect 1950's depth. Scared of reds? We have 'no-mirror necessary' lip and cheek balms. Our clients really drove the core collection and the limite-edition drops are inspired by the world around us, current events, and inspiring women.
Share with us your go-to essential key ingredients and what issues they tackle.
Stephanie: Rebecca you take it from here …
Rebecca: All of our lipsticks feature my single favorite ingredient in skincare: Squalane. They have all sorts of other juicy ingredients like mango seed butter, shea butter, cacao butter and more. But I am so excited to see how widely skincare is embracing Squalane, which is bioidentical to your skin's own moisture factor and therefore deeply nourishing. We have used that since the beginning.
You're known for using your powerful voices, creating conversation and community. Can you share more about the Limited Edition "I'm Speaking" collection?
Stephanie: Kelsey, Rebecca, and I were watching the Vice Presidenial debates from three different locations. Mike Pence was doing his interrupting, mansplaining thing and Vice President Harris said (with tremendous clarity and purpose), "I'm Speaking." It took about 30 seconds for us to get on the phone. The nerve! She was speaking. I've been there. You've been there. All of us have been there. We have a voice and we have a right to use it! That is the absolute origin story of SHESPOKE.
Rebecca: The collection mixed itself. It immediately connected with what we are trying to express.
Do you believe well applied makeup changes your mindset?
Stephanie: Even on a casual day I like a touch of war paint. I do it for myself, it puts a little spring in my step.
Rebecca: 1000%. Who doesn't feel like they can take on the world when they love how they feel?
Do you see your brand expanding with different products?
Stephanie: Absolutely. We are beta testing concealer and it's, hand to heart, the best I have ever used.
Rebecca: Girl, I am sitting on my hands. I CANNOT WAIT.
What inspired your brand’s name SHESPOKE?
Stephanie: It's "bespoke"- just for you, young lady.
Rebecca: Bespoke lipstick for all.
What role does social media play in your brand?
Stephanie:: The best thing about social media is that we can connect to our customer in an instant. There is a great feedback loop, and we can continue to refine our process and products based on what our customers want. The worst thing about social media is influencers. Maybe I am showing my age, but I am weary of influencers. I really prefer actual clients.
Rebecca: It is a great way to get the word out and connect with our expanding but super engaged community. It is so fun to hear from them, get inspiration, or see their happy faces when they have received their lipsticks.
What are your morning rituals?
Stephanie: A significant portion of my morning is dedicated to cuddling TacoCat while working on The New York Times Spelling Bee. Eventually, I rinse with really warm water, slather on some SuperGoop! sunscreen, apply RP's secret sauce concealer, and select a lipstick. Any lipstick! I just go with my mood. I use a touch of that lipstick on my cheeks (yes, you can do that) and apply some on my lips. Add a tight black line to my upper lid and powder. Good to go.
Rebecca: Well, to be honest, I can't even talk until Listerine, Waterpik and Sonicare has happened. Then a splash of water on my face and I get the kids off to school. Plus, probably like 6 glasses of water.
What is in your beauty bags?
Stephanie: Powder, concealer, lipstick, an eyeliner, some gooey all-purpose balm like Surfer's Salve (sent by my darling sister-in-law, Brooke, in Hawaii), and a micro vial of perfume. And don't forget SuperGoop! Hand Screen. I will not use a hand lotion that does not have SPF in it.
Rebecca: Eight or nine scattered lipsticks. I have a pigmentless balm that I love to use as an undereye balm on dry, cold eye watery days. I have a mini bottle of 100% squalane from The Ordinary and Pat McGrath FetishEyes.
What has been your favorite part about building this business?
Stephanie: It's awfully nice to be in a business where you add a little zing to someone's day.
Rebecca: Building it with Stephanie and now Kelsey, our new CEO. Seeing our team really stretch and expand their roles and capacities, making people happy by making them lipstick and seeing that gasp that they make when you pop their perfect shade out of the mold.
What have been key learning experiences being a D2C business?
Stephanie:Listen to your customers. They have a voice! And if 1 in 100 absolutely hates something, well, that's her right, certainly. But look at the bigger picture and don't let it get you down.
Rebecca: NEVER be afraid to pivot. If something is working, great. If it isn't, move on. Have a partner you would trust with your life.
As female founders have you faced distinct challenges or found support in the industry?
Stephanie: EVERYONE says they want to back female founders. And they do, until they actually have to use money to do it.
Rebecca: Both. The female founder funding drought is real. The sisterhood of support though is too.
And finally, aside from beauty, what are you both passionate about?
Stephanie: All I think about right now is Voters' rights. And travel. Oh my word, I was born with a good dose of wanderlust, and global lockdown is a bit incompatible with that.
Rebecca: Travel when we can do that again and food - both eating and cooking - specifically Ramen and anything spicy.