Episode 124 – Coffee N5 – The Beauty of Aging with Sonsoles Gonzalez

Welcome to another episode of Coffee N° 5! Today, we are excited to welcome Sonsoles Gonzalez, a fifty-preneur who left her corporate life behind after 25 years of working for hair care brands Procter & Gamble and L’Oréal. Sonsoles Gonzalez launched Better Not Younger, a brand aimed at women whose hair is changing but who aren’t defined by their age.
In this episode, Sonsoles Gonzalez shares her insights on defying age stereotypes in the beauty industry, understanding your audience’s needs, the importance of networking and investing in PR, and setting your business up for long-term success. 

We’ll talk about:

  • The age preference of the beauty industry
  • The importance of investing in PR and networking
  • Understanding your target audience’s needs

For more information, visit Better Not Younger’s website.

Follow our host Lara Schmoisman on social media:

Instagram: @laraschmoisman

Facebook: @LaraSchmoisman

LinkedIn: @laraschmoisman

Twitter: @LaraSchmoisman

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About Sonsoles Gonzalez

After 25 years of working on haircare brands for Procter & Gamble and LOréal, part of which was spent in her birthplace, Venezuela, founder Sonsoles Gonzalez left her corporate life behind to become what she calls a fiftypreneur and launch Better, Not Younger. Her vision for the company started when she began struggling to find products that worked for her changing hair. Sonsoles Gonzalez saw an opportunity to create a brand for women that would reflect today’s 40+ consumers, who aren’t defined by their age, but whose hair is undeniably changing. “I see aging as a daily opportunity to feel better about ourselves; and we all know that when our hair doesn’t look good, it can be hard to feel good”. “I wanted this brand to speak to an empowered woman who has the tools to look her best at any age thatsthat’s why I named it Better Not Younger”.

Lara Schmoisman 0:05

This is coffee number five. I’m your host Lara Schmoisman. Hi you guys, welcome back to coffee number five today I’m super excited because you know, I always say that I’m not that young anymore. And I love that someone took that concept and took it to the next level actually, and, and thought that it were better not younger. So let introduce you to Sonsoles Gonzalez, that I also found out that she’s a fellow Latina. And so Welcome to Coffee number five.

Sonsoles Gonzalez 0:42

Thank you Lara. Thanks for having me. Lara Schmoisman 0:44 Well, I’m so happy to have you here because I’m, I want to know a little bit about your story. And you can we found the problem that you actually had, and so you created a solution. Sonsoles Gonzalez 0:57 Yes, absolutely. So I actually created Better Bot Younger out of my own need when I couldn’t find products that would work with my hair. In my 50s I had actually spent over 25 years working in the industry. So I have worked with many of the big brands like Pantene and Herbal Essences and L’Oreal and I realized that brands of products that worked well for me they weren’t working anymore, and it’s because my hair had changed, just like the rest of my body was changing my skin was changing, my body, my sleep patterns.

Lara Schmoisman 1:33

Yeah, tell me about it.

Sonsoles Gonzalez 1:34

So I decided to learn a little bit more about what was going on with hair as we age. And as it turns out, a lot goes on. So we all notice kind of the grey, that’s sort of the obvious sign. But there’s so much more than than the loss of pigmentation, you have follicles that are shrinking. So your hair grows thinner, you have follicle that are going into the dormant or the shedding phase more often and for longer, so you’re experiencing hair loss, and you may be experiencing hair that just doesn’t grow. Our bodies are producing less oils, or natural oils. And so that impacts the dryness of your scalp and the dryness of your hair. So your hair will be more brittle, more prone to breakage, you’re going to get more frizz. All of this is happening at the same time. It also is happening at a time when you’re probably doing the most harm to your hair. Because you’re coloring very often, you’re using our stylers to compensate for what used to be your hair that you can manage anymore. So I you know, I kind of call it the perfect storm against your hair. And people don’t really understand what’s going on.

Lara Schmoisman 2:49

Yeah, so I mean, I love also was looking at your website that you have a quiz that they help you to go through the factory of understanding the problems in your hair because sometimes it’s like my hair falling, but you don’t realize that you have other issues in your hair. Like it can get dry scalp, like you said, or my why it’s happening, how much you’re bothering, like, for example, I absolutely hate to see my gray hairs and I have dark hair so you can see it really well. So I feel like Oh, I see dark hair, I need to do something about it, grey hair. Yeah, great. How did you go about creating your own line and strategizing? And also to put it out there? What steps did you take?

Sonsoles Gonzalez 3:35

So the first thing I mean, I I first thing I did was really understand also the demographic. So you know, how big is this segment of people? And it turns out that it’s very, very big. Because, you know, whilst marketers have been focusing so much in millennials and in Gen z’s, the reality is that there are a lot of women in this demographic, over 80 million women in the US alone are already they also have a lot more spending power than the younger consumer, they invest a lot. And so to me, that said, Okay, there’s a market out there, then I realized I did a little bit of, you know, researching and I realized that there weren’t any brands that were really speaking to her. And in in the beauty industry in general, the only sort of the beauty standard is usefulness. So it’s always about looking younger, right? And I felt a bit of a disconnect there because women still want to participate in the beauty industry. They want to be a part of this, but they’re constantly told, you know, by a 25 year old what you need to do to stay young and so that also led to the name, the creation of the name, so calling it better not younger was the move towards kind of speaking towards this feeling that many women in my age group have which is like I just want to the very best I can, I don’t necessarily want to look younger, I don’t love yellow, it’s impossible.

Lara Schmoisman 5:06

I think it’s impossible to look younger you can age Gracefully.

Sonsoles Gonzalez 5:11

Right? You can age whatever way you want to age, but you always want to feel confident, you want to feel like the very best, whatever makes you feel good. Yeah, people and maybe Botox for other people, maybe just graying, you know, letting their great hair but whatever it is, you want to feel like you are in control that you have, you know, control over how you look.

Lara Schmoisman 5:35

And so how did you start the process? Because you have tons of skills, you have so many products now, did you start with a line or we started with one product? How did you start?

Sonsoles Gonzalez 5:47

I actually started with most of the products that I have, there are about 12 sk use and the reason for that is because first I just love creating products, but also is because I realized there wasn’t like a one single silver bullet solution to all the hair problems. And that would be very, you know, a misconception to think that you just brought up and everything’s gonna be fine. And so our products are well designed around the three areas that impact the hair, one is the scalp. So the scalp has everything to do with the hair you’re going to get in the future, right, so the hair is being produced by the follicles and then the hair that grows depends on the conditions that you get your scalp at that point, right so you want to tackle that, then you have the usual the signs of every day. So the dryness, the freezyness, the oil illness, this this, whatever condition you may have that bothers you like itchy scalp. And so our line of shampoos and conditioners and styles are designed to deal with all the signs of your aging hair. And then finally, we’ll touch supplements, because supplements are critical to the health of your hair, people may not realize it, but the hair really depends on the nutrients in your body. And as we age, our bodies become less efficient in taking those nutrients from your food. And so that’s why you need to supplement with vitamins and zinc and magnesium and whatever iron whatever deficiency your body may have. Even if you’re eating really well. So that’s that’s how we ended up with the lineup. The way I created the products is I partner with a scientist who was big worked with me part time that full time that part time and she she was really passionate about the idea. So she helped me create the formulation work with with a lab that actually produced a product.

Lara Schmoisman 7:46

One of the big issues of creating a product is quantities that you need to create so, so much and in your case that he created so many products, how did you work with the quantities?

Sonsoles Gonzalez 7:58

Well, I mean, I had to make a bet in the sense of like, I ended up purchasing a lot of product at the beginning that perhaps I didn’t know whether I was going to sell. But you know, I negotiated as best as I could with a lab that was going to produce trying to get it down to maybe browse of 3000 units or 5000 units. But then the bottom production is also an issue you also they also have very large MOQ, which are the minimum order quantities. But I had to like put the money together, raise some funds with some friends and then lean forward and get the first purchase. And quite honestly the first batches we sold within maybe six months or so. So we were able to deplete that. And then we no more

Lara Schmoisman 8:46

How did you do that first approach to select who was your target audience? How did you know who to go to?

Sonsoles Gonzalez 8:53

Well, we we opened up our website. And then we started marketing, through digital marketing little by little putting ads on Facebook primarily on Instagram, which back then they were actually very efficient. You could run advertising, invest $1, and you will get like $1 Back in sales or $1.50 Back in sales or $2. So little by little we started spending maybe $100 a day and $200 $300 and so on.

Lara Schmoisman 9:23

I love that you’re saying these because people think that it is you put the website out there and it will work by itself. And it’s so not true. You need to have marketing money besides the cost of creating the marketing and your team. And I’m not saying this as an agency owner because it’s my business but also it’s something that I see all the time with people come to us and they’re not considering their marketing budget for advertising.

Sonsoles Gonzalez 9:52

Yeah, I mean, acquiring customers is very difficult. More after the privacy changes at Apple implemented. Yeah, I was 14. And so yeah, if you’re not able to invest, you’re never gonna get people to see if you Google better not younger today, you’re going to, you know, immediately get if you Google a lot of terms that you Google, you will find better not ever shown there. But that was not the case. The beginning, you have to advertise, you have to put content out there, you need to be investing in PR as well. So that you get talked about.

Lara Schmoisman 10:29

Yeah, and it will take you time. And money, because it’s not going to happen is a slow process. So get the PR to get you the real PR that you’re not paying for an article to that hard earned PR, it takes time.

Sonsoles Gonzalez 10:42

Yeah, I mean, we this we’re in start, we’re going to be four years, next month. This month, actually. So yeah, it’s taken us years of investing and, you know, trying many things to get to where we are.

Lara Schmoisman 10:58

Yeah. How many years? Are you in the business for years? And where are you selling right now?

Sonsoles Gonzalez 11:06

The right now we sell online, Amazon, we’re in 700, oldest stores. So I know, 60 Ulta, stores, expanding into more. And then on HSN, home shopping network.

Lara Schmoisman 11:20

That’s amazing. And all that in four years. That’s an incredible growth. So what’s next for you?

Sonsoles Gonzalez 11:28

So right now our priority is to go slated Alta because we’re as I say, We’re expanding into like 600 more stores. So full distribution, more SK use more products, more shelves. And so really making that work, it’s it’s a lot of work execution only. And then and then support it, support it with marketing so that we can really make it successful.

Lara Schmoisman 11:53

And so, in terms of let’s talk about those little things that people don’t know, when you create the brand, what are the things that Oh, I didn’t know that I didn’t need this, what were those unexpected? Or surprises are not great surprises?

Sonsoles Gonzalez 12:13

A lot of surprises. Um, well, you talked a little bit about mo cues and the quantity. So most manufacturers will ask you minimum orders of 5000 units or 5000, or 10,000 bottles and things like that. So, and payment terms are not very favorable. Usually you have to put the money up front, that was one thing. The other thing is, you know, creating a website requires it’s a lot of work as well, you got to create a lot of acids, hello, storytelling, a lot of photos, a lot of everything to be able to tell your story. And you have to constantly monitor and track it and update it and change it. And so that that is a lot of work. Another surprise for me was you have to have insurance. Oh, yeah. So if you’re going to any retailer that you go to will require that you have insurance. Yeah, even Amazon, it and Amazon. So you have to have insurance and insurance is also costly. What else you have to know also that we were talking about this earlier that there may always going to be some smart attorney here and there that is trying to go after you for something you said or did not say or do and so you have to be very careful with what

Sonsoles Gonzalez 13:39

What You Say what you will say how you say it and be always very sure that you have the data to substantiate or some type of support.

Lara Schmoisman 13:54

Let me ask you a question. Two more things that a lot of people don’t take in considerations like should go to trade shows, I do any trade shows.

Sonsoles Gonzalez 14:02

We never we have never gone to a trade show because we I was able to contact some I was able to get the distribution that I wanted, which was sold without it. But if you don’t have that, then definitely going to a trade show gets you a lot of visibility.

Lara Schmoisman 14:20

How do you get yourself into Ulta?

Sonsoles Gonzalez 14:24

I had met somebody through some other person meeting in the past that was ended up working at Ulta so I contacted her and started conversations and that’s how we

Lara Schmoisman 14:36

That’s amazing. That’s that’s really impressive. And see that’s why it’s always important to network and to talk to people you never know

Sonsoles Gonzalez 14:44

Absolutely yes. Always network that’s one thing that I always do all the time.

Lara Schmoisman 14:50

Absolutely. Data thing because there’s so many the space of the beauty industry is like everyone wants to be in, you think anyone should just come and try to have a beauty product out there? What would you recommend them to do before they make that decision, because I see a lot of people interesting, interested in having a product that they are, but they’re not thinking about the distribution or the cause. And like we were talking earlier, before the podcast about having photography or the right images, or working with influencers, everything is costly.

Sonsoles Gonzalez 15:28

I think the most important thing is to understand that you do have a differentiated idea that you’re, you’re, you there’s something special about your proposition that your value proposition is unique, and it will stand out and that you have a real brand, I mean, you may have a wonderful product, but if you don’t know what, how to explain it, or how to say it, then it doesn’t go anywhere. By the same token, if you have a really, really nice brand idea, but the products don’t really deliver then the same thing. So I always say you need to have the fundamentals right. And that is to have a an idea that’s no different in the market, and a product that supports the benefits that you’re offering. And identity of the brand that stands out. And so like I see many brands that will be launched under like clean beauty, like cleaning skincare, and there’s a million brands already saying that was distinctive, 10 years ago.

Lara Schmoisman 16:26

That’s changing and that claim it can get in a lot of trouble.

Sonsoles Gonzalez 16:30

Yeah, that it’s changing. And also, you know, everybody’s claiming it. So it’s not differentiated, it’s important, but it’s not different. And so, it’s important that you have a point of difference in the market. Otherwise, you’re just going to be a me too. And then you’re not going to win the investment. War, I guess somebody else you know, unless you were a Super Millionaire and you’re willing to throw money at whatever but if you’re just counting on the brand to tell the story, then you have to start there.

Lara Schmoisman 17:07

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for being here in coffee number five, I really enjoy spending time with you and learning more about your brand and your all the information that you share with us and you guys out there, I really hope that you were able to learn from this amazing experience.

Sonsoles Gonzalez 17:26

Thank you so much for having me.

Lara Schmoisman 17:28

And to you guys again. I’ll see you next week in more coffee number five, bye there. Find everything you need at Laraschmoisman.com Or in the Episode Notes right below. Don’t forget to subscribe. It was so good to have you here today. See you next time. Catch you on the flip side. Ciao ciao.

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