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DigiCom Interview with Nisha Dearborn, Founder & CEO of Fresh Chemistry

Updated: 3 days ago




In this week’s episode, we’re chatting with Nisha Dearborn, Founder & CEO of Fresh Chemistry. She’s a skincare expert who's gracing the beauty world with her brand.


Nisha's journey started in a familiar place: her mom's dermatology clinic, where she spent most of her summers. It was during this period, that she gained firsthand exposure to the world of skincare, learning and understanding the importance of quality ingredients and formulations.


After working at big names like Estee Lauder and Johnson & Johnson, Nisha ended up in Portland, Maine. Surrounded by a community dedicated to healthy living, this got her thinking about the ingredients we put on our skin. 


It’s no secret that skincare products, like most things, lose their effectiveness over time. 


Nisha wondered ‘If our produce could be fresh, why not our skincare?’


This thought inspired her to launch Fresh Chemistry, a brand in a league of its own when it comes to skincare.


I know what you're probably thinking: "With so many skincare brands out there, what makes them stand out?"


Well, they're the only brand out there that packages its active ingredients separately. As she demonstrates in the video above, when you receive your product, you'll find the active ingredients in their own little compartments, 


All you have to do is mix them in, give it a shake, and boom—you've got yourself a product that's potent and fresh from the get-go. Unlike other brands where the products are mixed beforehand and left to sit on shelves for who knows how long. 


Pretty innovative, right?


During our chat, Nisha also shed light on the challenges facing skincare brands today. The world of marketing, especially online marketing, has been through some major changes in recent years. 


In the past, you could easily track people's behavior and target them with ads. But then things started shifting with privacy updates like iOS changes and Meta's algorithm tweaks. Suddenly, it wasn't as easy to reach your target audience anymore.


When you compare the present to five years ago, launching a business demands a completely different strategy. Where you invest your money and how much you need to invest have completely changed. It's a whole new ballgame.


For instance, it used to be all about TV and print ads for customer acquisition. But now, with everyone glued to their phones, it's like the phone has replaced the TV. Every brand, big or small, is fighting for attention online. It's harder than ever to stand out. 


But Nisha's advice? Focus on credibility and invest in things like Amazon reviews and influencer partnerships to build trust with consumers, especially if you’re a new brand.


You're up against giants, so you need those Amazon reviews and influencer endorsements to stand out. It's not cheap or easy, but it's worth investing in. Having tons of positive reviews can make all the difference. 


The rise of the internet has made it possible for both large corporations and small businesses to compete on an equal footing.


You could stumble upon a new skincare brand right after seeing a Nike ad on your phone. It's honestly wild how much exposure smaller brands can get these days, so brands need to use that to their advantage.


Before we ended the conversation, Nisha also added that one thing that really frustrates her about the way digital e-commerce is heading, especially in skincare. Brands today, are more focused on making money than actually making good products.


New skincare companies often pay influencers to promote their products, without checking if what they're claiming is true. Some brands also tend to just repackage cheap products from manufacturers to keep costs low and profits high.


To her, there's been a shift away from proving a product works through testing to focusing on making it look good on social media. It's worrying as this could mean people will end up buying products that don't really help their skin.


Her advice? Do your homework before buying skincare products. Look for brands that are endorsed by major retailers and see if there's any proof that the products actually work. Don't just trust what you see on Instagram or Amazon; make sure you're getting something that's actually going to benefit your skin.


And that concludes our article! If you're interested in learning more, simply click the link above and start listening to the podcast episode.


Interested in trying Fresh Chemistry? Head over to their website or find them on Amazon!


Connect with Digicom:


We at DigiCom are obsessive data-driven marketers pulling from multi-disciplinary strategies to unlock scale. We buy media across all platforms and placements and provide creative solutions alongside content creation, and conversion rate optimizations. We pride ourselves on your successes and will stop at nothing to help you grow.



Transcript:


Hemant Varshney (00:00.366)

Nisha, thank you for jumping on our podcast this week. I am very excited to have you on. You have so much expertise in the skincare and beauty world. Would love for you to let our audience know a little bit about yourself.


Nisha (00:12.649)

Thank you so much for having me.


Hemant Varshney (00:21.582)

course. So yeah, if you could tell the audience a little bit about yourself.


Nisha (00:28.681)

Yeah, absolutely. So it's funny because I think a lot of people, I've listened to your podcast. I think a lot of people talk about the past few years of their experience. For me, my skincare journey really started as a kid. People say that I was born in a skincare hand basket and that's because my mom is a dermatologist. And so I grew up when there was nowhere for me to go during the summers during school, she would just drag me to the office, which as a kid, you know, it was kind of annoying, but it really turned into a love of skincare because I got to see it.


firsthand, you know, and when it's coming from the doctor, you really get the real, real stuff. And then I really always loved skincare. So I grew up, my first job during college was for Estee Lauder corporate. I worked for Bobby Brown marketing. I was like 20 years old. I ended up going to business school. I went to Wharton and after that I joined Johnson and Johnson, spent about a decade there. Half my time was working on skincare brands like Aveeno, but.


I also worked across categories, Listerine, Tylenol, et cetera. So just a lot of broad CPG experience. A few years ago, my family and I made a move up to Portland, Maine, where I am now, and there are no CPG companies up here. And so I actually kind of, it was interesting. I'd always had in the back of my head to try the entrepreneurial endeavor. And this is kind of what made me do it. And so when I was up here,


It was interesting because people up here in Maine are really healthy. They're always out running and just making a healthier life for themselves. So I spent more time. And I think all of us a few years ago were doing this as well. Just making sure that the food we were eating was pretty healthy, concentrating on what ingredients are we putting into our bodies. And it was at that time, I had this aha moment where I realized that when I'm meal planning for my family, I want to use fresh ingredients. I want to use produce and vegetables and the things that are on my.


refrigerator or on my kitchen counter and less of the stuff that's in my pantry. Cause those things are canned and have been around forever. And that's when I realized that in the beauty industry, we make products like the products in your pantry. It's made in huge factories. It's put into a jar. It's sealed. It's meant to be shelf stable for two to three years. And what we know in the industry, it's kind of a dirty little secret is that what goes in the jar is not exactly what comes out of the jar.


Nisha (02:46.377)

because it has been exposed to a lot of light and air and time during that journey. So once I kind of saw this problem that we were using products that were just less strong and less potent and less fresh than we should. And meanwhile, I'm getting a lot of deliveries to my house of fresh coffee, fresh food. So I thought, why aren't we doing this with skincare? So a couple of years ago, I started my own company called Fresh Chemistry.


It is the only brand that packages its active ingredients separately. And then when you get it, you mix in the active ingredients, you shake to activate. So you get a product that's potent and fresh and you're using it on day one instead of day, maybe 300, like you would be for the other brands.


Hemant Varshney (03:30.414)

Yeah, that's, you know, it's pretty incredible in terms of the brand that you built and the problem that, you know, you are looking to solve for because it's going from zero to one in the sense where, yes, you know, you want to put healthy and fresh ingredients into your body in terms of what you're eating, but we've never really thought about it from, you know, that sense of applying skincare, right? It is always in like,


some either fancy bottle or some plastic bottle. How do people apply fresh chemistry?


Nisha (04:08.649)

So I'll show you a product because I have one here. So naturally it comes in this box like this and it has a base serum and the three actives are packaged separately. So just when you get it, you open the base serum, you pour in the actives, you shake to activate, and then you apply that product like you would any serum. So for the gentlemen out there, you know, you take a dropper, put it in your hands, spread it on your face. You put it on your face.


Hemant Varshney (04:12.846)

Cool.


Nisha (04:37.769)

once to twice a day after you wash your face in the morning at night. It's like another, it's like a moisturizer, but a lighter version and it has more potent ingredients. So it's like a treatment product that actually tries to make your skin better as well as moisturized and hydrated.


Hemant Varshney (04:54.446)

Amazing. Thank you for that. And, you know, in terms of the process of creating your products and also, you know, working to sell them across e -commerce and across different channels, what are a couple challenges that, you know, you faced and what have you done to help solve them?


Nisha (05:18.569)

Yeah, it's a good question. I mean, I think it's really interesting during the past couple of years, I think that marketing and e -commerce marketing has changed. I mean, time and time again, I think it's become entirely different. And I think one of the challenges that I would say maybe even as recently as five years ago, this is pre iOS, you know, recent rollout.


pre -meta changing their privacy and their algorithm rules. I think it was a little bit more of the Wild West. Like you could go dig somewhere for gold and find it because it was just so much easier to track people and what their behavior was and therefore find like Patty Sue out in Oklahoma who would be interested in your product who otherwise you would never reach. And I think one of the challenges,


was that like every six months to a year as, as the privacy changes happened, iOS rolled out, the whole environment changed. Um, and I think with the rise of influencers, with the rise of Amazon, like, I think all of these things happens kind of one after another in the past five years. And I think each, with each one, I think we pivoted a little bit as to what we were going to focus on. Um, and so I would say, you know, for example, as you started to see influencers,


come up, you know, I worked with some influencers, like you just follow what, you know, the trends are as the algorithm changed, you know, you start going from instead of picking all those check boxes that, you know, we're going to get you that person. Now you start thinking about the broad based audiences because Metta was actually figuring out some of it for you. Right. So there was just pivots and changes that you do as you move along. I think now.


versus five years ago, if you were to, and you and I have talked about this, if you were to start a company five years ago, or start a company today, where you would put your money and how much of the money you need to put in, I think is entirely different.


Hemant Varshney (07:26.542)

Yeah, I think that's a really good, like important point, just because like the amount of data you could have collected five years ago across every single technology, right? Like Google Analytics is so inherently different and everybody that used Google Analytics before, Universal Analytics versus GA4 are really thinking, why did Google do this? Like, it's not a single person I've spoken to that's like,


Oh yeah, I love GA4, right? So it's like, there's so many of these changes that are occurring and five years ago, exactly like you said, you could collect so much data without doing like, it's essentially doing a fraction of the work we're doing now to, you know, stitch that user journey and path together. Cause just much more rich data and the algorithms could optimize a lot easier.


Nisha (07:58.665)

Thank you.


Hemant Varshney (08:24.814)

on that rich data versus like today. And also like, I think a big part of it for business owners, it's like, you know, what is profitability? And I've spoken about this time and time again, and like, what is the runway to hit like specific goals, right? And I think mapping all of that out is very, very important for founders so that you understand like, you know, what your...


trying to build and what like the potential upside is, but also what the potential risk factors are, right? Like, I think in some of our testing, you know, I would always come back and be like, well, this could be the risk and this could be like the upside, but like, just so you inherently know what some of those challenges can be.


Nisha (09:03.145)

Yeah, I actually think, I mean, even further, I would go further to say that in my journey, so I, as I mentioned, I kind of have a full CPG background. You know, I didn't mention that I've also worked in American Express and credit cards. I've spent time on Betty Crocker cakes. Like I've done a cross category. And I think it used to always be that the way that you acquire a customer, right. It used to be the TV ad.


the print ad, that's where all the money went. It was TV and print was everything. And then all of a sudden, quickly, there were these changes where the world started to open up even to digital banner ads. And once you started to figure out that you could target somebody and find out, oh my gosh, based on like receipt data, we could find out which store they're shopping at. And I could serve up that individual an ad based on what they're buying at Kroger, right? This was like a whole new world. That wasn't that long ago, right? This is like 2010.


And so it went from just TV and print to this like digital world. And then it went, just went, you know, haywire, which just went like full digital and pull everything. But I now think the world we're talking about is that kind of wild west. You could go have all the data, find someone and really micro target in a mass way, right? You could put a lot of money around micro targeting. And now.


which you add the pandemic, right? People put traffic in stores has gone way down. Everybody is really shopping via their phone. It is, everybody is now looking at their phone. So essentially the phone has now become what the TV was. Like everyone's shopping the same place. And if you look, there's no big brand that is not advertising digitally, right? So all those big budgets are in the same screen space as the small budgets. Everybody's on Amazon for better or for worse.


Hemant Varshney (10:43.918)

Yeah.


Nisha (10:58.665)

And you get, as you know, because we had this challenge, you have the good brands on Amazon and you have the terrible brands on Amazon and they sit right next to each other on the shelf. Like that wouldn't ever happen at a Nordstrom or that would never happen at a Walmart even, right? You would have similar quality things. So I actually think now things have gone full circle where we're right back where we were. Except for instead of looking at the TV, everyone's just looking at their phone and it's the same eyeball grab with more tools, more tools, but it's actually harder now.


Hemant Varshney (11:24.43)

Yep.


Hemant Varshney (11:29.102)

Yeah. And, you know, I think you, you, you brought up mobile a couple of times, like even like a big change that had occurred right in like 20 from 2014 to 2016 is like the mobile optimization, right? And like, just, yeah, it is like that pre -period was very much the wild, wild west. And I think, I think if I would have to,


kind of call like the era we're in, it's like we're not in the wild wild west anymore. It's kind of like the cold era where it's like there's so much information that is deprecated that you are trying to stitch together to like make certain things make sense. And, you know, also I like the point of, you know, what you just brought up with Amazon and how products sit next to each other. You have way more experience than I do in terms of like,


Nisha (12:00.617)

Yeah.


Hemant Varshney (12:21.934)

you know, pricing and shelving and like understanding how to promote these CPG brands like in store. But I think the part that I just want to highlight is yes, you could have an incredible product, right? Like Fresh Kim that is much more potent and much more expensive to build and to make, right? Versus you have a brand that says it does the same thing with a fraction of the potency, but it's like,


so much cheaper. And so on Amazon, people are going for the price over the value of the product, right? Versus like, hey, if I go to Nordstrom or if I go shopping to Sephora, I know I'm getting a specific, like again, value for the types of products that I'm buying. So I think that's a really big call out.


Nisha (13:04.809)

Yeah, I mean, I think all of these stores, we don't give them enough credit, but the Sephora's targets, the Walmarts, they really study how people shop and they study how people make decisions and they would present brands to make it easier for you to find what you wanted.


And so it was interesting because when I worked on category leader brands like Listerine, you had an influence on where everyone else sat on the shelf. Like to some extent, right? You were the category leader. And now it's interesting because on Amazon, there is clearly not that focus. So I think that's why it's so hard to find things on Amazon sometimes, right? You'll find a cheap thing.


Hemant Varshney (13:42.734)

Yep.


Nisha (13:59.305)

you'll find things that sell a bunch, which is fine if you're looking for like, you know, some toy for a kid. But when you're looking for something like skincare, which is a high involvement, something you want to spend money to get the right stuff, it's not easy to find.


Hemant Varshney (14:13.422)

Yeah, absolutely. What's one piece of advice you can give founders and brand operators to help them grow?


Nisha (14:26.153)

Oh yeah, that's a good question. I mean, there's so many, I think, um, one would be this. You did not pay me to say this, but I would say find a team like yours. I think finding a team like yours that works across different brands and has seen this through the iterations that we just talked about, I think is really key to one, giving you a leg up before you try to figure everything out, out yourself. Cause you're not going to be able to do that.


But two, when a team like yours works with different brands across industries, you're able to bring that knowledge back to your other clients of what's working and what's not working. And that just gives you experience as a founder that you don't have to waste your own time getting. So I think one, hire the right people. And I specifically think there's a lot of individuals out there who will say, I can do this for you. But I don't think...


Right now, I don't think the capabilities can be in an individual for things like, you know, online, you know, the digital world of advertising and customer acquisition through digital. I don't, there's a lot of people who have a lot of expertise that they did over the past five years, but like we just said, it's very different today. So I don't think someone who did it five years ago can stand alone today. I think a group like yours, who's constantly doing it with a handful of number of clients.


I think is number one key. Number two, I think a few years ago, it was possible to do things with smaller budgets and do some trial and error. Now, and you and I have talked about this, I think the need to get the word out, like if you're a new brand, let's say, without any brand awareness, I think people are looking to certain sources to get assurance that your brand is good and something they should try.


And I think those sources are Amazon reviews and influencers often. And so I think making sure you have the funding and putting the funding behind those two things to really drive those up, I think will give you credibility that you need. It's not cheap, it's not easy, it's a little time intensive, but I think as a new brand, that's a really important place to spend your dollars.


Hemant Varshney (16:45.678)

Thank you. Thank you for both parts. I think the credibility part is like it's super important, right? Because you're competing, even if your product is better and unique, you're still competing for attention and validation, right? At least like in the nascent stages. So yeah, definitely, Amazon reviews, Google reviews, your site reviews, like get as many reviews as you possibly can and like,


just flood that information across your site. Because if you're able to do that, it's a lot easier for a person to make a decision and say, hey, this brand has 1 ,000 4 .0 reviews versus five 5 .0 reviews. There's just validation at scale, which is very important. So yeah.


Nisha (17:39.721)

Yeah. And I think, I think back to what we were saying before about how the world has changed. I think before when let's say, you know, TV and print was all there was, you would never be exposed to small new brands. There just wasn't space for them. So now in the same screen, you're looking at your phone and you may get a Nike ad, you know, followed by some small name brands skincare thing you've never seen before. And so they're all, they get like equal playtime in front of eyeballs, which is interesting.


Hemant Varshney (17:51.182)

Yeah. Yeah.


Nisha (18:07.721)

which is why people now need to go find other ways to assure themselves that those new brands they're finding are real. And they're not, and the other, so I think again, what we were saying about Amazon and what that shelf looks like, the problem is there's a bunch of things on Amazon that are like a terrible waste of your money. They show up on the shelf like they're real. And so I think people now know they need to research things and they know, let me make sure this is a legit company and I'm going to get my product. And so I think for that reason, the influencers, the Amazon reviews, all those are critical.


Hemant Varshney (18:38.286)

Amazing. What's one question you wish I'd asked you and how would you answer it?


Nisha (18:44.809)

Oh boy. What is a good question? I think, you know, I was thinking a lot about just like how the world has changed. And we were just talking about that. I think.


I guess maybe one question would be what concerns me with the way the world is going in the digital e -commerce. And I think one thing that concerns me from a skincare standpoint, specifically to skincare, and you and I talked about this, is I think the way to win in skincare today, if you were a founder and a startup, is you...


I guess the punchline here is I think that the incentives are such that the industry would create more products that are not great for us rather than products that are great for us. And so let me explain. In order to win, like if you go out again, you're a new brand and someone doesn't know who you are, they're going to look for a couple of things. They're going to look for influencer reviews and influencers. So what do you have to do as a founder is you have to go pay a bunch of influencers because they don't know who you are either. They're not.


clamoring to come, you know, get your brand. So you have to go tell them what to say and how to say it, which may or may not be true. Right. No one's checking. No one's checking. There's too many brands out there. The FDA, the government's not checking to make sure what you're telling the players to say are true. They're not necessarily revealing that they are being paid. Um, so there's kind of a lot could be, they could be saying a lot of claims that may or may not be true. Also, the way you have to launch a brand is, you know, one product that used to be.


Um, you know, there were some great skincare products, um, Vintner's daughter, Mara, these great serums and oils that are beautiful. And they were just one product today. That's really not going to work anymore. You really need a lineup. Um, in order to get a line made. It's nearly impossible to go kind of handcraft each and every skew. So what you're probably going to do is go to a contract manufacturer who has a line already made. There's a dime a dozen. They're always offering you products.


Nisha (20:53.193)

and just put your branding on their products. But that also means you kind of get what you pay for. They're not necessarily going to be the highest quality products. So because skincare is typically really high margins, investors are also going to look for companies that are able to keep those high margins, which means their costs are going to be low. So the way that it works for a founder in Beauty Today is to have low cost, get a line of products for a low cost.


Hemant Varshney (21:00.43)

Yeah.


Nisha (21:19.337)

pay a bunch of influencers to tell people why it's great without any of it necessarily being proven or true. It used to be that there were really clinical tests really stood out for certain skincare brands, but now what people say, you can't tell what is real and what isn't. And I think it's more about, unfortunately, you know, there's some like tick tockification of how things get sold. So I worry a little bit about.


the incentives for today's brand founders in skincare and people who are winning and people who are growing, are they really putting out things that are good for the world and better for your skin or not? And I'm not sure.


Hemant Varshney (22:02.03)

I think one loved how you answered that question. Two, I think, you know, something that we've spoken about, but also like with any partner that we're speaking to, it's like, okay, what's different about your product and what is like the science backing or the efficacy studies behind, you know, your product or formula because and also I think, you know, earlier on you had mentioned that, hey,


uh, Sephora and, you know, Walmart and Target do their due diligence on specific products. But I think if there's like a brand where you're in a Sephora, right? Like they're doing so much due diligence before, uh, that product is put on their shelf because it needs to be clean in this specific way and has this specific, these specific margins. So, um, but to get to that point, it's definitely a lot of work and, you know, and, uh, efficacy that.


Consumers need to understand, hey, this is what I'm putting into my body or on my like, you know.


That is very important and that line gets very, very blurred. So, you know, I guess do your research, see what specific stores they're carried in and if those stores have, you know, specific, like, verification protocols, I guess, right? And then if there's efficacy studies, right? Like, I think that's very important. Well, cool. Thank you for, you know, all the advice.


Nisha (23:22.025)

Yeah.


Hemant Varshney (23:35.726)

And thanks for jumping on our show today. Where can our listeners find you?


Nisha (23:40.265)

at freshchemistry .com and at Amazon.


Hemant Varshney (23:44.43)

Amazing. Thank you.


Nisha (23:46.537)

Thank you.



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