How They Got There: Krystal Vaquerano & Marie Arlet, Co-Founders of Shea Brand

Name: Krystal Vaquerano and Marie Arlet

Job Title & Description: Creative Director, COO

College & Major: Virginia Commonwealth University


Twitter: Sheabrandbk

Instagram: @sheabrand

Whether you care to admit it or not, we're all obsessed with skincare because, well, skincare isn't just about pampering our skin—it can also be an essential part of our self-care routine. However, your witch hazel spray and moisturizer can do more than quench your pores and mental health. Skincare can also become your career. Naturally, we talked to two of Shea Brand's co-founders, Krystal Vaquerano and Marie Arlet, to figure out how we can transition our skincare fascination from our bathroom vanity to our W-4s. 

If you aren't familiar with Shea Brand, the company creates eczema-friendly skincare products (which also help soothe psoriasis flare-ups, from personal experience). The only thing more notable about the company is that three friends founded the company: Marie, Krystal and Austin. (Because who says you can mix business and friendship?) Beyond talking about how they start Shea Brand, Krystal and Marie talk about how they started out their professional careers in a completely different industry (which gives us major hope because we're currently majoring in changing our majors). 

Her Campus: What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Krystal, Creative Director: My day-to-day consists of waking up to a cup of coffee while reading emails, which tend to deal with factory inquiries regarding production. Depending on the day and the number of orders we have, I’ll be fulfilling orders from our website and getting those shipped out. Once that is all completed, I tend to work on things more directly related to my role as Creative Director. So, that means finishing any label designs and posting on Instagram. My favorite task is designing packaging for new products. Marie and I both look up inspiration and then give our own interpretation of that. I use that as a guide for the final designs. I always keep our Shea Brand aesthetic in mind, of course, when designing to ensure any new product seamlessly aligns with our existing offerings.

That said, each day differs and we’re a very hands-on team. We try to help each other as much as possible, so Marie will help me with design and Austin and I will help her put together large orders. As a small team, we necessitate having all hands on deck at all times.

Marie, COO: My day always starts out with my favorite activity: walking my dog, Milou. He’s a little rescue who loves sleeping in, so I wake him up gently and carry him to the dog park where I watch him play with bigger dogs for about an hour. This quiet time in the morning allows me to ease into the day and bond with Milou, which is incredibly grounding. I then head home to feed Milou (he always comes first), make my morning coffee and read over emails. Recently we’ve been getting a lot of new orders from boutiques all over the US, so managing orders, inventory and fulfillment has been a big part of my everyday routine, but there really isn’t such a thing as a 'typical day.' Some days, I am helping out Krystal with design work, other days I am crunching numbers, doing taxes and finances, or I’ll be testing out some new formulas in our “innovation room.” The work keeps us on our toes because no two days are the same.

HC: What is the best part of your job?

Krystal, Creative Director: I would say the best part of my job is being able to dictate the creative direction of our brand. It has always been a dream of mine to have my own company where I could have the creative liberty to make a beautiful and positive impact. That is what I do with Shea Brand, and I have amazing teammates that trust my vision and ideas. It truly is a blessing. There are moments I forget that this once was a goal of mine and I am here doing it! And that is AMAZING. From time to time, I have to remind myself of that.

Marie, COO: Hands down getting messages from customers who’ve used our products and tell us they’ve helped them. Working for yourself and having a more flexible schedule is great, but knowing that what you are producing is helping people has got to be the most rewarding part of the job. Recently we heard from someone with bad arthritis on their hands. They told us that our product helped ease the pain and that they hadn’t felt that good in years.

HC: What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

Krystal, Creative Director: I went to school for Fashion Design and assumed I would be working in the fashion industry all my life (so naive). My first job was at this contemporary brand called, Tocca. It was an amazing experience; it was a really small team, just 5 of us. The head designer was this super eccentric woman. I learned a lot at that job, I dabbled in things from pattern-making and Photoshop to doing hand illustrations for the team. It was very busy, but it was a great experience, which I believe I found on Craigslist (always worth checking when trying to find a job in any industry).

Marie, COO: My first entry-level job was actually not in the skincare field. Before Shea Brand, I worked in fashion in NYC and I got my first job by walking into the office of one of my favorite fashion brands at the time without an appointment and announcing that I wanted to work there. Everyone in the small office (there was probably only 20 people at the time) stopped what they were doing and stared at me until someone stood up, walked over to me and grabbed my resume. I left feeling excited and incredibly nervous but didn’t hear back from them for two months. I thought for sure I had scared them off and that there was a picture of me with their doorman saying, 'DO NOT LET THIS PERSON IN UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES,' but one day I got an email asking me to come in. I was told during the interview process that the move I pulled was bold and that they remembered me when they had an opening. I got offered the job after two interviews and got to negotiate my salary for the first time (always negotiate your salary and don’t be scared to — it’s the right thing to do!).

HC: What words of wisdom (well-known quotes, an anecdote from your boss) do you find most valuable?

Krystal, Creative Director: I would say the best anecdote I was given from a boss was that it is okay to make mistakes and we will continue to make mistakes, that is just a part of the process.

Marie, COO: My old boss at Macy’s would always say, 'Put on your boxing gloves and kill ‘em with kindness.' I love that and use it every day.

HC: What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

Krystal, Creative Director: I would say that the most surreal moment of my career was hearing so many people at our first two trade shows say how much they love our packaging and branding. It was so incredible to hear that in person.

Marie, COO: Having one of our products featured on Buzzfeed. I’m on Buzzfeed quite a lot, so it was a special one!

HC: What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

Krystal, Creative Director: Someone who is willing to learn and doesn’t think they know everything. That is extremely important.

Marie, COO: Someone who is positive, hard-working and aligns with our values.

HC: What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

Krystal, Creative Director: I would say, don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself time to be young, and enjoy it. Of course, work hard and find positions that will direct you in the path you would like to be in, but don’t beat yourself up if you're not there right away.

Marie, COO: Go work several jobs and, if possible, in different departments. Ask tons and tons of questions and just be a sponge and then, when the time is right, and you are financially able to do it — do it! Give your business at least 3 years to become something.

HC: What's the one thing that's stood out to you the most in a resume?

Krystal, Creative Director: I love seeing what type of internships people have done, and with who. It’s always so fun seeing where and who people have worked with.

Marie, COO: I love the skills sections. Tell me about what sports you do or if you bake or cook or like going on hikes. I love fun facts about people — have you ever eaten a whole pack of Oreo's under 10 minutes? I want to know!