Next in our series of interviews is Lin Chen. I’ve had the pleasure to know Lin Chen for a couple of years in the green beauty community, due to her work as a marketing specialist for green beauty brands. Since then, Lin has decided to become an entrepreneur and create her own company, called Pink Moon (visit here). Pink Moon offers advising services directed towards women-owned and mission-driven, eco & ethical wellness brands. The past year, Lin’s ambition was also to develop a retail + wellness space located in Upper West Side in NYC and it should become a reality in the near future. Until then, there’s also the Pink Moon online store featuring a curated selection of gorgeous niche brands. Throughout our chat, we got to talk about her work, her beauty routine, work/life balance and marketing strategies for eco brands. Her drive, enthusiasm, and vision are inspiring and the upcoming opening of the Pink Moon wellness and retail space is a testament that one should never stop dreaming big.
What is Pink Moon and what services does it offer?
After working for Bottega Organica, I wanted to specifically work with women-owned clean beauty brands and also companies who are mission-driven. Giving back to the community is so important, I grew up volunteering and being part of various organizations. After realizing that all the brands I worked with were also giving back, it became an added mission of mine to continue on that path. I do a variety of things for my clients, ranging from PR, sharing their products in different distribution channels across the world, build their social media presence, photo/video content. Kind of like their right hand because some of these brands are very small, with sometimes literally just the founder. So they need someone to have ideas bounce off with, discussing new product launches, ideas, and concepts. I work as a full-time employee, but obviously, with a part-time budget because these brands do not have the resources to hire someone full-time in-house. That’s what I wanted to do, offer them these services within their budget so that they can grow as a company while also growing together.
Right now, I am planning to open a store in NYC, on the Upper West Side. It has always been a dream of mine and it is now closer to becoming a reality. There are so many young moms and families in my neighborhood but there are zero non-toxic beauty stores, not even a non-toxic nail salon. At least, all the natural stores are downtown. So last summer, I was thinking that it was a necessity to have a place to shop for clean beauty in this side of NY for young moms, pregnant women, and clean beauty lovers. It’s an exciting time, I am finalizing the business plan, looking at retail places, and talking to investors.
Marketing being your field of expertise, to what extent does marketing for an eco brand differ from a conventional one? Do you think it requires a different strategy? For instance, by putting emphasis on their giving back program or their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint? I’ve noticed certain brands deliberately distancing themselves from « green beauty » labels to appear more mainstream. What’s your take on that?
I have noticed that too, some brands do want to appear more mainstream and I think that’s good. Both strategies are good. Nowadays, when you identify as a clean brand, it does appear like a standard with the reality of climate change, and animal extinction. It is our reality. Brands should share if they give back to animal organizations or donate to clean up oceans. This is important to point out because L’Oréal is not even doing this. You also have brands that are so careful with their suppliers. Earthwise Beauty, for instance, selects meticulously who she supplies from, from their beekeepers to their fair trade farmers. It is something to call out because it sets them apart from other green brands. Not all green brands make these efforts. At the same time, I think it is also good to market yourself as « the norm ». Eco-friendly should be the norm. So I think brands should find the right balance between being mainstream but still remain special.
“From my experience of talking to retailers and presenting them products, packaging was the main issue that prevented brands from reaching the market – even when retailers loved the formulas.”
Do you struggle to find the right term or label? Some people use green, clean, mindful, conscious, natural and the list goes on and on. Do you find it problematic at times or do you choose based on your clients’ personal demands?
Generally, I use the term « clean beauty » for myself, but it’s up to my client’s preferences. Some argue that « clean » is not enough and choose « green ».
You mentioned working with Bottega Organica, but you also worked for 100% Pure and Ayla and since you have a long experience working with thriving and popular companies, have you noticed some sort of common ground between all the companies that have grown successfully. Is there such a thing as an « IT » factor? What makes a brand stand out in your opinion?
Definitely packaging and brand stories. There are plenty of stories starting as « I was dealing with a bad case of acne or I was diagnosed with a health condition, and I could not find anything on the market so I started making my own products…. » and to be honest, this is now an overplayed story. Maybe in 2015, this storyline was fine, but now the green beauty market is oversaturated and there are many, many brands that exist these days. For instance, Bottega Organica was founded by a team of Italian scientists and doctors, with a farm in Italy. LHamour which was founded by a Mongolian woman. Mongolia is such an under-the-radar country as there are still people who don’t know where it is and what it’s about. Therefore, not only is she highlighting her culture and traditions, but she’s also sharing how women in Mongolia create natural products. If you have a special story, this will help you stand out tremendously.
Packaging plays a big part. If the packaging is bland, with labels stuck on poorly, it’s going to be detrimental to brands. From my experience of talking to retailers and presenting them products, packaging was the main issue that prevented brands from reaching the market – even when retailed loved the formulas.
What is the most challenging part and also the most rewarding part of running Pink Moon?
The most challenging part is not having enough time. I work with several brands, but they all have different stories, goals, and expectations. I have a couple of people, hired part-time, that help me handle it. Previously I was doing everything by myself and people were shocked. Working some days until 1 AM, I was really stressed and anxious. I had a couple of mental depressions but hiring a few people the past months alleviated the stress. I create to-do lists, but there are still some days where I can’t even go through them because there are always random things that come up. The most rewarding is working with women who are smart, talented, inspiring with amazing stories and products. Seeing them grow too. For instance, Malaya launched in Italy last year and it’s been a dream come true. It feels very rewarding to see the achievements and helping people discover these niche brands that do not have massive budgets.
To align with your work, I know you’re trying to live a more conscious and mindful lifestyle. Have you recently taken up a wellness habit that has visibly improved your health, be it physically, mentally or both?
Working out more. This is also quite tricky as an entrepreneur because sometimes when I go to the gym, even for just one hour, there’s this guilt kicking in because I am not working at that time. So I find myself right after a gym session checking my work emails before hopping into the shower. But lately, I have been working out more and I feel happier and I sleep better. It s not a whole new habit, but since doing it more often, I have noticed a big difference.
Is working out your unwind/de-stress method or do you have something else?
Masking. I do a couple of masks a week, depending on how my skin feels. If it’s breaking out, I use Malaya’s Neem face mask (editor’s note: it is truly phenomenal, also a favorite of mine, reviewed here). I never skip masking. I used to even have a calendar on my phone, reminding me to mask on Wednesday night (laughs). Now I just do one whenever my skin feels dehydrated or is in dire need of exfoliation. Another thing I started practicing is Buddhism. I grew up Buddhist, my parents used to send me to Buddhist camps growing up. I try to live more in the Buddhahood, it’s helped me be more mindful and kinder.
For those not based in NY, do you consider NY to be an eco and wellness hub?
It has evolved, I have been living here for 5 years and I‘ve seen big changes. In San Francisco, where I used to live, there are compost bins in buildings and it’s easier to go green but when I first moved to NY, I could not find any because NY has rats and you can’t have compost bins in buildings. Now I keep compost things in my freezer and drop them off to the farmer’s market. There has been a lot more education about composting, numerous ethical fashion brands are also launching in NYC. Just in a year, I have seen lots of new ethical boutiques pop up along with several zero-waste stores. The landscape has changed but there’s still work to do. For instance, when I first met my boyfriend, I was shocked to hear that he did not know what to recycle. Today we use charcoal filters for our water and a recycling bin, but sometimes I still need to tell him what to recycle. There needs to be more education but a growing number of organizations are doing this work. I would not call it the hub yet, but out of all the states, NY has a lot of potentials, because of its size and the education level of people.
I’m assuming that once you open your store, you’ll be able to work on the education and awareness aspect too.
Absolutely, we won’t be limited to beauty. We’ll also have fashion, accessories, and everyday basics, with a focus on women-owned brands.
“When the customers come into our store, they will be taken care of just like we’re cherishing our brands because we will give them the chance to shine and stand out vs being on a shelf alongside hundreds of other brands.”
Let’s dive into your skincare routine. What are you using at the moment? What are you loving?
It changes almost every day, depending on what I like, where and how I spent my day. In the PM, I double cleanse because NYC is so dirty and polluted. I noticed it when I started using Ambar micellar cleansing essence (editor’s note: a favorite here too, see review) with a cotton pad. There was so much dirt was on the pad. I usually start with an oil cleanser, I rotate between these at the moment: first, the Wild Grace cleansing oil, it has a really nice silky texture, with a grounding scent, perfect for nighttime. Then I follow up with a foamy cleanser, Earthwise Beauty marshmallow suds face cleanser. The other two oil cleansers are from Malaya and Moss. I love it as it emulsifies with water. The last one who also emulsifies is Moss Revele pore purifying cleanser, with a gel-to-oil formula.
In the AM, I either use Ambar cleansing essence or if my skin is red/irritated, I’ll use Plenitude’s nourishing mandarin cleanser, which is so gentle, specifically formulated for sensitive skin. I saw an improvement in my redness after one cleanse – it’s very effective.
Then I follow up with a serum, Earthwise Beauty’s new on a swing among trees serum-mist and follow with Strange Bird’s lightweight serum or sometimes I use Malaya’s hydrating mist, then I follow up with an oil which also changes depending on my skin condition. If I am using makeup, I’ll go for something lightweight like Malaya’s serum which absorbs really fast and also doubles as a highlighting primer since it gives a gorgeous glow.
Then I apply sunscreen. Depending on how much time I have, I’ll rotate between Earthwise Beauty Farizad’s veil (editor’s note: currently using it too, it’s outstanding), on days I have to rush out the door, I apply some of the elemental sun balm by AKT with 20% zinc oxide. On days I wear makeup, which is a rare occurrence as I usually wear them for special events or weddings, I’ll use Kosas tinted face oil, (reviewed here) it does not cover my freckles and feels very natural on. I also use a little bit of blush, eyebrow gel or pencil and I curl my lashes. I feel more awake when I curl them and it also prevents them from falling on my eyes. Sometimes I wear lipstick.
Do you have a favorite lipstick?
I usually use Cupid and Psyche. As it is not too creamy, it does not bleed and leave stains on your teeth, compared to other lipsticks.
What’s your current brand crush? A brand you discovered and find amazing?
This fashion brand from Brooklyn who I discovered at a trade show. It’s Loup Charmant. The garments are handsewn in NY and the clothes are beautiful. I ended up buying a dress from them which I have worn on numerous occasions and multiple weddings. All ethically made, women-owned. It naturally comes with a higher price range.
What will one experience during those events that you create?
It’s a mix. We have workshops, reiki sessions, fun events like astrology readings, talks on ingredients, and even events for entrepreneurs. We want to create a community of like-minded women who can come to Pink Moon to share their challenges, joy, life experiences, etc. A lot of shops carry the same brands. I’ll pitch them brands, but when they are so niche, people are skeptical. Which is what also encouraged me to create a store. I was once asked why those small brands were not stocked at Sephora. Sephora is a huge corporation, they don’t really sell completely clean brands, nor do they really care. In typical beauty stores, they have hundreds of brands, and for some people, it ‘s overwhelming as they don’t necessarily know where to start with their beauty routine. Some stores just do not care about their smaller, indie brands. I really want to change the landscape and customer experience, when the customers come into our store, they will be taken care of just like we’re cherishing our brands because we will give them the chance to shine and stand out vs being on a shelf alongside hundreds of other brands.
Brands at PINK MOON:
LHamour, Activist Collective, Malaya Organics, Moss Skincare, Cupid & Psyche, Earthwise Beauty, 5Yina, Elena Scarlata, Wild Grace, Elly Lu, Relato Nativo, Vivaiodays, Violets are Blue, Willow by the Sea, StrangeBirdBeauty, and more.
Thank you so much, Lin, for giving us an insightful glimpse at Pink Moon. Looking forward to the opening of the gorgeous space you envisioned. Pink Moon will be a must-visit on a trip to NYC.
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