All throughout February I’m bringing you insightful Q&A’s with some of today’s most interesting and prescient indie beauty brand founders. If you missed the first two installments in my Brand Founder Chats series, here’s my talk with Sasha Plavsic of Ilia Beauty, and my talk with Alicia Grande of Grande Cosmetics.
Today I’m in conversation with Divya Gugnani of Wander Beauty, the woman who brought you those Insta-famous gold Baggage Claim Eye Masks that took over your social media feeds in 2018-2019. Wander was co-founded by entrepreneur and self-proclaimed “startup junkie” Divya and model Lindsey Ellingson on the simple principle that modern women needed a one-stop-shop that served all their beauty needs in as few steps as possible. Easy-to-use, multi-tasking products like the Catch the Light Highlighter & Glowtion and the Dualist Matte and Illuminating Concealer are what have made them a favorite amongst customers and beauty editors alike.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Divya over the phone recently about everything from how her lifestyle inspired the creation of Wander, to what she’s most looking forward to business-wise in 2020.
YOU CAME FROM A FINANCE & VENTURE CAPITALIST BACKGROUND. WHAT WAS YOUR MOTIVATION FOR GETTING INTO BEAUTY AND STARTING WANDER?
I always loved beauty, and I always loved to experiment. My mom was very big into DIY beauty, so all the beauty treatments came out of our kitchen. Like putting raw, organic milk on my face to help fade acne scars, or whipping up an egg yolk with olive oil to make a hair conditioner. So I was always really into and intrigued by beauty.
When I sold my last company to QVC, and I was working there, I was a career mom with two kids under the age of 2. I’d get up in the morning and take the F train into midtown and I’d be putting on my under-eye concealer on the train. I realized I was this time-strapped woman on-the-go, and when I looked around on the subway I saw other time-strapped women putting on their makeup or doing their skincare or hair. We’re all living our lives in motion, but there was no brand at the time giving us what I call “beauty-in-motion.”
We started a brand that is focused on modern women today. Something that was fuss-free, full-proof, do-it-yourself, and travel-friendly. That’s basically been the market. So with Wander Beauty, what we tried to create was something that catered to the way real women lived. Let’s give them beauty-in-motion. Let’s give them fewer, but better beauty essentials. “Fewer” because everything we created in the line is a multi-tasker. So instead of a separate moisturizer, a separate brightening treatment, and a separate primer, we give you Hidden Glow which does all three in one. “Better” because it’s clean beauty. Everything we make at Wander is EU compliant. Our skin is our largest organ, so let’s not inject it with hormone-disrupting chemicals.
WHO IS WANDER BEAUTY’S MAIN CUSTOMER? WHY DO YOU THINK THEY SEEK OUT YOUR PRODUCTS?
Wander Beauty is makeup for skincare-lovers. Every single item in the brand has skin-loving ingredients, and that’s why people come to us.
IF A CUSTOMER COULD ONLY PICK UP ONE PRODUCT FROM WANDER, WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND AND WHY?
Our On-The-Glow Blush and Illuminator because it’s a full-face look in a stick. We’re relaunching it very soon actually. It’s a lip and cheek formula on one side, and there’s an illuminator on the other side with a very versatile formula. You can use it on your eyes, cheekbones, shoulders, décolletage, even your legs. It’s an effortless look in a stick that you can do in 5 minutes.
IN JUST A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME YOU’VE ALREADY BRANCHED OUT INTO MULTIPLE CATEGORIES – MAKEUP, SKINCARE, HAIR & BODY. WHERE ARE YOU SEEING THE MOST SUCCESS AT THIS POINT?
It’s a mix of skin and color, especially if you look at the larger landscape of the industry. People tend to spend more time on those areas, and I think our product offerings reflect that.
TAKE US THROUGH YOUR EVERYDAY BEAUTY ROUTINE
I like to hydrate right when I get up and drink a big glass of water, sometimes ginger or even turmeric water. I then wash my face using our Drift Away Cleanser for a light cleanse in my T-zone. (It’s actually a great double-cleanse, so at night you can use it to take off every bit of long-wearing makeup.) I then go in on a daily basis with our Hidden Glow, which is a brightening treatment but also is moisturizing. It gives me a beautiful, illuminated complexion that’s ready for makeup.
So I cleanse, then do a moisturizing-brightening-priming step all in one, and then just apply a bit of under-eye concealer to spot treat. My go-to is our Dualist Matte & Illuminating Concealer. It’s double-sided and I use the matte stick because I need serious coverage under my eyes. Sometimes I use the illuminating liquid to add light to the center of my face. I’m not an everyday all-over foundation girl; I’m very simple and easy. I then take our Beach Balm or our Lip Retreat Oil, and I use them on both my lips and my cheeks. They give a beautifully glossy finish to my dry lips and skin.
IF THERE’S SOMEONE OUT THERE READING THIS WHO’S THINKING OF STARTING THEIR OWN BEAUTY LINE, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE TO THEM?
I think the most important thing is to have a point of differentiation. The beauty industry is very saturated, and there’s lots of products being thrown at people every single day. So if you want a piece of the market, you need to be doing something uniquely different. At Wander, we constantly think about how are we truly innovating. Are we solving a problem in a woman’s beauty routine? Are we innovating on ingredients, on formula, the delivery system or packaging? It has to be innovation 360 or we don’t do it. Our Unlashed Mascara is a perfect example. When formulating it, we didn’t set out to just make a mascara. We set out to create a lash treatment that is nourishing with Vitamins A, C and E and Trehalose, which strengthens your lashes. We’re giving you treatment meets performance. A product shouldn’t just do one thing; that’s something we feel passionate about.
WHAT ARE GUYS LOOKING FORWARD TO AS A BRAND IN 2020?
Everything! We’re looking forward to growing our business, but most importantly building our customer base. We want to know our clients better. What do they want, and how we can service them with all their beauty needs. Our biggest #1 priority is being connected to our consumer. We’re growing exponentially as a brand by expanding into international markets and growing our presence globally as well.
I hope you enjoyed my chat with Divya Gugnani of Wander Beauty! You can shop their products on WanderBeauty.com, Sephora.com in the U.S., select international Sephora.coms (Canada, Austrailia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Philippines), Net-a-Porter and Birchbox.