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Ten years ago, two women crossed each other's paths as wide-eyed young students interning at Procter & Gamble in preparation for business school. One remembers the other as a magnetic peer; the other's version of events remains veiled by her competitive nature. It didn't really matter either way, though, because eight years later they'd run into each other on a weed farm in Eureka, California, and suddenly find themselves in a fast friendship. Kimberly Dillon and Dorian Morris are the founders of the CBD-focused beauty lines Frigg and Undefined Beauty, and together, they're building a community of indie business leaders who collaborate, share opportunities, and foster beauty from within.
To Dorian, it was impossible not to leave an impression on each other, considering the circles in which educated Black women ran weren't necessarily large at the time they entered business school, which still remains true today, especially in the CBD world. "As I was leaving corporate America, looking to launch my brand, we kind of reunited because we were both Black women in the cannabis space, and we’ve been close friends since," Dorian tells me about that serendipitous time she went to Eureka while doing R&D for Undefined Beauty. Kimberly was working in branding for a large cannabis company and was able to answer a lot of questions for Dorian, who was still learning about CBD.
Undefined Beauty launched in 2018 to immediate accolades, including a best-in-show nomination at New York's Indie Beauty Expo. Dorian described her launch as self-funded, slow-growing, and strategic—lessons she could impart on Kimberly when she finally left her cannabis job to start Frigg.
"She’s helpful in making me not be so competitive because she’s so open, whereas I’m kind of like, Should we be sharing this with each other? And her approach is, Why not? So I’ve tested all of her products, and I’ve been in her photo shoots, and I think we know each other's businesses pretty well," Kimberly says of Dorian.
It makes perfect sense that Dorian would get tapped to serve as a mentor for the Clean Beauty Summer School and encourage Kimberly to participate in the mentorship program specifically created for Black-owned beauty brands looking to launch in the clean-beauty sphere. Kimberly won the school's pitch competition, securing herself a grant and meetings with Sephora and Ulta Beauty buyers. Dorian, of course, felt like "a proud momma bear."
So what are Frigg and Undefined Beauty, besides acclaimed cannabis-based beauty brands? I sat down with both of the founders, over Zoom, to learn more about their companies, how they're adapting in a COVID-19 world, what they envision for the future of indie businesses, and what comes next after CBD. Read the interviews below and find out what they have to say about each other's beauty and wellness products.
What inspired you to start a CBD beauty brand?
Dorian Morris: I think it's been an evolution. It's always been about finding what step I can take to be healthier, and I started to incorporate more plant-based solutions and some of these adaptogens into my diet. I realized that a lot of them are in formats that are not super user-friendly or didn’t taste good or were really expensive, and so I felt like there was an opportunity for me to create something that is sustainably priced, that feels very fun, and that is available in formats that people already understand. That's where the chocolates came in because, Who doesn’t love chocolate? And it's a great way to get these adaptogens in a format that people can easily wrap their minds around.
Kimberly Dillon: I worked in cannabis for the last four years, and I feel like cannabis is a gateway to working with plants and really understanding what’s working for you because it's such a personal experience when we talk about things like CBD. There are scientific reasons why it might work for you and might not work for someone else, but we don’t really have the tools to diagnose why that is, and I don’t think we should have those tools. It's really about intuition and listening to your body, so that was the motivation behind Frigg. I feel like sometimes a lot of wellness and beauty products say they are the solution, but Frigg is there to help you tap into your own intuitive magic and explore with plants.
How do cannabis and other adaptogens relate to beauty?
KD: We say stress so casually, and we don’t think about it as a bad thing. I would say I’m a highly stressed-out, anxious person. It's not that healthy for me in the long run, and yet I get rewarded for showing up to work with my eyes bagged out—like, "Kimberly will get it done." And it's like, "Actually, Kimberly is really starting to lose her hair."
Really, our tagline is around stressless wellness, inside and out. Just like you supplement yourself with biotin or collagen, What if you took an ingestible to reduce your stress levels so you wouldn't break out and so your hair wouldn’t fall out? Then, we also have topicals for the impact of that stress, so it’s all about emotional well-being and using functional plants to address the impacts of stress and emotions on your hair, skin, and body.
DM: I think there's a lot of plant magic. Cannabis is one bucket of plant magic, but I do think these adaptogenic mushrooms are a huge category because there's a lot of similar benefits that you get from the adaptogenic mushrooms that you can get from CBD. So I’m super bullish on that, and I’m actually working on a new collection called Artemis, which is launching next year, that's exclusively using adaptogenic mushrooms in topicals as well as ingestibles. Think of Undefined as the umbrella, which is all about democratizing wellness, and then each collection will have its ingredient focus: The first collection, Indigo Rose, focused on CBD, and the next collection, Artemis, will focus on adaptogenic mushrooms.
How have social distancing and stay-at-home orders affected your business? How have your priorities shifted?
KD: CBD and cannabis, in general, are harder to advertise in basically all channels. Events and experiential marketing are really crucial to the business, and either that’s in the form of farmers markets or pop-ups at hotels or spas. Beauty, in general, is a very sample-driven business—a lot of people want to sample before they commit to buying a large size, and CBD products are usually expensive. Dorian’s mission is to make it more accessible, but that’s not common in the CBD space. That's all to say it’s been challenging because the main marketing channel was removed, and how do you get to trial with something that people are still kind of like, “What does CBD even do for the skin”? People are still at that level where there’s so much education that's needed, so how do you convince her—but virtually? We made a lot of videos to explain things, and we’re working on a number of illustrated playing cards with information on the back. We’re trying to make the education more fun and more bite-size.
DM: When I was living in SF, there was this beautiful opportunity at a friend's store in the Temescal area, which is kind of like this hip neighborhood in Oakland with a lot of traffic and a lot of canna-curious people who maybe hadn’t tried CBD. It was a really huge success to introduce people to CBD and help overcome some of the hurdles. I had a tincture bar where people could come in and really taste, almost like a wine experience, all the tinctures for free that were all from female-founded brands. The plan was to take that concept from Oakland to L.A., so I moved to L.A. when I closed the store and created this live-work space. I created this disruptive concept, but then COVID had other plans.
It has actually provided a level of clarity as to how I think about my innovation pipeline. Most of my products to date are all topical CBD, but with COVID and people's stress levels just through the roof, I was actually able to capture a lot of that demand on the Undefined Collective side of the business, and I was able to see what categories people are searching for, so I’m now launching into ingestibles. My Glow Bars are vegan chocolates made with adaptogenic mushrooms and herbs. I’m also working on a tincture for which I'm actually taking a lot of this data and saying, "Hey, we know what is stopping people from trying tinctures. Let me try and solve for that and let me also add other adaptogenic ingredients that reinforce the benefit."
Dorian, what drives you to be so collaborative with other brands and open with your advice and opportunities?
DM: I definitely operate in this collaboration-over-competition model. Last summer, I launched what was called Undefined Collective, which is a multi-branded retail platform. It actually was the physical store in Oakland. It was all about conscious capitalism, so bringing together the best of the best that are female-founded, minority-owned, local, and LGBTQ brands into the space. At that point, I only had two SKUs, and I wasn't going to build out a store for two SKUs, so I enlisted brand founders across the state who I felt were very conscious and like-minded to create this retail destination, which was kind of my first step toward this collaboration model.
I basically built this retail platform to try and fix all the holes I felt indie brands experienced in retail. So when we had the sales data at the end of the month, I sent it to everyone, so it was visible who was winning, what part of the day got the most traffic, etc. I wanted to democratize the information and data so we could learn from each other. Not everyone liked that, but I operate in radical transparency.
I just feel like, within this clean-beauty space, there's room for all of us to win, and I feel like when you educate and you provide transparency, all ships will rise. Most people shop across categories. Most people are not going to buy a full regimen from one brand. It's about cherry-picking the best of the best, and by uplifting other people, it's not going to diminish my shine.
Kimberly, what was it like to participate in the Clean Beauty Summer School?
KD: It was so epic. We had all of these CEOs and founders of all these top brands, and it really was open book. Again, I’m realizing I’m an only child and very competitive because some of these women were just like, “And here’s my packaging provider; call Fred on Tuesday!” [laughs], and they were just so open book about it. It was so informative and supportive.
I do think the other benefit was being with all these other founders. One of the things I thought was interesting from the Black Lives Matter wave in June was that even myself, as a Black person, it’s hard to know what other Black people are doing. I just wasn’t even aware. I didn’t have this community before. And so it was an interesting summer of like, Wait, you’re doing that, and you’re doing this, and you’re not a unicorn, and you’re not a unicorn. There are so many of us out here doing these things and having the same problems. I feel like we talked a lot about how these Black brands aren’t on shelf, but for me, it felt more like solidarity. I feel like I didn’t even know all the good work that all these people were doing.
How has this year influenced your perception as a businesswoman in the beauty space?
KD: I think self-care and wellness were seen in a very woo-woo way. When I pitched Frigg last year, people were like, "Well, only a small amount of people are stressed." Fast-forward a year, and it's like, No dude—we all are. So I think coming out of 2020, we are actually turning back to these obvious and ancient traditions and not marketing self-care like, "Let's go take a bath," but a process of really doing the work to find out what you really need to do to not literally lose your mind.
I also think there's this need for truth and transparency. The way companies show up will be fundamentally different from here on out. You won’t be able to just launch a thing and not have an ethos or a mission that's bigger than whatever you’re selling. Whatever you're selling is the baseline: This is the pin, but there needs to be so much behind the pin. I think that is the future of where we're at. And do things differently! If 2020 has taught anyone anything, it's that there is no benchmark. Do not look to the past—no one knows. It's just the journey. You have to trust yourself and listen to yourself.
Kimberly, what do you love about Undefined Beauty?
KD: The elixir is really powerful. I think what I love about her formula, in general, is that it's really scented with this nice, beautiful rose scent. Rosehip is a common ingredient throughout her products. And watching Dorian tap into plant magic while she’s also in this undefined space that's limitless. Her business model is unique in the sense that she also has her Undefined store, where she carries exclusively Black, brown, and LGBTQ founders. She’s bringing all these brands to the table and marketing them together, and I really love that's what her brand represents—it's community and accessibility because her products are also priced really well.
Dorian, what do you love about Frigg?
DM: I love that Frigg is really focused on stress. We’re all experiencing high levels of stress, and she’s really building solutions around it. I also love that she’s just a powerful, badass woman, and she understands cannabis, which is important. My favorite product of hers is actually the hair oil. As you can see, I have a lot of hair, which is very dry, so the hair oil is great both for my scalp because I think that healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp, and her scalp oil is super nourishing, super hydrating, and a great foundation builder for your scalp.
There’s a lot of synergy between Frigg, who is a Viking goddess, and Artemis, who is the Greek goddess of the forest. We were in Joshua Tree for this photo shoot and Kimberly's birthday, and I’m really into tarot. The goddesses were pulled, and Artemis came up, and we were like, "Wait a minute. My collection that's focused on mushrooms and her brand are actually really similar in terms of this female empowerment and goddess story," and we were like, "There are some synergies there." I'm very into spirituality. I think the universe, in multiple ways, was ensuring me and Kimberly became friends.
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KD: We’re using two different cannabinoids in this—CBD and CBG. I should mention CBD is one of a hundred cannabinoids, so when people talk about CBD, it's actually a misnomer in a way that it's actually very reductive because there are hundreds of them. CBG is actually stronger than CBD. So we use those two, and then, we work with seabuckthorn oil, which is a beautiful botanical. We really went after dry skin. For people who have redness or hormonal acne, this is a great product for them because CBD helps with cellular turnover and fighting inflammation.
KD: All of our products are multifunctional, so for the hair potion, it's both to be used as hair oil and also for scalp care. It can be added to your conditioner. You can combine it with salt or sugar for a quick scalp scrub. You can also use it for the ends of your hair. So CBD is doing a couple of different things. For people who wear weaves, wigs, or dye their hair, CBD is working to reduce that inflammation and the pain you might have from tension. CBD is also an antioxidant, so it's helping to cleanse out that scalp. We combined it with essential oils that help fight all the nasty bacteria and yeast that leads to dandruff and a flakey scalp, and then, we also included biotin to help with hair growth.
KD: Our Beauty Rest Tea is really meant to calm you down and set intention because usually drinking tea is taking a moment to have time for yourself. It has CBD and nervines, which are herbs that interact with your nervous system—skullcap and catnip, which makes your cat go crazy but actually calms you down as a human. It's not necessarily meant to put you to sleep but to get you calm and ready for the evening. The tea also can be used as a hair rinse. Tea rinses are good for detoxing and clarifying if you have a lot of product buildup.
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DM: This was actually my first product. So this launched in 2018 and was nominated for best face oil/face serum at the Indie Beauty Expo in New York. Since then, it's had a couple of face-lifts, so I’ve continued to optimize the packaging to make sure it feels very inclusive. I just reformulated it to strengthen the amount of CBD and add some really cool ingredients, like Kalahari melon and plum. What I like about Glow Elixer is that it's super multitasking, so it was developed as a face oil, but you can use it on your hair and your body as well. It's super lightweight, and it smells divine.
DM: This is a limited-edition product—it's going to be going away next year. I love that this is fragrance-free and very versatile, so you can actually use it as a face serum to tone, tighten, lift, and blur pores, or you can use it as a primer for your makeup.
DM: This is a very functional product. We’re all super stressed, and we’re all magnesium deficient, so this is a great product that kills two birds with multiple stones: It allows you to detoxify and relax your body and also get the positive infusions of magnesium in the process. I’m actually super into baths, so this is one I use every night. I will sprinkle it into the bath, and sometimes, I'll add a couple of pumps of Glow Elixir and use it as a body scrub.
DM: The pleasure one is all about sex-positive, natural aphrodisiacs. I’m actually partnering with Lola, and we're doing two limited-edition sets: One is a pleasure set that has my pleasure chocolate and their lube, so everything you need for a good time. Then, we also have a period kit that also includes the Glow Detox and their essential oil roller, so it's great for decompressing—not just when it's that time of the month but also when you’re PMSing in general. They’re a great female-founded company as well.