meet annie jackson, the co-founder and chief operating officer of credo, a san francisco-based beauty retailer with the largest clean beauty selection in skincare and makeup (that’s huge!!). beyond their incredible clean beauty offerings, credo is helping to raise the bar for clean ingredient standards and make us all think about the products we use every day.
we caught up with annie to learn how she became interested in the clean beauty space, how clean beauty can help more women feel empowered, and the clean beauty trends she’s most excited about.
basd: how did you become interested in the clean beauty space?
aj: i have been in beauty most of my career – on both the retail and brand side. i was lucky to have worked with shashi (our late founder of credo) for over 20 years off and on (we were both at sephora in the beginning in ’97). shashi was a true visionary and saw this clean beauty tidal wave coming long before anyone else. in 2012, when we first starting talking about this “idea” of shashi’s i was working (back at sephora for the second time!) and periodically he would share with me his concept of his “natural beauty mecca” that we ultimately named credo. later in 2013, when i decided to leave sephora and take some time off with my family i started filling my spare time researching clean beauty for our credo concept. almost immediately it was clear that he was onto something amazing, and this fresh, new generation of indie brands needed a retail platform to showcase their products that aligned with their values. these entrepreneurs and founders were passionate about beauty but also conscious and informed about the harmful ingredients that exist in most conventional products – it was the catalyst for credo and it was wildly exciting, ridiculously challenging and so, so fun. for us, truly there was nothing better than creating this business. our name - credo - is reflective of the belief that there is a better way to look beautiful with both style and substance. it’s a belief in a holistic vision for what beauty is: looking good and feeling good.
b: you’ve established credo as a leader in clean beauty. how does clean beauty make women feel more empowered?
aj: as an industry, clean beauty was largely kicked off by female entrepreneurs and female public health activists in the late 90s/first decade of 2000. knowing that women are more vulnerable to breast cancer and other illnesses that may be in part triggered by exposure to harmful chemicals – even in small doses like those found in personal care products. and, these early movement builders also knew that the chemicals a pregnant woman is exposed to often cross over to the developing child.
more recently we have found some of the most dynamic new founders are conventional beauty ex-pats that knew there had to be a better way to create a brand that aligned more with their own healthy lifestyle. it’s also a tremendously collaborative and supportive space – women cheering other women on and encouraging them to start their own brand even if it will ultimately become their competitor. we actually have a number of brands at credo introduced to us from other brand founders.
and for us at credo it is so rewarding to see a brand succeed and start to scale when we all started together so small, building our respective businesses every single day – facing challenges and supporting each other through them.
b: do you think that putting a focus on education has helped credo to become the leader in clean beauty?
aj: credo’s mission is to change the way people think about the products they use every day. it is why credo exists and the reason we started this company. so the responsibility is enormous. especially since we are a platform for clean beauty, amassing what we believe are the best brands the space has to offer. from day one, we created the "dirty list," a robust list of ingredients which, due to safety and/or sustainability concerns, cannot be used as ingredients in any of the products we carry. as the leader in the clean beauty retail, we are determined to push the industry in a better direction, so we implemented our “credo clean standard" last year. our credo clean standard is a comprehensive agreement with every brand we carry. our clean standard is a roadmap for ingredient sourcing, manufacturing and backing-up marketing claims. all of this deserves intense education. so education is the corner stone of what we do – and where we spend most of our time.
really, the two biggest barriers we face often as we are gaining momentum on our mission: informing customers that the industry is under-regulated and companies can use chemicals linked to serious health and/or environmental issues. (or they even imply that the products they make are safer or more natural than they really are.) and the second is the perception that you have to sacrifice efficacy for healthy ingredients.
last, but really very important is educating on all of the brands we carry, their story, why we chose them.
our job every single day is to reinforce in our messaging and our stores through our staff and events is that for clean to have an impact our staff must be prepared with accurate information, be informed about the brands we carry and help to be a resource for our customers and we never want that to change. so constant and effective education – that is our sole focus.
b: do you have a morning routine that helps to set you up for the day ahead?
aj: i get up super early and read the times and women’s wear daily and scroll ig and then go to a 6am power yoga class. at 7am real life kicks in and it is chaos in my house with everyone trying to get to where they are going and i usually reach the office by 8am (ish). but just having that quiet alone time is really essential for me.
b: what do you do each day to keep yourself strong—emotionally and physically?
aj: i am working really hard at disconnecting. we have more help now at credo – for the longest time it was just me, cath (our head of ops/customer service/hr….everything, whit (visual) and lydia (marketing) and we had more than a few stores and whole helluva lot happening and i could never unplug. and i didn’t want to. but we are 6 years in and damn, i’m tired! so i really try hard to get those yoga classes in each morning, i try and sleep and i try to enjoy time to myself and with my family on the weekends. my kids are 18 and almost 16 – i don’t have much time left!
b: tell us about a time you made a mistake in your career and what you learned from it?
aj: losing shashi in 2017 was horrendous. when he got sick, we were in the early stages of starting credo and it gutted me. but i was also suddenly running a company – so the mistakes i made were endless. but i think the biggest mistake i made was trying to keep it all going and not leaning on our investors more and asking them for help. they are more than investors, they (seb lepinard who is the founder of next world our investor) incubated credo and i wanted to keep it all going and make sure they had confidence in spite of losing the person they believed most in. but there were some really dark days there and they would have jumped in if i had let them. you learn the hard way.
b: at the end of a busy day, how do you unwind?
aj: i would love to say walking my dog. but he’s terrible and barks viciously at everyone – so it actually is just more stressful. so once that’s over – wine.
b: what trends in clean beauty are you most excited about?
aj: well this is not a trend but crucial for our planet and i love that all our partners in business are committed to jumping on right now on collaborating and acting on more sustainable packaging options. credo has informed and conscious customers. they have likely heard that every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans. and while a lot of that waste is grocery bags and single use plastics like takeout containers, consumer products packaging also plays a huge role.
we cannot go on like this; as a society, we need to change the way we make, use and dispose of things. in short, the work that we have to do between now--when the majority to cosmetics are in plastic containers, and less than 10% of plastic is even recycled--and living in a world where everyone is composting--is huge. so the push from customers and from credo to our 130 brand partners needs to be ambitious, but it can't be unattainable. that's what we're working on right now.