Frigg Founder Kimberly Dillon on "Stress Less Beauty" and Building Her Brand
After losing her luggage on a jungle retreat, Kimberly Dillon found a bottle of CBD at the bottom of her purse and used it as a hair oil, face oil, and sleep oil throughout her trip. Noticing her skin was smooth and that taking out her braids didn’t hurt as much, she found herself interested in the connection between inflammation and overall balance, leading her to create Frigg. We sat down with Kimberly to learn more about what it took to build the brand, and what "Stress Less Beauty" truly means.
"Stress Less Beauty is raising awareness around our emotional well-being and how that impacts our hair, skin, and body, and helping people return to themselves in a way that might be challenging or against the norm"
Tell us about your background and how you came to work in the wellness industry.
I came into the wellness industry via the cannabis industry. I was the first black CMO of a major cannabis brand, and a lot of my work set the framework for considering CBD and cannabis as part of wellness. This was in 2016, before CBD was technically legal, and cannabis was still pushed in a “stoner” direction. We did a lot of work to normalize the plant and have it be considered as part of one’s wellness routine, like yoga, green juices, and meditation. I was exposed to lots of things I probably would have thought were “woo woo” previously, like a sound bath, and now those things have become an integral part of my practice. I just had not been exposed to a lot of these healing modalities before, because I thought that they were elitist, and it wasn't until I was literally forced to practice them for my work that I actually started to see real benefits and I was able to look past my own skepticism and limited views.
The wellness industry, specifically the CBD space, has evolved quite a bit over the past 10 years. What have been the most exciting developments you’ve witnessed?
I look forward to more clinical trials and scientific evidence to validate a lot of what we already know, I think it will ease a lot of folks' skepticism. I think we are reaching a level of sophistication where we can start to talk about cannabinoids, and not just CBD, because CBD is just one of hundreds of cannabinoids, and I think we're really missing out by just calling things CBD. And finally, formulations should be about the sum of all the ingredients and not just about one ingredient that has been sort of splashed out front on the packaging. In our Attuning Face Potion and Attuning Hair Potions, we're using CBG, in addition to CBD, to really tackle inflammation with some strong anti-inflammatories, but then we also looked for essential oils that worked to amplify these benefits.
Being that the wellness space is predominantly white-led and funded, what have been challenges for you building your own brand as a Black woman?
One of the things that has been surprising to me is that, because I'm a Black founder, it is assumed that my products are only for Black people, and there's no shade in that one way or the other. But I built this company to make products that fight the impacts of stress on the hair, skin, and body, no matter what your gender, race, or age. Now, am I developing products that may address issues that may not have been commonly seen before on mainstream shelves? Yes. But I think it's an opportunity for folks to try new products, methods, and ingredients.
How would you like to see the wellness industry change?
More fun. Wellness does not need to be a bunch of rules and restrictions, or sacrificial. The opposite of burnout is bliss. The products and tools and services can bring fun.
Who inspires you?
A new leader who really has inspired me is Sharon Chuter of UOMA Beauty, and her Pull Up for Change movement. I just thought it was so bold of her to say what so many people think and for her to really hold retailers to task and start, ultimately, a movement. But more specifically, she helped me reframe some of the operating principles behind Frigg. And you know, sometimes I think when we think about diversity and inclusion, you know, we think about it as yes, we need to be on the shelf, yes, we need marketing, etc., but she really helped inform that diversity and inclusion is in all aspects of your business from the very beginning. And so thinking about what farm partners we work with. Who are the packaging vendors? Who are the copywriters? Who are the freelancers? Or, who do we buy insurance from? And just the ripple of change that we can do on an everyday level, and making sure that we're being as inclusive as possible as an operating principle, has been game-changing for me. And it's something as a consumer that we can do now. And it just really made me think about consumer power and collectivism and how we can all march towards change.
How has your extensive background in the CBD space, startup fundraising, and consulting shaped Frigg and its core values?
One, it made me really think about what area of the market I really want to own. So, what was important to me was to not just be a CBD brand. I wanted to focus on what I could do to alleviate some of the pain and trauma caused by the war on drugs. It's just amazing to me that there seems to be a huge disconnect between putting CBD on one's elbows and the fact that there's still a lot of people who went to prison for doing something with the same plant. And I think it's been intentional that we haven't had this conversation, but ultimately if you're using a hemp product, hemp and cannabis are the same plant, and it has been used in many ways to weaponize groups of people, and now it is being touted as an economic engine, and many of those people aren't having a seat at the table. And so that was an important core value for me in building this brand.
Can you tell us the story behind the name “Frigg”?
Well, I'm a secret Marvel movie fan and if you have seen any of those movies, you might know that Frigg is Thor's mom. As I dug into the history of Frigg, I discovered she was the highest-ranked goddess in Viking mythology; she was the goddess of happiness of intuition. Real-life Vikings often used botanicals to heal the soldiers before and after war as well as during pregnancy, and some of those botanicals were cannabis and mushrooms. And I really got inspired by these strong women who were really successful, revered, and also really caring, and that to me is sort of something I aspired to.
What does “Stress Less Beauty” mean to you?
Well it's a double entendre: One, we want you to stress less about our products because we are a brand that is doing socially responsible sourcing, working with quality ingredients that are organic and natural and vegan, and where possible we are being good stewards of the earth. And at the same time, it's raising awareness around our emotional well-being and how that impacts our hair, skin, and body, and helping people return to themselves in a way that might be challenging or against the norm, but when we are burnt out, when we are exhausted, that is a sign from our bodies that something is off, and that's not something to just be worked through.
How does stress impact our hair and skin?
When our bodies produce lots of stress hormones, our bodies tend to focus on those hormones and not on background functions that are deemed less essential, like the growth of a hair follicle or turning over a skin cell. We know that when there is cortisol present in the body, that there can be less keratin, hyaluronic acid, collagen, and biotin, and many of the building blocks of beauty. The thing is that this impact is cumulative. In the case of hair loss, you won't see the impacts for months, which is why managing our stress should be a daily endeavor. Note this does not have to be drudgery, what I am saying is to add a bit more fun, cause your body will actually heal from it.
What big-picture goals do you have for Frigg?
I have always been cannabinoids agnostic, so that's a fancy way of saying I would love to see Frigg in the THC markets. I am also manifesting Frigg spas and inclusion in wellness destinations in combination with some beautiful practices. I really believe in the connection of touch and bodywork with cannabinoids and adaptogens and I also love the communal nature of spa culture.
What advice would you give to anyone trying to break into the wellness industry?
I think the first thing is to surround yourself with people who support you, whether that be mentors, peers, or people that you look up to online. I think it's important to create a bubble of possibility in the field that you are interested in and derive inspiration and motivation from this circle of possibility. I don't believe that we do anything epic alone, and so building that community for yourself will give you that nourishment you need to keep going.
What are some new rituals you developed this year during quarantine?
Well, I've been journaling a lot more, and I've been really tracking things. And I've never considered myself to be a biohacker of the Silicon Valley variety, but I have been tracking everything from how much water I'm drinking to how much I'm eating of a certain thing to my skin routine to my hair routine, and measuring, and checking in: Is my skin clearer? I've always sort of journaled about things that are happening in my day, but I've never journaled about things that are happening in my body, and so that's what's been different. And so, it's not this intense sort of like Fitbit on a spreadsheet sort of tracker, but it's more of just a gentle check-in with my journal.
Follow along with Kimberly on Instagram @kimberlykdillon