Six years ago, Into The Gloss interviewed a young creative director who worked in magazines. In private, she nursed a passion for skincare that has since turned into a bonafide beauty brand: Supernal. We caught up with Supernal’s Melissa Medvedich about how her #ITGTopShelfie spurred a leap-of-faith career change, the process of starting a business from scratch, and how her routine has changed since 2014. Here’s what she had to say:
“I can’t believe my original #ITGTopShelfie was six years ago. At the time, I was working at a small magazine publisher in New York that focused on very specialized titles. I had been there for over 10 years, and I definitely had a cool job. Is it cool to hang out with Kendrick Lamar all day on a photoshoot? Or meet LeBron James? Or work with photographers I had admired my whole career? Yes, but I was starting to feel burnt out. And the writing was on the wall that they were going to close when they started to sell off parts of the business. I knew I was ready for something else. I loved my job, I had a passion for design and the people that I worked with, but I didn’t feel that same kind of passion for sports or music that my coworkers did. What I had that passion for was skincare.
I discovered Into The Gloss, and it quickly became my favorite website. I would devour it. When I saw that they were looking for people to profile through the #ITGTopShelfie, I begged my husband, who’s a photographer, to bring home his professional lights and take this gorgeous photo of my medicine cabinet. I’m a private person, and I didn’t post a lot on Instagram at that point, but I posted it and tagged Into The Gloss and hoped someone would find it. Emily Ferber reached out a couple weeks later, and then we worked on getting my feature out there. It was the best day ever when it was published. People were so kind on Instagram, so kind on Twitter, and one of my neighbors who… You know how in New York, you live with people but sometimes you don’t talk to them? You just see them in the hallway and give them a ‘what’s up’ nod? One of my neighbors spoke to me for the first time, and said, ‘I saw you on Into The Gloss today!’ I made this new friend through chatting about skincare, and it was such a nice feeling.
My husband had always told me that I should start a skincare line, but that was when the seed of transitioning into skincare or beauty was really planted. I thought, if there was no fear, and money wasn’t a factor, what would I do? And I kept circling back to starting a skincare brand. I knew I wanted to make a face oil because that had become my favorite product. And as a creative person, I really wanted to create my own formulas. If you have an investor and money’s no object, you can work with the best chemist or formulator, go to the best lab, work with the best agency. Or maybe beauty’s in the family—say your grandma was an herbalist—or you’re an aesthetician, and you’ve been working with thousands of real people and you see skin every day. I thought no one was going to take a skincare line by me seriously, so I enrolled at the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies. I was really lucky, because I had been saving for a rainy day for a really long time, and my husband was super supportive.
After my aromatherapy class ended, I enrolled in their formulating classes, which also had this entrepreneurial business side. They would bring in amazing speakers, like Annie Jackson from Credo, as well as lawyers. And then we would work on formulations. They gave us some helpful hints in school—one of our speakers was Gay Timmons, who is basically the godmother of clean beauty ingredients, sits on the Credo Clean Beauty council, and is a supplier. But beyond that, I just hit the Google streets. I found all these trade shows for ingredients and packaging, and I just started to walk the shows, meeting everybody, calling in samples, vetting suppliers and packaging... If you Google hard enough you can find anything.
I formulated Supernal myself, and I felt totally knowledgeable and comfortable with it at that point because I was really learning from the best of the clean beauty business. But I also treated it like someone who was working with a chemist, because I did a clinical trial for allergy and irritants. Credo actually requires that, so they recommended a lab to me. Out of 58 participants on a scale of zero to five, everyone scored zero for irritation with Cosmic Glow. Now we’re going into the UK and Europe, so we had to do more intensive three-month stability testing.
I did not know if I was going to sell one bottle. I had no PR, I wasn’t an influencer—I had like 1,200 Instagram followers, so that was the room I was announcing this to. And somehow, the word started to get out there. I never really had a very formal business plan, but of course I had a checklist of things I hoped would happen in the first year. When Supernal was featured in Into The Gloss, I just knew I was going in the right direction. That was a dream come true, truly. I don’t take for granted any of the times Supernal has popped up in Top Shelves either, like in Trinity’s, or Sofie’s.
Supernal had its year anniversary right before the shutdown, and things are just starting to pick up again. I’ve always envisioned the company as an edited line of essentials, and know that each product that I release is going to be on the same timeline as Cosmic Glow, but beyond that I’m keeping it fluid. That’s a lesson a lot of us learned through COVID. To be adaptable moving forward… that’s the plan.”
—as told to ITG
Photos via Melissa and Tom Medvedich