Inside Youth to the People’s L.A. Headquarters
Youth to the People — the superfood beauty brand garnering buzz — has been growing.
“One person at a time,” said cofounder Greg Gonzalez inside the company’s new headquarter space in downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District, located on 708 Traction Avenue.
Gonzalez started Youth to the People with his cousin and business partner Joe Cloyes. It was just the two of them at first, and by the end of 2017, the team had grown to five.
“We’ve hired almost 50 people in the last two years,” said Cloyes. They're still filling a few positions and plan to reach the mid-50s in total, they said.
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, the duo has been immersed in the skin-care business from a young age. Their grandmother, Eva, created her own line in 1979, becoming one of the first American aestheticians to bring natural, botanical ingredients to the U.S. A photograph of her, along with images of Greg’s mother and an aunt, who now run the Oakland-based business, are showcased in the entryway of the flagship.
“We’re incredibly passionate to live on our grandmother’s legacy,” shared Gonzalez. “What was exciting was being able to take the three generations of formulas and experience but reimagine it from the ground up, to start really small and really think about the brand and the products and the formulas from a completely new lens.”
That new lens is a focus on superfoods. They make products — cleansers, toners, creams, masks, oils — by cold-pressing extracts and creating blends like kale, spinach and green tea or maqui, açaí, prickly pear and goji. Their newest release features kombucha, black tea and tree bark, and in 2020, they’ll unveil a new blend.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What are we eating?’” said Cloyes. “‘What are we drinking? What new ingestible are we taking? And how can those be applied topically?’ And then because of our family heritage, just going back to, ‘What are the best forms of hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, vitamin D that we want to put into skin care. And what are we doing to be more sustainable?’”
The brand has more than doubled its sales every year for the last few years, according to industry sources. The two attribute their fast growth to Sephora, where they entered the market online in late 2017 and in stores in early 2018.
“Sephora has been a tremendous partner for us,” said Cloyes. “We’re in over 1,500 stores globally now. That alone makes you grow.”
It was also their biggest risk, they said.
“Sales were fantastic, but it grew quick, and it got dicey for sure at times,” he continued. “It’s a lot of inventory to manage…The financial risk was huge, but we saw the potential and ultimately we had to take on investment. I think there’s still a lot of transparency that can happen with what investment means to a brand and why they do it. It’s to survive. As a start-up, you can’t get bank loans, you can’t get the things you need to supply basic inventory. You’re hurting your sales, because you don’t have products on the shelves. If you don’t have them on the shelves, you can’t keep them on the shelves. There’s that level of support you just have to have and that’s where investment can be really powerful if done the right way.”
“It tested us,” added Gonzalez. “We were up countless nights on the phone, figuring out how we would get inventory and fulfill orders. You just have to stay strong. Taking those risks is what led to getting us here.”
They also credit their growth to the products themselves. “It’s people organically enjoying them,” said Cloyes. Items generally range in price between $36 and $58. “They try them and see the quality. And I think they believe a little bit in the message of Youth to the People, that we’re going to stand for something more than just making the best skin care. We hope that message will live on further than us.”
Their products, sold on their site as well as Nordstrom and Amazon, are unisex, recyclable, vegan, free of animal testing, sulfates, phthalates, parabens and other harsh chemicals.
“We’re all about clean formulas,” continued Cloyes. “We want to keep it going for another 40 years, pass it down and keep it going. Our vision for the brand when we launched was really to be a globally recognized company that lasts for decades. That’s really the long-term vision.”
Gonzalez moved to L.A.’s Arts District about five years ago, while Cloyes commutes between L.A. and Walnut Creek, where he’s based. In the beginning, they worked out of Gonzalez’s nearby loft, where they welcomed their first hire about two years ago. They then had four different offices, coworking spaces and short-term rentals, before settling into the new building, a completely renovated, bright and open space. Painted a bright orange, its storefront is hard to miss.
“Once we got bolder with our campaigns, we realized we needed a color to represent our brand,” said Gonzalez. “Being in the Arts District, it’s a creative place. There’s paint all over the streets, artists working. We’re truly influenced by where we’re at…L.A. was just a really exciting place for us to start, and the Arts District amplified that even more. This is exactly the vibe of Youth to the People. But we’re also very much rooted in the Bay Area as well. We spend a lot of time at our family company. It’s a California brand.”
Everything — from initial product testing with a chemist in a small lab located within the space to production, social media and graphic design — is done in-house. The goods are then sent up north to one of the many labs the family has been working with over the years to “produce in bulks so to speak,” said Cloyes.
Starting in early November, they will begin hosting pop-ups, where customers will be able to experience the brand and buy products in-store. They plan to host all kinds of community events, from musical performances to collaborations with like-minded brands.
“Real change comes from unity,” said Gonzalez. “We truly believe that. Individuality is what makes people beautiful. The world is coming together globally no matter what.
"It’s becoming a smaller world," he continued. "We feel like the biggest impact can be made if people love themselves first, each other, take care of others and unify. Any way we can amplify that, start that conversation and open their mind to it, that’s a big driver for us.”
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