Indie-stry Guru: Annie Jackson of Credo

Our Indie-stry Gurus series highlights people who are paving the way where no one previously has, walking a path much less traveled, or building a legacy totally different than the rest. They are thought leaders and provokers from all different industries - beauty, wellness and beyond. They’re the people who ask not just “How?” but “Why?”, and most of all, they’re empowering others with knowledge, education and inspiration.

This month we're talking to Annie Jackson, co-founder of clean retailer, Credo. We cover her journey from conventional to clean beauty, as well as unexpected struggles and successes - we love her authenticity from start to finish.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I have been in beauty my whole career – both on the retail and brand side. I worked with Shashi (our late founder of Credo) for over 20 years off and on (we were both at Sephora in ’97). Shashi was a true visionary and saw this clean beauty tidal wave coming long before anyone else. He bounced the concept of Credo off of me for a couple years before we actually started working on it in earnest. When I did my research on the space, it was clear he was on to something. As soon as we started to look for brands to see if we could even fill a store to meet our high clean beauty standard, we got so excited about this fresh and new generation of indie brands that needed a platform to showcase their products that aligned with their values.

The catalyst for Credo really has been this new generation of entrepreneurs and creators who are passionate about beauty but are conscious and informed about the harmful ingredients that exist in most conventional products. The brands we work with are different from the first generation of natural/organic/green brand visionaries because they focus on beauty and efficacy as a critical part of their brands – in design, packaging, texture and scent. Starting Credo with Shashi will forever be one of the most humbling and meaningful moments of my life – we miss him every day. But the fact he left us with this incredible legacy called Credo to continue to build is awesome. Just like him!

So, what does Credo mean and what does it represent to you personally? Credo is defined as a belief in something. We know that a bigger part of our community is starting to believe in the same thing we do. Credo was the most obvious name for us. Shashi named Credo after several rounds with copywriters and we knew it was the right name. For us, you can’t build a business as an entrepreneur and work to the level we have without believing. It would be next to impossible.

We view you as an Indie-stry Guru of your field, which means you've paved a way no one previously had, or you're paving a way much different than the rest. What is your path or your journey, and what does it represent? I started working at Estée Lauder when I was 19. It was a transformative role – although I was fetching lunch and filing at first….haha. [Estée Lauder Companies] is obviously a huge organization, but they have deep family roots so it made it a great place to “grow up.” I learned invaluable business fundamentals that have served me well my entire career.

Also, working at Sephora before they opened a single store and then opening a lot of stores really rapidly, all while bringing a new retail concept to very institutional brands that were very comfortable in department store distribution was a huge challenge. Sephora was a very small team back then, and that experience shaped who I am as a merchant and an operator. It was there that my love of entrepreneurialism was realized and it was really hard for me to settle for “just a job” after that. When you work hard your whole career and then you are able to pull a little part of each past work experience out of your toolbox to make it work for you in building your dream company, that’s rad.

What was your “Call to Clean” moment, or the moment you realized that clean beauty and living was your journey? When did this shift occur for you? When Shashi had the idea for Credo and called me to explain it, I didn’t have an “Oh my god!” moment. I really had to get there on my own. I started working with him on researching brands that might fit the concept he had in his mind, and started to formulate the foundational basis we wanted for our ingredient standards.

I come from a conventional beauty background and am a merchant at heart – I’m not a green chemist. So I needed to really educate myself on the space. What I learned was really life-changing around my understanding of ingredients and the impact on human & environmental health. Rising to that challenge and celebrating all these incredible brands working hard to formulate with healthy, good ingredients AND efficacy is really rewarding. It’s not easy!

Our customers go on a similar journey: looking for information, educating themselves and making informed decisions on their purchases. There is no “easy answer” out there so it was important to me to invest heavily in sharing information in an easy-to-digest way (you don’t have to agree with it) and providing continuing education for our staff so they can be a resource for our customers. Most importantly, being a merchant and loving beauty reminds us to always make sure we balance all the “information” out there with the fun of buying beauty products. It should be fun!

Credo places a big emphasis on education and one piece of education we loved was your video in partnership with EWG. What was the inspiration for this? It’s unusual for Credo to take a more serious tone, but sometimes to affect change you need to use a loud voice. We think the video (at the end of this article!) did just that – woke people up and made them think. We could think of no better partner to get the word out than EWG. We have a ton of respect for the work they do, have enjoyed a really strong relationship and felt this was great synergy.

How do you define wellness? What does your wellness practice look like? I did not have good (or any) work-life balance for a long, long time until this summer. I FINALLY realized if I did not create the time, I would continue down a very un-wellness path. Wellness to me now is creating time for myself. I put my phone away on Sunday and really listen to my friends and family. I do power yoga (now with my daughter which is awesome) about three times a week and it kicks my ass. But more importantly, that hour I give myself makes me stop - stop talking, stop emailing, stop Instagramming...

What are your Top 5 Favorite Wellness products? Indie Lee's Squalane Facial Cream & CoQ-10 Toner were the two products that made me fall in love with the line and made it a no-brainer that we must carry it at Credo. I stalked them until they responded to me! And Shashi actually used (and loved!) the Calendula Eye Balm. My other faves are Skin Owl Neck +, Kjaer Weis Beautiful Oil and Phlur Hanami fragrance. I drink goop glow every morning and looooove coffee – does that qualify as wellness?

What are your morning and evening rituals? I get up super early, read the Times and WWD, scroll Instagram and run my dogs. At 7am, real life kicks in and it is chaos in my house with everyone trying to get to where they are going. I usually reach the office by 7:45-8am. In the evening, I go to yoga, try VERY hard to get my entire family around the dinner table and then force one of my kids to walk the dogs with me. I get all kinds of scoop on their life for some reason during our walks. Our dogs bark at everyone, so I think we bond over the humiliation.

Can you think of a challenging time in your life and share how you overcame it? Losing Shashi in 2017 was horrendous. When he got sick, we were in the early stages of starting Credo and having SO MUCH FUN. I was so happy to be doing this together because we knew each other so well and we knew what the other was good at. There was literally nothing we took seriously and it made the work incredibly fun – it was the company of our dreams. He was also someone that took great care of himself, had a wonderful family that adored him and was so proud of this business he created. Losing him was so unfair and tragic. And seeing him so sick and knowing what he was missing in building the business literally gutted me. Actually losing him has taken a lot of time to reconcile. I think about him every day and often wonder how I actually got through that time.

Who is a mentor or someone in your field that you look up to and why? Steve Bock has always been a mentor to me. He was my first boss at Sephora and is really rational, smart and just a good person. Plus, he is wicked funny and always game for a good joke. But he was always a good sounding board for me, and super supportive while Shashi was sick...and continues to be.

What advice that you would give your younger self? Be patient, advocate for yourself if you are doing good work, don’t be late, don’t be an asshole…I could go on.

What does empowerment mean to you? Empowerment means affecting change. I define Credo’s success by seeing these brands we have partnered with succeed because we have been able to provide a platform that is aligned with who they are. If these brands are successful - and disrupt the conventional way of the beauty business - that is hugely empowering. Empowerment to me is working hard to do good. That feels so good.

Are there any exciting news or upcoming projects that you would like to share with our readers? In case you missed it – CLEAN BEAUTY IS EXPLODING! So, we are opening more stores and rolling out our new brand standard that takes Credo beyond a restricted substances list (our "Dirty List") and has all of our brand partners walking the walk on ingredient sourcing, ingredient integrity, ingredient and product manufacturing and end of life for products. And a whole bunch of other stuff that is still top secret!

A few just for fun - What’s your spirit animal? Is wine a spirit animal?

What’s something that you wish more people knew about you? That I truly care about our brands. That I measure our success by the growth and fruitfulness of our brand partners. And sometimes it doesn’t work out – but that is not because it is not a great brand. It just isn’t a great brand at Credo. I hope that brands really know that if/when we have to have that hard discussion. I would never have brought the brand in if I didn’t think it is awesome in the first place. You have to try.

What’s your guilty pleasure? Chocolate and fries.

Beverage of choice? I should say water. But it’s wine. It’s likely that too many people who know me might read this and call bullshit.

What’s your mantra you’d like to share with others? It’s only lipstick. Relax.