Former Burt’s Bees And Bliss Exec Mike Indursky’s Next Act
With multiple career achievements under his belt from marketing Chesebrough-Pond’s soothing cucumber eye treatments to leadership roles at Burt’s Bees when the natural brand sold to The Clorox Co. and Bliss after Steiner Leisure acquired the legacy property, it wouldn’t be surprising if Mike Indursky relaxed on a beach or took a cushy consulting job.
But he’s not interested in being on the sidelines, especially while he senses ripe opportunity in the beauty market. Four years since he left Bliss, Indursky has revealed his new project, Hear Me Raw, a direct-to-consumer skincare line starting with two products focused on natural ingredients and sustainable packaging. It’s an activism-oriented brand exemplified by its launch with an event on Saturday to support participation in the Women’s March in New York City.
“People ask, ‘Why are you spending all the money to do this?” says Indursky of self-funded Hear Me Raw. “At this point of my life, I am doing what I want to do, working with who I want…It is my time.” What he’s out to do with the brand is evolve the beauty industry. Indursky says, “We are still seeing women use ingredients they shouldn’t and packaging that isn’t sustainable.”
Kicking off online, Hear Me Raw’s two debut items—The Brightener with Chlorophyll+ and The Detoxifier with Charcoal+—embody Indursky’s vision to streamline skincare, reduce waste and deliver upon claims. The products avoid plastic discs and spatulas. They are packaged in glass and feature a refill pod system. The system uses 88% less overall packaging, 90% less plastic and 94% less glass than typical beauty products, according to Indursky. He says, “We adhere to the three R’s of sustainability: reduce, reuse and recycle.” Hear Me Raw’s products retail for $42, and refills are $32.
It was important to Indursky that the products do double duty. The Brightener with Chlorophyll+ is a mask and cleanser in one. The Detoxifier With Charcoal+ is a mask and daily scrub. Two additional products are in the pipeline for release later this year, and Indursky foresees introducing one or two new items per year with the long-term goal of spreading Hear Me Raw to other merchandise categories. “But I won’t get into the proliferation game,” he promises.
“It is irresponsible in this day and age that packaging not be refillable and recyclable.”
Sustainability is mission critical to Indursky, and he challenges the entire industry to improve. He says, “Every single manufacturer has to look at, ‘Where does my product come from, and where does it go when it is finished?’ It is shocking that only a minute percentage does. It is irresponsible in this day and age that packaging not be refillable and recyclable.”
Indursky’s experience at Burt’s Bees first alerted him to the buzz around natural and environmentally-friendly products. “People were sick of being treated like people who just buy things. They were tired of fake claims,” he says. “All of this brought me to a bigger idea of honoring women—for themselves, for their skin, for the environmental. No more compromises.”
Although Burt’s Bees started over three decades ago, there remains confusion in the clean and natural space. “People think clean means natural and sustainable, and it doesn’t,” says Indursky. “Clean just means there isn’t anything bad in it. Anything that isn’t natural shouldn’t go into or on your body.” A blog on Hear Me Raw’s website called Beauty+Being delves into definitions of clean and natural.
Even with his extensive resume, Indursky hit roadblocks trying to find resources to produce Hear Me Raw’s products, particularly due to his strict natural formula guidelines. “Building a brand is like building a house. It takes twice as much time and twice as much money,” he laughs. Along the way, he changed manufacturers, but eventually found the right fit.
“We know people are either going to love or hate us, which is better than just kind of liking us.”
Beginning DTC will enable Hear Me Raw to convey its message without intermediaries. “I want to have conversations with consumers that you can’t do in stores,” says Indursky, noting Hear Me Raw won’t be DTC-only for long. He plans on placing it in physical retailers this year. Indursky envisions Hear Me Raw’s core customers as enlightened women attempting to better themselves. They will probably primarily be women in their mid-20s to 30s, but he believes Hear Me Raw will resonate across generations.
Indursky sees the brand as an avenue to raise awareness for causes. “Part of our ethos is to make a difference…a difference in the industry [and] with women,” he says. “I want to help them lead more happy, sustainable lives. It isn’t only about money. Make a difference, the money will follow.” Indursky realizes Hear Me Raw might enrage some people with its positions in favor of abortion rights and the fight against global warming, but he’s OK with that. “We’re not just donating money. We’re going to be vocal and, if someone doesn’t understand, we wish them the best,” says Indursky. “We know people are either going to love or hate us, which is better than just kind of liking us.”
Although he helped nurture Burt’s Bees and Bliss into brands that sold for sums approaching $1 billion, he’s committed to keeping Hear Me Raw independent for now. “I always hear entrepreneurs brag how much money they have raised as if that’s a measure of success. It’s not. It’s just money you raised,” says Indursky. “I want to prove this model and put my money where my mouth is to follow in the footsteps of Horst [Rechelbacher], Roxanne [Quimby], Marcia [Kilgore] and Jaime [Kern Lima],” he says, ticking off the trailblazers behind Aveda, Burt’s Bees, Bliss and It Cosmetics. “When it gets to a point, I’ll reach out to investors,” says Indursky. He didn’t share financial projections. However, companies similar to Hear Me Raw have hit $30 to $50 million in sales within five years.
The NPD Group’s recent forecast that growth in natural beauty could slow because of maturation in the segment doesn’t dimmer Indursky’s ambitions. “Naturals…have been growing at a 50% to 40% clip. Even if it goes down 20%, it is still monstrous and still gaining volume, just the percentages are lower,” he says. “The importance of naturals will not go down, and the industry will benefit from education about what’s clean and what’s natural.”