Why Saint Jane Is Broadening Its Story Beyond CBD To “Luxury Active Florals”

Casey Georgeson launched Saint Jane on January 28, 2019, the birthday of Jane Francis de Chantal, who was beatified to become Saint Jane, the clean CBD beauty brand’s namesake. “She was a baroness in the 1500s in France, and she was anointed into sainthood because she dedicated her life to healing women, specifically women that society shunned, the very old, the very sick,” the founder shares. “I was floored by her story and how it related to our mission of healing the skin and going deep to repair skin stress, irritation, redness, inflammation. We built our whole mission around the idea of healing and giving back to women.”

Of course, the name has a cheeky double meaning for a brand built around a hemp-derived cannabinoid. Though Saint Jane has spent two thirds of its brief time in market navigating the realities of the pandemic, not to mention the added complexities of selling products containing CBD, it’s fared well. It scored key retailers, most notably Sephora, early on and grew at a steady pace until this year, which has seen its sales accelerate profitably.

Beauty Independent spoke with Georgeson about the challenges of running a clean CBD beauty brand in 2022, niche retail, fundraising, and why hemp flower isn’t the only bud Saint Jane will focus on going forward. 

You got into Sephora early and became a key CBD brand for the retailer. Tell us about the partnership.

That was a really momentous point in our trajectory as a brand when we got the Sephora stamp of approval to be onboarded. For me, it was full circle because I had worked at Sephora as an intern in 2007. At first I worked for free in exchange for makeup because they didn’t have a position, and I just was so passionate about starting in the beauty industry. I would walk down the hallways of Sephora and people would ask me when I was graduating from college, but I was like 29. 

I was in business school. I went to Stanford. Of course, they didn’t have any programs that positioned you to go into beauty. It was a lot of tech, venture capital, private equity. When I graduated, I went back to Sephora, and they hired me, which was incredible. I was part of a team that built a lot of brands for Kendo [including] Marc Jacobs Beauty and Kat Von D.

The endcap is particularly exciting because it means that we can get more of a full assortment and our brand story into stores. We had all of our products online, but we only had our eye cream and Luxury Beauty Serum on The Next Big Thing wall. We were kind of lost on that wall. Now, we have this endcap, and the fact that Sephora is using its voice to make some noise about CBD is really good for the industry. I’m very proud because it feels like a partnership where they’re not looking at CBD like a flash in the pan.

Sephora sees what we see, which is that there’s so much to CBD, and there’s so much reason to continue to educate and believe in it. With the pandemic and other categories that might have had more potential, they still pivoted back to CBD and said, “Listen, this is a meaningful category for skin inflammation and skin stress. We are not moving on.” And when they get behind something, they can shake up the world of beauty. It’s incredible.

Where else is Saint Jane carried?

Credo, Neiman Marcus, Revolve, Onda Beauty, Knockout Beauty. We’ve got a really nice passionate group of retailers. I think a lot of brands overlook niche. The relationships that these small indie boutiques have with their clientele is meaningful and real and authentic. There’s a lot of trust there, and that’s really aligned with us.

Credo was the first to launch Saint Jane. I went and talked to Michelle Connolly, who’s their head merchant. I met her at Starbucks in the Presidio. I only had Luxury Beauty Serum at that time. I thought I was showing it to her just for feedback. It was one of those meetings that we set up very casually. I didn’t think that it was going to lead anywhere. I thought it was going to be a lot of questions on her part, and “I’ll come back to you when you guys are much further along.” By the end of it, she was like, “When can we launch?”

Saint Jane founder Casey Georgeson

What has been the experience of running a CBD brand over the past few years?

It’s been quite a roller coaster in the best way. I feel so grateful that our brand has done what it’s been able to do, but we’re still really small. And it’s crazy that, as a brand that is now 3 years old, we still can’t fully operate the way that other brands can in the beauty space to grow. The levers are not the same. 

It feels like we’re pushing a boulder uphill on education around CBD, but we all really believe in its efficacy and benefits. I think that we’re learning about the way that we have to responsibly architect the narrative of the industry. I know with Prima certainly, we’re very aligned on that where we feel a responsibility to do right by the molecule and really help people understand why it’s important, how it can help, what it can do, what it can’t do. 

Topical [CBD products versus ingestibles] have been more green lit as it relates to Facebook. Still, no Google. We have to be very, very careful. We don’t mention CBD. It’s so funny to me, I’m this mom of three daughters, and I’m such a straight A student. I never want to do anything quote unquote wrong. My personal Instagram and Facebook been completely blacklisted. I can’t use any advertising tools. They just vanished me from the platform altogether. It’s like pictures of my kids playing volleyball and in the sand, and I’m this like hard criminal who is not allowed to use any of the advertising tools.

I’m hopeful that it will change. I don’t know when that will happen. It might not be next year, it might not be the year after, but it will happen where people finally realize that there’s such a difference between CBD and other concerning areas that need more regulation. I think it’s probably in the next three to five years that it’s more widely used in topicals. When formulators start to realize how incredible it is on the inflammatory front, it’ll become more widely used.

We are very thoughtful about how we use it. We want to make sure that we’re pairing it with ingredients that help boost its efficacy and don’t undermine it. We’re not putting it in things that get washed off the skin. It’s still a very new ingredient. Even though all of us in the industry are like, “Oh, CBD, that was so 2019,” the majority of the world still doesn’t know or understand it. There is a recent study that said something like 30% of moms think that CBD is going to make you high. You just think, ‘Really?’ We’ve been working so hard to position CBD as a vitamin and wellness ingredient, and we believe in it so passionately,  but it’s still so misunderstood.

What are you working on now at Saint Jane?

We’ve always been very thoughtful about CBD, but we’ve been very thoughtful about every ingredient that we’ve put into the symphony of ingredients in each of our formulas. We’re really, pivoting is the wrong word, but we’re starting to put a lot of emphasis into the storytelling around our bouquet of florals. That includes CBD, which is derived from the flower because we use full spectrum, but we also have these incredible florals that have been used for centuries to heal the skin. 

Flowers are so beautiful to our brand storytelling, and they’re so feminine. They’re soft, but they’re strong. They have this wonderful balance of strength and femininity. I think that they’re the future for our brand. I haven’t really told that story yet, but luxury active florals is something that we keep coming back to. As my team and our brand evolves in 2022, we’ve been punctuating that, and I really feel inspired by it. It’s not that we are shifting away from CBD, it’s that we’re really embracing the other bouquet of florals because that’s really what it is. 

This floral story is something that you’ll see us really start to grow for the brand. It’s always been a part of the brand. We’ve always had beautiful florals on our packaging and all of our visuals. There is something so poignant about the flower story for Saint Jane in particular because of that connection back to femininity and strength. That’s something that I really want to scream from the rooftops for our business for this year.

We launched Hydrating Petal Cream last year. That was what started to unlock this insight. It’s infused with 10 different floral essences like hibiscus peptides to heal the skin. It’s all about leaving your skin petal soft. It really is true to its promise. We approach flowers in our skincare very differently, and I love the approach. It’s very authentic. We just launched our Retinol Night Cream. That is a thousand milligrams of CBD and has violet flower and lavender. It’s really beautiful for calming the skin. That’s another product that expresses the floral story really beautifully.

What’s your take on the recent clean beauty backlash? 

I believe strongly that there needs to be more transparency in ingredients in general. I think there has been reason for there to be mistrust in the beauty industry, that some of the choices that have been made in formulas have ultimately not been great for women.

Beyond that, this is so typical when it comes to products that relate to women. I have ongoing concerns about other categories like feminine hygiene that haven’t been exposed. Tampons are a perfect example. The world of things that relate to women is not as studied. So, I think that there has been a lot of reason to distrust the industry. It’s a personal choice.

If you trust a brand that is putting something forward as being safe, that’s your decision. And everyone has their own choice when it comes to choosing something that’s clean, clean-ish or doesn’t make any claims around clean and believes that what they’re putting forward is safe.

As a founder, my journey creating a clean brand and being very passionate about having a clean brand comes from my own pregnancy experience with my three daughters. My second was what’s called small for gestational age. When she was born, I had to be induced because she was measuring so small. She was in preemie clothes until she was four or five months old. She was just tiny, and they were worried it was a metabolic issue. Turns out she’s fine. She’s 10 now.

When she was born, it was really scary because she was being tested and poked and prodded for all of these metabolic issues. The doctors were concerned that maybe I was exposed to chemicals early in my pregnancy that could have resulted in her being so tiny. They were all dumbfounded because my oldest daughter was born almost double her size.

I don’t believe in fearmongering, but I never wanted another mom to have to go through that based on decisions that I made as a founder. I felt strongly that, when I put a product out there, it needs to be undeniably clean with safe ingredients that the clean industry agrees are safe. 

When it comes to pregnancy and CBD, we put warnings on everything. Also, it’s still very understudied. I think it’s safe, but I don’t know. So, we put a warning on there, but everything else is not just clean, but meticulously clean based on my own experience. 

Saint Jane’s bestselling product is its first, the award-winning Luxury Beauty Serum. It’s priced at $125

What has Saint Jane’s growth been like?

We’ve grown every year. 2019 was our first year, and we were building the airplane mid-flight. We had this incredible year of sales, and we looked at each other—my team is really small—and we’re like, ‘OK, what now? How do we grow?’ 

We grew, overall, 30% to 50% in 2020, which I was really proud of because it was COVID. I was stunned that we had growth. A lot of it was being fueled by DTC and our specialty business. We had just launched in 200 Sephora and, two weeks later, the pandemic happened, and all the stores closed. We didn’t have any revenue from Sephora that we had to comp, and then COVID shut us down. So, the stars aligned around that a bit. We grew in 2021 by about the same amount. This, year we’ve already exceeded in Q1 our entire first year of sales. We’re profitable now. 

What about international expansion?

We launched at Joyce in China in 2020. We had like a 100-person waiting list for our C drops. They were doing it as a limited edition, and we sold out instantly. They decided to bring us on as a core brand. There was this VIP waiting list for our product. Then, China clamped down on CBD. We and the Joyce team we’re like, “Does CBD matter that much to Saint Jane or is it just that people really love our brand and our mission and our packaging and our clean story?”

It’s a lot, I’m not going to lie. I wish it was smooth sailing. I think back to when I created the brand and how CBD was still a schedule 1 substance right up there with heroin. We have more work to do. I don’t know what the hold up is. I wish I did, but I believe that we will get there. I believe that it will stop being so misunderstood. 

What’s the bestselling product? 

Luxury Beauty Serum. It’s the most award-winning product in CBD skincare. People are obsessed with it. It’s one of those formulas that is really effective for stressed skin. It’s ultra-correctional.

Is Saint Jane bootstrapped?

We are. I wish someone would tell me when the right time is to raise money. I wish there was an answer. I’ve said this to every investor I’ve talked to, “I’m a brand creator, and I’m figuring it out as I go as the CEO of this company.” I’m so passionate about what we do and what we’re building and growing. I wonder often whether there’s someone out there who understands how to capitalize on this beautiful momentum that we have as a brand and really help us hit that flywheel. 

I want to make sure I know what I’m asking for. I’m so thoughtful about how we deploy our money. I always crawl before we walk before we run, making sure that, if we’re going to invest in something, it’s going to work and there’s going to be a nice ROI there. So, I think it’s about making sure, when we raise money, it’s for areas that we really believe will grow the business in a meaningful way. 

With Saint Jane, I want [the growth] to be authentic. Why we chose the retailers that we did when we launched is because I love those retailers’ communities—and I wanted to tap into that, their ability to story-tell around our brand. We were so constrained by the levers that we could and could not pull as a CBD business. 

We’ve got a lot of really incredible irons in the fire. Whether we decide to bring on a partner, I’m open to it. I’m definitely not opposed to it. I think it could be a really great way for us to amplify our mission at Saint Jane and do more, It just has to be at the right time and with the right partner who’s really aligned with our values and what we want to do with the business and really keeping that focus on quality, luxury and authenticity.