Hugh & Grace
Hugh & Grace is the first luxury self-care brand addressing health in a new way—through hormone-safe skincare. Driven by what they learned during their 14-year struggle to have a family, founders Sara and Ben Jensen set out to rethink the self-care industry.
Most personal care products, including clean, non-toxic products, contain harmful chemicals that can impact your hormones and your health. Incredibly, two of their family members volunteered to be our surrogates, and they founded Hugh & Grace to create awareness, community and high-performing, hormone-safe products the entire family can feel great using.
The company, which officially launched on May 22, 2021, uses a peer-to-peer selling approach. Hugh & Grace representatives, called Advocates, belong to a mission driven community inspired by their #BetterThanClean product line and desire to raise awareness about hormone disrupting chemicals.
Co-founder, Sara Jensen, answers some of your burning questions below!
Can you share a little about your journey in the industry and what led you to launch Hugh & Grace?
My husband, Ben, and I have been married for 19 years, and we spent 14 of those years trying to get pregnant unsuccessfully. We were diagnosed with unexplained infertility and spent all of our money and resources going to top doctors across the country to try and get pregnant.
We did everything we could, including acupuncture, yoga, diet changes, therapies, several rounds of IVF; You name it, and we were doing it.
My hormones were a mess. I didn’t like the way I felt, I couldn’t get off the couch, but I also had terrible skin. I had acne cystic acne, pregnancy mask, and dark spots all over my face. It really impacted my self-esteem because, not only was I having this consistent failure every single month of not getting pregnant, but I was also not feeling great and not looking great.
During one of my rounds IVF, the doctor told me that I should avoid eating sweet potatoes because they can have an estrogenic effect and could alter my hormone levels.
While sweet potatoes are healthy for you, at the time, the doctors were manipulating my hormones to be very at specific levels, and I was getting my hormone levels tested almost daily.
This triggered something for us. We thought, if sweet potatoes can impact our hormones, what else was out there?
We learned about chemicals called hormone disrupting chemicals that are found in most personal care products, including clean and non-toxic products. They are linked to autism, obesity, Alzheimer’s, infertility, cancer, ADHD, to name a few.
I never told anyone in my family that we were trying to get pregnant. It was something that I felt really ashamed of. Once I opened up to my sister-in-law, she volunteered to be our surrogate and gave birth to our son Hugh, and my sister volunteered to be our second surrogate and gave birth to our daughter, Grace.
We received a lot of help during our infertility struggles, and a lot of people sacrificed to help us achieve our dreams of having children.
After we had our kids, I looked at my husband and said “We know a lot about a topic that is not being widely discussed in the consumer space. We need to do something about it.”
Hormones regulate your skin, weight, libido, growth, body temperature, and ultimately, your health. So, hormone disruptors are relevant to everyone.
While on maternity leave with my daughter, I resigned from my job at the University of Southern California to start Hugh & Grace.
At USC, I worked in the Major Gifts Department, fundraising for the business school by working with our top alumni and parents in 25 states to build relationship. My husband ran a family office. We also both have Master’s Degrees.
We are outsiders to the skincare space, but our goal is to approach skincare differently. We want our products to be special and not just another clean product on a shelf, and I think we’ve achieved that with Hugh & Grace.
Why did you decide to get into Direct Sales?
We’re new to direct sales. This isn’t something that we’ve ever done before. We call our products hormone-safe and just putting a product on the shelf at a Sephora meant that people would not know what hormone-safe meant. They wouldn’t know the benefits of our products. So, we realized that our mission and our products are best shared by word of mouth.
We know that 200 voices are stronger than 20 voices, and 2,000 voices are stronger than 200. This is an educational process and a holistic solution; it’s not just putting products on a shelf. We need to create awareness, build a community, and share knowledge about the topic of hormone disruption, on top of selling a product.
By sharing our mission and really opening up about something that we’re passionate about, we can effectively spread this knowledge about hormone disruptors and hopefully help people live happier, healthier lives.
I went to Graduate School at USC and my favorite business case study was on a lady named Brownie Wise. In the 1950s she knew Mr. Tupper, who created the Tupperware, but he didn’t have a way to sell it. So, we invited the Tupperware party to help him sell his product. I watched this black and white video of her at a conference and these women who sold Tupperware would come up on stage and receive their certificates. These ladies would just cry tears of happiness, and I thought how amazing that this woman, back in the 1950s was able to help and inspire so many other women. I was just so inspired by her.
So, when we were trying to figure out how to go to market, I remembered the story of Brownie Wise and thought what better way to share this mission and our products than through peer-to-peer selling.
Every small changes that we make add up to make a big difference and can have an exponential effect on us, our families, and our future. That’s what we’ve set out to do, and that is the driving force behind Hugh & Grace.
Tell us more about your collection and what makes it so unique. Is there anything you want people to know about the ingredients used in your products?
The fastest way you can reduce your chemical exposure is through you skin.
The average woman puts 168 chemicals on her skin every day, and the average man puts on about 85 chemicals a day.
Through our networks, we were able to meet with the Chief Innovation Officer of the one of the largest cosmetic manufacture in the world. We flew across the country to meet with him, and I remember walking in, and he said “The world does not need another body oil.”
And, I said “Ok… well let me tell you we want to create.”
After we talked to him, he said, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve never heard anything like this, and the world does need this.”
He agreed to work with us because it was coming from such an authentic place. It took years of going back and forth and really trying to figure out how to craft the products, how to achieve luxury performance, how to incorporate our mission. We’re the first to do this and it’s kind of it’s exciting and very fun.
What you put on your body gets in your body – I found this out during my struggle with infertility. I was using hormone creams that would absorb through my skin and go into my blood stream. We also see this with the way that nicotine patches work.
Hormone disruptors are really prevalent in personal care items, like skincare, because they are not regulated by the FDA. Your skin is also your largest organ. So, we thought what better way to introduce people to this issue than to replace their skincare with products that are free from hormone disrupting chemicals.
We are the very first self-care company out there that is focused on hormone disruptors.
We call our products Better Than Clean. Clean beauty does not mean hormone-safe. Some of the ingredients in “clean beauty” may be considered clean, but in fact contain EDCs. There is no FDA definition of “Clean” and thus it has become a murky market. Therefore, we don’t stop at clean – we go for safe, and more importantly, hormone-safe.
Our products are also high-performing. We realize that people use skincare products in order to improve their skin, so we wanted to make sure that customers will see real results, like hydration, anti-aging, anti-inflammation, brightening, even skin tone, and clear skin, after using Hugh & Grace.
Our packaging is also Better Than Clean, because we know that chemicals in packaging can seep into the product it contains. We ask our customers to recycle our paper packaging, but we don’t use recycled paper in our secondary packaging because there can be hormone disruptors in recycled paper.
These are products that are anti-aging and brightening but they are revolutionary in that they are the first of their kind to formulated without any hormone disrupting chemicals.
What inspired the name Hugh & Grace?
Though surrogacy, we had two children named Hugh and Grace.
We joke that the names sound like a 90-year-old couple, but Hugh means heart, mind, and spirit and Grace means goodness, generosity, and love. Those are really the things that brought us our kids, and are the values that our company is founded on. We want people to come in who have the same values or a similar mission of helping people live happier, healthier lives that also want to have fun.
We decided to name our company Hugh & Grace after our children, who are our inspiration.
Are there any ingredients that people might be surprised to learn are hormone disruptors?
Hormone Disruptors can be natural. For example, Tea Tree Oil and Lavender are hormone disruptors. The FDA does not regulate hormone disruptors. So, it is up to consumers to do their own research to protect themselves from these chemicals.
You’re never going to be able to eliminate hormone disruptors from your life, but our goal is to help people reduce their exposure which will reduce the likelihood that these chemicals will have a major impact on your health.
Do you have a signature product? What’s your favorite product from the line?
We specifically launched with only four products, but they are products that people use every day. They are gender neutral and are safe for babies and during pregnancy—the whole family can use them.
We want people to know that, here are four products that you can swap out with your current products, or incorporate into your life every day to help reduce your chemical exposure. Our products are not only high-performing but also help detox, repair and protect your skin.
My favorite product is our Night Serum. It’s also my husband’s favorite product, so every night before bed I apply his Night Serum for him while we talk and wind down. The Night Serum smells amazing, calms and is great for anti-aging.
How is the Advocate program different from other direct selling programs?
When we were conceptualizing our peer-to-peer model, we wanted to approach it in a new way that’s aspirational, elevated, simple and fun.
As outsiders to direct sales we looked at compensation differently. We pay sales commissions based on retail sales, we have no monthly fees and no minimums. We also have affiliate and retail advocate programs. People can make great money without having to recruit–you can earn 25-40% commission with no cap or breakage.
What are the benefits to being a Founding Advocate?
We originally planned on closing the Founding Advocate program when we launched on May 22, but we decided to extend it. Our Founding Advocates mean so much to us, and we realized that it helps our Advocates build their business to keep the program open. We are extending until September 30th with the stipulation that those who enroll reach SMT during their enrollment period. Aside from the title, being a Founding Advocate means you are in on a ground floor opportunity, get exclusive recognition, special perks at future events, inclusion in the Founder’s pool, eligibility to participate in company meetings, and dedicated unique incentives. It will also be easier to earn your way to our first incentive trip to Cabo, scheduled for March of 2022!
What’s next for the brand?
Right now, we are focused on skincare, but we aren’t stopping there. We will be going into other verticals and doing more wellness related things. We want to move into other personal care and self-care items, like supplements, shower essentials, and maybe even home cleaning products. This is only the beginning for Hugh & Grace!