tracy dubb
Career

How This Venture Capitalist Built the Latest Name in Skin Care

Meet the co-founder of Isla Beauty.

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Stacey Toth
Each week we’re checking in with friends to see how they’re finding balance, working from home, and generally evolving and advancing their careers. This week we chatted with Tracy Dubb, the co-founder of Isla Beauty. Dubb launched her brand on the onset of a global pandemic, unaware of the unprecedented challenges to come; however, despite the industry shifts, Isla Beauty quickly graced the top shelves of many, attributing its success to efficacious products and authentic messaging. Read below as Dubb shares her unconventional path to beauty, work-from-home tips, and favorite ways to unwind. 

How do you start your days?

“One silver lining to this past year is that I no longer start my days with an alarm clock. There’s so little risk of me naturally sleeping past 8:30 AM that unless I have something early scheduled, I’m willing to roll the dice. Surely at some point this will have to come to an end, and I’m already mourning it.

“After waking up, I shower, dress (usually in a sweat suit), make coffee, and take my vitamins. I also try to drink a bunch of water too, as I was told to by a lymphatic masseuse named Marina who once did extensive cupping on my back and whom I trust implicitly. I catch up on some news and make a to-do list, and by that point it's usually mid-morning.”

Are you incorporating movement or exercise into your routine? If yes, anything you’re loving at the moment?

“The only exercise that I’ve found I really enjoy these days is going for a walk, which I try to do on mornings when I have the time. If I go for a walk, I’m going to try and make it count and walk for three or four miles. I used to have a weekly routine that included weight training and more intense exercise prior to COVID, but I’m enjoying this break from feeling the pressure to work out so hard.”

 

Talk to us a little bit about your work environment right now. Are you back in the office, or working remotely from home?

“A few months after COVID hit, we sadly said goodbye to our first office space. We’d only moved in November of 2019, so it was a short run, but we loved it. The office was a converted photo studio in a big loft space in Soho, and we miss it all the time.

“My current work-from-home environment is split between our home in NYC and upstate in Pawling, NY, where we started spending time late last year. They are two very different environments. Pawling looks like a painting, with cows and hills and a real small-town community. It’s hard to leave sometimes, but every time we drive back into NYC, I’m reminded how much I love this city and its energy—and how much I miss it at its full glory.”

What are the most critical things needed for creativity and to survive a workday?

“Starting the day with a shower really helps me. Maybe it’s because I’m often in loose jeans or sweats all day, but there’s something about it that makes me feel serious and awake. I tried to really get ‘dressed for work’ at home for a while because I kept reading about how much it was helping people’s productivity, but I really don’t like spending that time getting dressed in the morning when there are so many other things I can be doing. I also need a really quiet space, a notepad for to-dos, and an idea of what I’m having for lunch—otherwise that will plague me all morning.”

How do you stay focused and motivated throughout the day? Any tricks you can share?

“I try to block off my weeks by chunks of time when I want to accomplish things. I found that, for a lot of quarantine, I spent all day doing emails and calls and couldn’t find time to get anything done. Now I try to set aside time for specific tasks. It’s definitely harder for me to get focused in a work-from-home environment, so my days are longer, but I have nowhere to be, so it works.”

It’s a tricky time in our world, and economically speaking, it’s unclear what the future holds. How do you foresee this time impacting your industry?

“Our industry had been around long before COVID, but our company has never existed in a non-COVID world. In the skin-care space, I think this time has really just accelerated a lot of trends that were happening already. There are certain ideas like transparency, representation, science, and price that I think the past year really brought to the forefront (in a positive way), and I hope these things remain part of the conversation.”

If you can, share a bit about how your past work in venture capital helped pave the way for Isla:

“It wasn’t the most direct path into beauty, but I guess when you really love something, you find your way there. I met a lot of really inspiring founders working in VC, for one. I also think it taught me that there are no shortages of new brands, and if you want to start a company, you really have to have something interesting and be willing to work at it for a long time. As it relates to my particular company, I also came to really appreciate the value of expertise and heritage in making products and knew this was something we could offer in a way that others weren’t!”

If you were speaking with a female entrepreneur, do you have any words of wisdom that might help them with their pitch or business plan?

“I would say people may not get it right away, and that shouldn’t discourage you. It’s common to see stories about brands that make it seem like they were destined for success, but I don’t think it’s common to feel that way when you’re actually doing it. Be open and observant, know what your strengths are, and fill the gaps with people who you can learn from.”

In your opinion, what do you think businesses need to really thrive right now? Particularly from a funding and brand perspective?

“With so much happening only online these days, I think it’s more expensive than ever to launch a brand. The cost to acquire customers online has grown so greatly in the last five years, and this year just accelerated things. For a brand launching today, I think having a really tight digital strategy is key, along with strong visual and brand language. And I think you need to know how you’re going to reach people organically. And there is one thing I believe is always true, regardless of the times, which is that great product rises to the top. If the product isn’t good, you can only get so far.”

From a creative standpoint, who or what has been your biggest influence?

“We had abstract influences and mood boards before starting Isla, and they were fun to put together, but the things that get us excited now come directly from the community of young creatives, who are mainly women, that we work closely with in NY and around the country. The idea of showing ‘realness’ has been our overall creative goal from the beginning, and we’re really inspired by how this up-and-coming generation of creatives live their lives online. It’s very raw, very unfiltered, and feels very natural. We love iPhone footage, images shot at home, and BTS videos a lot more than we love big, splashy campaigns or huge models.”

Tell us a little bit about your style right now. What’s your go-to uniform?

“I can only be found in one of three things these days. On my best days it’s jeans and a sweater, but usually it’s a sweat suit or straight-up pajamas. I’ve always wanted jeans and boots to be appropriate for any occasion, and now they are!”

Are there any style essentials you rely on for your winter wardrobe?

“So many La Ligne sweaters. And some Acne ones as well. Slvrlake denim. The Feels Studio denim. Flat boots and a lot of coats. I wore the same light-blue cashmere-wool coat all fall until it was physically impossible to deny that it had gotten too cold.”

Let’s switch gears for a minute: Are there any beauty products essential to your day-to-day?

“Definitely. We launched with an amazing and tightly curated selection of Isla products, and each of them is a staple in my routine. Before Isla, I was constantly buying products and adding so many steps to my routine. Now I love the beauty of a simple but effective routine anchored around these products. Our new super-moisturizing and dullness-fighting Storm Serum and our Face Base priming moisturizer for a dewy, even finish are my two stars right now. Some other products I really love: the Dr Loretta cleanser, Angela Caligula’s souffle moisturizer, and a good retinol.”

How do you unwind at the end of the day? Cocktails? Recipe, please!

“Usually wine. And some cooking. My favorite thing I’ve made recently in quarantine is this Alison Roman squash carbonara.”

Soufflé Moisturizer

Angela Caglia Skincare
$70
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