Marianna Hewitt and Lauren Gores Talk Starting Summer Fridays and Being in Business With Your BFF
Anyone who knows me, knows my obsession with Summer Fridays. The brand’s Jet Lag Mask single-handedly saved my dry skin. The CC Me Serum is my go-to for an unmatched glow. And the R + R Mask is a staple for fighting the Sunday scaries. So when I got to talk to co-founders, beauty bosses and BFFs Lauren Gores and Marianna Hewitt, I couldn’t wait to get all the deets on how the brand came to be — and where it’s going next. Ahead, find out everything from how Gores and Hewitt got their start in media and joined forces to how they came up with the name Summer Fridays and what beauty means to them.
Can you give us some background on your careers before starting Summer Fridays?
LG: Prior to starting summer Fridays, I worked as a news anchor. That was my first job right after school. I went to college for broadcast journalism and political science and then moved to the middle of Missouri, where I was a morning news anchor. I lived there for about three and a half years and went to work at 1 in the morning every day! Definitely a bit different than now — I don't miss the crazy early mornings. After that, I moved out to LA, and I was working for a digital news agency where I covered a mix of hard news and lifestyle content. During that same time I had started blogging. I really only started my blog because I wanted more broadcast work. In LA, it was much more lifestyle heavy, and most of my background was in hard news. I really just started blogging, honestly, because I thought maybe I would be fortunate enough to get another hosting job. And then the blogging industry exploded, so I transitioned my career to blogging full-time. I really wanted to focus on wellness and clean beauty. And that leads right into when Summer Fridays was starting.
MH: Like Lauren, I'm from the Midwest. Lauren is from Michigan, and I'm from Ohio. Without knowing each other back then, we kind of had these parallel lives and career paths. We graduated high school the same year, and we went to college for the same thing. Then, when I graduated college, I moved up to LA. My very first job was in entertainment public relations, but what I really wanted to do was be a TV host. When I was taking these celebrities to interviews, I was finding that I still wanted to be the ones interviewing them. So, I continued to follow my passion of wanting to be a TV host. I wanted to be Oprah. I still do! I started doing entertainment news first, and then I pivoted into doing fashion and beauty news. That was in 2012 and I started my YouTube channel at the same time I was working. Then, in 2013, I was one of the early adopters of Instagram. I found myself growing a following. Whenever I would do red carpets or videos at work, people started asking me, What are you wearing? How did you do your hair and makeup? They started asking me things like I was an influencer, but I didn’t even know what that was then. Come 2014, I launched my blog. Instagram, blogging and YouTube became my full-time job. It was everything that Lauren and I wanted to do when we grew up. Creating content, sharing with an audience, connecting with people. Instead of auditioning for jobs, though, we just created our own platform for ourselves. We had such a close relationship with the community and our followers that when we eventually launched our brand, we had such a trust with them already.
You guys found yourselves in the same city, interested in the same things. But how did the idea for your partnership and Summer Fridays really come together?
LG: Marianna and I have known each other for more than a decade. I think when you know someone so well and you know their work ethic, creating something with them feels like a no-brainer. It's something that we felt really passionate about doing. Over the years we had always said, Oh, we want to do something together one day. But we didn't necessarily know what it was. And then we had this idea to create a skin-care line. At the time, we knew we wanted to do masks. At that moment, too, Marianna was working with a lot of beauty brands, and I was a new mom cleaning out toxic stuff from my beauty closet.
We felt so sure of the decision. Every step of the way, we approached things with certainty. Our dream was to be in Sephora. Obviously, we didn't know if that would happen or not early on, but we would walk into the Sephora doors and literally go up and down the aisle and think about packaging, what would stand out, what kind of requirements we would need. We just thought about every step with these really big goals and big dreams in mind. We knew that they were achievable. We still approach things that way. We still have these really, really big dreams, and every step that we take, every single day, we do with those dreams in mind and the intention to achieve them.
Where did the name for the brand come from?
LG: We really wanted a name that evokes a feeling. When you think of summer fridays, there’s a very specific feeling that’s associated with that. It's joy, freedom and positivity, and we wanted that feeling to be evoked every single time that you looked at one of our products. Especially in California, every day is kind of like a summer friday. We just wanted that feeling to ripple through everything we did.
Summer Fridays launched with just one product. What made you decide to do that?
MH: When we were thinking about creating a brand and a product, there weren't many brands that were launching with a single product. It was high risk, high reward. But we knew as influencers that people were so overwhelmed by the amount of choices. When a new brand would launch or we would receive gifting or packaging from brands, there were so many options that we didn't know which to try — it was product overload. So we wanted to be really specific and really concise. We wanted to think of a product that so many people could use and that we knew our communities would love. That’s where Jet Lag came in. Men, women, doesn't matter your skin type, everyone can use this product. We've just been so grateful that it’s remained a best-seller at Sephora two years later. We had no idea. We didn't anticipate that happening. But I think following your gut, taking your time and really thinking about each launch is so helpful. We really put so much love and effort into this, I think that's why it was so successful.
You now have six products. How do you decide what comes next?
MH: For us, it really starts with our community. It always starts with them. We go on Instagram, we'll post stories or questions on our feed and ask our followers, “What are your top skin-care concerns? What products do you want from us? What are they missing in their routine?” The same thing always comes to the top of the list. Lauren and I are always working things, too, so if we see our community is asking us for it, we know we're creating the right things that our consumers actually want to see. It really begins with them and what they want, because ultimately, that's who we're making it for. Selfishly, we would love to come out with every product, but it's really about what our consumers want. From there, Lauren and I work on product development and formulation.
You’re both brand founders as well as influencers and bloggers. How do you balance it all?
LG: When we started our own brand, we already had a feeling of connection to our community. I honestly feel like now, it feels that much more personal. We get to use a lot of that community driven experience and apply it to our own brand. But, we both still really love working with other brands and we do often. Not all of them are necessarily within beauty either. We work with other lifestyle brands too that we love and want to share with our community. It creates an element of trust, too. We're not just sharing the products we love, but we're sharing all of these other lifestyle products that we love and workouts that we're doing.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
LG: I think it's the biggest challenge, but also the greatest strength, is that we don't have a beauty background. We haven't worked in a corporate company. Inevitably, challenges come with that. We are now working on building our team and working with people who we really feel like know more than we do in that space. But I also will say that I think that’s how the magic started. Because we didn't know too much, we were able to take a really different approach and do things like launch with a single product. Most brands, especially with people who've been in the industry, would probably recommend against that because it's a really big gamble. We were able to do things really creatively. I think there was just such a sense of magic to that. But at the same time, it’s also probably been the biggest challenge. We’ve had to learn so much as we go and be really flexible and to build a team and manage a team — we're really learning all of that as we go.
What’s been the biggest pinch-me moment for you?
MH: I would say the biggest pinch-me moment was the first time we saw summer Fridays in stores. I'll never forget the moment we walked into stores because it was this big dream we had. Creating the brand and launching the brand, those things are in your control. We're going to launch a product regardless. But having a big retailer like Sephora? That's out of our control. You just hope that they want to carry it and that they believe in your brand. Thankfully, they did. Seeing it in stores for the first time with a tangible product, is still something that's so amazing to us.
Fill in the blanks.
My three desert island products are:
A beauty trend I regret trying is:
MH: Making eyebrows way too thin!
LG: I remember the days of the extra crunchy mousse hair. Like when there was no softness to my hair whatsoever. I regret those days.
My first memory of beauty is:
MH: My mom using Pond’s Cold Cream. She would always have it on her counter. Talking about it now, I can think of the smell and how cooling it was. She would take a tissue and put it in the Pond’s Cold Cream, and that’s how she would remove her eye makeup.
LG: I remember being in the car with my mom. We were laughing uncontrollably and she was wearing this really bright red lipstick and Jackie-O-like sunglasses. I remember thinking that she looked so beautiful. It was that moment of seeing someone look so beautiful and happy. It’s stood out to me my whole life. You really feel your prettiest and look your prettiest when you're happy, you're feeling confident and you're feeling like yourself.
The best part about my own boss is:
MH: I think for me the best thing is that we have the ability to follow our gut. If Lauren and I feel really strongly about something, even if the trends, reports and the way the market is going says something differently, we're able to do those things without a boss telling us no.
LG: I love the flexibility that we both have in terms of making decisions or for ourselves and for our company. I love that we can be really quick to create change when we see things shifting.
To me, beauty means:
MH: I think beauty is confidence. Whatever makes you feel good inside and out. I feel my most confident when my skin is looking good, my makeup is done and I'm ready.
LG: Mine is very similar. Just being yourself, living with gratitude and speaking kind words.