Jessica Richards founded Shen back in 2010 and has since grown the Brooklyn beauty mecca into something of a promised land for cool-girls and product junkies alike. She’s basically our skin-care spirit animal. In honor of Feb. 14th, we joined Jessica at her BK abode to chat wellness, style, and the importance of self-love.
Tell us about Shen Beauty, what was your inspiration?
I moved to Brooklyn in 2008 sort of before the max exodus of other people living in New York. I had been working in fashion and was slowly getting worn down by it. I loved it, but it didn’t seem as creative where i was more of a social climbing thing and I am not very good at that. I remember being on a photo shoot one day in central park and falling asleep in the sun, that night I went home and realized I was pregnant. The next day I quit my job. I thought my new path in life is to be a stay at home mom. Little did I know, that for me to be content my life has to be insane with a million balls up in the air. I thrive best under pressure and thus began my path into the beauty world.
About 4 months after I had my son (July 2009 roughly), my face cream had fallen from my bathroom shelf and shattered. I decided to take a quick walk to court and smith streets (very similar to Bleecker and Hudson in the west village) and get a new one. What I didn’t realize was that the neighborhood didn’t offer anything other than CVS or Flight 001. Thus, the lightning bolt for my shop was born. I had worked retail in high school and before I moved to NYC, and decided I knew what i was doing...I didn’t...or at least I didn’t realize what it truly entails to own your own business and how hard it is.
I met a woman, who was my business partner in the beginning, and she was British. She said we should bring in all the UK brands that aren’t sold here. To give credit where credit is due, it was her who got my wheels turning, and then my obsessive brain started in motion with late night Google searches and trips to find the best cult products abroad.
I opened with all “indie” brands that were not sold in the US and focused on the organic and natural category. I wanted Shen to be a place that women felt comfortable to come and learn about what they needed for their skin, rather than told what they needed; a place where you can come talk about your relationship to beauty and have someone help you, not sell you. I would say I have achieved that and retained it even with the over saturation in the market place now.
What has been your experience as a female entrepreneur?
Being a female entrepreneur has been incredibly rewarding but also incredibly hard. I had my first son, Carter, when I was 24 and opened Shen just a year later. Then I had my second son, Everett. In 3 years I had two kids and opened a business and then on year 3, when I thought I was settled, my business partner and I split. It was a fast train and I felt like I couldn’t get off. Again, I like it this way, but what it has made me realize is you can’t have it all everyday and be good at everything. Some days I am great at work and some days I am a great mother; there’s no day that I’m amazing at everything I do. It’s just not an option.
How do you define self-love?
I define self-love as taking care of myself. I don’t mean buying something, I mean taking care of my heart and my emotions. I have dealt with a lot in life and have learned to keep a bit of a distance; it’s not that I’m cold, but it’s a way for me to not get hurt.
I speak to my closest girlfriends everyday and check in on them. Sometimes, one of us is doing great and sometimes it’s the other way around, but we hold each other up. I think between my girlfriends, a workout class, and an amazing hug from both of my boys each night, that I’m cured...only to start over again with the next day of chaos.
Wellness and self-care have become such a big part of our daily lives, it can be stressful keeping up with all the new products, classes and cleanses – what is your advice on keeping up and keeping calm about it?
It’s so true, and I think with the internet and social media, it’s almost like we live in a false reality. I mean, first off, to be able to afford all the expensive workout classes, organic foods, and beauty products, you need to make a lot of money. I think realizing first and foremost that it’s not real is the right step. Then think about what’s most important to you; start from there and build on that.
For me working out (SoulCycle, only because I have very little free time) is my ideal way to start the day. It allows me to not think when I am in the room and walk away feeling ready for the day. I think finding someone you trust is also important. Whether it’s an Instagram person you follow, or a book you have read, try to cut through the noise. I know for myself that working out and clean eating is key for me, especially since I am raising kids want them to be healthy.
Even I get overwhelmed by all the wellness products, especially since they are all sent to me. Sometimes I’m like, this is the same thing, just packaged differently. I think the same here, realize what you want to focus on first and build.
What is your beauty routine?
I actually try to do my self-love beauty routine every night...
I have a huge bath tub, so I try and take a hot bath with Olverum bath oil. It makes my bathroom smell like a spa and my skin feel extra soft and supple. I wash my face with either May Lindstrom Honey Mud, or Dr. Sturm cleanser, then I add some oil to it while I sit in the bath. Oh, and I always light a Fornasetti candle. Even when my kids take a bath, I light one for them because I feel like it softens the mood of an insane day. Afterwards, I use solar uplifting body oil; it’s so nice and its organic and it feels good and absorbs so nice.
For my skincare routine, I use Dr. Sturm hyaluronic acid to bind moisture to the skin (as my skin is super dry), then her calming serum, because I have a bit of rosacea, and then May Lindstrom blue cocoon, followed by a cream. Either Sturm Blood cream, or I’m really loving the nori one.
Taking your time while applying products is so important. This is the theme you need, even if it’s 15 minutes to take care of yourself…allow it…we all need it and deserve it.
How do accessories play a part in your personal style? Any picks for the season?
My style is literally all over the place, depending on my mood. From ripped jeans and a leather jacket, to a dress and heels, it all depends on where I’m going.
For me, accessories are usually where I start because it depends on if I am going from a meeting, to my sons’ soccer game, to dinner. I need a heel (like the strappy, colorful Sera heels) that I know I can walk all day in and be nice enough to go out to dinner in. For handbags, I always carry a small bag and throw it in a larger bag. The colorful prints on Botkier’s are like a neutral to me. I think print on print looks so cute (must have been from my vogue days). I wear a lot of print on print; most people think I look a little insane, but printed bags are key for me. They add a little spice to the outfit that is unexpected.