It's all fluff: Erika Gerarts on being unashamedly honest in business
When I stumbled upon Erika Geraerts online, I was instantly intrigued in what she was doing. It was different, nothing I had seen done before from a branding perspective and a first for beauty in Australia. She took a bold and honest approach in creating a business as well as challenging the market it was entering through creating a new set of values for beauty in Australia.
Erika’s career is responsible for creating multiple brands I’ve thoroughly enjoyed (some without knowing she was behind them) and her new venture is no different. Erika co-founded content agency Willow & Blake, co-directing the company for five years (in that time she spearheaded the comeback back of jelly sandals which I wholeheartedly leaned into). In 2013 Erika co-founded skincare company frank body, which went on to become an international beauty brand and convinced millions of girls to share photos of themselves naked, covered in coffee grinds on Instagram.
In 2016, Erika left Willow & Blake and frank body, and has since been working on her new venture in beauty, Fluff. Fluff is a cosmetics brand that makes and sells makeup - her favourite business yet.
Erika’s mission for Fluff is a lofty one - she’s decided to tackle the way beauty brands engage with young females. Being a champion for a simple and natural approach to makeup, Fluff believes that the only face that needs changing is the face of the beauty industry. And like all other ventures in Erika’s career - she’s using spunk and wit to cut through the cluttered beauty market. The bold brand is encouraging the young women of Australia to challenge the typical standard of beauty handed down from the powers that be in society.
It’s timely that Fluff has come to light at a period in our history where women are challenging the unspoken rules of how we must conduct ourselves in society, especially how we look. Fluff’s social media channels give a voice to the thoughts and feelings of real, human girls without the air bushed bullshit.
We want girls to create and accept beauty, making it up for themselves. - Fluff
We spoke to Erika to find out more behind the Fluff journey, her routines and how she approaches the raw honesty that underpins the brand.
You’re bravely sharing the real experience of starting a business from scratch. Sharing the process of developing the ideas, securing investment, budgets and the production hiccups along the way via a newsletter. What made you decide to publicly document the entire process, warts and all?
Because this is all Fluff: the beauty industry, the start-up world - it’s typically smoke and mirrors. I don’t think I’m doing anything particularly special. I was tired of speaking at or listening to talks and seeing social media posts that either glossed over, glorified or demonised the idea of work. I’m simply journaling the process.
Were there times where you were tempted to sugar coat the fluff? What was one newsletter that scared the shit out of you when you hit send?
I’m pretty over sugar coating - I don’t feel the need to hide anything. There’s enough of the same content out there so I’m always looking to provide something of value.
The first email was one of my favourites.
Some of the things you shared in documenting the process of building a company where raw and beautifully vulnerable. How did you keep yourself honest and open along the way?
I’ve become blunter and blunter with each year, however I’m lucky that I have good people around me who’ll call me on my shit - Catia and Charl have been with Fluff from day one, so they know (and tell me) when I’m not saying what I really want to say.
The vulnerability is absolutely refreshing, especially in the beauty industry and our current age of #nofilter. Onto Fluff itself - talk us through where the idea came from:
My cloudy brain. And an opportunity to talk to and work with a younger generation - one that I find super interesting. A frustration with how most of the beauty industry looks and sounds the same, and a curiosity as to why we’re still making cheap products with terrible ingredients. And a desire to help everyone realise that this is all Fluff.
You’ve made bold statements about the beauty industry, which we wholeheartedly agree with. Do you see this affecting the support Fluff gets from the industry, or have you found other like minded brands rally behind it?
Yes, people don’t know what to do with us, or think about us. I’m ok with that - my finance team is not.
But if we don’t stand for something, we stand for nothing.
Nothing worth having comes easily.
Producing a beauty product requires many product iterations, strict testing and from your newsletter it sounds like this part took much longer than expected to get the product right. How did you keep your motivation and creativity when working through this part of the journey?
Wine. And the attitude that if it was this hard to make natural products that performed, with a cool brand, that it was worthwhile pursuing - that it needed to exist.
Because we’re nosy and are extremely interested in how creative and wonderful minds work, take us through your typical day at Fluff.
I get to work between 7.30-8am, get a coffee across the road and do emails and plan out what I need to focus on that day.
At 10am every morning our team does a Stand-Up, where we each talk through what we’re focusing on that day, and how it contributes to our 2-week task sprint, and how they contribute to the overall business objectives.
Other than the set tasks I have, I’m usually lost in emails or weekly meetings: these can be anything from budget reviews, investors chats, marketing campaign plans, product development, analytic popcorn sessions, or meeting girls from our audience and talking to them about what they care about.
I stay back on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights to try and get whatever admin I can out of the way, or simply have time to think creatively, which can be hard to do with so many people in and out of the office.
On Thursdays and Fridays our showroom is open to the public, from 4-7pm, so we’re usually chatting to customers, drinking soda water, etc.
But we believe life is about balance, and it sounds like you do too. So can you walk us through your dream Sunday as well:
A good Sunday for me starts with yoga (how cliche) and breakfast at Marion with the 9-letter word. (I’m 80 years old). I like to wander around my bubble with no real set plan, stop by and say hi to people and end up somewhere drinking wine and falling asleep early-ish? If I can get a book in there, great.
Can you share your morning routine that sets your day up for success?
I’ve tried heaps of different routines over the last five or so years, and currently this is what works for me:
I wake up at 5.30am each morning. I really believe that a consistent wake up time is important.
I have a shower and I meditate for 30 minutes (sometimes it’s only 10.)
I go to yoga every morning.
I get to work and grab my coffee as per above.
This routine has worked really well for me - I’d say I’m the best creatively, personally, and professionally when I stick to this. But of course some days I get up and it all goes to shit. Or it doesn’t but I don’t feel great. I deal with it.
And the current book you’d recommend to your best friend?
To my best friend? For Esme, with Love & Squalor by J. D Salinger, or Every time I find the meaning of life they change it by Daniel Martin Klein.
To anyone who works for themselves or someone else? Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull, Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard or Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.
Any last words you'd like to leave us?
Life is long, if you know how to use it. Everything will work out, if you put the work in.