When Courtney Baber went to get injectable wrinkle reducers for the first time, she wasn’t expecting to meet her new best friend, let alone her future business partner. But that fateful day, nearly 10 years ago, Baber walked out of her appointment with all three.
“Timing was everything,” said Baber, who is the co-founder of THE ROUTETM, a medical-grade skincare brand. She works alongside co-founder Nancy Pellegrino, who is also a nurse practitioner. “We both looked at each other one day and said, ‘I really want to do something different for the back half of my life,’” recalls Baber. “We were so excited that we were at that same point at the same time, and we both brought different but great expertise to the table.”
While Pellegrino, 54, had clinical medical expertise as a practicing nurse for more than 30 years, Baber, 51, brought business branding strategy to the table as a vet of Urban Decay® and Sephora® and nearly three decades in the beauty industry. “We combined our two worlds and came up with a brand that's really based on being a medical-grade, efficacious brand, but bringing it more widely available to the prestige market,” she explains.
The Newport Beach, California-based brand launched at the end of September, but the twosome has been hard at work for about three years. In that span, they’ve always made time for joy. “We really have tried to infuse happiness into the brand through ingredients,” explains Baber. “Working in most environments is tough and we just wanted to create a really happy culture — and a brand that infuses happiness into people's lives as much as possible.” Read on for Baber’s lessons in happiness, career, skincare, and adaptation throughout every place she’s lived and worked.
Spotlyte: How did your career in cosmetics begin?
Courtney Baber: I say I’ve been in the beauty industry for over 25 years, but it's really about 30 years. I started right out of college. I've worked as a retailer and brand, on both sides of the industry, and prestige. I worked at Sephora for about eight years as VP of Merchandising. And, most recently, I just left Urban Decay as their Senior Vice President of Global Marketing, Merchandising, and Creative. I was there for about eight years as well, and helped sell the brand to L'Oréal®.
Spotlyte: What made you decide to go out on your own?
CB: I finally decided I didn't want to work for a big strategic brand anymore. I had done that several times in my career. I really have a lot more passion for being an entrepreneur and business startups. When businesses are in their infancy and growth stage, that's my strength. I can do the big strategic piece, but I really prefer this. In my fifties, I'm like, “You know what? I should do what I want.”
Spotlyte: What’s one of your secrets to success?
CB: Surrounding yourself with smart, capable, like-minded people. With people around me who are smart, I glean information from them and then come up with the right answer, versus trying to do it all by myself. I know I'm not able to do everything, and I don't have a crystal ball.
Spotlyte: What advice do you have for people who are looking to break into beauty or go out on their own?
CB: I am a merchant by trade, so I'm very right- and left-brained — I can go on my creative side and I can go to the operations side. But, really, it's important to have an operational arm of a business. You can have the best idea, but if you do not have the operational support and help and someone who's really good at that, you will fail. My personal advice to everyone who is super hectic and busy is to learn how to prioritize.
Spotlyte: How do you prioritize work?
CB: Really simple: I make lists. I know I'm not going to get everything done everyday, but if I can get the biggest things done each day, then that's one of the biggest keys to my success in life and in business. I'm really focused on the top priorities, because you can really get bogged down in all the minutia. There's plenty of it.
Spotlyte: What’s your mantra?
CB: One of the products that we launched is called THE GOLDEN RULETM. It really is the gold standard. A retinol or retinoid is the gold standard. THE GOLDEN RULE is [medical-grade] skincare. Nancy and I bonded early on because we both really try to live life by the golden rule and treat others the way we want to be treated and be kind to people at every level.
If we can all just reach out and treat people kindly, it can change our world.
Retinol shouldn't be used by women who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.
I was raised in an Air Force family, and we had to be really adaptable and meet new people all the time. I really feel like I can get along with almost anybody because I had to. I think there's not enough of that in our world today. If we can all just reach out and treat people kindly, it can change our world. It's really just how I live my life.
Spotlyte: Growing up in an Air Force family, where did you live?
CB: I was born in Madrid, Spain. We lived in Washington, DC, New Mexico, Georgia, and Texas. I spent most of the formative years of my life in Ohio. I went to a high school there called Beaver Creek and graduated from the University of Cincinnati®.
My dad was stationed there. He was one of the five key guys that helped develop the stealth bomber program for the military. A lot of the men who worked on the project developed neurological diseases, and he was diagnosed with Parkinson's when he was 36. He passed away about five years ago at 75.
Spotlyte: What important life lessons did your father teach you?
CB: He really taught me just to never give up. You hear that a lot, it's super passé. But I look at what he did every single day, and he took massive amounts of medication just to survive and function, and he never gave up until he had to.
Spotlyte: Speaking of family, you have two kids. Do you think your daughter or son will follow in your footsteps?
CB: My daughter Bel is 11, and she's obsessed with the industry that I'm in. You can imagine: her mom's always been in beauty, so she's been exposed to makeup and now the skincare brand. My son Steele is 13. Of both of them, Bel wants to run the business someday. She thinks she's going to take over THE ROUTE. She's either going to do that or be an actress. She loves theater.
I go with Bel to get manicures and pedicures. It's our little treat we do together once or twice a month — or whenever we can make time for it.
Spotlyte: What other treatments do you love?
CB: I started using the GenesisTM laser once a month. I do the [Illuminize Peel®] offered by SkinMedica®. I can't do a really invasive peel, but I do like the [Illuminize Peel} because you [have minimal] downtime. Over time, that has just made [a] big difference in my skin.
SkinMedica chemical peels can only be administered by a licensed provider. They should not be used by those who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing.
I have a fairly bad back, so I try to get a massage to help alleviate that. Those are kind of my big things that I try to keep up with. But, they’re not always at the top of the list with two children and a business to run.
Spotlyte: Do you get injectables?
CB: I primarily get injectable wrinkle reducers. I started them in my early forties. I'm pretty religious about getting [them] done every three months — I have a highly expressive face. [The results] have been amazing for me. I get them in my crow's feet, my elevens, and my forehead.
I just started filler, once a year. I do a little bit in my cheeks. I started doing my lips really [subtly]. I don't like to look like I have anything done.
Injectable wrinkle reducers temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face, including the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet; they should not be used more frequently than every three months. Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, both injectable wrinkle reducers and injectable fillers have potential risks and side effects. Talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you.
Spotlyte: What does your morning skincare routine entail?
CB: I have very sensitive skin. First, Cetaphil® Gentle Skin Cleanser. In the morning, I use [THE ROUTE] THE EVERYTHING DAYTM. We really wanted to have one product that was inclusive of everything your skin needs for the day. I use THE ROUTE THE GIRLFRIENDTM. It’s an amazing primer. It has a great ingredient in it that really helps fill in lines and pores, and gives the skin a little bit of a lift and also more hydration for the day. While we're in development on a sunscreen, I've been super faithful to the Alastin® HydratintTM SPF 36, which has a slight tint to it. I use that every day.
Spotlyte: What is your evening skincare routine?
CB: My nighttime routine uses the same cleanser. I use THE ROUTE THE EVERYTHING NIGHTTM instead of THE EVERYTHING DAY, and then I use THE ROUTE THE GOLDEN RULE, which is our really gentle retinoid that you can use every day. I put a lot of Aquaphor® Advanced therapy on my lips. Weekly, I use THE ROUTE THE PARTY PEEL.
Spotlyte: What's in your makeup bag?
CB: I was an Urban Decay girl for years. They are some of the most efficacious makeup products, so I definitely use Urban Decay Original Eyeshadow Primer Potion® and Urban Decay All Nighter® Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray. My favorites are Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in DemolitionTM, ZeroTM, and DesperationTM. I also use Anastasia Beverly Hills® Brow Definer in Soft Brown, Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Gel, Urban Decay Stay Naked® Concealer , Hourglass® Ambient LightingTM Blush in Radiant Magenta, Urban Decay All Nighter Waterproof Setting Powder, bareMinerals® Gen Nude® Eyeshadow Palette in Rose, and Vita Liberata® BodyBlur®.
One of the things that I've found, as I'm aging, is I have a really hard time with mascara staying on and not getting mushed all under my eyes and face. I’m addicted to the KEVYN AUCOIN® The Volume MascaraTM. It's hard to find, but it's my go-to. The Burt’s Bees® Lip CrayonsTM; I keep four or five different shades in my bag at all times. It's not a big orchestration to just throw them on your lips quickly. They are hydrating and they’re amazing.
Spotlyte: What other extracurricular activities do you enjoy?
CB: We live right near the Bay. I love to paddleboard. It's very therapeutic for me to be out there by myself on the water, and it's a really great workout as well. I like to take walks with my kids and bike rides, and do a little bit of yoga at Villa Pilates & Yogasm or YogaWorks® when my back is feeling up to it. Yoga is the one thing I will do that's in a studio, but I try to go to places that are a little more open air. I feel like I'm inside all day working and running to meetings. I want to be outside when I'm working out.
Spotlyte: What else do you like to do with your kids?
CB: Based on their ages, most of my free time is really focused on my children. My daughter is in theater. She acts and is in two plays right now. She also does baton, so we watch her perform a lot. My son sails. We live right by the water, and he's sailed since he was five. He competes a lot, and we watch him do that. I spend most of my time on their lives. I never feel like it's enough.
SkinMedica® is an Allergan®-owned skincare line.
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