Finding expert skincare and wellness advice isn’t easy. Either you end up feeling pressured by your facialist to buy a specific line they carry when maybe 5 different products from different lines might work better for you, or the beauty rep at the department store whose working on commission is counting on you to make her sales quota. The experience hardly feels authentic. And what if you want to go 100% organic and all-natural? Then you should get yourself to CAP Beauty on West 10th Street in NYC. Founded two years ago by Cindy Prima (left) and Kerrilynn Pamer (right), CAP is a one-stop shop and spa for those seeking healthy skin and healthy habits. Their knowledgable, friendly staff, array of well-edited products and evening events that range from functional nutritionists/hormone gurus to makeup artists to colonic experts make the CAP Beauty experience like no other. No surprise the cult of CAP is rapidly growing (and their business along with it). Here Cindy and Kerrilynn discuss how they began their partnership, the advantage of organic skincare, and what’s next for CAP.
Please describe what you do to the TFI Reader.
Kerrilynn: I am the co-founder of CAP Beauty with Cindy. I’m somebody who’s super curious about how choices and products and ingredients can change how you feel. That was the beginning of CAP Beauty–introducing different products and ingredients and mindset into my life and then seeing transformative changes from that.
Cindy: Neither Kerrilynn nor I are, in the classic sense, beauty girls. We’re not women who’ve always been fascinated by makeup trends or really even worn a lot of makeup. Neither of us are really product or treatment junkies, although we love all of that stuff.
It really comes more from a place of being really interested in wellness and self-care, and of course, there’s vanity in that; it’s just a different approach and a different look. We love a great experience. We love great skin. We like to look good and as great as we can as we get older. All of that is part of what we do, but it comes much more from a place of being really interested in what we call radical self-care.
How did CAP Beauty begin? How did you both come together?
Kerrilynn: Cindy and I have known each other for a really long time; we worked at Martha Stewart together close to 20 years ago. We didn’t work in the same department. I freelanced and Cindy was a style editor but I was aware of her and she was aware of me.
We were different than a lot of the Martha people because of our interests. We love beautiful table settings and gracious living, but we’re also interested in fashion and design and wellness in a way that a lot of our coworkers weren’t.
We were drawn to each other in that way. Then when we went off, Cindy became a freelance stylist. I went on to open Castor & Pollux and we became good friends during that period and started a mastermind group with each other and another friend of ours named Kimille Taylor who’s an interior designer.
We started this mastermind group really as a support group to help each other out as sole proprietors because we all had a lot of information, but being a sole proprietor can be really lonely.
The group was incredibly beneficial. We recommend it to anyone who will listen, to create that kind of support group. When Cindy and I went on to open CAP together Kimille helped us a lot and was really fundamental in creating the aesthetic for our space.
Why did you go into organic beauty and skin care. Why is it important to you?
Cindy: Well we both, as you mentioned, we both have sort of a longstanding interest in wellness and self-care. Kerrilynn had an epiphany around it when she had Castor & Pollux. She was diagnosed with Celiac and had this important moment of realizing how strongly linked her food choices and diet were with her skin health.
At the same time, she was looking at her products more closely and then started taking on some of these smaller brands in her store. At the time, Tata Harper was relatively unknown. She carried Tata, May Lindstrom, Kjaer Weis, Alexis Smart–a lot of the brands that are in our store now.
She realized how much her customers responded and how strong the interest was for cleaner products; cleaner products that are effective and deliver really beautiful skin. It took her about five minutes to realize that there was no store that was devoted to that and there could be and there would be a great market for it.
Kerrilynn: Also, I just wanted it. We didn’t want to buy our products at Whole Foods. I didn’t want to go to the health food store, which is kind of what we were doing. Then there was always the smattering of naturals within boutiques, which is essentially what I was doing, but a lot of those places didn’t have the education behind it which Cindy and I feel is really, really important in this category.
There’s so much new information and ingredients and formulations and advances that have been made. We wanted a space that was really aspirational, but very, very inclusive and felt really sophisticated and relevant to how most of our friends and then people we don’t know would want to shop and engage with self-care products.
How do you educate your customers on organic products?
Cindy: We’ve got a few avenues for that. The first is a very well educated sales staff. We’re always training, making sure that everyone knows a lot about the ingredients in the products and the different functions of the product. We also have a spa in the space. One of the big decisions behind having treatments at CAP was also for that level of engagement. I will have people come on the sales floor sometimes, come into the store and have a complicated skin issue.
Sometimes I encourage them, instead of spending a lot of money on a lot of different products that they hope will be the right fit for them, to go and spend a little bit of money on a treatment and get that kind of expertise and guidance. Because no matter how much talking you do, there’s a different understanding of someone’s skin when the aesthetician gets their hands on you for an hour and looks at you under the light and has a dialogue with you about your lifestyle and everything else.
If somebody comes in with a challenging skin issue, it would be irresponsible not to talk to them at all about whether they might have a food allergy. Not everything can be solved topically. A lot of times, people want to know, “What are the bad ingredients that you don’t sell?” It’s not really about that; it’s about all the nutrient-dense, incredible ingredients we do sell and about how to incorporate all of those, like plant power, mineral power ingredients in your whole life.
In addition, we have a lot of events in the store. We’re really proud of our lineup of experts and guests who come and speak. It’s always free. Whether it’s somebody talking about herbs and adaptogens, somebody talking about hormones and skin health. We have doctors, we have nutritionists, we have meditation teachers…all kinds of different experts.
What criteria do you use for the products that you carry when you choose them?
Kerrilynn: A lot of it is really, really instinctual and gut related. We are an all-natural beauty store, so that eliminates anything that’s synthetic. We’re not here to say that all synthetics are terrible. That’s the stance that we’ve chosen. It’s something that we’ve stuck with and we really believe.
We try everything out that comes to the store. We have a broad range of skin types and body types and different people that work with us in the store, in our office. When we first started, it was literally Cindy and myself trying things out, seeing how it worked. A lot of it comes down to like, “Do we love the product?’
Cindy: We’re not doing our customers any favors if we have so many face oils that it becomes confusing. If we bring something on, it has to fill a void that’s not being served already or it has to be better than what we already have.
What was the easiest thing about starting CAP Beauty?
Cindy: I used to always joke with Kerrilynn, “Ha! This is so easy,” because everything was flowing and so many aspects of it that came together really without struggle.
I always say, there’s a difference between hard work and struggle. We don’t struggle with what we do, but we work hard. I think that because of our backgrounds and our personalities, hard work is not something that is surprising or foreign to either of us.
I would say that the easiest things were gaining the trust and respect of our colleagues who became really important partners to us and still are. In the beginning, it was a lot of picking up the phone or emailing people and telling them what we were doing. We got a lot of incredible enthusiasm from the get go. A lot of the people that are now some of our most important vendors and partners are still super supportive.
Has there been anything that’s been difficult or a challenge that came up in the beginning?
Cindy: Cash flow is always something you have to manage. Learning that money flows in and money goes out and if you’re not spending, you’re not growing, but you always feel like you could be doing it better. I think that’s something that you have to get used to as a business person—getting comfortable with the ebbs and flows.
I’m a person who has a lot of ideas and can become impatient. I think that learning how to give in to the flow, the natural course of it has been a learning experience for me. When you believe in something so much, you just want to keep producing and keep producing and keep producing.
Kerrilynn: There’s a lot, a lot, a lot to do in a day. Honestly, there’s definitely areas where we’ll look at the progress and say to ourselves, “Wow, it’s just horrible that we still haven’t done X, Y or Z.” Something that we feel like should be getting done, but it’s not because we’re at the beach.
One of your attributes that you think helps you succeed?
Kerrilynn: I’d say that mine is vision.
Cindy: Kerrilynn always sees things ahead of the game. She’s definitely somebody who is always aware of what’s next and what’s down the pipeline and it’s remarkable.
Kerrilynn: Cindy is a visionary, but I took the word away from her, but I think that Cindy has such a cultivated vision of the brand.
Cindy: I think mine is more about style and aesthetic, which I guess isn’t surprising because I’ve been a stylist for 20 years. It includes the language, the images and how we project in the world. I spend so much time writing. That’s something I think a lot of people should know when they start a company—the language and voice is so important.
From Instagram captions to newsletters to product copy, we do it all ourselves, and I think Kerrilynn and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Three words that describe CAP Beauty:
Kerrilynn: The first word that came to mind was mission driven, but neither of us love that term. I think spirited might be a better word. Aspirational and at the same time inclusive.
Three words that describe you:
Cindy: We came up with each other’s words. I think Kerrilynn’s visionary. She’s exacting, aka sometimes a perfectionist, and an aesthete, she’s got a really, really strong sense of style and aesthetic.
Kerrilynn: Cindy’s analytical. She’s got like a steel trap for a mind, it’s where her Virgo comes out. She’s creative, which I don’t feel like totally does justice to everything that she does. And thoughtful.
Cindy: I would say that Martha Stewart is probably for both of us.
Kerrilynn: It’s not the same aesthetic that we have at CAP, but she built a huge brand out of her lifestyle, which is essentially what we want for CAP. I really love Arianna Huffington. I love how deep she goes with a single topic and doesn’t make any excuses for her obsessive kind of curiosity about single topics.
Cindy: I love Stella McCartney. I love how strong her convictions are how she’s able to put her ethics at the forefront of her company and not bow to any expectations or thoughts about what fashion should be.
What motivates you?
Cindy: Sharing our mission. Knowing that the products work, knowing that the mission is proven and strong and makes people feel good. It gets us up every morning even when we’re tired.
Kerrilynn: There are two things I love the most. One is when I’m packing a bag for someone who is going home with a bunch of beautiful products that are all for self-care. It just feels so good. They are leaving with CAP with things that are enhancing their health, enhancing their day, enhancing their rituals.
It’s also really amazing to see the store filled with people who come to hear our different events.
Then seeing people just get hooked on the stuff and really start to see changes within themselves is …
Cindy: Oh it’s amazing. I think a lot of people think of natural beauty as something that’s a compromise where it’s like, well, it might not be as effective, but it’s healthier for me, so I’ll use it. But it works so well. It’s amazing how radiant your skin looks when you put all this really nutrient-dense, pure, beautiful stuff on your skin. When you start doing the same to your inside, it’s an amazing discovery and it’s fun to see people jump on board with that.
How hard would you say you guys work and how do you keep focused?
Kerrilynn: I don’t really know what it’s like to not work hard. I’m not saying I’m like a martyr it’s just our life is so inexplicably tied with what we do that I don’t know what the boundaries are.
Cindy: It’s also a joy to work on the stuff that’s your own brand and your own company and something you believe so strongly in. I don’t think it’s hard to stay focused. That’s where it’s great to have a partner and we just pull each other along.
Kerrilynn: One more thing about focus. The whole mission of our company is about taking care of ourselves, and we feel like we have to actually live the lifestyle and we want to be living that lifestyle. Things like exercise and meditation really helps. Sometimes in the middle of the day it works to go to a yoga class and come back and have a productive afternoon.
Best career advice you’ve received, and would give to new people starting out in the business:
Kerrilynn: Make sure you love, love, love what you’re doing before you go into it. A lot of people think opening a store is fun and there are fun things about it, but it is not a wildly glamorous job when you get down to it. If it’s something that you don’t love with every cell of your being, it’ll be really hard.
Cindy: I think similarly, you have to have a good reason for doing it. I think that having a mission behind the company makes every decision easier, because it’s either on mission or it’s not.
In our case, the mission is simply to get more people using healthier products and more people on to this lifestyle that is beneficial in every way. It’s literally one of the first things we did when we came together and decided to form CAP. We wrote a manifesto. It has a number of points about how we wanted to be in the world and what the company was here for and how we would operate.
What’s next for CAP Beauty?
Cindy: We have a lot of things in the pipeline. We have a book coming out, which we’re writing now about lifestyle and natural beauty.
Kerrilynn: We’re opening in LA in the next year.
Cindy: And our private label line is launching in fall.
Cindy: We want to have a grocery store.
Kerrilynn: We’re both so lifestyle-driven that creating beauty all around us is really the goal, in every sense that word. To get to that point where we’re able to be philanthropic ourselves and use CAP as a larger platform to spread that message. Spread not even the message, but spread money. We’d love to invest in other companies.
Cindy: Meditate, eat well….
Kerrilynn: Sleep enough….
Cindy: Sleep enough. Drink herbs….
Kerrilynn: Spend time with loved ones….
Cindy: Yeah. Exercise.
Favorite inspirational/motivational read:
Kerrilynn: I’m really into Pema Chödrön right now. I feel like I always go back to her. I’m reading her book, When Things Fall Apart, again. She’s a Buddhist nun who studied with Rinpoche. She has the most perfect, succinct way of helping you understand larger concepts that have day to day, mundane applications. Her writing is so simple and so profound.
Cindy: I feel like Kris Carr’s book Crazy Sexy Diet was really changing for both Kerrilynn and I. Carr is living with cancer, but she was able to radically change the course of her life by adopting healthy habits and that ranged from how she eats to how she practices gratitude and everything else. She’s cute and smart and very funny and accessible. We don’t use the word holistic a lot, but it is really what we’re doing, Her book is a great introduction for a lot of people to a more wellness-driven lifestyle, and she’s got such humor and such an incredible story.
Cindy: We have a lot of them which are maybe more in line with daily goals: exercise, meditation, a really deep cleanse of my skin, exercise, hanging out with my dog. I make a smoothie every morning that’s filled with all the different herbs and powders and potions that I like to take. Waking up a little early before my family and having a little bit of time by myself I think is really nice.
Kerrilynn: I try to have some rituals at home with my kids as well, like reading to them and spending time with them in the evenings before getting them to bed.
Cindy: We get asked a lot about balance, and how do you find the balance. Kerrilynn was saying that almost a better concept for most people is consistency. Anything you do repeatedly even in a small amount is better than things that you drop in and out of radically.
How do you unplug?
Cindy: When you’re on the yoga mat, you’re not checking for email. When you’re running, you’re not checking your email. I try to purposefully not keep the phone near me when I’m hanging out with my kids.
Kerrilynn: Leaving your phone in the other room.
Cindy: Making your husband issue an after nine p.m. phone ban. I don’t check my phone around my husband so much anymore. I try to be conscious of that. It’s a work in progress.
Any hidden talents or hobbies?
Kerrilynn: I love the needle point and knitting.
Cindy: I wish I could say ‘I can tie a cherry stem with my tongue’ but I can’t. I’m really into reading. I’m really close to the people who own this fantastic bookstore off the street from us called Three Lives. Reading is a big passion of mine and is something that brings me a lot of joy.
Kerrilynn: We’re both good at cooking.
Cindy: We really love cooking. Oh, I make really good chocolate.
Kerrilynn: She also can tie a bow like no other.
Cindy: That’s true I can tie perfect bow and that’s the years of prop styling.
Kerrilynn: Yeah, really intimidating to give her a gift.
Cindy: It makes my palm sweat thinking about it. I’m going to pass on that one.
Kerrilynn: Me too.
Cindy: I’ll play spin the bottle, but not truth or dare.
Kerrilynn:We’re such animal lovers I hate to pick one.
Cindy: I know. I’m going to say both.
Follow CAP Beauty: Instagram.