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Meet Alli Reed of Stratia in Pasadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alli Reed.

Alli, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I wanted to be a scientist starting in elementary school and studied chemistry in college, but, in typical millennial fashion, went into totally unrelated fields after I graduated. A few years ago, I was working in advertising and missing “lab time”, which was always my favorite part of chemistry.

I was also getting very into skincare as a hobby, and happened to stumble across this extremely niche community online of people who made their own skincare in a scientific way (less “mush up an avocado and put it on your face” and more “here’s where to buy propylene glycol by the ounce”). I built a little disassembling lab in my kitchen and had a blast coming up with formulas and trying them out.

I ran The Acid Queen Blog at the time, sharing my thoughts and reviews on skincare, and posted a few of my favorite recipes. People seemed to like them, and I was really proud of a couple of formulas in particular (they’re now Liquid Gold and Rewind). I decided to launch Stratia as a little side project, expecting to just fulfill a few orders on the weekends.

Stratia took off by word of mouth, and within the year, I had to quit my job and go full-time with Stratia just to keep up with demand. We’ve now grown to a full-time staff of four and a dedicated office/lab space in Pasadena.

Congratulations on all the success with Stratia! It’s inspiring to see something grow from a blog and side-hustle to a full-time business with staff. Has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
To me, there are three essential steps to entrepreneurship:

1. Try something new and screw it up royally.

2. Through that mistake, learn the right way to do it.

3. Repeat daily.

While I have a background in chemistry, I definitely do not have a background in manufacturing, so I’ve had to learn how to scale our production on the fly. This is also the first time I’ve ever been The Boss, so everything involved in that – payroll, HR, operations, keeping toilet paper in stock – is a lot to juggle.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Stratia – what should we know?
Stratia makes simple, effective products backed by research. I have a few guiding principles when developing new products:

1. Only ingredients that serve a purpose. It can be tempting to add the fancy new emulsifier that turns a cream into a serum when you rub it in or an artificial fragrance that smells like mangoes, or whatever, but if it doesn’t serve a purpose in making the product as effective as possible, I don’t include it. This also means avoiding common irritants like essential oils and alcohol.

2. Only make it if it doesn’t exist on the market yet. I’ll probably never make a glycolic acid toner because there are several well-formulated and affordable glycolic acid toners already on the market. It either has to be a brand-new idea or an established idea at a brand-new price point.

3. Formulation informs marketing, not the other way around. In most skincare companies, the marketing team tells the formulators what to make. They’ll say CBD is a hot new ingredient so make something with that, or that they have an upcoming summer campaign so include an ingredient they can technically help with sun damage – it doesn’t matter if it actually helps, it just matters that they can make the marketing claim. Stratia flips the script by formulating first. I research for weeks, then come up with a general idea for a formula, tweak and hone it for months (or years), then figure out a way to market it. Formulation always comes first.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Transparency. Tell people what’s in the products and why you put it there. Show people how it’s made. Share the inner workings of the company with employees and make them a part of the process. The free flow of information can only make us stronger.

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