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The Indeed Labs CEO Giving Us an Access All Areas Pass to the Beauty Industry

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Main image – Indeed Labs

Mother, mentor and CEO are three ways to describe Dimitra Davidson, founder and CEO of Indeed Labs. Honest, hands-on and a really good listener are three more. 

As soon as you start speaking to her, you can’t help but admire her transparency when it comes to the beauty industry and how passionate she is about involving the consumer in everything she does. Product formulations included. 

Whether she realises it or not, Davidson seems to have a natural flare for generously throwing open the doors for both consumers and beauty entrepreneurs so that everyone can get a behind the scenes feel for what it’s like to be the founder of one of the industry’s most successful beauty brands. 

Here, she describes just how hands-on she really is (clue: very) and she also shares how Indeed Labs began (as well as exciting news on their latest launches), gives her honest views on the beauty industry today and her entrepreneurial tips on how to make it big in beauty. Prepare to be inspired. 

 


How Indeed Labs began

With a background in finance and luxury goods, as well as corporate sales for Tiffany and Company Canada, you could say Davidson understands branding. But she didn’t always want to be in the spotlight. 

“There were many years of me not wanting to be in front of the brand,” she says. “But now I think people are demanding to know who’s driving the brand.”

 

Dimitra Davidson. Image – Indeed Labs

 

Before Indeed Labs’ launch in 2010, Davidson met the late Brandon Truaxe who was the founder of skincare brands Deciem and The Ordinary. “Brandon and I became partners. We had a couple of silent partners as well, but it was Brandan’s idea to launch in the skincare industry and disrupt the industry, because it had been dominated for so many years by the same brands,” she explains. 

“And that really started this concept of affordable skincare with active ingredients and educating the consumer on what those actives were at the levels that were going to actually give you results.”

At this time, Davidson was a young mum with some melasma and hyperpigmentation. “I had gone to a dermatologist, he had prescribed hydroquinone and I was too afraid to use it after doing my research,” she says.  

“When you think back 16 years, people were not thinking that way. They would just say, “oh it’s a doctor. I guess it must be safe,” and I’ve never been that person – I’ve always peeled back.” As it turns out, Truaxe, who was working for one of the big skincare brands at the time, was thinking on the same wavelength.

“He was saying, ‘I’ve been looking at their back end and I’m thinking we need to disrupt this industry. Will you support me?’ And that’s how the brand launched itself in the industry.”

Indeed Labs was officially born in 2010. “We launched with Nano Blur which has had a resurgence of popularity over and over again,” she explains.

 

Image – Indeed Labs

 

“I think the brand has always cemented itself in the industry as one that really brings effective products to market.  The philosophy has always been really high-quality formulas, best and world class actives, the most recent in technology, clinically backed formulas that are created within our own lab.”

Davidson has built a good team too. “Our team is growing and we’ve added another chemist with a deep understanding of the science of skin and skincare.”

She continues, “there is a whole working machine back here. And to be honest, we control everything from the inception of the concept, right through to creating all of our own marketing campaigns.”

 


Standing out from the crowd

Davidson says there are a couple of things that Indeed Labs does differently that other brands in the market don’t. “We own our own lab and our own formulas, right down to sustainability,” she says. 

And sustainability is key here. “My answer to sustainability is one in one out. I don’t launch products unless I feel like I can take something out of the market if it didn’t work, or if I can’t bring something to market with a point of difference. And a point of difference can mean so many different things. It could be a product that’s built around a formula, or an active ingredient and we put other actives in to provide multiple benefits or to complement that active.”

 

Image – Indeed Labs

 

And you don’t see the discontinuation of many favourite products with this brand either – hallelujah! “One of my pet peeves is when I love a product and then it’s gone,” Davidson says. I couldn’t agree more! She adds that one of Indeed Labs’ values is that it should be less about getting rid of products completely, and more about giving them a reboot. 

“If we can upgrade the formula and make it better because we want to always have the latest innovation in the market, you’ll see our upgrade, which is sometimes why you’ll see the number two beside our products, which is an upgraded formula.

“Now we’re getting into number threes already. We’re starting to think about that for some of our other products, because we’re going to reformulate those as well. So as soon as you need to see new technology coming to the market, we will upgrade our formula so that we are always bringing the latest and the greatest to the consumer.”

 


Involving the consumer

Davidson explains that it’s the consumers who make her job so enjoyable. “I get so inspired by them. Every time I talk to somebody the wheels are in motion, like I should have a notepad to be writing things down because they inspire me so much to do better,” she says.

Indeed Labs products are sometimes even born or reformulated through Davidson interacting with her consumers. “The idea of the deep bronzing drops came from a frank conversation that I had at an influencer event we brought to Toronto,” Davidson explains. 

She tells me that a few of the participants gave her some feedback on the formulation of Nano Bronze and that it wasn’t working on their skin tone. “And I go, ‘oh my God you’re right.”

 

Image – Indeed Labs

 

So she asked them to tell her where she was going wrong, how they would like to be able to wear it and even if they could help her with the formulation so she could get it right. “And they were all for it and that’s such a good example of ‘let’s get excited about this together. There’s a lot of learning that happens all the time in my business.”

It seems it’s the norm for Davidson to stay hands-on with the brand at all times and people often comment on how visible she is, at every level of the business. 

“For example, I just flew down to Miami last week. I walked around Miami for the entire day. I think I did like 40,000 steps or something, went to 13 or 14 different CVS stores to find the products myself,” she explains. 

“I was in my sweats, not presentable at all, just speaking to store managers and beauty advisors and they were in shock that I was at the stores.  They’re like, “wait, what, this is your brand. Why are you here?” And I’m like, “because these are my babies and I want to see them and to talk to you guys. I want to know what you think of them.” 

And when I say hands-on, sometimes it’s literally. “I’ve had times where I’ve been redesigning my packaging and being in a store taking the old packages off the shelf and putting the new ones on and waiting for consumers to go by and ask, ‘does this look good to you?’” she says. 

 

Image – Indeed Labs

 

Talk about involving yourself in all aspects of your business! But Davidson isn’t cocky with it. “I walk around saying to everybody all the time, ‘I am not smarter than you guys. I’ve just been doing this so much longer.’ I’m older than everybody in the room half the time. I’m not smarter, I’m just experienced.”

So how does she feel about the beauty industry right now? “Look, I’m not going to lie, it is very complicated,” she says. She describes it as somewhere between food and fashion.

“I compare it to the food industry because we have expiry dates, so the clock is ticking. I compare it to fashion because it’s very much driven by trends and innovation and you need to be current and cool and you need to be trying to get ahead.

So, the complicated nuances in our business are ridiculous to say the least and the pressures are enormous.” I can’t be the only one in awe of her refreshing honesty…

 


From CEO to mentor

As if being the founder of a hugely successful skincare brand isn’t enough, Davidson also enjoys speaking as a mentor to young entrepreneurs and younger brand owners. 

“A lot of my job now is more speaking about consumerism and how we can connect with this ever-changing world because it’s not going to be the same anymore,” she explains.

“And I really do consider myself a change maker because I don’t like to be stale. I don’t like to be stagnant. I’m constantly learning. I feel that’s the only way that I can operate.”

She’s particularly passionate about being inclusive in her mentoring. “Recently, I came to the UK to pitch a big retailer,” she says. “My 17-year-old daughter came with me to present the part of my presentation that spoke to her generation about why they are so intrigued and why they are so driven to spend every bit of their mom’s money.”

 

Image – Indeed Labs

 

When her daughter asked what she should say in the presentation, Davidson replied, “Just say whatever you think you need to say because we want to hear from you guys. That’s all we care about.” 

She also suggests that listening to their target consumers is the reason Indeed Labs is so successful. “We just need to have more transparency into our environment. Not every brand does it the way that we do it, clearly,” she says.

Perhaps another reason for Davidson’s success is her confidence and passion to empower other female founders to also be the change. “Throughout my career, I would have people say to me, ‘do you think you should get so dressed up when you go to meetings? Maybe people are going to misinterpret it’ and I always said, ‘this is who I am. This is what I do,’” she explains. 

“I don’t know why we have to tell people what to wear. You know, just be yourself. And that’s where I feel like mentorship means more to me than just imparting some type of business strategy. 

To me, mentorship means having the confidence to understand that if you’re following your dream and not running over people while you do it in a thoughtful way, then you’re going to get ahead eventually.” 

 


Inspiring other entrepreneurs 

And speaking of mentoring, which words of wisdom would she give to the next generation of up and coming business owners?  “You’re gonna have bad days. I mean, that’s just the way it goes. You’re not always gonna wake up and feel great,” she says. 

“Sometimes you just feel defeated, defeated, defeated, defeated all the time. So just have a realistic expectation in your day to day but knowing what your ultimate goals are.

“When I mentor people I always try to guide them in the understanding of what is your ultimate result here, what are you looking for? And you know, motivation comes in many different forms and different people are motivated by different things. So whether you see yourself up there accepting an award, or maybe you want to save money to buy your first house, what is it that gets you out of bed and excited every day? And whatever that is just keep focusing on it, because that’s exactly how I’ve run my life.”

 

Image – Indeed Labs

 

Being upfront and honest is another of Davidson’s many attributes and she advises keeping your team in the loop wherever you can.  

“We have a 9.30 call every morning and I give my team every insight possible to help them do their jobs properly and I don’t withhold anything,” she says.  

And being a good team leader and supporting your staff is important too. “Just being recognised as a business leader is important to me. And it helps for me to be able to empower my team,” she explains. “For my senior vice president Magdalena and my general manager Melanie who’s been with me for 15 years, a win for me is a win for them because obviously I recognise my team.”

 


‘Real’ beauty from the start

Davidson’s joy for mentoring has obviously been inspired by her brand values and approach to business. She explains that Indeed Labs were ahead of the game when it came to wanting to use ‘raw’ beauty to market the brand.

“The name Indeed means in truth or in fact. If you can think back to 16 years ago, nobody was talking to consumers the way that we were. 

We wanted real people, we wanted real results, we had images of real people. Now that’s obviously very much our world today, but it was a very big movement at the time.”

 

Image – Indeed Labs

 

She goes on to say that it was once a rarity to see someone with a camera on the street (remember those times?) meaning that raw, natural beauty in marketing was lacking. “Everyone had such a hard time bridging that gap between how a real person is supposed to look and the expectations of marketing and ad campaigns,” she explains.

“But now, the rawer and the purer you are, the more natural it is. And thank goodness for this social media movement where everybody became a content creator. 

We were the brand that was going to connect with consumers everywhere. And now people are so easy and have an ease in front of the camera. This is great for us because we can showcase our community, which we did anyway from the beginning. We were always that brand.”

 


Latest launches…

Keep an eye out for the Indeed Labs Nano Set, which launched in March. “It’s a blurring setting spray, because a lot of people are confused about how and when to use Nano Blur,” she says.  “So you can still use Nano Blur maybe at the initial stages, but then blur and set at the end.”

And it looks like it’ll be a big success. “We recently did a little Tiktok video to showcase and highlight the efficacy of the product.” Davidson explains. 

“We took an egg and coated it with our Nano Bronze or bronzing drops and we put that egg into water, without Nano Set. Of course it dissipated and it came off.  With the Nano Set it was intact after putting it in water.” Impressive!

 

Image – Indeed Labs

 

“It has gotten quite a bit of traction because there’s that strong visual to showcase wildly how effective it is.” So what makes it different from other setting sprays? “A lot of setting sprays have alcohol and there’s no alcohol in Nano Set,” she explains. 

It also contains ectoin, an ingredient that reduces water loss. “Setting sprays are often drying so we have used ectoin, which is a new and trending ingredient.”

Also recently-launched is Davidson’s new acne brand, Phin.  “There’s nothing like it in the world,” she explains. Tell us more! 

“It’s the only microbiome certified clinically proven acne system. It’s been through three rounds of clinical dermatologist tests and is proven to clear up acne or to treat acne without using harsh ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid and without breaking down your skin’s microbiome.” 

Well, if Indeed Labs is anything to go by, we can’t wait to get our hands on this.

 


The takeaway

Davidson’s ability to show up for her consumers as well as understand and listen to what they need is nothing short of impressive. She is proof that even the boss of a huge beauty brand like Indeed Labs can’t afford to be aloof, neither with her team or the people buying her products.

She is clearly totally immersed in what she does, whether that’s mentoring a group of aspiring entrepreneurs or launching her next big product innovation. She seems to be constantly striving to help make the beauty industry a more transparent place and right at the core of this is an inspiring work ethic.

“When I started out, I worked three jobs, I put myself through school, I didn’t have the privilege of anyone paying for my university degree, I just wanted to do well. I don’t know what drove me but that’s how I always was,” she says. 

With exciting new launches on the horizon, an established beauty brand known around the world and a flying mentoring career, I think it’s fair to say, the hard work is paying off. 

 

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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University
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