If you haven’t heard of Snow Fox Skincare, we got you. When this skincare brand launched in 2017, it was with little marketing, a whole lot of science and yes, a simple sales trick called sampling. Formulated originally for severe rosacea-sufferers, the high-tech formula also helps against redness, environmental irritation, dry patches and hyperpigmention. It’s also 100 percent natural, touting only essential oils and herbal extracts (mainly from Song’s native Australia). With only 3 products at launch (a sheet mask, mousse and cream), and after only 6 months, the brand had earned cult status strictly based on results (Kourtney Kardashian is a fan of the Snow Fox Cooling Sheet Mask). Now in the beauty industry, that is HUGE.
Fast-forward to today and the mama behind it all, Phoebe Song, is changing more than just rosacea-prone skin.
SHOP TALK With Phoebe Song
What was you’re a-ha moment when you decided to start your company, Spa Monkey at age 28?
“I started working on my blog, while still full time in the finance industry. I consider myself a ‘positive realist’, so for me the ‘a-ha’ moment only came when I was getting enough income to launch my first project. The day someone paid me the same amount of salary I was getting, for a placement in my blog – then I knew it was time to go all in.”
What is Spa Monkey?
“As the parent company, Spa Monkey develops and launches new plant-based, wellness and beauty assets like Snow Fox Skincare, Life Biome and the Quality Control platform.
Spa Monkey’s Quality Control started off as a fun, cautionary blog about where to get beauty treatments and what to avoid. It surpassed a million views within months – people started reaching out to us for placements, ads and advice. We turned it into a full-scale quality control platform but realized that it was simply too difficult to enforce without official regulatory measures. It’s still active but serves more like a listing site.
It was also the first project we launched so it’s the first thing that went to the media, hence it’s understandable that people get confused as it has the almost the same name as the parent company! We’ve learned now to name projects clearly!”
Describe the best help you received along the way.
“I did have a group of ‘interested investors’ for a while. The moment I got pregnant, they disappeared. Being a female founder in Asia isn’t easy. Being a pregnant female founder is worse. I did not get any real mentors. I did not raise any funds. I was treated like a crippled race horse. Of course, now we get investment offers, partnership deals and collaborations all the time. It’s such a different story once you’ve risen above storm clouds. I don’t hold any grudges – most people can’t see past an ingrained cultural set of perspectives and it’s their loss.
I’ll have to give advice that I wish I’d received: Resilience is Key. Fight for what you believe in, work your heart out and do it honourably. If things don’t work, adapt to what does. Fall down, bleed, get up and keep going. And never, ever let the bitterness of others be the end of you.”
What was your reason for integrating traditional Chinese medicine with western knowledge of skincare?
“My rosacea was so bad that people were commenting on it in public. I have rosacea subtype II – papulopustular. It’s a skin disorder that causes redness, peeling, swelling and bumps that look like acne, but without comodones so it can’t be extracted. It is medically incurable. I tried all the conventional methods – lasers, peels, antibiotics (oral and topical), facials, fancy products etc. Nothing worked. Some made me worse – especially the oral antibiotics. I ended up ruining my gut health on top of everything. So, turning to alternative health was really an act of desperation. I am living, walking proof that there are alternative natural treatments that work. I’m still not medically “cured” (I agree with scientists and doctors that rosacea is a complex disorder that needs a lot of research), but my skin looks nothing like it used to – to the point where some people are sceptical about my condition until they see my old photos.
Chinese medicine and other traditional medicines have thousands of years of knowledge that we shouldn’t be too narrow minded about, especially when conventional treatments don’t help.”
Snow Fox Skincare has landed on multiple ‘Best Of’ lists for Natural Beauty. What do you think is the appeal, and reason for its success?
“As an indie brand, everything we have today is from honest, genuine feedback from Snow Fox users. We are so fortunate that our products have helped so many people with their skin, and for the fact that we can rely purely on product performance to grow as a company and as a brand. There’s so much “noise” in skincare and beauty today. There are countless gimmicks and ridiculous claims aimed at highlighting insecurities in people. I believe the success of Snow Fox is the consumer’s way of showing the industry that enough is enough – they want something that is clean, potent and kind.”
Why was it important for you to develop a product that is organic and all-natural?
“Sensitive skin is more complex and difficult to manage than most people think. What we’ve found is that many ‘sensitive’ skin products are often watered-down versions of full strength formulas, in order not to ‘trigger’ any problems. It’s hard to find products that are potent and effective without triggering sensitivity.
For potency on sensitive skin, you need extremely high-quality materials – we found that organic, natural plants were the best. Synthetic chemicals like fragrance, dyes and preservatives are not suitable as these are common triggers for irritation. Sensitivity is often caused by a compromised lipid barrier (your skin’s natural barrier & defense). This results in water loss, redness and weakness against external elements such as pollution or harsh chemicals. Exfoliating ingredients like acids and hard scrubs can be even more damaging for skin that’s already got weakened barriers. So, everything we formulate is structured carefully and with sensitive skin in mind.”
Can you share a tough experience that you had to overcome?
“My biggest issue in the past was that I was addicted to my work. My husband and baby barely saw me, and when they did, I was mentally away or on the phone. Finally, he sat me down and explained that everyone was sick and tired of being alienated. We made a deal that we would move closer to my family so they can help out.
Now it’s a lot better. I am healthier, happier and more productive. The company has grown so much more. My husband and I are managing well, and best of all, we get to watch our beautiful baby girl grow up.
I’ve matured a lot as an entrepreneur since as I now understand how extreme I can be. In the past I would work until I physically burned out, going from scattered to hyperfocus phases as a result of my ADD – it was clearly inefficient as I would get sick or be unable to produce good quality creative work. Now I make sure that my body is well rested, my mind clear, so my productivity levels are much higher. I no longer take medication and use natural supplements and nutrition to manage my impulses. Learning how to respect your own limits is a profound moment. It humbles you. It propels you forward.”
How are you able to raise a toddler and a growing business?
“Having a supportive partner and home structure is incredibly important. My current arrangement is a little unique but it’s something that works for me.
When I met my husband, I was a startup and he was a consultant – both irregular earners. After I got pregnant, we agreed that he would take on a steady job while I work on my company as this was the best strategy — especially since we have a child to provide for.
My favourite advice comes from Warren Buffet’s, ‘never test the depth of a river with both feet.’ This was our version of me being the foot in the water, with him firmly planted on land. Thankfully, the teamwork has really paid off – when times were tough we relied on his income, he’s done well at work and now we also reap the fruit of my company’s growth. When it comes to risk, it’s always best to have a strategy that includes a back-up.
My sister also lives with us, so she helps take care of my daughter when I’m on business trips and we have a nanny on most days. When I’m not flying abroad for work, I work in my home office which gives me time to really focus on my daughter.
I work in sprints – 1 to 2 weeks abroad and then 2 weeks at home with my family, where I work from home and focus on being a parent. This is a great system as it allows me to go into ‘hunting’ mode when I travel and back into ‘working parent’ mode at home.”
Has managing a team taught you a few tricks on being a mom to a toddler?
“If you can handle your own team, your design team, the retailer’s sales teams and your production department’s team, a toddler is no issue.”
Favourite spa to date and why?
“The Dolder Spa in Zurich. It’s mainly because a good friend of mine likes to take me there for some much-needed girl time so it’s something we do each year when I go to Switzerland (where my husband’s from). “
Favourite spa treatment and why?
“I soak up a LOT of tension when I’m at work as I’m filled with adrenalin bursts – jumping from one project to the next. My favourite treatment is a Balinese massage as it soothes me and unlocks all the strain in a gentle way. Once in a while I go for acupressure/ lymphatic massage – it’s a Chinese massage that pinpoints certain lymph nodes in your body and ‘unblocks’ them through pressure. It hurts but I feel and look a lot less bloated afterwards.”
You recently created The Life Biome Project, a non-profit organization that provides nutrients with a long shelf life to people living in poverty or disaster zones. Why is this important to you?
“Life Biome is a very unique project. We are in the process of patenting the technology used to preserve ultimate nutrition and bioavailability in our products, which can hold a shelf life of up to 5 years without refrigeration. The high nutrition levels in our products should be able to nourish people in poverty or disaster zones in lightweight, durable and cost-effective ways. Our world is an intense one – we are a species riddled with unnecessary conflict and poverty. We are able to produce enough food to feed everyone, yet world hunger affects millions of people each day. It may not be much in the beginning, but my dream for the Life Biome Project is to be able to deliver nutrition to places that suffer from inaccessibility to consistent food sources.”
PS, give the month of April some love: While it doesn’t get as much hype as Breast Cancer Awareness month (October), or even Movember, April is Rosacea Awareness month. With rosacea affecting over 3 million Canadians, it’s kind of a big thing, especially when sufferers have 5x greater risk of depression. Read more at www.rosaceahelp.ca/
Photos (except product shot) courtesy of Phoebe Song