Banker turned beauty guru
Today, more people are trying to be health conscious and cognizant of what they put in and on their body. Shubhangini Prakash is one of those health-conscious people, only she has taken it a step further and launched her own skincare line called Feather & Bone.
Shubhangini (pronounced Shu-bang-a-nee) hales from Dubai, but has pretty much circumnavigated the world–having attended boarding school in England, college in Boston and working in the banking industry in New York.
After the banking crisis, Shubhangini quit her job for what she describes as “a year of of soul searching,” during which she recorded an album and raised money for human trafficking survivors. She then decided to return to school for her MBA at her undergrad alma mater, Babson College in Massachusetts.
After grad school, Shubhangini moved back to New York and resumed her career in banking for two years, before quitting and launching Feather & Bone. She now resides in Jersey City.
I spotted Shubhangini on the new Girlboss platform and was excited to hear about her mission to create a more natural skincare product. Feather & Bone’s signature product is the Face Gem, a dime-size tablet that includes three all-natural ingredients—Indian sandalwood, Fuller’s Earth (clay) and corn starch—that cleanses, exfoliates and moisturizes the skin.
I recently reached out to Shubhangini to learn more about her road to entrepreneurship and what’s next for the new skincare brand.
“I decided that I needed to do something about it to help the everyday girl, woman and lady like me, feel skin confident.”
What motivated you to create Feather and Bone?
The journey for Feather & Bone has been a long one. It all started after I had a bad reaction to a face wash product when I was 12 years old. I went to the doctor and it made it worse, and I got too scared to try anything. Finally, my mum recommended sandalwood and it worked like magic, so I started to research about the skin and what it even meant to have a routine. I learned something so simple yet key–the skin is an organ.
I know it’s something we learn in biology class, but that’s where it stays. Every company, every article talked about products for quick fixes and aesthetics. I get the vanity part because I definitely didn’t feel pretty or confident, but I realized that looking pretty sometimes came in conflict with helping the skin perform its functions. I was putting on all these ingredients…none of it was helping my skin.
I decided to change it. I developed a routine, which was 50 percent product (now called Face Gems) and 50% choices (how I ate, slept, managed stress). When it came to being pretty I decided that the answer was simple, I chose that when I look in the mirror, I see amazing. I didn’t point out the flaws, I didn’t freak out about the acne.
I kept this routine for years, but once I reached my MBA, I noticed the industry was still the same. Yes there was more transparency around ingredients, but there was an overflow of info. I decided that I needed to do something about it to help the everyday girl, woman and lady like me, feel skin confident.
It’s a cool moniker, is their a backstory to how you came up with the name?
It goes back to the AHA that the skin is an organ. We are all just skin and bone so we are Feather & Bone.
Which top 3-5 ingredients should we avoid in our skincare?
- Water: I know its crazy right? Every product has water in it. so it isn’t that water is harmful it is that it is a medium for harmful bacteria, mold, fungi and yeast to grow. If you think about a fruit or a vegetable, which contain water, even after you refrigerate them, they go bad pretty fast. If you notice they aren’t, that means there are preservatives added to help them last longer.
It is similar for skincare–for long shelf lives, they are adding a lot of preservatives. At Feather & Bone we make waterless products to help keep the integrity of the ingredients pure and natural. We don’t use extracts, we use whole ingredients.
- Fragrances: Of course we all want to smell good, but fragrances are mixtures of chemicals. To get complex smells you have to mix many things, and this can cause allergic reactions.
- There are many others, but I know as a consumer there is no way you will be able to pronounce or remember what the ingredients are, so to actually help I will give you the two tips on how to look at ingredients:
- Look at the length of the full ingredient list. If its long, walk away.
- As you scan the list can you pronounce the ingredients, do you understand what they are, do you have clarity why it is included? if not, walk away.
It doesn’t mean that all ingredients are bad, but you don’t eat something you don’t recognize…so why use something you don’t understand? Remember, the skin is an organ. We often forget that, but it is a living breathing thing.
How do you develop and manufacture the product?
I develop my own formulas. I go back to what can I do to help my skin more. What are my skins functions? It’s mainly protection. So what can I do and use that will ultimately help. I spent a lot of time researching the sourcing of the ingredients. It is normal in the industry to partner with a manufacturer and have them do all the sourcing, but I wanted to know where it comes from and test it on myself before going into production.
I work with manufacturers and suppliers that have very strict quality standards. For example, we use sandalwood. There are many types, but the species that has the most potent qualities is the Indian sandalwood. You can only buy it from the Indian government or Australia. When I first launched, I went and met with the government and got special permission because normally the pure powder is forbidden to get exported. We then got it made here in the US.
What is your strategy for growing your business?
We have been doing a lot of trade shows, working with influencers and writing guest posts. We also recently have been starting skincare workshops at colleges, high-schools and even companies.
“Every time you fail you learn something and it isn’t a bad thing. The more you fail, the more you learn. Learn to build mental strength and know that it takes time.”
What challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur?
Personally, it is a very lonely and emotional ride. It has taken some time to build the mental strength to keep fighting. Of course, you have the business challenges of limited funding and lack of visibility. But you need to take it one day at a time, accept the process and learn to love the process.
Have you had any challenges as a woman of color while building your business, if so, how did you address it?
Yes of course. I constantly get undermined and questioned on my ability. It is very hard to get funding or get even the simplest help. I decided that it just wasn’t going to be a factor. Those who feel that way, just aren’t right for me, but there are so many people that are.
What advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
Know that it is hard. Know that anyone saying it is not is lying. Know that every time you fail you learn something and it isn’t a bad thing. The more you fail, the more you learn. Learn to build mental strength and know that it takes time. You need to build your voice and your community before you get the cash. Have a purpose for why you are doing it outside of making money. Always ask why you?
What is your favorite quote?
Oh so many! “Don’t make emotional decisions. You want to act, not react.”
What’s next for you and your brand, is there a new product on the horizon?
Yes, we are working on launching two more waterless pure products this year. We really want to push our education around skincare, so we will be focusing heavily on one-on-ones at high schools, colleges and companies. We are all on the go and our skin is with us all day.
Skincare doesnt need to be complicated, expensive or filled with steps. It is simple choices and we are here to help you. As women we constantly give, we give to our children, work, friends and lovers, but give little to us. Giving is what makes us amazing and strong, so for the little time you give to you, we want to give you the best ingredients and tips so you can keep giving and being skin confident.
For more information on Shubhangini and her skincare line, visit featherandboneco.com.