- The Founder and CEO of LA based skincare match making company Kura Skin on how she stays fit, healthy and sane whilst working from home
- Her passion for Prep for Prep, an ethical leadership programme for the women of tomorrow
- How Kura Skin grew 300% during 2020
Katrina Moreno Lewis is the Founder and CEO of Kura Skin, a company on a mission to take the guesswork out of skincare. Katrina talks to 35 Thousand about how she balances work from home life, what she does to stay fit, and shares her tips on how to get a sound night’s sleep as a busy business woman.
Tell us about your work
“I run Kura Skin, a company on a mission to take the guesswork out of skin care. You can think of Kura as a clean skincare matchmaker: through a simple quiz and smart algorithm, we pair individuals with the best product or complete routine for their individual needs and budget. And with user feedback, those personalized curations are always getting better.”
Do you work in the spare room, a skyscraper or other?
“I work in the spare room and also in clients’ homes here in Denver (I’m vaccinated!). Like many people these days, I’m working from home. My dining table has become my office and as far as workaround setups go it’s working out pretty well. I have lots of light, a good cross-breeze, and a nice view of a big, beautiful tree outside my window.”
What parts of your work give you energy?
“I love reading new reviews. I’ve put an incredible amount of thought and love into this service and it feels amazing to see that we’re consistently delivering such significant results for our customers. We’ve had a three-star review only once, some 4’s and mostly 5’s otherwise. I’m incredibly proud of that.”
What parts of your work drain you?
“If you met me you probably wouldn’t notice, but I’m seriously introverted. So while I love meet-and-greets and sharing Kura’s story, I often feel like I need a nap afterward.”
Most pivotal point of your career so far?
“It’s absolutely the decision to pursue this business full-time. Prior to starting Kura I was living in San Francisco and worked on brand strategy for a number of tech companies. As a result, I was always studying how great brands were creating customer experiences that were smarter, simpler and more personal. I’m sure that foundation planted the seed for Kura Skin, but making the leap from fuzzy idea to full-time gig was exhilarating and terrifying. I’m not sure I’d recommend entrepreneurship as it’s punishing. But I’m proud of myself that I took the plunge, and I love that we’ve been able to build a business our customers love.”
Best piece of advice you received that you now pass on to others…
“In graduate school, a fellow student said, “Nothing in life is too hard” and that statement has stuck with me for years. Of course, there are lots of things that I can’t do and may never be able to do. But this attitude has led me to take big chances because I believe that most things are possible if you trust your gut. You’ll get a lot of advice-mostly unsolicited. But at the end of the day, you know your business better than anyone.”
What’s your context outside of work?
“I live with my husband in Los Angeles. During the week we both really grind and don’t have much downtime. But on a normal weekend we enjoy entertaining, surfing, and what we’ve dubbed a “sip and stroll,” which is a long walk with a Nalgene full of wine. As for hobbies, friends like to joke that we’ve swapped traditional gender roles; my husband’s an excellent cook and I’m extremely handy. I love my tools and tinkering and fixing. I look forward to the day when I’ll have more time for that.
When it comes to outside commitments there’s an organization that’s close to my heart because I was lucky enough to be a part of it when I was a kid. It’s called Prep for Prep. It seeks out high-achieving, low-income students of color from around NYC and supports them through academic advancement. Their goal is to create a more ethical and effective pool of leaders that reflects the true diversity of our society. They’re an amazing organization and it’s a privilege to be able to come full circle and support their cause.”
Describe your pre-pandemic day-to-day…
“The broad strokes, my pre-pandemic day actually looked pretty similar to my average pandemic day. That’s because running this business has always been all-encompassing, so while some settings have changed, the wearing of many hats and always-on approach has been pretty consistent.”
How has your daily life changed since the pandemic, what’s your new normal?
“Work from home hasn’t been everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s been a really lovely change of pace for my husband and I. Pre-pandemic, we’d hardly see each other during the week. But now we can actually have dinner together. It’s been years since we could do that consistently, so that part has been great.”
Has the Corona crisis impacted you personally and professionally? How?
“From a business standpoint, 2020 was a fantastic year. We grew 300% in 2020. I think what drove our success was that people were still looking for expert help with their skincare but the traditional channels were suddenly closed. We offered an online alternative to in-person recommendations but with even greater personalization because we rely on both human judgment and data science. But on a more personal note, I know I’m not alone in saying that the pandemic was very stressful. While we live on the west coast our families are still on the east coast and that physical distance made all the uncertainty around health and safety feel that much more out of our control. It was a year of worry and a bad one for mental health.”
What, if anything, keeps you up at night?
“This is a funny question for me because I’m an awful sleeper. So rather than sharing a mile-long list of what keeps me up I’ll share a few pro tips for getting to sleep: Buy blackout curtains! Sunlight is nice…when you’re already awake. Get a kindle and fill it with stories that allow your mind to wander. Pro tip: keep a book on there that actually puts you to sleep. I prefer highly academic biographies of royalty for this purpose. Finally, keep a set of earplugs at the ready. Mack’s Snore Blockers are my go-to.”
What have been your best coping strategies over the past year? Do you have any objects, routines or tools that you found particularly uplifting? Gin or Gym?
“I am a person that exercises a lot. It’s the best and most reliable stress reliever for me, so I rarely miss a day. Once COVID closed my gym I bought a stationary bike. Not a Peloton, but an old refurb gym bike that was identical to the one at my gym. To say that it’s an eyesore would be an understatement. But it’s, without question, the best purchase I’ve ever made.”
What has kept you sane? And kept your family sane?
“I’m originally from NYC and moved to Los Angeles by way of San Francisco a few years ago. It’s the first time I’ve ever really lived next to the water and it’s just been incredible. A brief walk along the ocean – even if it’s cold or windy or cloudy – completely changes my mood, so I’ve made a point to do it as often as I can.”
Did 2020 change your outlook on life in any way?
“I moved away from NYC when I was 18 and made it my unofficial mission to jump around. But 2020 really had me missing family and home because it was suddenly out of reach. I’m grateful for that in some ways because that brought me closer to my family than I’d been in a long time.”
Are you ready to travel ready? Where do you want to go, with who or would you rather stay home?
“Little known fact: I spent my first year and a half after college living in Seoul and Istanbul. I love traveling and it’s what I’ve missed most this last year. Near-term I’m excited to explore more of the U.S.A, starting with my home state of California and the Pacific Northwest.”
Finish this sentence “If you look in my handbag at any time you will ALWAYS find….”
“Nothing! I’m a phone, credit card, and ID in pockets kind of gal.”
What are your work from home saviours?
“A second monitor has been the biggest help. After that, some very comfy but Zoom-appropriate loungewear. Routines rule my day. These involve a lot of moving around the house with drinks, e.g. work from bed with water to work from dining table with coffee to work from bed with tea or an aperitif. If it was good enough for Churchill then it’s good enough for me.”
Describe your style?
“My style is a combination of LOTS of fitness clothes and BoHo chic when I want to feel like a regular person.”
Name your 5 essential items of clothing:
“I couldn’t live without running leggings with a pocket for a phone, and my 15-year old Patagonia fleece (it only looks 12 years old!). Dark wash jeans, modern tee, and leather jacket for day to day.”
How do you see your business or career in two years from now?
“Who knows for sure, but I think the future is very bright. Today, our system matches customers with such precision that they often stay with us for a long time. That’s a fine place to start. I look forward to building out our inventory with an even wider range of products to allow for more precise tailoring and even better results. We also continue to get lots of notes from customers requesting matching for makeup, hair care, and other personal care products. That could happen further down the line, but we want to focus on the toughest stuff first, and that’s skin care.”
What’s something you haven’t conquered yet but really want to?
“Despite the fact that I grew up on Cape Cod near the ocean, I have a weird fear of water. I have snorkeled a lot, but I would love to conquer my fear and learn to dive. My mind! Or maybe not conquer but calm. I’ve been running this business full speed ahead for a couple of years now and I’m the toughest boss I’ve ever had. I rarely allow myself to take breaks for fear of losing momentum. But I’m fully aware that that’s not very healthy or sustainable. I’m working on it.”
What could you say to your 20 year old self that would help her the most?
“I would tell her to relax and laugh more, allow herself to have more fun, and listen to what her gut tells her. And, don’t worry so much. You’ll be fine.”
Do you have a life motto or mantra that really resonates with you?
“I do not!”
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