Meet Juice Beauty's Karen Behnke, a 2019 North Bay Women in Business winner
North Bay Business Journal asked 2019 Women in Business Awards winner Karen Behnke to fill us in on her background, responsibilities and community involvement, and insights into what makes her a notable professional in the region.
Tell us about yourself and your company: Karen Behnke has enjoyed a long and successful entrepreneurial career in the Healthy Lifestyles sector of business. Her consistent goal is to equally marry her passion for helping people enjoy healthier lifestyles with her skill at building financially successful businesses that are mission driven.
Juice Beauty started when Karen developed a keen interest in personal care products upon becoming pregnant with her first child at the age of 40. She was astounded to learn that, although the skin can absorb up to 60% of what is placed on it, there were very few available healthy personal care products that worked well. Karen subsequently bought the name “Juice Beauty” and launched the Company.
Juice Beauty's skincare and makeup products retail at Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's, Dillard's Belk, ULTA Beauty's 1100 stores, Credo, and Sephora Canada.
Prior to Juice Beauty, from 1996-2003, Karen led the healthy lifestyles investment strategy for two private equity firms, including a firm that was the majority shareholder of 24 Hour Fitness. Karen joined the board of directors and was an operating executive for 24 Hour Fitness, during a seven-year growth period, from $75 mm to over $1 billion in revenue.
From 1983-1996, Karen founded PacifiCare Wellness Company (formerly known as Execu-Fit Health Programs) in San Francisco, one of the first corporate wellness companies in the country. The company delivered work site medical fitness screenings, health risk appraisals, and fitness programs, for major corporations. The Wellness Company grew to provide services to over 2 million members in six states. Karen sold the company to PacifiCare Health Systems (now United Healthcare) in 1991 becoming the parent company's second female executive during a 5-year growth phase from $1 to $5 billion in revenue.
Karen completed Harvard/MIT's multi-year Executive Business Summer School “Giants” program; graduated from Western Michigan University, and has received many awards throughout her career including (2018) Goldman Sachs 100 Most Innovative Entrepreneurs; (2011) Woman Entrepreneur of the Year; the “Top Eco-Leader” named by Glamour Magazine (2009); San Francisco Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award (1987); the San Francisco Examiner's Top 39 Movers and Shakers under the age of 39; and the WMU Distinguished Alumni Award. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, cardiologist Howard Luria, and their very active son and daughter (and Labradoodle). For relaxation and fun, Karen and Howard participate in triathlons.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?
We were so thrilled to be featured at EWG's annual Earth Day dinner (April 2019) recognizing our contribution to environmentalism and wellness in the consumers products beauty world! And Goldman Sachs honored me as one of the most 100 Innovative Entrepreneurs in the country (Oct 2018).
What is the achievement you are most proud of?
After having an amazing husband, son and daughter…my serial wellness entrepreneurial career with Juice Beauty being my favorite accomplishment!
What is your biggest challenge today?
I know this will sound odd but as an entrepreneur, I don't view challenges as challenges…I view them as temporary obstacles that need to be overcome.
Words that best describe you:Determined, mission and values driven. Passionate about my causes of wellness, environmentalism and organic beauty.
As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
In the 1980's it was funding and blatant sexism. Banks would state that they wouldn't fund female-run businesses because women get married and stop working. Banks would literally ask you to have your husband sign for your loans. Of course fast forward and banks can't say those things anymore….hopefully they are truly acting in an egalitarian manner.
Fast forward to 2005 – 2019: Juice Beauty's years---funding was not a challenge as I had already built a successful business and raising money was not a challenge because I put my own money up first. It has been a challenge getting our “Beyond Green/Clean/Natural….to Authentically Organic” message out there. We compete with the huge companies every day as well as a new beauty company that pops up every week! Beauty is a crowded market!
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?
More consumer awareness on the toxic ingredients that are used in conventional chemical beauty and personal care products.
Who was your most important mentor?
You know, I learn the most from my family every day. My husband is the voice of reason that always supports me in business. Both our son and daughter think about Juice Beauty and provide sage advice all the time. They continually keep me up to date on new social media techniques or internet apps and more.
What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?
Follow your passion and become more resourceful and work harder and smarter than the person next to you!
Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Oprah
Typical day at the office: In Juice Beauty's beautiful sustainable headquarters in San Rafael, a day might include product development and marketing meetings mixed with urgent issues that come up, too many emails, a walk to the Whole Foods salad bar all with the background of the sounds of Juice Beauty which include dogs barking and music blaring!
Best place to work outside of your office: Juice Beauty's farm in Healdsburg, Sonoma County.
Current reading: I just started “The Choice” by Dr. Edith Eva Eger, recommended by my dear friend Suzanne Somers.
Most want to meet: Oprah
Social media you most use: Facebook and Instagram equally
Stress relievers: As a long term triathlete, I run, bike or swim for an hour six days/week almost every week plus one day of yoga. I literally could not control my energy if I didn't exercise daily.
Favorite hobbies: Fitness, friends and I love, love, love designing and remodel projects!!
Parents or significant others would say about you: Determined, passionate about environmentalism, wellness and organic beauty and probably too protective of my adult children!
Is there something we didn't ask that you would like to add? Thank you to may amazing Juice Beauty team and thank YOU for taking the time to honor women!!