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.