When PLDT Enterprise hosted its first ever virtual Philippine Digital Convention (DigiCon 2020) recently, they invited Oscar Best Actress winner and beauty tech mogul Gwyneth Paltrow to share the story behind her highly successful company goop.
In the one-hour interview with PLDT-Smart FVP and Head of Corporate Communications Cathy Yap-Yang, Paltrow spoke to more than 3,000 subscribed viewers, recalling the hardships of starting the business in 2008 and the challenge of heeding a “calling” that she’s always acknowledged since she was young.
As CEO of a leading contextual e-commerce platform for ‘clean’ beauty, wellness, and healthy lifestyle products, Paltrow admits jumping into entrepreneurship and starting her brand wasn’t really an expected move for her kind of Hollywood stature. But she always had the inclination towards the prospects of being a businesswoman. “I just always was very intrigued by business and the kind of chess game of business. I grew up in New York City and so many of my friends’ fathers were these big businessmen and running private equity and running these big investment banks and I was just fascinated by it," she candidly shared.
"When I got the nerve to ask them questions at the dinner table, I was always fascinated by the answers. But of course I became an actress and I thought this is great too but I really always secretly wanted to be in business."
Having earned her success early in a totally different world, she remembered how she questioned herself in the beginning of her business journey. “I'm an actress people are going to make fun of this or not going to understand why I'm doing this. I had a lot of trepidation about it and it took me a long time to do a bit.”
She fought the thoughts for a while. “I just kept following it like I was holding on to the tail of a kite and it was just pulling me towards the business.”
Her desire to start a business finally convinced her to press that “send” button which most start-ups find hard to get past. It was in 2008 when she finally took the plunge and humbly introduced goop, a simple newsletter focusing on 'nutritional' content for the body and mind.
goop’s first few years was primarily building a community and getting the credibility of the digital brand in the space of contextual commerce rather than just an upfront transactional e-commerce platform.
“That time I was building this amazing following and that is how contextual commerce really starts. That you have people who really believe you, believe what you're talking about, are aligned with your values, are very explicit about what those values are, why you're offering certain things you’re offering. If we were writing an article about something and we said here are all the products that we love it became almost a service to the customer as opposed to leaving with a transactional frame of mind and so I think that's why it works so well.”
In 2012, just barely four years after it started, goop raked in over 400,000 subscribers growing to more than 8 million subscribers today and one of the most trusted and go-to sites for beauty and wellness.
Gwyneth recalled how technology was really a challenge in the beginning. They deployed unreliable e-commerce platforms, added on widgets they didn’t really need, hired people who didn’t really have a sense of what they were going for as a company.
“It’s such a steep learning curve for me and I have learned on the job. I have made so many mistakes, have wasted millions of dollars. I look back and think ‘my God’ I wish I had known X, Y, & Z before I had made this mistake or that mistake,” said the Hollywood star.
She’s grateful to the team she continues to work with, recognizing their value in the company’s growth. “But I think I've come to the place where I'm very philosophical about it and I'm proud of myself for taking the risk. I'm proud of myself for all of our failures because we'd learned so much in the process. I can only expect to be as good of a leader as I am today, as long as I being very accountable with myself and how I operate and have a very honest relationship with my team I can only be as good as I am today so kind of the way I would be looking forward as well.”
Having grown its market in the US, Canada, and Europe, Paltrow revealed how goop is already looking at tapping the Asian market and Australia – a welcome move for most women and the growing health and ‘clean’ conscious consumers for wellness products.
“Having the courage to do it and to keep doing it in the face of people criticizing us or trying to poke holes in what we are doing and to just staying in the course and really keeping the bull's eye in our sight and knowing why we’re doing this because we really wanted to show women that they can be whatever it is they want to be, they have the right to ask questions about whatever aspect of their life if they want. Every woman deserves agency, she deserves to feel powerful so we just kept going.”
Goop may have have been managed by former CEOs before but Paltrow is now at the helm of her media company. Despite her limited knowledge on how to build a media brand or challenged with navigating the technological know-how of an e-commerce platform when she started, she’s confidently taken the challenge full-on.
“I need to fully embrace the idea that I know how to do this so I kind of just took the leap. I think it was the right decision for the company. I don't know that I'm the appropriate person to stay CEO for the rest of the trajectory,” she shared.
“I know my journey in this role will come to an end that will evolve into something else but I just know that my priorities are what’s best for the business and I think right now I'm probably the best person for the job.”