Welcome to Byrdie's new series, The Hustle. We're profiling diverse, interesting women and woman-aligned folks in the beauty and wellness industries who are usually behind-the-scenes. From the cosmetic chemists formulating your holy-grail serum to CFOs driving the biggest beauty companies forward, these women are the definition of career goals, and they're getting real about the journeys that led them to where they are—the highs, the lows, and everything in between.
Angela Ubias is a name in clean beauty you should know. The Texas State University alum helped grow Texas Beauty Labs (now Goodkind Co.), one of the original clean beauty labs. Throughout the 2010s, Ubias used her top-notch product and business savvy to help the lab develop over 50 brands. And by 2016, her career reached new heights as she became the vice president of special projects. But after spending nearly a decade building other brands, Ubias felt called to create something of her own.
In 2020, she left her position and teamed up with beauty marketing expert Cary Lin to create Common Heir. Together, Ubias and Lin are innovating the beauty industry by reimagining classic products (like their buzzy Vitamin C Serum) in a clean and sustainable way. Ahead, Ubias opens up about her time working behind the scenes in clean beauty, launching Common Heir, and the career lessons she's learned along the way.
You studied communication, media studies, and English in college. What did you initially want to do professionally? What were some of the roles you held after graduating?
Even with those interests, I still had no idea I would wind up in beauty. I'm a huge literature nerd, and so I delved into that, thinking I'd maybe be a professor or something. Then, I began studying communications and media studies. I thought I might do PR or something adjacent to the entertainment industry. I went to Texas State University and Stony Brook University. And while I was in New York, I interned in the city with a couple of media startups and entertainment companies. I realized it was a bit of a "boy's world," and it didn't feel like something I'd want to do long-term. So, it was good to figure that out while I was that young.
And that led me to think that fashion was the lane I wanted to be in. After college, I was a buyer for a couple of years at a boutique in Austin. But, I realized that still wasn't what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted something different. At that point, I was looking for jobs in the Austin area and also thinking about moving out of state. I randomly and fatefully came across a job at one of the original clean beauty manufacturers, Texas Beauty Labs. They were hiring for an entry-level sales position. I applied and went in for an interview. I was so underqualified for the position but somehow managed to win over the founder and CEO. She called me later and offered me the job. And that's how I fell into clean beauty.
You spent seven and a half years with Texas Beauty Labs. Tell me about the various roles you held there.
At the time that I started, there were maybe 9-10 employees. It was a very small company. I quickly fell in love with learning how manufacturing works and how products are made.
I'd say within the first six months of me being there, the CEO and founder very quickly started piling a bunch of things on my plate. She'd ask me to take on different accounts, learn alongside the chemist, and all of those different things. So my trajectory at Texas Beauty Labs was really fast, and I was promoted very quickly within one to two years.
While I was there, we had a very large account come in. I remember the founder giving me a call because, at that point, I built up an excellent reputation for Texas Beauty Labs as being innovative. So the founder gave me a call and asked us to work on a product that we didn't do a lot of at the time. But, something about that call just felt very right. So, I remember going to my CEO and saying, "I know we don't typically make these types of formulas, but I would like to give it a shot." And that wound up helping us scale Texas Beauty Labs. That experience helped us land on INC's top 500 list twice within 18 months.
What are the three biggest career lessons that you learned while at Texas Beauty Labs?
One big thing I learned is there is no substitute for on-the-ground learning. Even if I was traditionally trained for this role, I don't think I would have learned as quickly as I did if I hadn't just rolled up my sleeves and immersed myself in every single area. For example, some days, I was washing dishes and helping to fill products in the back. So there's something to be said for on-the-ground training and learning in that way.
Another thing is it's all about relationship building. At Texas Beauty Labs, I helped build this reputation for really great customer service. As long as you're kind and clear with people, you can always go back to that foundation even if something kind of goes haywire. That vendor, client, or whoever it is will be able to trust you and know it won't lead to a crazy, combative thing. It allows for honest and open lines of communication.
Lastly, it's important to have fun and ask questions. That's why I learned all the things I did. For example, if I had not been annoying and nagging our chemists all the time, I wouldn't know how to put together a rudimentary formula right now.
Was there a specific moment you realized you wanted to venture out and start your beauty brand?
Around year four or five at Texas Beauty Labs, I realized I have a knack for product development. So I started thinking about things I would do differently or ways to push boundaries in terms of innovation and product development. But fast forward to my last year at Texas Beauty Labs, I realized I had grown the company from those ten people to about 100 at that point. Texas Beauty Labs was entering a new phase, and I thought it could be an opportunity to explore something else. I wasn't sure if I wanted to stay in beauty or learn something completely different.
Then, a former client turned close friend introduced me to my now co-founder Cary Lim. She saw the wheels turning in my head, and encouraged me to give it a shot on the founder side on beauty. Cary and I had what I thought was going to be a throwaway conversation. I remember talking to her, and she identified all of the same white spaces in the industry that I had. There was no one tackling plastic within the industry in a way that didn't feel like crunchy granola and unappealing. After getting off the phone call, my cheeks hurt because I was smiling so hard the entire time. I ended up meeting Cary in person. She flew to Austin, and it went well. We were still feeling each other out because we didn't have a working history together, and becoming co-founders is scary. And then, in February of last year, I flew out to LA to meet with her again. And that was a trip that I decided I was going to move forward. I was trying to figure out the timing for me to move over to this full-time, and then COVID hit.
So, I thought it wasn't the time to leave stability, and I continued working nights and weekends on Common Heir for a little while. But during that time, I found myself super passionate about building it. Common Heir didn't look like everything else coming out in the next two to four years. Being on the back end, I had that visibility, so I knew that nobody was tackling the problem in this way. So, in May of last year, I moved to Common Heir full-time. My friends and family believed in me but thought I was a little crazy. But, I always trust my instincts.
With Common Heir, you're focused on building the future of sustainable beauty. What does that mean to you?
Oddly enough, the future sustainable beauty means that you're not even thinking about the fact that it's sustainable. If you were picking up something from Common Heir, you'd know intuitively that all of that hard work has already been done for you. You know you're going to be able to recycle it or compost it. The supply chain has been thought all the way through to be the most sustainable it can be.
We saw no luxury or premium brands tackling sustainability with the same level of thoughtfulness behind it. So, as we built Common Heir, we knew that we wanted to formulate in a specific way and make the supply chain as sustainable as possible. But, we also want to be transparent and say we're not perfect. For example, I don't consider myself a zero-waste person or anything like that. I think it's impossible to achieve that. I think it sounds like a great way to bring eyes to the problem of excess waste. But it's not something I can live by daily. So at Common Heir, we just ensure that we're transparent and not putting ourselves on a pedestal of perfection. But we also draw attention to the third-party certifications that back up our biodegradability and recyclability efforts. So, looking at it in that way was important to us, and I hope that is translating through to our consumers.
As the co-founder and CPO, what do your typical weekly duties consist of?
A lot of things I do during the week are not glamorous, to be honest. I handle our fulfillment center and make sure all of those things are running smoothly. Being a front-facing founder is also a new thing for me since I previously worked in the background. So, there's a chunk of my week that I spend engaging with community members, building relationships, and gathering feedback in organic ways. People will DM me on our brand account and my account asking skincare questions.
Beyond that, I focus on product development. Right now, I'm in development with a few new products. The development cycle can take a while because of the diligence I take with each of our raw materials.
When work feels stressful, what do you do for self-care?
I take time for my skincare every day. Of course, I don't have time some mornings, and I just apply moisturizer and sunscreen if I remember. But doing my skincare routine relaxes me. It just feels like a lovely reset. Outside of that, I do try to shut my computer off at a reasonable hour. I'll place it somewhere away from the common areas of the house. That signals to my brain that it's time to relax and binge-watch something on Netflix or Hulu. I also try to get outside every day; even it's just a walk around the neighborhood with my dog.
What does beauty mean to you? How have your experiences and identity shaped your philosophy on beauty?
Beauty is anything that makes you feel fabulous. It's whatever makes you feel that "main character energy," whether that is skincare or applying color cosmetics. Growing up, my grandmother on my dad's side of the family was the epitome of glamour to me. On the weekends, she would let me go into her bathroom with her and watch her get ready. Watching her get ready and seeing the care she took to apply her makeup made me fall in love with beauty as a kid.
What are your current favorite beauty products?
Obviously, our Vitamin C Serum ($88) is one of them. My favorite cleanser is the Eminence Organic Stone Crop Cleansing Oil ($58). Cleansing oil is amazing for the skin, and I think that it makes a world of difference. I'm also into brows and have probably tried every brow gel. Right now, I'm feeling the Kosas Air Brow. I'm into any kind of blush. I don't have a specific one that I love more than any other because I've tried so many. I'm also always about a red lip. I feel it's so powerful, and everyone looks amazing in a red lip. My all-time favorite is Fenty Beauty's Stunna Lip Paint ($25) in Uncensored.
As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, Angela Ubias is passionate about supporting LGBTQIA+ organizations. During Pride Month, Common Heir will be donating to an Austin-based initiative called Out Youth, which provides a safe place for youth of all sexual orientations and gender identities to be themselves.