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janet schriever, 50, beauty entrepreneur, pasadena

ageist EDITORS | april 26, 2018

Janet Schriever’s business idea began — as all good ones do — with a need. She couldn’t find the right lotion for a skin condition that inflamed her skin. So she began experimenting — researching products on the internet and then breaking them down ingredient by ingredient.

After attending a talk on Cannabidiol oil and hearing what it did for a father whose daughter suffered from epilepsy, she felt like she had something.

“I thought, if it can do that much for that, it’s got to work on the skin,” she says.

It did, and last year, nearing her 50th birthday, she launched Crave Skincare. A costume designer who worked in the film industry, she spent the majority of her career designing toy dolls. There was nothing to indicate a business at the fringes of the nascent cannabis industry would be the next chapter.

But here she is, building a company in an age-obsessed industry she knows nothing about. And that's a good thing, because she figures skincare could use a voice—and product—like hers. 

“I think people should stop … making it like youth is the only thing that should be desirable, because we all get old,” she says. “We need to think of ourselves in this whole total lifespan. We’re still growing and learning until we die. The fact that I’m 50 with a new business doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t be any different if I was 35.”

That there was a winding path to this point is not a surprise given Schriever’s wanderlust. A native of eastern Oregon, she moved to Portland before heading to Los Angeles with a goal of working in film. A degree in fashion from Otis provided her an entrée into the costume design world. When she got the opportunity to go to Botswana to work on the Michael Douglas film Ghosts of Darkness, she took it.

She was 29. It would be almost five years before she returned.

“I had met people on film who lived there and I was just this young, dumb American girl who bought a big truck that broke down all the time,” she says. “It’s amazing how many people you meet when you’re by yourself. It was so great, because it was just me. The car would break down, and somebody would stop and help me. That place gave me the faith that the world is actually okay.”

When she became pregnant with her son, Schreiver decided to end the Africa adventure and return home. She ultimately landed back in LA, where a friend suggested she apply for a job at Mattel.

“I designed Barbies,” she told me. “Because I had a degree in fashion design, it was kind of a natural fit, but it was a total culture shock. I was living the total hippie lifestyle, and I came back to meetings and people wearing pink suits.”

Within two years, she elected to take the freelance route. For someone who’d spent her life living on her own terms, the drudgery of the corporate life wasn’t enough even with the responsibility of caring for a baby boy. So how does a toy designer freelance? Well, she came up with ideas for dolls and licensed them out to companies to produce. A few concepts ended up on shelves at Walmart and Target and sold quite well.

“There were definitely times when I freaked out,” she says. “At the end of the day, you always figure out how to pull your ass out of trouble. You just do. Something else comes along.”

But the toy industry is fickle (goodbye and good luck, Toys ‘R’ Us) and Schriever felt it was time to find another revenue stream with her son starting college. The idea that it could be a skincare product she designed with herself in mind took her by surprise.

“I can make some impulsive decisions sometimes just because I think, ‘Yeah, I can do this,’” she says.

A break came recently when she won a competition at a trade show for independent skincare products, netting her upcoming mentions in Allure and Glamour magazines. Schriever has also gone back to school, studying to be an esthetician because she wanted to understand the needs of skincare practitioners and design for them. As with the clients she’s attracted, her school is full of 20- and 30-somethings trying to figure out what they want to be. Though she made Crave for people like herself, the client base she has is largely younger, free of marijuana’s stigma.

“The cannabis and beauty business is all about youth,” she told me. “It’s been interesting. I’m acutely aware of my age in some situations, and in other ones I feel somewhat proud of that.”

At 50, she’s learning how to build a business. When you enter her house in Pasadena, you first walk through what looks like a science lab, filled with scales and beakers and little tubs of ointment. With seven products on the market, she’s looking to expand her range. The help she gets in planning and marketing she pays for with product, but she’ll eventually hire someone full time.

“It takes a while, and what people don’t understand is that I do every single thing,” she says. “I do the social media, I produce it, I make the labels, I bottle it, and on top of that I’m in school 40 hours every week.”

Not that she’s complaining. There’s struggle in every new venture — and the cannabis industry still fighting to get the acceptance of federal regulators and the financial industry makes her road that much more difficult. But Schriever is finding solace in the community she's surrounding herself with. 

"When I was working in toys, I was several degrees away from the consumer, designing products for them, but not interacting with them," she says. "As I have gotten older, I am finding that I value these connections with other people, and I like interacting with my customers ... So, yeah.. starting my own business has forced my formerly-introverted self out of my shell a bit, and I actually enjoy it."