By Faith Cummings
Entrepreneurship is in Dorian Morris’s blood, as she has been dreaming up companies that combined her love for creative problem solving and holistic wellness since she was six years old. Ingredient lists were one of her favorite things to read as a child and she took that love of what goes in our products straight to the beauty and wellness industry, where she sharpened her skills with industry heavyweights including General Mills, Sephora/Kendo, Sundial and CoverGirl. She’s now using that expertise to build a clean beauty empire of her own with Undefined Beauty, which creates high-quality products at accessible price points, as well as prioritizing conscious capitalism by partnering with female-founded, BIPOC and LGBTQ businesses across her supply chain.
Shaking up the CBD industry was one of her first endeavors, as the space is growing by the billions year over year while continuing to penalize and shut out Black and Brown communities systemically. She combined the ingredient in her products alongside powerful botanicals including jojoba, moringa, grape seed, and many others for potent products that deliver immediate results.
“Undefined creates easy to understand, plant-based solutions that work and that people can afford. Wellness shouldn’t be illusive or exclusive—let’s democratize it.”
Her next venture: adaptogens. Adaptogens have a long history from a research study perspective and she is bringing this ancient plant wisdom to the forefront by pairing it with clinically proven actives. The level of efficacy combined with her commitment to conscious capitalism and her push to have Black women entrepreneurs and creatives recognized for their contributions make Undefined a brand to love and one to watch.
GET TO KNOW – DORIAN MORRIS
What was the impetus to start your brand?
I’m a beauty and CPG veteran turned entrepreneur turned plant magician. I started my career in retail in the Robinson May (turned Macy’s) Executive Training program learning the ins and outs of merchandising, portfolio management and product planning. Then, I continued my educational pursuits at Harvard Business School. Post MBA, I had the honor to help steward some amazing legacy brands at General Mills, with a focus on "better for you snacking". I then followed my passion back into beauty at Kendo, LVMH’s incubation arm creating disruptive prestige brands for Sephora and then to Sundial Brands bringing the heritage of Madam CJ Walker to the modern day curly consumer. Lastly, I did a quick stint at CoverGirl leading the US marketing team before deciding to take the leap and create something for myself: Undefined. Each experience on my professional journey has been building key tools that I can now leverage now as an entrepreneur, like a beautiful mosaic of professional and personal experiences. As a Black woman and oldest of eight, I've always had to be resourceful, scrappy, exceed expectations, have top-tier time management, and not take "no" for an answer, which also comes into play now as a startup founder.
As I started ideating how to bring Undefined to life, I reflected on my past. Being a beauty and wellness insider, I felt something was missing in the industry and that element is inclusivity—and not just inclusivity meaning the color of your skin—inclusivity in terms of accessibility, knowledge, and mindset. Undefined is clean, conscious, inclusive plant magic and my mission is to democratize wellness, “undefine” what holistic beauty looks like, and destigmatize plant magic (aka plant-based solutions like adaptogens) with an unapologetic approach to “clean-ical” solution-oriented, high-quality yet accessibly priced products. Our modern, complex lifestyles are stressful which takes its toll on your skin and overall mental wellness and Undefined creates easy to understand, plant-based solutions that work and that people can afford. Wellness shouldn’t be illusive or exclusive—let’s democratize it.
Undefined is all about changing the narrative and challenging the status quo. It’s about reframing and rejecting how beauty and wellness have historically looked, as there’s not just one way to be, live, love, consume, appreciate, and vibrate. We all deserve access to wellness and Undefined is bringing those into the conversation that have been historically excluded. It's about celebrating the beauty of choice and meeting her wherever she is on her wellness journey. It’s about taking our power back, embracing individuality, quirkiness, fluidity and uniqueness.
Do you have a beauty philosophy? What is it?
I believe beauty and wellness are one in the same. Moreover, beauty starts in your head, not in the mirror and Undefined is about reinforcing and celebrating this new and important approach. Undefined is also very intentional and purpose-driven with the value of conscious capitalism as a core principle. Across my supply chain, I strategically partner with female-founded, BIPOC-owned, LGBTQ businesses and that also shows up in how I communicate, inspire, and educate my community.
Where are you from originally? Where do you live now?
I’m a true Cali-girl, born and raised! I was born in LA, raised in the Bay Area, and then went back to LA for college at UCLA before doing stints in NYC, Boston, and Minneapolis. I’m currently in SF but in the process of moving back to LA again.
What were some of your first memories of beauty growing up? What are some early beauty influences?
I’ve always been a beauty junkie. I was the girl in middle school rocking mascara and lipstick: grungy brown lipstick and lipliner back in the late 90’s to be specific. If I got in trouble, no makeup was my punishment, but I’d just sneak it on at school. Don’t tell my mom! My mom is a total badass and was one of the first black women sergeants for the California Highway Patrol and she would often go undercover. I was her official makeup artist so I like to think I was actually a makeup inspiration for my mom instead of vice versa.
What does self-care look like in your life?
Self-care is non-negotiable and I cherish my daily rituals that help bring me balance and help me find sanity throughout the chaos. It's all about staying in your magic.
First, plant magic is my jam and lately I've been tapping into adaptogens to keep me on my A-game. I created my line of Glow Bars and R&R Bars out of my desire to infuse functional, benefit-driven adaptogens into my lifestyle so I can simplify my wellness journey. Most adaptogens currently come in powders which aren't intuitive to me nor part of my daily experience. However, these vegan, high-cacao chocolates are like multivitamins for your soul and they’re a delicious indulgence. There are five in total based on the end goal—creativity, pleasure, sleep, immunity, and beauty. Sustainably sourced, powerful, and yummy—it's a win-win.
Another ritual is my daily gratitude practice which has been clutch in reframing my mindset to focus on all the small things in my life that have such a major impact. It’s also a manifestation tool to draw in specific energy I need in the moment. I have a "gratitude circle" where we keep each other accountable. Mindset matters because I truly believe your thoughts determine your reality.
Last but not least, water is my happy place and brings out my calm. I'm dedicated to my nightly bath ritual, which is my go-to tool for decompression and stress relief. I’m a little witchy: I burn some palo santo, light some candles, grab some of my favorite crystals, pull a tarot card to set my intention, pop an edible here and there, sprinkle in some Glow Detox CBD Bath Salts, and just let my stress melt away. It gives both my body and my mind a moment to press pause and relax. Like many people, I am magnesium-deficient, so my nightly soak helps to rebalance my magnesium levels to reset my vibe. As a bonus I’ll sometimes do a facial massage with a pink quartz Gua Sha and my R&R Night Serum. Just divine.
What inspires you most about the beauty landscape and industry today?
I’m inspired by this new phase of inclusivity in the space. For Undefined, I operate under the model “don’t talk about it, be about it” and inclusivity is deeply ingrained into my overall business strategy. I incorporate diverse illustrations on my packaging to tie back to the ancient plant wisdom in the formula or end benefit of the product, which is inclusivity in action. My R&R Cleanser has a beautiful Asian American illustration because the formula taps the beautiful plant magic of Green Tea, Gotu Kola, and Shiitake which have their heritage in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). The R&R Day Serum utilizes a bold African American beauty because the focus of this product is brightening and hyperpigmentation, which is a universal benefit we all need, but a unique challenge within the Black community as the more melanin you have, the more risk for hyperpigmentation. The R&R Night Serum has a gorgeous South Asian model because it uses Bakuchiol which has a strong heritage in Ayurveda and R&R Exfoliator has a biracial male (actually an illustration representing my brother Chris) because men deserve quality skincare too. Representation matters.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting your business?
Self-doubt and imposter syndrome are real—I’ve had to unlearn conditioning and constantly tell myself “don’t believe it, get out of your own way, and remember that the universe always has your back”. As a believer in paying it forward, I mentor some beauty and wellness entrepreneurs who are embarking upon their startup journey and constantly push them to get out of the spiral of analysis paralysis because you’ll never truly feel ready (even though you are) and sometimes you have to jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down. Build enough flexibility into your model and don’t be afraid to pivot if necessary. Entrepreneurship is all about constantly learning and reframing failure as insight.
What has been the biggest win thus far?
I recently launched the new R&R Collection, which taps the plant magic of supercharged adaptogenic mushrooms to rescue, repair, reset, and replenish your skin barrier and help you adapt to modern day stress. Living through COVID, stress is at an all time high and this new collection tackles stress from multiple angles—the root cause as well as products to help solve key pain points. It has sparked a conversation around stress and created a space for those new to plant-based solutions and clean beauty to feel comfortable exploring plant magic and jumpstarting their wellness journey. Wellness starts with meeting folks where they are and making it simple. I want everyone to feel comfortable, empowered, and able to find tools to help them thrive.
In addition to launching on purpose-driven platforms like Thirteen Lune, I recently launched nationwide at Whole Foods Market, making Undefined one of the few national Black-owned brands within the natural food retailer and hopefully opening doors for diverse founders behind me. Earlier this month, I was also selected by Cosmopolitan Magazine and Digital Undivided as “The New C-Suite” which is a true honor to be recognized as a leader creating change in the beauty industry.
What would you like to see more of in the beauty industry when it comes to diversity and inclusivity?
With the “racial reckoning” in 2020 coming out of the BLM protests, I had the unique opportunity to participate in multiple programs wearing very different hats—in the 1st class of Clean Beauty Summer School as the only Black mentor and in Target Takeoff, Credo For Change, and Beauty United as a mentee. These programs provide nice insight and blueprints to building a foundation but the “rubber will meet the road” when we see how many of these retailers actually launch the BIPOC-founded brands that invested their time and how many investors actually provide real capital to help the brands drive growth. Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of performative actions happening that mask the underlying issues. Talk is cheap, it’s about the action which includes tangible purchase orders and investment. Those things need to happen to drive the change we need to see in the space. It’s also about recognizing bootstrapped brands like Undefined that have to operate by a different set of rules without the deep pockets that VC funding affords.