Pivot Skincare is a Family Affair, Cindy Berg is at the Helm of It
Pivot Skincare is the perfect amalgamation of Cindy Berg’s two favourite things: her family and skincare.
Founded by Berg, her two daughters, Emily and Sophie, and her daughter-in-law, Emma, the brand has been 12 years in the making.
Berg found her passion for the skincare industry over 20 years ago while working for a dermatologist. Having built up a clientele list of her own—and a cult-like following for her secret face oil—Berg was able to branch off and began providing facial treatments everywhere from the office to at home.
When COVID-19 meant that visiting her clients was no longer an option, Cindy decided to pivot. The brand’s first product, a plant-based nourishing oil is the very same formula that Berg’s clients have fell in love with for over a decade.
“People used to call it ‘Cindy’s secret serum.’ or ‘Cindy’s magic potion.’ So, it had no name,” said Berg. “We thought long and hard about it, and one day, I said to the kids, “Come on, we gotta have a name. This is a pivotal moment in my life!” And that was it.”
While Berg is responsible for creating the oil that keeps users hooked on its glowing capabilities, she’s glad to have her girls by her side to help tackle some of the other aspects of the journey.
Sophie works as the brand’s art director, creating all of the packaging and designs. Emily is the creative mind behind all of Pivot’s brand messaging. And Emma helps with brand strategy and partnerships.
Since Pivot went live online in October 2020, Berg has seen her seven-ingredient oil blend be repurchased by almost every customer—a testament to its quality.
“The name says it all. If your skin is craving nourishment and you want a clean, natural product that will enhance the skincare you’re already using, I think this is the product for you,” she said.
At the age of 60, Berg shows no signs of slowing down and proves that it’s never too late to pivot your career and follow your passion. For this week’s Women Who Lead spotlight, Bay Street Bull spoke with Cindy Berg about the history of her beloved face oil, working with her family, and embracing change.
What was your career like leading up to launching Pivot Skincare?
I worked for a dermatologist, starting about 20 years ago. While I was working for him, I started to have private clients, and eventually, I left the dermatology clinic [but continued working with my private clients]. And at the same time, I started a travel business with a very good friend of mine, Shari Silverstein. We created unique group trips, mostly for women, and we took people all over the world. Shari and I would create the itinerary, and then we would sell the trip—it was amazing. It was the best of both worlds because I am skincare obsessed and I love to travel.
Then, of course, when COVID-19 happened, we were planning all kinds of travel but by mid-March, everything was cancelled. It also quickly became apparent that there was no skincare business since I couldn’t see clients. So, both careers were done.
And you’re sitting there, the world is flipped upside down. What sparked the idea of creating a sellable product in the skincare industry?
I actually created the oil 12 years ago. There were not a lot of oils in the marketplace back then, and it was something I was very interested in since I worked for a dermatologist and was obsessed with skincare. I was looking for this product that didn’t exist, so, I started making it.
It was a lot of trial and error, but I needed it to be natural, sustainable, therapeutic, and it had to smell good. It’s got to check all the boxes; the product has to work. It can feel good and it can look good, but it’s also got to do something to your skin.
So the product was created, a long time ago and it was for me, my private clients, and my family and friends. What happened was, I started getting a lot of emails from clients. “When can I get my hands on the oil? When can I have another treatment?” But if you remember from last March until June, basically everything was closed. People were begging for this treatment and I said, “Look at my arms aren’t six feet long. And half your face is going to be covered by a mask. There’s no point.” So I came out with a DIY treatment kit and I put it together in a cute little canvas bag and it had my signature oil and the steps for their skin that they could do at home.
It was the oil that had people saying, “When can I get my hands on it?” There was one email in particular that I received in late April, from a woman who was gifted the oil by a client of mine. She said, “I don’t know what’s in this. All I know is it works. And people are stopping me and commenting on my skin.” At the time, all I had were bottles, but no product. But in June, when things started opening up, I was able to purchase the product and I started making more oil.
I was getting a lot of emails asking for the oil and I started sharing them with my family. Then it was like a light bulb moment for all of us. And we said, “Okay, we know this product works. It’s been around for a long time. Let’s take it to a broader market.” That’s basically how the idea to launch Pivot Skincare happened. People used to call it “Cindy’s secret serum.” or “Cindy’s magic potion.” So, it had no name. We thought long and hard about it and one day, I said to the kids, “Come on, we gotta have a name. This is a pivotal moment in my life!” And that was it. We registered it and that was that.
I love the way how the name came so organically. Were you nervous about launching it to the broader market and the entrepreneurial journey?
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. When I worked for the dermatologist, I loved him, but there came a point when it was time to go and do my own thing. Then with the travel business, Shari and I love to travel so much and we thought the same way, so we knew we had a great model for travel. People appreciated our attention to detail and how we did unique things.
With my skincare business [before Pivot], it was unique, because I was taking it outside of a dermatologist clinic. I was going to people’s homes and offices to offer them a great treatment. I would always say, “Your only downtime is the minutes with me. You can get right back to work after.” So, I’ve always thought of taking an idea that might exist already and added uniqueness to it.
Was I nervous? Yes, but only about going online. I knew how to make the product and I was very confident in that. I was also very confident in speaking and related to clients. In terms of bringing a product to an online platform, I’ve mastered zoom, but it [e-commcerce] is not my thing. When my girls encouraged me to do this, I said, “I need you.” My two daughters are 34 and 32, and my daughter-in-law is 30. They’re all obsessed with skincare and we all get along so well. I all knew we could bring a different skill set to this, so I had complete confidence that they could navigate the website and Instagram. They just keep telling me to make more oil.
Speaking of, what’s it been like being able to work with your daughters and daughter-in-law?
It’s amazing. First of all, we’re a very, very close family. My eldest daughter lives in Israel and she’s a marketer and a brilliant writer. So, she writes content for us. Every Tuesday at 2 p.m. (9 p.m. her time) we have a set meeting and we spend the first 20 minutes just catching up. It’s so great! And usually, that catch-up time is when ideas come because you’ll be talking about what you did this week or what you saw on Instagram or what you felt or what you read and it sparks a collaboration. It’s great.
As you said, you made the oil 12 years ago. Since the time from when you created it, oils and serums have grown within the skincare industry. How does the Pivot Skincare nourishing oil differ from what’s out there?
It hasn’t changed [in 12 years] because it is a formula that is beloved as my kids like to say. There were and are other oils out there but as I said, it had to check all the boxes. We like to use local vendors and sustainable products, and our packaging is recyclable. We’re all very conscious of the world we live in, so that was important to us. And it has to work. You have to see a difference. It has to feel lovely. You have to be confident that the products in it are good, sustainable, therapeutic, and it has to smell nice.
Also, it has to be affordable. That’s a big thing for me because skincare is not a one-time purchase. If you love the product and you’re seeing results, you want to keep reordering it. You have to keep reordering it. If it’s going to be $100+ for a bottle that you’re going to replace every six to 12 weeks, it’s not sustainable for your wallet. So we wanted Pivot Skincare to be moderately priced, but also reflective of its good ingredients.
My middle daughter, Sophie, is an illustrator and she’s the creative designer behind the brand and the website. She designed all the packaging and did a hand-drawn beautiful card, so I write a handwritten note to each client. Because of my background of being in person with my clients, I don’t call it customer service, I like to call it client service. I track our orders and check to see when each person got their product. About 10 to 14 days later, I follow up and the subject line is “Checking in on your skin.” Because I want to know how it’s working. It was not just a sale to me. It’s like, “How is this product working? Are you enjoying it? Do you have any questions?” My last line is always, “Please let me know if I can help you incorporate it into your skincare routine,” because I know there are so many products out there and people have questions. I want to be able to help and have a dialogue.
What has the response been like from those clients?
The response has been great. It’s very supportive. People love supporting small businesses and they love supporting women-run businesses. A lot of the comments say that they love that Pivot Skincare is plant-based, they love that it’s locally sourced from small vendors that have ethical practices. Everything’s from Canada, and specifically close to Toronto.
Pivot launched in October, so it’s been about five months. Have there been any pivots you guys have had to make throughout that time? Any lessons since launching, or has it been a pretty smooth ride all the way through?
The biggest pivot was with our launch. We planned to launch near the end of October 2020, and we had a photoshoot scheduled with Kayla Rocca—a fantastic Toronto photographer—for Oct. 2, 2020. We figured we would have our photoshoot and then it would take us a couple of weeks to get the website up and to create content.
Then, during the last week of September, I got a call from a good friend of mine, Susie Sheffman. She was being interviewed by The Kit and they asked about her skincare and she said “Pivot.” She didn’t know for sure if they would publish it, but the article was going live the next week. Now, this was the last week of September and our photoshoot was not scheduled until Oct. 2, 2020! So, the second Kayla sent us our photos, we perused through them all night. We wrote the content, matched the photos, and created the website the next day and my one daughter stayed up until midnight to get it done!
The article came out and we woke up to orders across Canada. So, figuring out how to navigate and set up a website was our biggest pivotal challenge and we did it. We put it together in 48 hours. Everything else has been a piece of cake since then [laughs].
The oil has been in the works for 12 years and you also launched a bath soak, are there plans to create more products under the Pivot Skincare name?
Yeah. Our nourishing body oil is ready and will be launched in the upcoming weeks. We’re just waiting for packaging. We’re also working on a lip balm, and again, everything in it will be plant-based. If you read the ingredients of some lip balms you’d be surprised at what’s in them [in a bad way]. So, it takes time to resource the right materials and ingredients, but the body oil will be ready in a couple of weeks and then the lip balm will maybe be a month or two behind that.
Given the fact that you already had this full career before launching Pivot Skincare, what would you say to other people who might be further along in their careers that have an idea or a passion they want to turn into a business, but might feel like that time has passed?
I’m 60 and honestly, I would encourage it. I have a lot of friends who are very bored right now, I mean, it’s a very challenging time for people. And I can say that I’m not bored. I like to be busy, and maybe one of the reasons the kids encouraged me [to launch Pivot Skincare], was because they knew I couldn’t sit around and do nothing.
As long as it’s not going to be anxiety-provoking, I would encourage people to do it! I mean, why not? These are really interesting times and I don’t think you can fight what’s going on. I think you have to learn how to adapt to what’s going on. I can’t believe it’s been a year; it’s gone by very fast. If you think back to how terrified we were and how it was so unknown, we didn’t know when our lives would come back. Now, I think instead of waiting for your old life to come back, maybe look at the opportunities that lie ahead of you and embrace how you can create something that is uniquely yours or important to you. Make it your new future, because things have changed, and I don’t think they’re necessarily going back.
What do you hope for the future of Pivot Skincare? In your wildest dreams, what does it flourish into?
That’s a hard one. I love the collaboration process. We did a lovely one for Valentine’s day, so more collaborations would be great. Obviously, I would love it to grow and have a wider audience. We already have quite a few clients in the U.S. just from referrals—I shipped out two packages to Los Angeles the other day and we have quite a few people in New York! So the goal is for more people to know about it and experience and love it. We’re enjoying the process and we’d love more people to get their hands on it.
Why should someone use Pivot Skincare, specifically the nourishing oil?
The name says it all. If your skin is craving nourishment and you want a clean, natural product that will enhance the skincare you’re already using, I think this is the product for you.
First of all, it feels so good and it really does nourish your skin. I suffered from terribly dry skin many years ago and I don’t at all anymore. You’re giving yourself a treat because it feels good and it smells good. Clients say it feels like a day at the spa. We call it “Never greasy, always glowy.” So, if you’re looking for a glow to your skin, that your skin hasn’t had the last little while, I encourage you to go for the glow.