This year, to celebrate the amazing founders within the health and wellness industry, we want to shine the light on a few in particular. Today we have the pleasure of intereviewing Dr. Kan Cao – Scientist, Anti-Aging Authority & Founder of Bluelene.
Dr. Kan Cao is a renowned scientist, anti-ageing authority and professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at the University of Maryland. Dr. Cao has been studying human ageing and in particular, the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying Hutchinson Gilford Progeria syndrome, a premature ageing disease that claims most victims by age 13.
Since completing her PhD at Johns Hopkins in 2005 to her current tenure as a professor at the University of Maryland, she has become one of the world’s leading scientists in anti-ageing research and she recently published one of the biggest discoveries that the field has ever seen. This lead to the skincare brand Bluelene launched in 2019 – the first beauty brand to incorporate groundbreaking ingredient, Methylene Blue into skincare.
What is your superhero origin story? Please, do let us know what your superhero nickname would be as well, in case you have one!
Bluelene’s journey to creation began two years ago while studying in my lab called, Mblue Labs. During this time I was researching potential treatments for Progeria (a syndrome in children characterized by physical signs and symptoms of rapid ageing) and discovered the incredible anti-ageing benefits of Methylene Blue while used topically on the skin. We had just discovered the next breakthrough ingredient in beauty. From extending the life span of individual skin cells to providing heightened wound healing abilities, Methylene Blue is sure to set a new standard in the anti-ageing department.
My superhero nickname would be Magic Blue, which is what our researchers nicknamed the discovery of Methylene Blue and it has since stuck.
What was your eureka moment, and how did you test your idea?
I am a scientist in the area of human diseases and never dreamed I would enter the cosmetics and beauty industry. While I was searching for a cure for Progeria (a childhood disease that causes rapid ageing) I discovered the astonishing anti-ageing benefits of infusing Methylene Blue into a topical cream. We tested these findings in my lab on a 2D and 3D simulated skin model and the results proved to be unlike any other antioxidant on the market.
What’s your competitive advantage when it comes to the industry?
Our patent-pending active ingredient Methylene Blue, restored the health of the skin cells on which I was conducting tests. I realized this would have an incredible impact on the anti-ageing skincare segment and launched my company Mblue Labs. Everything we bring to market starts in my lab first, where we research human ageing on a cellular level in 2D and 3D human skin models. Our product line Bluelene is founded on solid science that delivers tangible results.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting?
I wished I had been better prepared for commercialization before my ground-breaking research was published by Nature Publication Groups in the summer of 2017. This publication immediately attracted attention worldwide, from over 40 countries. If I had the opportunity to do this again, I would have liked to launch sooner.
What role has social media played in your success?
Social media has been an important part of building visibility for our new brand. We have used Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter very effectively to grow our following. – make sure you have a clear and consistent branding on social media.
When partnering with fellow companies, creators or influencers, what criteria do you look for?
We have picked boutique firms for all of our business functions and this strategy has paid off. Small firms have a very hands-on approach to their client’s success. There are far fewer people touching our projects and in every case, we actually work with a highly experienced business owner who believes in our success. We look for excellent references, joint success metrics, shared values and always trust our instinct for good chemistry – meaningful collaborations are essential.
Who is your ideal collaboration with?
We actually have a number of success stories that span PR, Digital Marketing, Amazon Marketing and IP Legal, but I will share the collaboration with our Marketing Firm as an example. We started working with Visionmark before we even secured our start-up funding to plan the brand strategy.
The two partners Ralph and MaryAnn listened to our vision and translated it beautifully to create the “Bluelene” product portfolio. Together we developed the brand, product packaging and sales collateral. They always start with creating several concepts, which we then discuss and jointly fine-tune. The best part is that Visionmark is always there for us when we need a quick adjustment, a new box design or brochure.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am very fortunate to partner with an experienced and passionate business executive, Jasmin El Kordi, the CEO of Mblue Labs. We both share similar core values of work and life and most importantly have complementary expertise.
What is the most worthwhile investment (time, energy, money) that you have made?
The time I put aside to reflect and recharge.
What piece of industry advice do you often hear that you disagree with and why?
Everyone has been telling me this is a really competitive business and new brands have to raise a lot of capital to get some brand recognition.
My philosophy has always been to build a smart team, have a feasible, but ambitious plan and then throw all of my passion and energy behind our dream.
Our brand differentiator is solid scientific research that delivers results.
What advice would you give someone thinking of starting a business on their own?
Find 1-2 partners who share your values and bring complementary skills to the table. It is very hard to go on the journey alone. Make sure you have a good communication strategy that allows you to share information often, but efficiently and always with purpose.