How Karen Behnke discovered the fountain of youth in the juice of a grape.
One’s life can be made up of a series of “aha” moments, those definitive snippets of time that stand out along life’s winding, and sometimes arduous, path. Karen Behnke’s “aha” moments have taken her on a journey of both setbacks and accomplishments, cumulating in the inception of Juice Beauty in 2005. This collection of organic, all-natural beauty products and cosmetics infuses the skin with nutrient-rich organic botanical juices.
Born and raised in the Midwest, Behnke was diagnosed with aplastic anaemia, a rare form of leukemia, as a child. “I was not dealt a great hand in health at the beginning of my life,” she recalls. When cancer-free, sports and fitness became her “first loves.” In her teens, she actively participated in the limited sport programs offered in Michigan—water ballet and cheerleading, to name a few. She upped her game and became a triathlete when she moved to California after college, when she was looking for, “Sun, fun, and boys,” Behnke laughs.
“I am absolutely thrilled because I’ve always wanted to elegantly disrupt industries and create change.”
Instead, she found that she had the heart of an entrepreneur. “Being in San Francisco, the Mecca of entrepreneurship, I felt accepted here,” Behnke says. Yet, this was the ’80s and she experienced some setbacks, such as the inability to receive a loan without a husband’s consent. So she found a supportive female banker and got to work. She started a corporate wellness company—one of the first of its kind—that she developed and grew for 15 years before selling it to a company that we all know now as UnitedHealthcare. She then sat on the board of 24 Hour Fitness while also serving as its managing director. “But I was always so intrigued with beauty products,” Behnke adds.
Yet it wasn’t until she was pregnant with her first child that she started to read the list of ingredients that she was applying to her skin. “Sleep deprived from infant fatigue, I would sit in bed researching how conventional chemical products were formulated with chemicals like petroleum,” she recalls. “Yet, naturals used simply water. I thought to myself, ‘What if we used rich, organic botanical juices?’” A few years later, she purchased the rights for the Juice Beauty name. And, in 2005, Juice Beauty was born—promising organic, all-natural ingredients that one knows and can read.
Notable products like the Green Apple Peel Exfoliating Mask and Stem Cellular skin program caught the attention of actress and Goop goddess Gwyneth Paltrow—who is a shareholder and investor in the company and was the creative director for its cosmetics line for three years. Notable stores, such as Neiman Marcus, now carry Juice’s extensive collection of products. “They recruited us because of our use of organics, which I was so proud of, because our products now meet or exceed the efficacy of conventional chemical products,” Behnke says proudly.
For someone like Behnke, whose hand has been on the pulse of the health and wellness scene for decades, it has been refreshing to see the tides turn in a more positive direction. “I immediately think, ‘What took so long?’” she laughs. “But, seriously, I am absolutely thrilled because I’ve always wanted to elegantly disrupt industries and create change.”
Juice Beauty skincare and cosmetic collections are available at Neiman Marcus, Stanford Shopping Center, 650.329.3300.
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