During this month’s Snack Time, we (virtually) sat down with clean beauty guru Christopher Cieri, Founder of vegan-and cruelty-free skincare line Franklin & Whitman (Frank & Whit).
Read on for advice about what to do about the inevitable “maskne,” the inside scoop on which Frank & Whit products smell like snacks, and ever-relatable tales from Cieri’s journey a serial entrepreneur.
What is your official name and title? Christopher Cieri / Founder of Franklin & Whitman Any nick names we should give to you? Not really!
Where are you from and where do you currently live? I am a lifelong Philadelphian and currently live in the historic Girard Estates neighborhood of South Philly.
Tell us a little bit about Franklin & Whitman skincare … We like to say we create skin and haircare products for the modern lifestyle. Each product is an original formula that is PETA certified for being both Vegan and Cruelty Free!
Why did you choose to get into the skincare industry? Funny story … I grew a beard in 2015 and it was really itchy, so I started buying beard grooming products and never found the scent profile that fit my palette. So I started making product for myself! At the same time, I became intrigued with the “green washing” of the products my daughters were using. Companies were promoting themselves as “natural” but using more synthetic ingredients than plant-derived ones. From those two events Franklin & Whitman was born as a side hustle that eventually grew into my full-time passion!
Your products use food-grade ingredients—and since we’re all about the Snacks—what’s your favorite ingredient to work with? I am always so amazed at the almost magical properties that pure, organic natural oils have. I would have to say of all the oils we work with Rosehip Seed Oil is probably my favorite. It is full of vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids that are known to correct dark spots and hydrate dry, itchy skin, all while reducing scars and fine lines. Unlike heavier oils that are commonly used, Rosehip Seed Oil absorbs very easily into the skin.
Do you have any advice for dealing with ‘maskne’? Moisturize and hydrate throughout the day and use a gentle face mask that focuses on soothing your skin like our Queen Village Face Mask.
We heard that you have a side hustle in photography … how’d that come to be? If you got in a time machine and found high school-aged Chris and asked him what he wanted to be when he “grew up,” he would say a photojournalist. From the earliest age, photography and the art of telling a story with a picture has enamored me. The emotion that stirs up when you see a photo that moves you is what drives me with every press of the shutter. I hadn’t touched my camera for almost a decade until Franklin & Whitman was born— I needed content and lots of it! So, my love affair with photography was renewed. I realized that I loved it so much I should make it my new “side hustle” and launched Cieri Photography at the end of 2019.
What are your favorite things to take photos of? I started the photography business thinking I would do more product/branding photography for small businesses who needed to feed the Instagram monster. It’s a constant challenge to any small business. But as I started also taking lifestyle photos for friends who are bloggers and influencers in the Philly area, a whole new line of business opened up and, I have to say, it is my favorite type of shoot now. Collaborating with a person or brand, coming up with a shared aesthetic vision, and then shooting and seeing the finished product is as good or usually better than what we envisioned is SO rewarding.
What is your favorite Franklin & Whitman product and why? That’s tough, I love them all. I think we have 50+ products now. I would have to say it is our Oak Lane Face Mask. It features Organic Raw Cacao and Organic Turmeric and not only does it work amazingly well, but it also smells incredible while it is on your face – like brownie batter! And to see it as one of the products that was included in the latest Queer Eye season was such a pleasant, incredible surprise. To see Jonathan Van Ness, someone I absolutely love, mixing up our mask and applying it to his face literally brought tears to my eyes.
If you could only use two skincare products for the rest of your life, what would they be? So while this isn’t a typical “skincare” product, I would have to include our Mount Airy Beard Serum. It is the OG product and blend of Vanilla, Bergamot, and Lavender and it is just my favorite scent of all time! I also couldn’t live without our Walnut Hill Facial Serum. It’s my go to for my daily moisturizer!
Have you picked up any new hobbies during quarantine? I’m thankful to have stayed incredibly busy during this entire crazy time. We developed and released a Hand Purifying Spray during the pandemic, which we donate 25% of every batch made to hospitals in Philly, NYC, and Boston.
Can you give us a sneak peek on your typical skincare routine? I try to keep it simple usually, mostly because of time issues. I spend more time grooming my beard than I do working on my skin (hypocritical skincare biz owner I know!!!!). I exfoliate and mask once a week and use our Walnut Hill Facial Serum daily as my moisturizer!
You call yourself a serial entrepreneur—What advice do you have for people wishing to jumpstart their own business? Just start! Even if, at the beginning you are crawling instead of running, you are moving and letting the universe know you are ready for new things. There is never a good time to launch something, so stop waiting for the planets to align perfectly. You don’t have to quit your day job, but you have to be willing to sacrifice your leisure time and dedicate it to your passion. In the end if it fails, that’s okay!!! You’ve done more than 99% of the people out there.
On an average day, do you consider yourself salty or sweet? I’m a classic Gemini so I would say both. But as I try to be a better version of myself every day, I would say sweet. I try to lead with kindness and compassion in everything I do…but when I’m salty, I am SALTY.
Franklin & Whitman’s social mission is so inspiring … how did you come to get so involved in animal rescue organizations? I have always respected companies that do good in the world and have a mission, like Warby Parker to United By Blue. When I started Franklin & Whitman, I knew I needed a social mission that would help center and focus me when times got tough. The “why” you do something is WAY more important than what you do or how you do it. The “why” gets you out of bed in the morning, so I knew our mission had to be something near and dear to my heart.
Do you have a furry friend of your own? We do! We have two rescues. Bear is a five-year-old Aussie Shepherd rescue who was found tied to a tree in Kentucky and in a kill shelter before a rescue found him. Moose is a three-year-old pit mix who I met while touring the Pennsylvania SPCA, one of the amazing organizations we support. When I saw Moose, I fell in love. They are now best friends and I could not imagine our life without them.
Last but not least, and because we couldn’t NOT ask, what is your go-to snack? I LOVE chocolate! My favorite chocolate snack is Hu Kitchen’s Almond Butter and Puffed Quinoa bar. It checks all the boxes for me. It’s absolutely delish, vegan, made with amazing ingredients, plus I love the company and am so happy to support them!
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