Meet The Sisters Behind Shades By Shan—Now In All 610 JCPenney Stores

Shan Berries and her sister Erika Clark were raised by a single, immigrant mother who dreamed of her daughters getting international educations, traveling the world, and starting their own businesses.

Today she’s one of the proudest moms ever because her internationally-educated, incredibly well-travelled daughters have some news. The makeup brand that they launched together in 2018, Shades by Shan, was picked up by all 610 JCPenney department store locations across the country.

And if that weren’t enough, the sister duo also runs a nonprofit foundation named in honor of their mother: the Mamaberries Foundation, which supports single moms like their own with a portion of every Shades by Shan purchase.

Both women had successful careers previously. Shan as executive producer and on-air host for the morning show “Now” on 99.7, KMVQ-FM, San Francisco’s biggest pop station. Erika spent a dozen years in a career in higher education in countries around the world.

I had a video call with Shan and Erika while Shan was in L.A. for a dinner with JCPenney executives in preparation for the launch of a holiday collection as well as a larger offering that will be available at JCPenney in February, “which is crazy,” she said.

We talked about their world travels, unique partnership, their path to collaborating with JCPenney, and how they credit their amazing single mom for making it all possible.

How did your collaboration with JCPenney get started?

Shan: “Someone from inside JC Penney bought our product, and they loved our stuff. They sent us a message on Instagram saying ‘Hi, I just want to tell you, I’m a huge fan of your stuff. I’ve been following you guys and checking you out. Your formulas are amazing and I actually work at JCPenny and I would love to introduce you guys to our team.’ And we were like ‘Is this real?’

And then it all just kind of happened—we were introduced and they got their hands on their stuff and they’re were like, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing.’

And then our mission of helping single parents in need really spoke to them. So the partnership just kind of snowballed. We thought they would say, ‘We’ll test you out in one or two stores,’ and now we’re in all 610 of their stores. It was just the right timing and good product and really just putting our best foot forward.”

Erika: “I would just add that the team was ready. I think after four years of working and really hustling and building the whole brand from the ground up and having started with a couple of boutique beauty stores in the West, we were ready for that next step. It really gave us the time to be seasoned and ready, so we felt comfortable to say, okay, let’s take this giant leap.

We’re now moving our warehouse from San Francisco to Los Angeles and building all that infrastructure out logistically. It’s quite a game changer for us. It’s a big investment on our side too. So it’s been a lot of fun, and a lot of sleepless nights.”

How much of an increase in production are you planning for?

“It’s about a 75% increase on everything that we’ve been doing. So it’s really ramping up. Instead of ordering our 500 to a 1,000 shades of a product, it’s 10,000 of one color. And we’re like, ‘You want how many of that? How many zeroes is that?’ It’s a lot for 610 stores. You can imagine the volume of work.”

And then the distribution, do they handle getting everything to each store or how much of that do you have to deal with?

Erika: “Luckily they have a great infrastructure for logistics. So they will pick up from our warehouse and then once it’s at the distribution center, they roll it out.”

Shan: “We’ve learned so much on the backend, and JCPenney is really an amazing partner that held our hand and has been fantastic. They have helped us understand each and every process along the way, even though it’s like learning a new language. They’ve been an amazing supporter of a small business.”

What’s the next step after launch? Do they look at how much is selling and then decide how much to re-up?

Erika: “Yes, they have a great team of data analysts that are reviewing products and their algorithms are telling them how much they should be reordering. So we are stocking up at our warehouse and whenever they say, okay, we need 500 of these, we’re ready to start rolling that out. Right now we’re in full ramp-up production mode to be able to ensure that we’re fulfilling their orders.”

Shan: “And they have so much data that tells you, what colors do the best? What palettes do the best? What size palettes do the best? And then they have analytics on how much to forecast ordering at for a restock. So that’s quite interesting for us because we were not used to that, but they have a lot of data science behind it.”

Can you talk more about why you feel like JCPenney is such a good fit for your customer?

Erika: “I think the demographic that shops at JCPenney is exactly the demographic that we align with: 23 to 55-year-old women who are excited about beauty, who are also women on the go, who are busy, who are moms, who are career women, who are looking for something elegant and looking for something that has that luxurious feel, but not with the luxurious price point.

So with the JCP Beauty fan base and consumer base, we align really, really well.”

What products are included in the JCPenney offering?

Erika: “We have our holiday collection launching in all 610 stores on November 1st, and then we have 30 unique items that are currently part of our collection that we’ll be bringing to JCPenney in February.

We have three holiday items that will be launching: a nine-pan Snow Kissed Eyeshadow Palette, the Jess Matte Lip Set, and The Diamond Collection, which are glitters for eyes. So we’re starting off with those three and then then 30 other products will come in later.

And some of those are exclusive items to JC Penney, so we’re excited about that. Our loyal fan base will be looking for them and this is the only place you can buy them.”

Do you have a favorite product from the holiday collection?

“I would say my favorite is probably the eyeshadow palette. We haven’t come out with a nine-pan eyeshadow palette in a long time. And it just screams holiday to me. It’s something that’s going to be exclusive to JCPenney and I foresee myself wearing those eyeshadows every day during the holiday season.”

Can you wear them day or night?

Shan: “Totally. This is my everyday look, and I plan on wearing this to dinner tonight. I love neutrals, I love the safe side of makeup, but sometimes I feel a little daring, so that’s where the holiday palette comes in because it has those really pretty glitters where you can go from day and then take that and glam it up for night.

And then our Jess Matte Lip Set is a neutral shade too, which is probably our best seller, I would say. And then our glitters are just super pretty. It’s every day wear that everybody can wear. We want to be inclusive and make sure that everybody from all different shades can wear it. We don’t want to exclude anybody.”

Do you think your philanthropic efforts helped to attract JCPenney’s attention?

Shan: “One hundred percent, definitely. I think that we spoke to their heart when we were telling them that we’re women of color, we’re Latina, and also that we are making an impact in the community.

When we were beginning talks with JCPenney, some of the women there were saying, ‘I’m about to cry because I’m a single mom and this is so cool!’

Everybody is touched by a single parent. Everybody knows one or is one or has been one. So it really touches a lot of people. It’s so crazy because there really aren’t any voices that raise these women up and say, ‘Hey, we see you, we hear you. We feel what you’re going through.’ And they’re just expected to be these superheroes that do it all on a fixed income and with no help.

We were raised by a single mom and she’s still a single mom. We don’t know how she did it with two kids on her own and being an immigrant and just coming to this country to give us a better life.

And so I think definitely JCPenney saw that and said, okay, this is different. So we’re working with JCPenney to make sure those nominations are increasing.”

So as you increase your sales you’re going to increase the amount that you contribute to Mamaberries?

Shan: “Yes. There will be QR codes on our gondola at JCP where people can scan it and straight away nominate a single parent that they know.”

Your mom must be so excited and proud of you guys.

Shan: “When we started Shades by Shan and the Mama Berries Nonprofit Foundation, we presented it to her on Mother’s Day to honor her. And she was just crying and she was like, ‘Oh my God, this is the nicest thing anybody has ever done.’ And then this Father’s Day, because she’s a single mom and, basically, we call her our mom and our dad, we presented her with the JCPenney deal for 610 stores.

It’s just kind of coming full circle—we started this four years ago because of her, and now we’re in JCPenney stores because of her. So she’s just beyond proud of us. It gets me choked up thinking about it because she really has instilled a work ethic and being kind and working our butts off and entrepreneurship and finding the happy in all of it and keeping smiles on our faces.”

Erika: “She said, ‘I’m not going to leave you millions. I’m not going to leave a lot of money, I’m going to leave you a very good education and what you do with it is up to you.”

Did she put both of you through school?

Shan: “Yeah, she put us both through college. She felt it was her obligation to give us the best education possible and she put us both through college and we didn’t have to take out student loans or pay her back. She refinanced her house just to put us through school.”

Erika: “She really gave us the world. She sent us to top schools in Europe. She wanted us to have an international education. She’s a strong believer that the world is a global place and we have to learn how to work among different cultures and that’s what she wanted for us. So we left right after high school to go to school abroad in Switzerland.

Shan was in Switzerland and China and Thailand and the UK. We’ve both been very global citizens. I’ve been to over 65 countries, myself, and I think that has benefitted us in the way that we lead, the way we run our business because of those experiences. We’ve been global citizens, and we treat this business as such. We know how to work with suppliers from all around the world.”

That’s amazing, where did you guys go to school?

Erika: “I went to Les Roches International School of Hotel Management. I was a hospitality major which at the end of the day is just learning business with a customer service focus. That was primarily in Switzerland.

And then I was in the higher education industry for over a decade. When Shannon called I was living in China at the time, opening up an office for my previous company. And Shannon said, ‘Hey, I want to start this business, would you be interested in helping?’ I said, ‘I’m exhausted, I’m on a plane every three to five days. My health is declining. So I said, yeah, let’s take the leap. I quit my job the next day and moved back to San Francisco after 12 years abroad.”

Shan: Erika’s the analytical one, she’s all about the numbers and data she loves all that. I’m the people person, the bubbly one, the face of it. So she said, ‘If you’re serious Shannon, I will quit my job tomorrow because I am so burnt out and I will come help you for six months. But then you’re on your own girl. This is your thing. And it’s been four years. We haven’t left each other’s sides.

And Shan where did you go to school?

“I was in Webster University in Switzerland, that was my home base. And they have campuses all over the world. So I decided to take advantage of that because when would I ever have that opportunity again? So I moved to China and then I moved to Thailand and then I moved to Missouri, I did a year there, and then I moved to London to finish and graduate there at that campus.

Our mother’s dream was always for us to travel. She said, ‘This is the only time in your life that you are going to get to just leave—when you graduate, it’s time to find a job, maybe find a husband, have kids, settle down, buy a house. You are not going to have this opportunity any other time in your life, so go.’”

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