Subject: Michele Gough Baril

As a principal member of the Smashbox Cosmetics executive team, Michele Gough Baril spent seven years leading the brand’s positioning, storytelling, media, and digital marketing strategies that played a key role in helping Smashbox become the fastest-growing independent beauty brand in the country. This impressive growth led to an acquisition by Estee Lauder in 2012. Gough Bari was at the height of her career, and they offered her a set-for-life job. She’d finally arrived–and then promptly quit. She was burned out and fed up with the industry’s outdated practices and stereotypes preached to women (particularly those over 40). Right around then, she met Romeo, a retired racehorse who was also burned out from a demanding career on the track. He needed a home, and Michele needed a purpose. The two move to a free-roaming rescue horse farm in Northern California’s wine country. Fast-forward to now: Gough Baril is the founder and CEO of Iris&Romeo, a brand that’s all about supporting women on their paths to becoming their truest, fullest selves with skincare and  makeup hybrids that work for their busy lives and make them feel so darn juicy and alive there’s no stopping them.

What makes you feel like (y)ourself?

Being present with nature instantly gets me back to myself. Whether that’s passing through wide open spaces with my horse and dog where the sky meets the hills in every direction, or sitting in a redwood forest feeling the weight of stillness around me. Nature slows me down enough to get very present and when that happens everything becomes clear, internally and externally. I come back to myself. It’s my soul medicine.

Who (or what) inspires you?

Women who have honest conversations that normalize the female experience. As women we live in a culture of perfection. We have to look perfect, be perfect mothers, career-women, wives, friends, home makers… the list goes on. It’s exhausting. Women like Glennon Doyle, Jodie Patterson, Ashley C Ford, Tara Burke, and Brene Brown are truth tellers.

My husband Roland also inspires me. He is a Waldorf teacher and currently teaches 6th grade. He also leads fathers’ groups, teaching men how to consciously parent from a healthy masculine place. He's an amazing father himself. He shows up for so many people day after day, and has done this work for 30 years. He’s my rock. I admire that kind of presence and commitment. He just makes you want to be a better person.

Best Ageless advice you ever received?

There is a famous quote attributed to the English Victorian novelist and poet, George Eliot (who was actually a woman), “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” I heard this when I was in my early thirties and it has inspired me for two decades now.

When I set out to found Iris&Romeo five years ago, I had doubts that maybe I was too old. I had this idea that successful startup founders had to be in their 20’s. It’s simply not true, but our culture supports this kind of ageism. Just this past week I read an article in Forbes that cited a study by researchers from MIT, Northwestern, Wharton, and the U.S. Census Bureau, which proved the average age of a successful startup founder was 45, and the likelihood of success as a founder increases with age until the age of 60. The older you get, the more likely your chances are. A 50-year-old founder is twice as likely to build a thriving enterprise that has either an IPO or a successful acquisition as a 30-year-old-founder. Turns out our wisdom and experience are what makes us successful. Whenever that old messaging creeps into my head I recite this quote. It’s like a mantra.