Business 10 January 2017
While most mothers can kick their maternal instincts into gear instantly, rarely are maternal instincts the basis for starting a company. Nova Covington started her skincare company Goddess Garden after her then-5-month-old daughter, Paige, had an allergic reaction to the synthetic ingredients found in the sunscreen she was wearing and so she then took it upon herself to concoct a homemade sunscreen for Paige where she replaced the synthetic ingredients with all natural ones.
Fast forward about 13 years and Goddess Garden – which is made and manufactured in Boulder, Colorado – is a national B Corp certified brand sold in 10,000 retail stores in the U.S. alone, has extended into skincare and just received it's first Series A investment by Renewal Funds; a Vancouver based Venture Capital Firm. Goddess Garden's journey so far has been quite impressive and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Covington, who is also the CEO of the company, told SWAAY that the company is expected to grow another 70 – 100% in 2017. Covington explains that in 2016, with the addition of their newly launched Sun Repair System skincare line that the brand got onto the shelves of Walgreen's and Toys-R-Us, expanded their CVS and Kroger store counts and will go on to enter Walmart in 2017 – including some of the big box retailer's locations in the southern region of the U.S., which will be a new market for Goddess Garden.
Even with all of the growth, Covington's mission for Goddess Garden remains the same and very clear: helping the planet and helping people safely enjoy the sun.
"Our mission is to create a positive impact. We want to make better products than we have access to. We want to replace the conventional alternatives with better, natural products that are actually effective."
Well, with a positive mission and exponential growth comes recognition. So, in August, Nova, who runs the company alongside her husband Paul, received a visit by Maria Contreras-Sweet, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, to award Goddess Garden a grant on behalf of the STEP (State Trade Expansive Program). The grant by STEP is awarded to small businesses to help establish global strategies and reach international consumers. "The grant will help to pay for international marketing for the next 5 years, all because we were using plant-based, U.S. grown ingredients" explains the founder. Then, in September, Goddess Garden received the coveted New Hope NEXTY Award for "Under The Sun", a pre-sunscreen serum that is part of the Sun Repair System line. NEXTY awards are given to products that are considered to be the most progressive in the natural industry.
It only makes sense that Covington, who comes across as very down to earth, explains that the inspiration for the Sun Repair System line was as simple as necessity. "It was inspired by necessity. I looked around for a facial cream to wear under my makeup with SPF 30 that was also a natural option" with no products available on the market at the time, the obvious answer for the busy mom of two was to (once again) make it herself, so that was what she did. Thus, came the Face The Day Sunscreen & Firming Primer and the birth of the entire sun repair system line.
The line launched in May of this year and contains only 7 products but according to Covington, that's all you need: "The entire sun repair system is only 7 products, there's 7 really unique products in that line. We kept it simple." In a beauty market that is over-saturated with skincare products, any brand that uses all natural ingredients, is good for the environment and can get your daily skincare routine down to just 7 products that protect, nourish and repair your skin is definitely okay in our book. Not to mention the full set of the sun repair system comes in under $80 – saving you money and space on your beauty shelf.
But how does a mom originally from Oregon with a background in communications and leadership know exactly which natural ingredients can replace synthetic ones in order to create high quality, effective skincare products? Covington explains that her passion for the environment coupled with the help of her husband who has a nutrition science degree from Oregon State University, it was a matter of researching every potential replacement ingredient, testing products on employees, friends and family and seeing which ingredients improved sun damage by either stopping or reversing the effects. Over a period of 18 months each of Goddess Garden's twenty-five employees received different variations of every product to test. The samples that delivered the best results had the most effective ingredients and went on to make up the formulas for the sun repair system line. A glimpse of the summary of their research notes that Goddess Garden was able to replace common skincare ingredients like retinol, fragrance and parabens with lycopene, essential oils and glyceryl caprylate, respectively.
Nova Covington by Callaghan O'Hare"My goal is to make something that you can use everyday to make your skin look better. Many products use plastic fillers which deliver immediate results but it is not really improving [your skin]. I wanted something that worked over time."
Well, according to the test results of Goddess Garden's first clinical research, Covington has definitely created products that improve your skin over time. Participants that used the Under The Sun serum and Face The Day Sunscreen & Firming Primer together for 90 days saw a 23% reduction in wrinkles.A business venture that could otherwise be perceived as organic and seamless, has - like all companies - faced some challenges. Covington explains that the biggest challenge so far has been explaining to buyers what natural sunscreen was and that their product was in fact effective. "When we first started going into mass food and drug channels, the buyers didn't know what natural sunscreens were. Everyone who sees a dermatologist is told that they need zinc titanium in their sunscreen [but] the buyers in the store didn't know what those minerals were. We had to explain that our product is very effective and that our competitors have not been as effective and people were getting sunburned" explains Covington. The founder goes on to say that when meeting with buyers, they had to make it clear to buyers that they understood the importance of producing and selling an effective product because these were products that they were also using on their family, "we were formulating something for our own daughter, we made sure it works, we use this on our family and I would never sell a product that doesn't work… we want [our consumers] to enjoy the sun again."[thb_border]
The Quick 10
1. What app do you most use?
2. Briefly describe your morning routine.
Coffee. Kids. Goddess Garden.
3. Name a business mogul you admire.
4. What product do you wish you had invented?
5. What is your spirit animal?
6. What is your life motto?
“We arrive precisely when we mean to" (re-quoted incorrectly from Gandalf, on Lord of the Rings).
7. Name your favorite work day snack.
Nuts, raw veggies and grapes.
8. Every business/entrepreneur must be ____ to be successful.
9. What's the most inspiring place you've traveled to?
Cabo Pulmo, the world's best protected Coral Reef in Baja California, Mexico.
10. Desert Island. Three things, go.
(Besides family members) Goddess Garden Sunscreen, a good book, Satellite locator for the trip home ;)[/thb_border]
20 JuneEditors picks
If you are a woman, a person of color or LGBTIA+ identified and are a part of a start-up company, this is the competition for you. The SoGal Global Pitch Competition is being hosted in over 25 cities and will culminate in a final contest in Silicon Valley as well as a "3-day immersive educational bootcamp." This could be an unprecedented opportunity for you, your business and for the future of entrepreneurial diversification.
We all know how important diversity is for the world and for any business entity. But the statistics need to catch up with these ideals, because diversity isn't just a moral imperative it can also have an impact on the success and efficiency of a business. So if the ethics isn't enough to get you interested, maybe these statistics will.
- Companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity are 35% more likely to have above-average financial returns
- Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have above-average financial returns
- Bottom quartile companies (in both gender and racial diversity) are less likely to achieve even average returns
- In senior executive teams in the US for every 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) rose 0.8%
Despite the fact that diversity is good for business, funding as a woman or a minority is incredibly challenging, but this competition could be someone's game-changing opportunity.
SoGal is a global education and empowerment platform focused on diverse investors and entrepreneurs. Their mission is "to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship and venture capital." A tall order, given that 2.2% of VC funding went to women in 2018. Compounding the gender gap with race shows an even poorer picture: in the past decade only 0.1% (yes, that is a decimal) of funding was allocated to black women.
It is a straight up fact that companies with higher levels of diversity perform better, so why is it so hard for diverse start-ups to get funded? Oh right, racism, sexism, homophobia, implicit biases, inequality, classism... the list goes on, but thankfully that's where SoGal comes in! According to Kelley Elizabeth Henry, director of SoGal, "We're done waiting for these statistics to change; we're taking action to point investment capital toward these diverse-led startups. [...] We will change the future of entrepreneurship."
To enter this competition all you have to do is be a part of a pre-Series A startup (raised less than $3M) and have at least one "woman or diverse" founder. After you apply to pitch, you'll have to be able to make it to one of the "regional round location," which range from the more typical options of New York and Los Angeles to global locations such as Nairobi or Bangalore. And, if you're really playing to win, you better earmark February 28 to March 1 of next year, because that's when the top teams will be in San Francisco duking it out to the very end. And by "duking it out," I mean participating in "curated educational programming," talking to press and getting "facetime in front of top-tier investors." Though not everyone can win, the experience in itself looks to be well-worth the time it takes to fill out an application form and huff it to the nearest large city for the first round.