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How Maternal Instincts Lead To The Launch Of A Multi-Million Dollar Skincare Company

Business

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?

Facebook.

2. Briefly describe your morning routine.

Coffee. Kids. Goddess Garden.

3. Name a business mogul you admire.

Maria Shriver.

4. What product do you wish you had invented?

Yoga pants.

5. What is your spirit animal?

Hummingbird.

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.

Passionate

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 ;)

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Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.