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]
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."
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