Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Small Business, Big Impact: Rooted Beauty

If you read my short piece about TOMS at YCIYWT last week, then you already know that a big part of the concept for this blog was to look into businesses that operate sustainably on a clear bottom line while also contributing to something much more meaningful. That value makes Rooted Beauty a prime candidate to kick off the new feature “Small Business, Big Impact.”

The company’s mission is three-fold: to positively impact customers with skincare products that contain “natural superpower ingredients”; to positively impact the environment by making smart, eco-conscious decisions when it comes to packaging those products; and to positively impact women around the world who have suffered extreme conditions of poverty or trafficking by using some of the profits from Rooted Beauty products to benefit specific women through the Woman2Woman Project.

I had the privilege to e-chat this week with Rooted Beauty founder Kim Garrett to learn a bit more about each part of that mission.

“I grew up loving skincare and beauty products and always wanted to have my own beauty company,” Garrett told me. “When I was in college, I began to learn about issues of women’s injustice, like trafficking, and got involved with several organizations to help be the change. 

“Shortly thereafter, I realized there were lots of great organizations, but there was a common thread that the organizations were limited in the impact they could have because of lack of funds or resources. I thought about how much money goes into the beauty industry” (see this article for some of the statistics) “and [how] if we could just share a portion of that revenue, then so many women's lives could be transformed!”

Garrett took this inspiration and teamed up with a college classmate to start investigating options to create beauty products that were healthful and “kind to the earth.” The end goal was always to contribute to the empowerment of women who had greatly suffered some of the world’s more potent ills, like sexual exploitation and unequal opportunity, but on the road, the friends also made an incredible product. 

I asked Garrett what challenges had faced her in working to create a quality product intended for a big impact at a reasonable price. She said:

“There have been so many challenges along the way. One of my biggest challenges has been finding the right suppliers and manufacturers to partner with. Additionally, I moved three times during the first two years of Rooted Beauty, was commuting two hours both ways at one point, and my founding business partner decided to pursue a different path shortly after we launched.”

I dug a bit deeper when I heard this. How did she find the will to keep going? “In all honesty, things are still very hard,” was her answer. “I’ve thought more about giving up recently than I did in the earlier stages, but that's what is so great about the Woman2Woman project. When I compare my challenges to what these women are facing or have faced, it's a constant reality check.”

The Woman2Woman Project, as mentioned in the third clause of the Rooted Beauty Mission, is exactly what it sounds like. Women buy a Rooted Beauty product—say, Razz Lime lip butter—and the money raised from all the women buying that product goes to the woman whose project is associated with that product. To date, eighteen projects have been completed in all. 

“We were so excited to complete the first project,” Garrett told me. “It was so heart-warming because not only were we able to provide Indra with a repaired home and the tools/training to have her own fish selling business, but through the income she made with her new business, she was able to buy herself some new clothes and begin a dating relationship because of her newfound confidence. Sustainable empowerment is so important to Rooted Beauty and it is wonderful to know that after two years, Indra is still able to provide for herself and is no longer bound by the chains of her poverty.” 

The most recent completed project was for Ariana, through purchases of Rasberry Citrus Facial Wipes. Now that Ariana's project is complete, purchases of these wipes go to a new project, Cindy.

As the mission says, on top of extending funds to help needing women with vocational training and counseling, Rooted Beauty works hard to find affordable, natural, and healthy ingredients for their beauty products. Some of these include goji berry, naturally calming and protecting the skin; thanaka root, refining pores and deeply hydrating the skin; and green coffee, detoxifying and invigorating the skin.

Moreover, the packaging itself reminds the user to be conscious about waste. My new favorite Rooted Beauty product, Berry Mint lip butter, reads right on the cap: "Compost me!" (Since talking to Rian Bedard of Mr. Fox Composting, I am particularly appreciative of companies that make a point to compost.)

Another pleasant surprise, though this comes more from me than from Kim Garrett, is that the products are tastefully scented. Unlike many fruity scents in the beauty aisle, Rooted Beauty scents are mild, soothing, and maybe a bit nostalgic, never overpowering or artificial. Between this and the inherent benefits, it's tempting not to use them more than needed.

It must be difficult, to run a business with three equally emphasized bottom lines, but Kim Garrett does so with grace. "I have been so blessed with resources and opportunities and the least I can do is use my resources to empower others towards those same resources and opportunities. I would want someone to do that for me if they were able and that's what keeps me going."

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