Which is your home chapter?
What is your company?
Esōes Cosmetics is the first patent-issued smart safety cosmetics. What does that mean? We are combining science, technology, and beauty to create a lipstick and other cosmetics that could save your life.
What were you doing before you started working on your company?
I am a third-time founder. So I founded a nonprofit and then another social enterprise, all for the last 14 years, I’ve been working in women’s safety. So I was working with trafficking survivors and more kind of extreme cases of violence and then building out a resource center and food hall that could provide jobs again and healing spaces for survivors. So everything in my career has really been in this vein and in this mission. Fighting violence and providing holistic resources and spaces of belonging and support for survivors. And for us as a community to really invite people in, believe people, and provide long-term support and healing.
It’s a journey, but I wouldn’t be doing anything else. It’s definitely in me.
If your company didn’t already exist, would you be doing something different?
Honestly, no. Probably because in July of 2021, when I was trying to redefine what was my next goal, it really came down to, how do we create innovative solutions to fight this problem so that we’re not providing aftercare, but we’re actually preventing this? So, really that has been my mission. I always tell people, we don’t have to live like this. These are solvable problems with innovative solutions and a community behind it, and that is what we’re doing here.
Why does the world need your company?
The World Health Organization tells us one in three women experience violence in their lifetime. And that’s reported numbers, and we know only about 20% of people actually report. So we’re saying that this affects almost everyone. And if it doesn’t affect you, it affects multiple people that you know. Not only that, but the numbers are increasing by about 2.9% year over year. So this problem is not getting better, it’s getting worse. And yet we’re dumping tons of money from government and global level into fighting it with no innovative solutions. We call our kind of system an ecosystem of solutions because it’s innovative products. Including roofie testing, as well as a panic button that connects to your phone: you can push a button to send your location, call 911 or sound an alarm.
Next is a responsive giving program. We don’t just give money to organizations, we ask them what they need and provide them the resources that are needed so that they can provide adequate resources on the ground to survivors. We also have an education component, which is a safe space and certification training, so we can educate bars, nightclubs, and so on. We’ve done colleges, we’ve done hair salons, anyone who wants to learn more about gender-based violence, how it happens, and what their part can be in preventing it, and what they should be looking for. This puts the onus on the owners of businesses to say, this is your business, this should be a safe place for people to come in.
If you’re providing alcohol, people should be able to drink it safely. If you’re providing services, people should be able to have those services safely. It really is a community-driven program. Our goal is to educate everyone, even at our law enforcement levels, judges, hospitals, etc. Really anyone that works or comes into contact with folks who’ve experienced violence. They can receive our training and be educated on how to truly handle this with dignity, with a trauma-informed approach and work together to eliminate the problem and help people heal.
If you could choose any real person, living or dead, to be your co-founder, who would it be?
There are some mission-driven female founders that I look up to. I really admire Karissa, who founded Thrive Cosmetics. Giving has always been a part of her mission. As far as impact through cosmetics, she has made more impact and given 10 times more even than most of the much larger companies that are way bigger than her. I love that about them. I also love Sarah Blakely, Alli Webb, and Candace Nelson with Sprinkles. They solved a problem and then empowered other founders who are making an impact.
What did you do before or what would you do if you weren’t doing this?
Being a female founder coming from the non-profit space, I had no idea how hard funding would be. I’ve fundraised $8 million in cash raising awareness before people even knew what trafficking was. And I thought people would respond differently to a for-profit gender-based violence organization.
Really why I got into for-profit, is because I think that as a community, oftentimes we put the onus on non-profits to solve all the problems, and they will never have enough time, money, or energy to do it.
We had a podcast that’s on hold right now, called Humans Who Give a Shit. My passion would be to build out my Humans Who Give a Shit brand and start investing in social impact companies. To help regular, everyday people who have been impacted by problems, help solve those problems, and start seeing and hearing more of what people are doing. We all need good news but get a lot of bad news. And I want to be able to continue to uplift those “good news” stories so that people, while they’re getting all the bad news, can still see the hope that exists. Hope is a discipline, and we need to fill up our minds, hearts, and souls with goodness, too.
It’s been so hard and yet I’ve been lucky with my experience and network, and it makes me want to help founders. I just can’t imagine all the problems that could be solved if more people were supported in what they want to do. That’s why I love Startup Haven’s mission. Often in startup gatherings, there’s a lack of diversity and people can lack understanding or be condescending about Esōes Cosmetics. I appreciate that that hasn’t been my experience at Startup Haven.
What was one of your biggest wins?
I love our patent. I’m so proud that I was able to utilize my network to find the right patent attorney. It was a cool experience. Building out that patent, was the very first thing I did. I said, if we’re going to do this, we’re going to own it because it’s never been done before. One of the attorneys who worked in that department turned out to be a former patent examiner too. We got the patent issued in less than 18 months, which is kind of a record for them. I said, I’m so impressed by you, thank you so much. And they said, you gave us all the material and we just got to hit the home run with it.
That being said, just getting up and doing the work every day, putting one foot in front of the other, when you sometimes have no idea what the next step is? I think as a founder that is the thing I’m most proud. I honestly don’t think the world has any idea what it’s like to feel alone, to make stuff up constantly, and to just figure it out and pivot 100 times. It’s so mentally taxing and it feels really lonely sometimes. I think I’m proud that I’ve been doing it for 14 years and I’m still here.
It’s key to have community, and people who have been there. Sometimes you get impostor syndrome or why can’t hit this goal or do this thing, what’s wrong with me? And you realize there’s nothing wrong, that’s just how it goes when you’re gaining traction.
What’s been your biggest obstacle?
I didn’t expect some of the fundraising obstacles. Almost everyone I pitch is thinks it’s exciting and unique, which is amazing, but it’s getting the right people to go from that to the act of investing or connecting me with the right person. It’s really just getting out there, showing up and continging to ask, getting ten or a hundred “nos” for one “yes.”
With fundraising and with most startup things that’s how it goes. I’m incessant and sometimes I feel like people can see me coming, expecting me to ask them for something again. In the regular world, asking for help can feel wrong sometimes. But I’ve found that that’s not how people see it at all. They see it as I’m creating opportunities for people, which is true. If you don’t believe you’re creating an opportunity for your investors, you shouldn’t be the founder in the first place. It doesn’t annoy them, they tell me that the tenacity inspires them or it’s what gets their attention. If you believe in it so much that you can tell it to the world 100,000 million times over and over, that’s how you succeed.
What advice do you have to give?
Ownership and intellectual property is something that isn’t talked about enough. People too often don’t realize how easy it is for someone to take a company from someone else, and don’t fully understand the way voting powers work and the way equity works.
I wish I had taken the advice that I had received over the years before. I’m taking it now. I’ve had previous experiences that were very difficult, but that I’m ultimately grateful for because they enabled me to protect Esōes today.
If you don’t protect yourself, your ideas, your name, or your intellectual property, it’s very easy for someone to come to work alongside you, and then take it out from underneath you. I hope anyone who’s reading this takes that advice and evaluates who is part of your business.
I encounter this so frequently with founders who are further along than me, and having problems due to ownership and the way their company was set up.
What part do they play, how much ownership do they have and how much decision-making do they have? And if you don’t have most of it, or enough of it to change something, you need to reevaluate and evaluate your business plan.
It’s important to be informed about this and get an attorney, to set yourself up for success. You should never give up any part of your company to anyone. If you are going to put all your heart, soul, time, effort, savings, and your family’s vacations, and holidays all on the line for something, you should know how to protect yourself.
This may sound jaded but don’t trust anyone 100% in regards to this. You don’t know their intentions, and intentions can change down the line.
It’s typically people that you know. 67% of abuse is people you know or family members. That should shock all of us, and we should utilize that statistic in every other area of our lives.
We believe the best in people and it can be hard to imagine why someone would do that. We want to include people, We need help and support.
And unfortunately, women founders are sometimes looked at as easy targets. Always keep a hand on the rein, and check with your advisors and attorney. You should protect yourself in whatever you do. It’s wild, but you should always watch your back.