We are so excited to share our latest installation of the Founder Stories series: a conversation with Tara Foley, who is changing beauty for good with her natural beauty store Follain!
Can you tell us about the moment you made the decision to change your path, and leave your position as a paralegal to pursue your interest in nontoxic skincare and beauty products?
It wasn't exactly a single moment... more of a long time coming! On nights and weekends I had been writing a blog all about clean beauty, interviewing brand founders in the space, reviewing products, etc. and realized it was incredibly fulfilling. I also realized that the space needed serious help. There were clearly big opportunities on the horizon for making change and bringing clean beauty to more people! This was 2009, way before it became a movement. I knew the movement was coming, and wanted to be part of it. So I decided to "pull the emergency break" on my life (and career that I had spent years prepping for) to immerse myself. I moved first to a lavender farm in France to learn about terroir and growing clean beauty ingredients. Then, I moved up to Maine to apprentice with a skincare developer. I then got a quick MBA, and worked on my business plan the entire two years at school. And here we are!
What seemed to be missing from the experience of shopping for clean beauty, and how did you plan to fill this gap?
When I first discovered clean beauty in 2009, there was no easy way to find and shop for these products. They were scattered between food stores, home stores, and salons. There were no dedicated stores (like a Sephora or Bluemercury) with experts selling only clean beauty. On top of that, many brands out there claimed to be clean, but with a quick label read I discovered these claims were false. I desperately wanted a single shopping space with the highest standards for ingredient safety, paired with deep expertise on matching the best clean beauty for my skin type and concerns. And that's exactly what Follain is today.
What were some of the best pieces of advice you received as you built your business from scratch?
1) To share ideas with as many people as possible. In the past, I was scared that if I shared my concept with others someone might steal it or even worse, think it was a bad idea! I got some advice one day that I should try to get advice and feedback whenever possible. This has been game-changing for my business.
2) To constantly (and ruthlessly) prioritize. The blessing and curse of entrepreneurship is the drive to ideate and run after new ideas, partners, and projects all the time. But to actually make progress, we have to constantly ask: will this support one of our agreed upon priorities for the year? Otherwise we'll never make any real progress on anything!
Every single product that Follain sells has been tested by a member of your team. We love this dedication to building trust with your customers, and making sure that you are delivering real value. Can you tell us a bit more about this process?
Well, before we even test the products to see if they work and do what they claim to (so important for the reasons above!) we first make sure that the products fit our ingredient safety standards. We have a long restricted substance list, and check labels to see if the products contain any of these ingredients before we even try the products. If the products are truly clean, from an ingredient perspective, we'll then send them through the rest of our approval and testing process.
Last spring, Follain launched a new website that helps guide customers to the right products based on their individual skin care needs. What sort of results have you seen from implementing this data-driven and personalized approach?
The personalization helps us match customers with the best for their skin type and concern - so important to our mission! If a woman tries a "conventional" beauty product and it isn't right for her, she just moves onto the next product. But when a woman tries a clean beauty product and it isn't right for her, she may think that all clean beauty products don't work! WE CAN'T LET THAT HAPPEN! So, we're that much more motivated to match her with the very best for her skin. The quiz, filter (and many more features in the pipeline) all help us do that!
There seems to be a stigma in place that by making the shift to clean beauty, you have to sacrifice effectiveness for safer ingredients. How do you respond to that?
1) That you don't know until you try!
2) That you should try for the first time with real experts who can help you find the best products for your skin and concerns.
3) Why knowingly risk your health when there are products out there with nourishing, real ingredients...better experiences... and, oftentimes, better efficacy?!?!
What are your favorite products right now, as the days are getting colder and skin drier?
That's tough to answer, honestly - there are so many!! In the winter I do tend to gravitate to gentler cleansers (like the TB Hydrating Cleanser or Clean Slate)... more hydrating oils and creams (like the Vital Balm Cream or Golden Hour Recovery Cream) and I mist on Hydrating Accelerator throughout the day.
In the winter I also become addicted to scrubs... lip scrub... hand and body scrub... face exfoliants. No moisturizer can really work its magic without exfoliated, clean skin so these become super important in the winter months! Try exfoliating more in the winter and watch your dry skin go away!
Follain has two locations in Boston, and a holiday pop-up in New York City open through January 15, 2018. Can't make it to a store? View their products anytime online.