Some of today's biggest players in the beauty industry just happen to be the underdogs. Indie beauty brands are hotter than ever and in our new series, Indie Beauties, we're chatting with the powerhouse women behind these brands to learn how they made their dreams a reality. This week, we're chatting with Tata Harper, founder of the eponymous luxury natural skincare brand.
What was your first job in the beauty business?
"This is it! I've never had a job in beauty before."
What was the biggest challenge you faced starting out?
"Luxury natural skincare was such a new concept, so everything was a challenge—finding scientists willing to work on the project for several years to develop formulas from scratch, finding packaging alternatives that weren’t as wasteful as typical packaging, getting people to even believe naturals can be effective."
What inspired you to start your own company?
"My stepfather was diagnosed with cancer, and I took him to his doctor’s appointments, so I started learning with him about the toxic load that can build in your body from exposure to synthetic chemicals and how much that can damage your health. I started replacing everything in my life—food, household cleaning products—but couldn’t find any skincare products that were both natural and gave me the luxurious experience and effects I was used to. After years of searching, I decided to create my own."
Where did you see yourself at 20?
"I thought I was going to be a fashion designer, and that I’d be in Paris studying for a masters in fashion design and merchandising."
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
"Still making amazing, safe products for women. Doing what I’m doing is such a privilege—to make people beautiful and healthy. I think that I found my dharma in life; I can’t imagine myself doing anything else."
What empowers and fulfills you as a businesswoman?
"Seeing projects come to fruition, like creating a new product and seeing it go from concept to reality is incredibly empowering for me. I’m more fulfilled by going to stores and meeting my customers. Hearing their stories, seeing how their skin has transformed and that we’ve been able to help them feel more beautiful, it’s really moving, and it’s why I do what I do."
What is the best business advice you've received?
"Probably to do something that you’re passionate about, because that way you’ll do your best work."
What is the best beauty advice you've received?
"To have a consistent, complete, multi-step regimen that you do morning and night and to be disciplined about it, not inconsistent and sporadic. And, of course, stay out of the sun."
How has growing up in Colombia influenced your work ethic? What about your views on beauty?
"Growing up in a Latin culture where women really spend time on their beauty and have lots of beauty rituals, I saw it from a young age not as a luxury but as a necessity, as part of daily self-care just like brushing your teeth. Beauty was such a big part of my daily life, and how I connected with the women around me. My grandmother hosted the women in my family for spa parties almost every weekend, and it was all about all of the women spending time together and making themselves feel good.
It was the women in my family and the examples that I saw in my household growing up that really influenced my work ethic. My mom was an entrepreneur, and was very dedicated and passionate about her company. She encouraged us to do things we are passionate about because that’s how you do your bes—you’re really enthusiastic about what you’re doing, and it doesn’t really feel like work."
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
"I’m incredibly proud of the 12 beauty awards we won last year!"
Why was it important to you to keep every aspect of your company in house? From research to manufacturing, you do it all. Why was this such an important aspect of the business for you?
"One of the things I found most shocking when I started researching the beauty industry was that most companies outsource everything, from marketing to manufacturing, and that sometimes a product won’t hit shelves until two years after it was made. I felt that in order to ensure the highest level of quality and freshness, it was absolutely key that we did everything ourselves with our own people. This way, our crown of flowers on every bottle really means something; it’s our promise to our customers that they’re receiving the freshest product, made of the best ingredients, and made by us.
What is one piece of advice you'd give other women looking to break into the beauty business?
"From the point of view of someone who's in the market and seeing all of the products out there, be sure you’re creating something with a different point of view that actually makes peoples lives better—this is the most important thing. Marketing ideas or ‘silver bullet’ ingredients, that’s not the way to start."
You have a gorgeous family farm in Vermont. Did you ever feel pressure to locate the company in a bigger city or even outsource? Why is it important to you to have a local farm—especially one in little old Vermont!
"We had the farm before I ever thought about being a beauty entrepreneur. Before we moved up here full-time, it was a weekend place that we loved, that inspired us, that helped us feel connected to nature. Now it’s given us the real estate to be vertically integrated, which is an essential part of what we do."
How does your new product and formula process start? What's your inspiration for creating a new product?
"Inspiration for new products comes from many places. I love to read scientific journals about skincare and the latest research about skin and new ingredients, and once I learn about new things that have been uncovered with beauty and aging, it inspires me to create something to solve those issues. This is how we’ve become pioneers in purification of the skin, for instance—not in the traditional context of blemishes, but in preventing the aging effects that can be caused by exposure to pollution.
I’m constantly traveling and meeting customers, so another big source of the inspiration for new products comes from them, what they want and need, what skin challenges they are facing. And, of course, my team always has great ideas.
What are the top three products from your line you can't live without?
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