What inspired you to start your own business?
I have always had very problematic skin and have spent thousands of dollars on the latest dermatological treatments and expensive facials. I was on medication for years, with little to no success. All these treatments were drying, harsh, even burning, so making sure my products were gentle was an absolute must. I set out to create skin-care products that work in harmony with your skin to give positive, long-term results over time, rather than just a quick fix.
Was there a defining moment?
During my university studies I completed a thesis on cosmetic formulation in Milan with Dr Luigi Rigano (a world leader in cosmetic chemistry), with a focus on natural and organic ingredients, and plant-based preservatives. I was also selected as a finalist in a University entrepreneurship competition, with just a sketch and product ideas, and no physical products, sales or anything tangible to show! This validation was a defining moment – it made me realise that maybe I could start a company and there would be demand for my products and brand messaging.
What is the story behind the name Etymologie?
Etymology means the origin of words and is perfect name for my company as part of our philosophy is based on being inspired by traditional beauty rituals and ingredients from around the world, then re-imagining them into modern, high-performance scientific formulas. This concept is very true to our brand message: we merge the old with the new, and the natural with the scientific, whilst continuously being inspired by the geographical and cultural origins of the ingredients we use.
What were your first steps in making it happen?
With a background in science, my first step was to begin creating the formulas – before I even had a name for the company, I had the first permutations of our formulations. Product development will always come first for Etymologie, as we are committed to building a reputation for robust science, luxury natural formulas and sustainability.
Did you have support and how has this helped you?
I had support from friends and family, the Dobson Centre at McGill University and you! My friends and family have been very supportive in trying the products, and giving their feedback and also helping provide funding to start the company. My father has been very helpful in a mentorship role as he has extensive business development experience as a venture capital partner, and as head of finance at a global company. Having you as a mentor has also been so helpful as you are aware of all the growing pains a small business can experience and give the most relevant, practical advice, specific to the beauty industry. Finally, going through McGill’s Dobson cup entrepreneurship competition was a great help and support, as I created my first business plan and had it challenged by a panel of expert judges.
Developing skincare is a complex process – can you explain a little of how it works, the science behind it and process?
Again, I always like to start with the formulations. My process is first to research the ingredients and their skincare applications, in both scientific journals and traditional folklore. Then, depending on intended application, I’ll decide what active ingredients I’d like to use and at what concentrations, then it’s into the lab to test out the first versions of a new formula.
My friends, family and I are the first guinea pigs when testing new formulas. Once I’m happy with a formula, I’ll test the products with a focus group consisting of 30-40 women of different ages and ethnicities and get them to evaluate the products based on: organoleptic properties (sensory aspects of the product: colour, smell, thickness, spreadability, texture), product efficacy based on product description (does it do what it says on the bottle), and whether or not the product causes irritation. From tester feedback we’ll make small changes to the products, and do another round of consumer testing before finalizing the formula.
Once I’m satisfied with the performance the products undergo 3 months of stability testing at three temperatures (4C (control), 21C (room temperature) and 42C (high temperature, which decreases the time a product will be stable and is meant to suggest a 1 year period at room temperature) where physical (pH, viscosity, emulsion stability), and sensory properties are evaluated multiple times a day to ensure they do not change over time, and the product’s functionality remains optimum over its intended shelf-life. The preservation system also needs to be challenged, which involves exposing the products to species of key microorganisms that could possibly contaminate the products. If the microorganisms fail to grow to significant levels in the products, the preservation system is effective and no changes need to be made.
Using ingredients from sustainable, ethical producers is extremely important to us, so part of the challenge is finding good, reliable suppliers that produce high-quality ingredients. As part of our quality control, we third party test our EcoCert certified organic botanical ingredients, to make sure they contain no fertilizers or pesticides and that they are uncontaminated. We are committed to using no synthetic fillers, emulsifiers or preservatives in our formulas, instead turning to plant extracts and derivatives to fulfil these roles.