In­die beauty brand buzzing with chem­i­cal-free lip­sticks

In­die brand buzzing with chem­i­cal-free lip­sticks

Grand Magazine - - HOLIDAY ISSUE - Lynn Had­drall

Sarah Walker as­sures me we are ap­proach­ing happy bees. I can hear them buzzing in hives near the field of laven­der. The bees dis­re­gard us. We could be strolling in Provence, France, sur­rounded by wild­flow­ers. But this idyl­lic scene is on a farm near Ayr.

Walker wears a crisp flo­ral apron around her waist. The apron suits her at­tire as co-founder of Boosh, a small cos­met­ics busi­ness that makes chem­i­cal-free lip­sticks. The name is a play on the French word for mouth – bouche.

The sun shines as we leave the bees and head back to the Boosh workspace – a con­verted dairy par­lour on this farm owned by Walker’s busi­ness part­ner, Linda Van Der Hey­den, and her hus­band, Peter. It’s here that Walker brain­storms lip­stick colours, draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the sea­sons and fash­ion run­ways. We set­tle in to talk about her busi­ness – and colour trends for fall and win­ter 2017.

“Pur­ples were re­ally big for spring and sum­mer on the run­ways, so we added some colder pur­ples. We have warmer pur­ples for the fall and win­ter,” she says, dis­play­ing hues on her wrist. “That’s what’s nice about be­ing so small and be­ing on­line is that we have the op­por­tu­nity to be cre­ative. We’re not limited or re­stricted by what’s in stock. We change things up with the sea­sons.”

Since launch­ing the com­pany two years ago, the 27-year-old en­tre­pre­neur has mar­keted it at events such as the Elora River­fest in Au­gust and the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in Septem­ber. TIFF celebri­ties got a chance to sam­ple and take home some Boosh.

Walker, an avid film fan, con­sid­ers Boosh to be an in­die beauty brand, a per­fect fit for the TIFF crowd.

“We do not be­long to any ma­jor com­pany. This gives us com­plete con­trol of our prod­ucts. It al­lows us to in­flu­ence the mar­ket by mak­ing what we want, when we want,” Walker said a few days be­fore the

film fes­ti­val be­gan.

“In­die films go through a cir­cuit to fight for a spot in the ex­hi­bi­tion arena with the big names. There is a per­fect par­al­lel with what I do along with the in­de­pen­dent movie mak­ers at TIFF. I make makeup; they make films. But we are one and the same – artists who want the pas­sion for what we pro­duce to be seen and en­joyed.”

Walker grew up in the west Galt area of Cam­bridge, at­tend­ing French im­mer­sion. She loved be­ing out­doors and vol­un­teered for the Rare Char­i­ta­ble Re­search Re­serve in high school.

“I’ve al­ways grav­i­tated to na­ture, be­ing out­side and pre­serv­ing things,” she says. “I took an in­ter­est in the hu­man body, zool­ogy, the whole en­vi­ron­ment and how every­thing in­ter­acts to­gether.”

The Univer­sity of Water­loo grad­u­ate has a de­gree in en­vi­ron­men­tal re­source stud­ies with a mi­nor in ge­og­ra­phy. Af­ter univer­sity, she stud­ied holis­tic nu­tri­tion, fo­cus­ing on tox­i­c­ity in the body. She sought out beauty prod­ucts with­out food dyes be­cause red dye trig­gers headaches for her.

“I found that a lot of the prod­ucts in the nat­u­ral health mar­ket weren’t up to snuff. I couldn’t use a lot of them be­cause they still use FDA-ap­proved dyes, so I would still have a re­ac­tion.”

Walker tack­led that prob­lem by start­ing her own cos­met­ics com­pany. The Van Der Hey­dens’ for­mer dairy farm helps her draw on lo­cal in­gre­di­ents and work in a nat­u­ral set­ting.

“The area where I work is in the old barn. Farm­ers would bring the cows in there, milk them, and then take them out through the other door. We’ve torn every­thing out and ren­o­vated it for my pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity and of­fice. I live in up­town Water­loo, but I do every­thing on the farm there. That’s where we har­vest our beeswax.”

Her workspace re­sem­bles a mod­ern kitchen, with a chic cen­tre counter, sinks, moulds, a grinder and re­frig­er­a­tor. It’s light and bright with min­i­mal fur­nish­ings. A vin­tage-style chan­de­lier adds a fem­i­nine touch.

“It gets re­ally dirty when I’m man­u­fac­tur­ing, es­pe­cially with the min­er­als, so my workspace is noth­ing over the top. It’s just min­i­mal, but it’s what I need to get the job done.”

Linda Van Der Hey­den gave Walker the con­fi­dence to move ahead with the busi­ness ven­ture.

“She’s my men­tor,” Walker says. “She’s taught me so much, not only just about be­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious and be­ing aware of what we are putting on our bod­ies, but also about busi­ness be­cause that’s what she does. She’s such a great help. We get along re­ally well.”

As well as own­ing the farm, Linda and Peter Van Der Hey­den run Goliger’s Travel Plus. There’s also a dis­tillery on the prop­erty. Their sons, Jor­dan and Nolan, plus part­ner Cam Formica, started Wil­libald Farm Dis­tillery in a re­fur­bished barn not far from Walker’s of­fice. Sarah Walker and Jor­dan Van Der Hey­den are a cou­ple, so she got to know the fam­ily and their en­trepreneurial spirit.

“She hadn’t re­ally been ex­posed to en­trepreneur­ship, so she’s see­ing us live the en­trepreneurial life and it was just about en­cour­ag­ing her,” Linda Van Der Hey­den says.

“She’s very tal­ented. A lot of young women don’t have con­fi­dence in them­selves; they’re not used to be­ing on their own and hav­ing their own busi­ness.”

Van Der Hey­den has al­ways been in­ter­ested in or­ganic prod­ucts. She took a lip­stick-mak­ing course be­fore the two women con­ceived of the ven­ture. Van Der Hey­den pro­vides fi­nan­cial ad­vice and is thrilled to see Walker bloom.

“I think the big thing is have con­fi­dence in your abil­i­ties. She has seen us work 24/7. It’s not a reg­u­lar 9-to-5 job for sure. You have a dream. You have to work hard and put in a lot of hours. Keep that pas­sion.”

Boosh is all about lip­stick to­day, but Walker hopes to ex­pand to other prod­uct lines, such as foun­da­tion and creams.

“The big-pic­ture idea is to do full-face min­eral makeup. I would like to make a liq­uid foun­da­tion and in­stead of us­ing syn­thetic dyes and syn­thetic colours, I would just use min­er­als.”

The lip­sticks are coloured with nat­u­ral min­eral pig­ments, such as carmine, yel­low ox­ide and zinc. She avoids parabens, petro­chem­i­cals, sul­phates and al­ler­gens, such as food dyes. The prod­uct base is wax from 20 bee­hives. A bee farmer from Ayr har­vests and cleans the wax. Three acres of laven­der is dis­tilled for es­sen­tial oil.

“Our bees wax gives a re­ally nour­ish­ing and heal­ing prop­erty to all the prod­ucts. That’s the main thing,” says Walker. The prod­ucts are min­i­mally pack­aged. “We wanted a pack­age that didn’t con­tain plas­tic,” she ex­plains. “We de­signed and had them man­u­fac­tured. They’re made of alu­minum and they’re rose gold. Right now, we just ship the tube it­self. We don’t have any other pack­ag­ing. We might get into some re­cy­cled pa­per pack­ag­ing. For re­tail, we will have to have that for Health Canada

reg­u­la­tions, but right now we strictly just sell on­line so we just have the tubes them­selves.”

Walker, who still works part time at a health food store, hopes to get Boosh into re­tail out­lets.

“We’ve got a cou­ple of stores in Kitch­ener, Water­loo and around the area that are in­ter­ested, so the ball’s rolling right now.”

There’s science in the prod­uct but Walker hu­man­izes the process by nam­ing each new lip­stick shade for peo­ple she knows or af­ter per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences. There’s a de­scrip­tion of each shade on the web­site (boosh.ca) and a full list of all in­gre­di­ents.

Stella, a pop­u­lar shade, is named af­ter a best friend’s dog – “a sassy lit­tle girl who loves at­ten­tion.” The shade clos­est to Walker’s heart is El­lie, named for her mother.

“When I am for­mu­lat­ing, I just think of cer­tain peo­ple and what they would want. My mother wanted a medium pink that had blue un­der­tones and wasn’t too warm.”

Walker says strong women like her mother and Van Der Hey­den sparked her en­trepreneurial spirit.

“When I grad­u­ated from univer­sity they said: ‘you’re so smart, you’re hard­work­ing, you can re­ally do what­ever you want.’ If they hadn’t sparked that in me I never would have known that. It was never re­ally a thought to me to start a busi­ness un­til they said that.”

An an­nual high­light for Walker is a char­ity event held when the laven­der is bloom­ing. It’s called Lips and Laven­der and has sold out the past two years. More than 90 women visit the farm to do yoga in the laven­der fields, play with makeup, and sip on cus­tom­ized cock­tails at the dis­tillery.

“We had 67 women in the field on mats, lis­ten­ing to the bees and all the sounds of na­ture. It’s a dif­fer­ent way to prac­tise yoga,” she says.

The suc­cess of that event and pos­i­tive feed­back from Boosh cus­tomers en­cour­ages Walker to think about new ways to grow her busi­ness. She’s ex­cited about show­cas- ing Boosh at the In­die Beauty Expo in New York City next sum­mer and par­tic­i­pat­ing in pop-up events lo­cally.

It was daunt­ing to launch a busi­ness but this mil­len­nial en­cour­ages other young women to fol­low their dreams.

“If you’re not scared, it’s prob­a­bly not worth it. There’s so many fe­male en­trepreneurs in the beauty in­dus­try here. Ev­ery­one has just been so open and wel­com­ing to me from the first day, mak­ing con­nec­tions and in­tro­duc­ing me to peo­ple. If I didn’t have that, I don’t know where I would be. Ev­ery­one is will­ing to help. It’s amaz­ing. It’s a re­ally great place to be.”

Draw­ing on that love and sup­port, she should have no prob­lem com­ing up with new names for fu­ture Boosh prod­ucts.

Sarah Walker en­joys a yoga mo­ment amidst the laven­der at her an­nual char­ity fundraiser event called Lips and Laven­der.

Sarah Walker is in­spired to cre­ate new lip­stick colour com­bi­na­tions by peo­ple and places in her per­sonal life. Her cre­ative board is awash with pos­si­bil­i­ties.

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