At 21 years old, Brandi Leifso was inspired by the kindness and care she received during her time in a women’s shelter. Fast forward to today, and the 29-year-old beauty entrepreneur has built an uber-successful company called Evio Beauty on the philosophy of kindness. Evio specializes in makeup and skincare with good-for-you ingredients and sustainable packaging, and their 2020 goal is to carry out 20,000 acts of kindness. “We’re three months in and have already done 1,285 acts by way of donations, clothing drives, and leaving kind sticky-notes in bathrooms,” she tells me.
Here, Brandi walks us through her career path, explains how her personal story inspires her work today, and offers inspiration for other women who want to start their own businesses.
Briefly walk us through your pre-Evio career path. What did you do before?
I left school in grade 9. Eventually, I completed my high school diploma via mail in modules. I then started what was ‘Karmaface Cosmetics’ when I was 21 and have been an entrepreneur for the better part of my adult life. Before diving into the cosmetics world, I worked in the entertainment industry as an actor/model agent/manager assistant and eventually managed my own roster of models in Asia. It was a short lived but dynamic career that was full of lessons, and that time helped prepare me to launch my own brand.
Last year, you launched Evio. Tell us about your new company.
Yes! Evio! Launched in 2019. Evio is a conscious lifestyle brand with a focus on selfcare products. We offer a judgement-free, gender neutral, and affordable collection of makeup and skincare products made with good-for-you ingredients and sustainable packaging and manufacturing practices. Evio builds community fueled by kindness to encourage everyone to live our motto: do the right thing, even when no one is looking.
Your story is particularly inspiring because you created the concept for Evio when you were 21, while living in a women’s shelter. What was that experience like? In what ways do you think it inspired you to start your own company?
The experience of living in a shelter at 21 has shaped me and Evio in so many ways. I wanted to start my own cosmetics line even before entering the shelter, but while there, I better understood the kind of brand community I wanted to build. The kindness of strangers who took extra care of others, even when no one was looking, was what really inspired me to build a company with a mission to create a conscious future. We will know that our mission has been accomplished when my story is no longer an anomaly. If we show more kindness to the underdog in times of uncertainty and value the experience of hard times, with a conscious approach to use them to fuel our knowledge and empathy, our world would excel.
What would you like to tell women who are going through a similar struggle right now?
Don’t take no for an answer. Keep going. YOU GOT THIS!
Through your business, you have raised lots of money for women’s causes. Tell us a bit about this side of your work and what causes you’re passionate about helping.
I love this question! I’m really passionate about supporting the underdog. It’s not a gender-specific based support, however we do support a number of female focused causes simply because females make up so much of the underdog population due to inequality. Some of these organizations are: Homeward-bound program, WoodGreen Foundation, Canadian Women’s Foundation, and YWCA.
In 2020 we launched 1 for 1 program. We donate 1 product for every product purchased. We have already donated more than 1,000 products this year, all because of our community. You can see the donation counter at eviobeauty.com.
Have you always felt strongly about sustainability and ethics in terms of beauty products? Where did this stem from, do you think?
I have always felt very strongly about ethics (in business and in life) and am constantly learning new ways to be more sustainable (we’re currently working on a recycling program!)
As we know better, we do better 🙂
I think this comes from having seen things that just don’t feel fair or right, and from my experience being caught up in a broken system. The world is complex and sometimes doing the right thing is more complicated in business; there are many factors and all outcomes have pros and cons. However, I strongly feel that if you have good intentions, there is a way to do right by everyone. And in order to do this, you have to emerge yourself in the community so that you can learn new perspectives and what “the right thing” is to a multitude of people, because it’s not always the same answer. And with the collective information, you can do the best you can.
How has your company evolved over the last year since you launched?
The business was actually first called Karmaface Cosmetics back in 2012, when I was in the shelter. We then became Evelyn Iona, a wholesale brand that sold natural and organic cosmetics to stores. This eventually evolved into the launch of our direct to consumer line, Evio, which launched in March 2019.
The mission and the vision have remained the same, but the path has been anything but straight. We’ve matured (and still have a long way to go) to better understand how Evio can be a kinder and more conscious company, and how to build a meaningful community that will help us get there. The first year has been about trial and error, wots of wins and lots of losses – most of all lots of lessons and lots of growth!
What have you learned so far about running your own business? Have you faced any challenges, and if so, how did you deal with them?
There seems to be a challenge at every corner, but those challenges tend to be where the growth happens. I’ve learned to welcome the challenges and become more comfortable with navigating them.
What advice would you give to other aspiring female entrepreneurs?
DREAM BIG! Work hard. Stay humble. And go for it!
What sort of products does Evio specialize in? What are the essentials that new customers should start with?
Evio specializes in natural, good-for-you products to create that no-makeup, heathy glowing skin, makeup look
Our #1 selling product, by far is our Refreshing Cleansing Wipes! We’ve shipped more than half a million of them since launching them in June 2019. They are wizardry when it comes to cleansing the face and getting rid of dirt and grime that you didn’t even know was there. Not to mention, they remove waterproof makeup with one wipe (including red lipstick and mascara). Plus, they are anti-bacterial and biodegradable.
Our Hydrating Lip Glosses are a close second. They are hydrating, vitamin-packed, non-sticky lip glosses that come in five shades, each named after everyday people who inspire Evio.
My favourite shade is Val, named after my sister.
What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself and Evio in five years?
I’m excited to continue to scale Evio over the next five years. We have a lot of new and exciting products in the pipeline. We’re also focusing on continuing to build our community and create more opportunities for them to connect (IRL & URL) and to be a platform where people can realize and accomplish their wildest dreams. Because if we can do it, so can they!