Ownr Spotlight: Brandi Leifso, the CEO who launched her indie beauty brand, Evio, from a women’s shelter
In our Ownr Spotlight, we profile business leaders who are not only successful, but also agents of change. We hope you leave inspired to take action and with a bit more confidence in your unique abilities. This week, we profile Brandi Leifso of Evio Beauty Group. And this is her journey from the women’s shelter to the CEO’s chair.
“I created my own big break,” remarks Brandi Leifso, the founder and CEO of Evio Beauty Group, in an interview with Flare magazine in 2018. Evio Beauty (formerly Evelyn Iona) is Brandi’s line of clean and green cosmetics, worth over a million dollars. The story of Brandi and Evio Beauty has been celebrated by many for its unique and challenging origins.
Battling domestic violence in an abusive relationship, Brandi sought refuge in a safe house at age 21. This was her second stint there. “I dropped out of school at 14. I didn’t have the typical happy upbringing, but I was in survival mode and did what I had to do ,” she recalls at an event hosted by Happy Monday.
“While I was in the shelter, I needed something to distract me from my situation. I had daydreamed many times about starting a makeup line. I drew inspiration from my surroundings. I envisioned a cosmetics company that would help women in a direct way,” she tells Toronto Life.
She created Evio Beauty Group in late 2014 from the shelter. The power of conscious choices during those years of personal turmoil shaped both Brandi and her cosmetics line. Evio Beauty is described as good for the skin, for the planet and the community.
“I wanted to build an army of empowered women who were creating change through small, intentional, conscious actions every single day,” as told to Hempster in an interview.
With no experience in business and no cash, Brandi bootstrapped her business and relied on her savvy sales skills and upfront payments from buyers to secure her first few orders. While at the shelter, she spent her time googling how to design a product catalog and a website. She shopped around her catalog of makeup products that didn’t exist to local stores in Vancouver and convinced them to pay upfront. Evio Beauty was bootstrapped using those pre-sales, she reveals in separate interviews to Toronto Life and CBC.
“I barely paid myself for the first three years. Sometimes I sold my furniture—or even my next meal—to pay for more lip gloss stock. But here is what I’ve learned from that: don’t take a permanent solution for a temporary problem, sacrifice is necessary and everything changes when there is more money involved,” she tells Flare.
Today, Evio Beauty Group is backed by venture capital, and has a partnership with licensed marijuana producer Aurora Cannabis for a new hemp and cannabis infused skincare line. Evio Beauty is also the only Canadian company to be accepted into Sephora’s 2018 Accelerate Program that supports women founders of cosmetic companies.
A dollar from every sale at Evio Beauty goes to the Canadian Women’s Foundation to advance equality efforts. Apart from the cosmetics line, Brandi has also nurtured the Evio Community, an online platform for women to share stories on feminism, wellness, entrepreneurship, and more.
“I’ve found that women tend not to share the darker parts of our lives because we’re afraid of being seen as vulnerable or weak—a fear that can be especially hard to tackle in business. But there’s strength in sharing how we’ve overcome challenges. The world changes when women decide it’s time to be strong and go big,” states Brandi.
In Brandi’s own words, she approaches everything with a mindset of progress before perfection. And her story is a reflection of that belief. Don’t wait to get started. The best time to go after your vision is now.