Every once in a while a beauty influencer or brand comes along that’s so extraordinary in their efforts to give back, attention must be paid. Each Feel Good Friday, we’ll highlight these do-gooders along with simple ways to support their efforts.
New York Fashion Week has come and gone but there’s one show that’s still being talked about today. In what can only be described as an ironic twist, the brand responsible for that buzz isn’t a trendy fashion house at all but rather a beauty brand with a powerful message, Thrive Causemetics.
The luxury product line that helps to empower women in need through the gift of beauty products, sent real women (including my dear friend Christina Heiser) down the runway barefoot and in plain black dresses to keep the focus on the makeup. While the “models” channeled their best Zoolander, the brand showed its support for the host city with a donation of $25,000 worth of products to New York City-area hospitals.
I briefly chatted with Karissa Bodnar (pictured left), founder of Thrive Causemetics, and immediately understood how a woman with such innovative vision was exactly the right person to make the first beauty-focused NYFW show come to life.
Here, the energetic and insanely busy 26-year-old (seriously, I don’t even know how she finds time to sleep!) shares the inspiring story behind the brand, why the people who benefit from their one-for-one model are the real stars of the show, and how you can get involved.
Alexis Farah: What made you want to start Thrive Causemetics?
Karissa Bodnar: Our mission at Thrive Causemetics is to offer luxury beauty products that are vegan, cruelty-free and created without parabens or sulfates to all women while helping to empower women in need through the gift of beauty products. With every product purchased, one is donated to a woman in need.
AF: And what specifically inspired you to create a business that gave back?
KB: Truthfully, I’ve always had a passion for philanthropy. When I was working for Sephora, Clarisonic and L’Oreal, I was always looking for new opportunities to volunteer and use my talents to help others. I volunteered as a makeup artist at women’s shelters and also for Look Good Feel Better. Losing my friend Kristy to cancer was most definitely the catalyst for me wanting to start Thrive Causemetics, but helping other people makes us all feel inspired. I used to think of my time volunteering as a special treat, but I no longer have to compartmentalize my work and volunteering. I am so grateful that Thrive Causemetics allows me to do both, every single day.
AF: How did you decided on the one for one model that benefits cancer patients?
KB: When she was just 24, my friend Kristy passed away from cancer. Walking her cancer journey with her not only as a friend, but as a beauty advisor taught me how excluded women feel when they are going through cancer treatment and I wanted to change that. I was inspired to develop a luxury beauty brand for all women that had a purpose where every product purchased, one would be donated to a woman going through cancer treatment. By developing safe and effective beauty products, we ensure that all women feel included in the beauty conversation and that is really what Beauty with a Purpose means to us. All of our products are named after women who, like Kristy, inspire us. We are here to empower all women and we will expand our one-for-one giving mission to go beyond cancer to help other women in need.
AF: You said that you’ve known what you wanted to do since you were 13, how did you create a career path that guaranteed experience in all the right places?
KB: When I was 13, I discovered my love for beauty and was determined to work in the beauty industry. When I was 16, I discovered my passion for business through organizations like Future Business Leaders of America and knew I wanted to build my own business someday, but I didn’t know it would be a beauty business. I started at Nordstrom when I was 16 where I was a member of their Fashion Board, salesperson and marketing intern. At 18, I joined Sephora as a cast member – a makeup artist, where I built my foundational understanding of makeup artistry along where I was blessed to do makeup for Anna Wintour, Diane von Furstenberg and more. Sephora’s passion for education taught me so much about ingredients and I knew early on that I wanted to create products. Sephora allowed me to be a part of the product development process as an intern. Upon graduation from the University of Washington, I had the pleasure of joining Clarisonic when we were still a startup. While working for Clarisonic, Sephora allowed me to stay working as a cast member in the evenings, so I created beauty products during the day at Clarisonic and was able to work as a makeup artist at Sephora in the evenings! I worked for Clarisonic and then L’Oreal in marketing and product development. Every experience, good or bad prepares you for a bigger adventure and I think it’s really important to keep that in perspective throughout your career.
AF: How did your experience as a makeup artist come into play when creating the line?
KB: My experience as a makeup artist has been essential to creating Thrive Causemetics. Makeup artists are on the front lines, every single day, using beauty products in extreme conditions at photo shoots, on-air under harsh lighting, on the red carpet with unpredictable angles or with an everyday woman who wants to look and feel her best. Since I’ve done makeup in all of those scenarios, I’m familiar with the way products need to perform. We bring celebrity makeup artists like Jamie Greenberg, Ashley Donovan and Tina Turnbow into our product creation process for feedback. We also crowd-source feedback from our social media community on all aspects of product development because we are committed to producing safe and effective beauty products for all women, not just one segment of the market.
AF: Tell us why the lashes in particular are an important part of the line?
KB: Our Vegan Silk Faux Lashes are particularly important to our line because they are the first solution to work for a woman whether she has her natural lashes or not. They can be worn up to 30 times with proper care and are easier to apply than traditional false eyelashes.
AF: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business, in beauty and/or nonprofit?
KB: Establish your “why” from the very beginning. Whatever your true motivation is for starting your business, write it down and keep it on your desk. Your “why” keeps you grounded and centered throughout the rollercoaster of building a business. The highs are very high and the lows are very low, but if you can remember why you started, you’ll be able to overcome any obstacle. My “why” is the women we are helping. Every single day we receive notes from women thanking us for supporting them through a difficult time when really we are so grateful to them for inspiring us.
AF: Tell us about the makeover events that you do and how a simple makeup application can change how a client feels about themselves. Do you have a specific anecdote?
KB: Our Giving Events are transformative for everyone who comes. For every product purchased, Thrive donates that same product to a woman going through cancer treatment, but what we are giving is much more than a beauty product. We, through the support of our customers are giving confidence to a woman that may not have felt confident since she began treatment. The events are centered around education, empowerment and most importantly, fun! We bring in our team of makeup artists to hospitals around the world to teach our beneficiaries how to apply our beauty products in a party-like atmosphere. Each Giving Event is unique and special to best service the women we are supporting.
AF: Aside from buying products from the line, are there any other ways our readers can support Thrive Causemetics?
KB: Yes! We love connecting with people on social media and our mission has spread like wildfire through the power social media. Thrive Causemetics is a mission and movement that anyone can join by sharing our message with their friends!
Tweet me @actsoflipstick and tell me if you have a favorite Thrive Causemetics product