Nothing in the production process is outsourced, ensuring absolute quality, freshness and potency. She founded the company on the idea that women no longer need to sacrifice their health to look and feel beautiful. Tata Harper and her products have been featured in magazines and news sites worldwide, including Vogue, Vanity Fair, Town & Country, Wall Street Journal, Allure, New York Times, and Huffington Post. Below she shares why the right way isn't always easy, but is always worth it.
Your company is a trailblazer in clean beauty. How has your approach to the concept evolved over the years?
In the beginning, we were truly outliers, so education was a necessity for breaking into the beauty market. For the first few years that was really our focus since the idea of clean beauty was not accepted at the time and we really had to build trust through transparency with our customers. Since then we’ve grown our product range exponentially. Once our clients used the products and saw what they could do, they believed in what we were trying to achieve. At the core our brand has always been about bettering people’s lives and the planet and that has remained throughout the years. As we develop new products our goal is to fill category gaps and listen to our clients and their feedback and I see that remaining as a driving force as we continue to grow.
What was the toughest part of your early journey as a founder? What did you learn?
It was an uphill battle. Many of the natural ingredients that legacy brands had been using for decades were available, but what we really needed, emulsifiers, preservatives, thickeners, weren’t. The big question was how do we do everything the synthetic formulas do in a natural version? Throughout this process, I was very clear with my team, what I knew and what I wanted to learn. Since we do everything in house, I was able to learn from my amazing team of chemists and our research and development team so we could be super purposeful with each ingredient and formulation. My engineering background gave me an understanding of science that has been helpful throughout this process.
In the beginning, we were truly outliers, so education was a necessity for breaking into the beauty market.
What are the biggest differences between producing clean skincare products vs traditional products?
The reason why big companies use synthetic chemicals is cost. Our products are MUCH more expensive to produce than traditional prestige skincare products. The biggest factor that impacts our price point is the number and concentration of the active ingredients in these formulas. Our products are packed with natural ingredients that are expensive to source, not always available, and are harder to work with. Traditional prestige skincare products are made up of conventional ingredients that are synthetic, readily available, not as expensive, and easy to work with. Yes, our process is more expensive and complex than traditional brands, but we believe that more matters so there are upwards of 40+ high-performing natural ingredients in any given product.
In addition to that, the new cutting edge technologies that we use to formulate and develop our products also happen to be expensive. And finally, what contributes to the price point is the packaging. We put a lot of time and effort into continuing to make sustainable packaging decisions. Our first choice is always glass because it is infinitely recyclable and the most sustainable option available. Our cartons are made with paper that comes from sustainably managed forests and every part is recyclable. We use soy ink on all of our packaging because it is less toxic than chemical inks.
Your husband Henry is the co-CEO of the company. How do you split roles? What are some challenges and benefits of working with your spouse?
Henry and I have different focuses, which helps us work more efficiently and better together. I have always loved the creative and R&D side of the business and Henry works on the financial side.
What is a current business culture priority for you?
Our offices are pretty casual. They are in a giant open space in Vermont, but it is still an entrepreneurial environment. People have a lot on their plate — many of us wear multiple hats — but it’s a fun environment where everyone is treated like family.
How have your customers’ habits changed over the last couple of years? And have you been meeting or adapting to those changes as a brand?
In the beginning, we were really focused on education, since non toxic beauty was almost taboo at the time we launched. Now, people are much more knowledgeable about ingredients and formulations, so we’re able to work on expanding our ranges and speaking more to the lifestyle of the products now that people trust that natural ingredients can be effective skincare. As always we continue to listen to our customers' needs and will evolve through their feedback.
What is your leadership style?
I am a very hands-on leader, even though the company is growing so quickly, I still love being a part of the whole process and being close to my team. It’s important that we’re all close knit and feel more like family.
Name one person who was instrumental in your career success and why.
My grandmother and mother have always been my mentors. When I was building my business, especially. At a young age they taught me about entrepreneurship and instilled in me the importance of being a hardworking business woman. I don’t know where I’d be without them. Growing up, we would also have DIY spa parties on the weekend where we would create face masks using ingredients growing around us locally or fresh from the store. This is where my love for skincare really began, and I wanted to make sure it was still a fun process.
We continue to listen to our customers' needs and will evolve through their feedback.
Who are some women on your radar?
I’m always inspired by women in business who are making innovative strides. I’ve always been a big fan of my soul sisters in wellness like Gwyneth Paltrow, Whitney Tingle and Danielle Duboise. I am also very proud of my Colombian heritage and I love supporting other Latinx women creating amazing brands - one of my favorites is Ceremonia by Babba Canales Rivera.
You recently launched a new line called Superkind. What inspired the brand extension
We really wanted to create a line that was suited towards reactive skin. Superkind, is super powerful yet super gentle, and is designed to restore and rebuild the skin barrier so your skin can look and feel its healthiest. We’re constantly exposed to stressors and irritants that are weakening our skin barrier and it’s making people more prone to reactions. I found that the skin care products available to reactive skin are either simplistic or synthetic, but I wanted to give reactive skin real skincare and prove that skincare for reactive skin doesn’t have to be boring. So this became our next challenge: figuring out how to give reactive skin super powerful skincare that's also super gentle — and 100% natural.