You always remember your first love; I was browsing aisles upon aisles of colourful pieces at the One of A Kind Show. Suddenly, a small booth (well, table) caught my eye. Adorned with aesthetically pleasing posters, products with simple geometric patterns on them, and a dreamy font (yes I love fonts, sue me) I went to investigate.
The company was Amalusta, owned and operated by the Joana Coman, part of the 16% of women that own or lead a business in Canada. She spent her days in a lab working for an ingredient and raw material company before branching out to start her own company.
Fresh out of my undergrad career, the notion of adulting was akin to finishing my final undergrad paper – spooky, but something that needed to be sorted out. And here was this successful, female, entrepreneur who was trying to break into an industry that’s predicted to be worth $ 15.8 billion USD in 2021. Not only was she attempting to break into the industry, but she was also already in it – I needed some answers.
I talked to Joana about what it actually takes to start your own company, from social isolation to how to source materials. We also talked about what clean beauty actually means, why all chemicals aren’t evil, and what the plans are for Amalusta (aka the next glossier).
Why did you start Amalusta?
I first became interested in the idea while I was working for an ingredient and raw material company; we worked in a wide range of industries, but some of our clients were skincare and cosmetics brands and I learned a lot about how new products go from idea to prototype, to the shelf. As a longtime skincare junkie, that part was really fascinating. Without that experience, I don’t know if I would have had the gumption to think that I could do it myself. I also feel like we’re living in a moment where the average person is super informed about skincare and people have a surprisingly technical knowledge about ingredients. So it felt like the perfect time to launch a clean, indie beauty brand that takes a more scientific approach than you normally see from smaller lines.
There are already so many natural beauty products out there – what makes Amalusta different?
I would say it comes down to the formulas. Our formulas are primarily natural and organic, but we use the odd lab ingredient where there is really strong clinical evidence that it makes a difference and is safe. So we avoid the ingredients that many people are rightly concerned about, but our products stand up to your favourite big-name brands because the focus is on efficacy and visible results.
We live in a world where literally everything is made up of chemicals, yet our society seems to villainize all chemicals. Why the craze to go chemical-free? Can you actually do that?
That’s a tricky one. Obviously it’s a personal choice that everyone makes whenever they buy things like cosmetics, cleaning products, food, and even furniture. I see it as a positive trend, because it’s making the general population more aware of what is in the products they use and consume so that they can make informed choices, and it makes formulators look at natural ways of making the best products possible. But it does lead to a lot of greenwashing in marketing. In skincare, for example, safety is so important, and natural doesn’t necessarily mean safe. For example, I’ve seen all-natural products with lots of essential oils in the formula, which can be really sensitizing to the skin and even cause a chemical burn. So a good, safe formulation is really important too, and some lab ingredients can fit into that.
What’s the hardest part about starting your own business?
For me, the hardest part is how solitary it is. I’m sure having a business partner comes with its own challenges, but if you do it on your own it can definitely get lonely. You’re only responsible to yourself in terms of how you manage your time and the decisions you make. I’m still working on it!
What’s a challenge you didn’t expect when you first started?
There were a lot of things I thought I would be able to do on my own, and with time I realized it’s worth it to find pros that you can work with and pay them to help you in the areas that you’re not an expert in.
What did it first take to launch your product? (Materials, funding, sourcing, how to even think of what to put in the products, your inspiration etc.)
At first, I just spent a lot of time brainstorming what the perfect lineup of truly multifunctional skincare essentials would look like. I knew what ingredients I wanted to incorporate, and after a lot of research, I found an awesome formulator who understood what I was going for and was able to help me put them together. I’m lucky to have creative friends who were able to help with the branding aspect. In terms of funding, the initial launch was self-funded but I did receive the Starter Company Plus grant through the Mississauga Business Enterprise Centre at the end of last year which was really helpful. Unfortunately, I think that the program hasn’t been given funding by the current administration this year, but I recommend anyone looking to either start or grow a business keep an eye out for grant and loan opportunities because they’re out there and every little bit helps!
The beauty industry is getting increasingly saturated with “clean beauty” lines – what does clean beauty actually mean to you?
It’s a bit of a catch-all term, ranging from all-natural products to products that have a list of ingredients you can trust they are free from, which is why it’s important to be informed and know what ingredients specifically you want to stay away from and which ones work for you. I think it’s about making the focus of a product’s formula plant-based, and harnessing as much skin-friendly power out of ingredients available in nature or proven to be safe and effective.
What do you hope to accomplish with Amalusta?
It is still a super small brand, so, for now, I just want to focus on making it available to more people in Canada. I’m working on some new products too, so check out our Instagram or website for updates!
If you had to pick one “can’t live without” item from Amalusta – which one would it be and why?
That would probably be the Moonlit Multi-clay and Fruit Oil Mask. It’s like three masks in one: it has glycolic and lactic acid to exfoliate and brighten, three kinds of clay plus zinc to provide a deep clean and fight acne, and a blend of fruit oils that replenish with vitamins and fatty acids and leave you dewy and hydrated, without the tightness you normally get from a clay mask. I use it at least once a week and I’ve had tons of positive feedback on it. It’s also a great spot treatment you can use overnight. Definitely a can’t live without item!
Interview and article by Kate Farrell