You know you have a hit product line on your hands when your newest addition sparks a 200,000 plus pre-order list. For Brandi Leifso, CEO and founder of Evio Beauty Group, success with her all-natural line of cosmetics has carried her through a very rough time. Similar to millennial fave Glossier, Evio is about cultivating a community of like-mind femmes, and doing this solely in the digital realm, with no bricks and mortar baggage behind the brand. As young as it is, Evio (the name a combination of Brandi's middle name, Iona, and a dear friend's middle name) has a bonafide following, with its 12,000+ followers on Instagram, a Green Tea Primer that garnered those enormous pre-sale numbers, and plans for an upcoming product launch that includes cannabis. This local label is making it big, while giving back.
Even more remarkable is how Leifso's brainchild was born out of indisputably challenging circumstances. We spoke with her about that time, how she started her own cosmetics brand, why she went green and how Evio hit it big.
On the birth of her business coinciding with challenging times
Evio launched three and a half years ago...with a mission of building community through products that women use every single day. I believe that we create change through small, conscious, consistent actions that eventually lead to big results. Evio was brought to life when I was living in a women's shelter where I learned first-hand the impact that conscious choices of strangers can have. Using conscious lifestyle products is an easy way to help impact your skin, the planet, and your community in a positive way, while being real, raw and honest. Because of our humble beginnings, these values guide all of our choices. When we first started, we were not all-natural, and then learned about health concerns of many traditional cosmetics and thought 'It's really hypocritical of us to dedicate ourselves to elevate women and not be concerned about their health.' So, we went green.
On what brought her to, and on living in, a women's shelter
I was living in what is called a 'safe house.' It's a shelter for women who are escaping domestic violence. It looks like a normal house on the outside, but it is a high security house with 24/7 staff. It was very basic. One bathroom for twenty women. But it was safe. You are not allowed to share the address or where you are with anyone you know—not your family or friends. I was there due to deciding to leave an unhealthy relationship that became unsafe.
I learned that I am stronger than I think. One night I was about to go home, to unsafe circumstances, because I wanted the comforts of my old life back. A volunteer at the shelter said, 'Brandi, sleep on it. Time will give you perspective. If you still feel the same in the morning, then go.' I remember waking up the next morning and packing my things, knowing that I was making the wrong decision, but recognizing that I was conscious of this in a way I wasn't the night before. Things got worse when I went home, as they do for most women who go back. And this taught me—although a hard lesson—to always listen to my gut. And I always sleep on big decisions now.
On the hustle and the exposure that brought the brand to light
When I was in the shelter I had no money (and absolutely nothing, so I had nothing to lose), I Photoshopped together a catalogue of makeup that didn't exist, and shopped it around to shops telling them why I was starting a line. My 'why' was and always will be, to create an honest, unfiltered voice for women that will eventually lead to productive change and equality. To my surprise, people bought it, without even trying it first!
The first time we were in Vogue I had major imposter syndrome! I was so excited about it that I went to Chapters every single day, from the day that it was supposed to hit the shelves, to get a copy. I never did end up getting a copy at Chapters, because I had to leave on a business trip. When I was about to board my flight I saw the copy of Vogue—with Victoria Beckham [on the cover], which was an added bonus, big spice girls fan!—and I bought three copies. It certainly gave us some credibility.
On the product she's most proud of...
Our Green Tea Primers! We re-launched them on September 15th, 2017. We pre-sold 200,000 [of them]. It's also our first Canadian-made product. We're really proud of the team behind this product. Fun Fact: We can make 72 Green Tea Primers a minute.
...and what's next for the brand
Our lips are still sealed on the details (of working with cannabis)! But we are very excited to have found the best partner we could ask for in the cannabis space, an incredible Canadian Licensed Producer!
(The hope is) to continue building a community of conscious women and products that create change through small, conscious, consistent daily actions. The more we sell the more we donate —$1 from every product goes to our partners at YWCA Canada—the more we elevate conscious consumerism and do our part in creating a more inclusive world. In the next, five years we'd love to build more opportunities for the growing Evio tribe to connect and work together to drive this enterprise and the women's empowerment movement. [Right now] make up is our tool, so maybe, just maybe you'll start to see more things like toothpaste, apparel, tampons…