"Makeup shouldn't just be safe for the people who wear it. It should also be safe for animals, the planet and the people who make it."
Ericka Rodriguez, Founder of Axiology
The story of Axiology's early days is very much the stuff of the American Dream: a relentless young woman burning the midnight oil in her kitchen to create a product of passion. The company's founder, Ericka Rodriguez, was living in New York City at the time, working before and after her day job to build her brand. Ericka wanted to create a world-class lipstick — luxurious in its appearance, wear, and texture — formulated without animal-derived or animal-tested ingredients. At the time, she had no experience in cosmetic chemistry — but, as she stated in an interview with Beauty Heroes, "I was so emboldened to my cause...that I made learning this trade a priority in my life.” Ericka's creative journey took her from New York to Indonesia to Oregon, ultimately resulting in a product that easily rivals those stocked on the shelves of Barney's and Saks Fifth Avenue, but with a uniquely powerful message: we are evil-free.
As I've gone through my own process of building VOKE, Ericka has become someone I've turned to for advice and inspiration. When I reflect on what makes her such a force, one word comes to mind: courage. Where others see an impassable mountain, she sees an opportunity to touch the sky. It's a virtue I hold in the highest regard (and perhaps also the reason Harry Potter is my favorite movie). So I had to include a little Q & A with her on the site...
Starting a company is hard. And it’s especially hard if it’s a trade that’s new to you. Why not just go work for a beauty company and try to evolve what they’re doing?
How would you describe your approach to building Axiology?
At first I was totally flying! My first step was creating the product, so I focused only on our formulations for the first year. I would make lipstick before work, after work, and on the weekends. My formulas failed many times, but I kept trying. When I was closer to the outcome I wanted, my boyfriend and I decided to move to Bali, Indonesia in order to save money on rent while I came up with my business plan and could focus on bringing Axiology to the masses.
What were your greatest fears and doubts as you started the process of building something from the ground up?
There were so many fears and doubts that came up for me as I started my business (and I doubt I’m alone in this) that I can’t possibly name them all. Most of them revolved around the fact that I had no money, no experience in starting a business, nor any experience in making products!
I remember one time in Bali, I cried in bed for a full day because for a solid month I couldn’t figure out the reason our lipsticks were cracking. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and kept telling myself that I couldn’t get past this. The greatest gift during this journey for me was other entrepreneurs (mainly my boyfriend) being there for me, holding my hand, and sharing their similar struggles. It’s also amazing how many creative ideas come up when you share what you’re going through with others. Meeting other entrepreneurs in Bali was the best experience because we all could relate to each other. Having them by my side helped me to push through.
The natural beauty industry is rapidly growing, easily outpacing the growth of the overall beauty industry. On the one hand, there’s clearly a wide and receptive audience, but you also chose a highly competitive environment to launch your brand in.
What was your strategy for differentiating Axiology? What brands inspired you?
We’ve always wanted to be one of the cleanest lipsticks in the marketplace. We knew that if we could honestly make this claim and if our ingredients could speak for themselves, we would stand out.
We’ve always looked up to 100% Pure for the ingredient deck and have always loved RMS. In fact, many years ago when I was still formulating Axiology, I met Rose Marie (founder of RMS) at a natural beauty store and showed her my formulations for Axiology. She was super helpful and so kind and even gave me advice! I bet she doesn’t remember that moment, but it was so special in my creation of Axiology.
You could have played it safe and gone right to Whole Foods — the Mecca for ‘natural' — but you chose not to. Why?
I never saw the brand going into grocery. I saw Axiology at curated boutiques where the owner is still the buyer and knows about every brand he/she carries. I really wanted Axiology to be cared for and not get lost in the shuffle of grocery.
Recently, you spearheaded a brand refresh. What was your objective? What story did you want that rebrand to tell?
Yes, we’re really excited about our rebrand. Our objective was to make our messaging stronger and to have a lot more fun with the brand. We wanted our customers to get excited about doing good by being part of Axiology.
Your ‘tagline' is “evil free”. How did you come up with this and how’s the reaction been so far?
It took a while. Our creative director and I would brainstorm over and over again. She would ask me questions via phone, walking meetings, or in-person so she could get to the root of who we are. This was the line she created and we love it! The reaction has been great.
Looking out over the next few years, what is your vision for the brand? What does ‘success’ look like?
To us, success means we’ve done our part to make animal testing a thing of the past. We definitely want to see Axiology in more makeup bags and being talked about by amazing people. We have some stores we’d love to partner with in 2019, so we're working on that as well.
I’m incredibly confident Axiology will continue to thrive going forward. BUT if you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Aw, thank you! It’s my dream to open up an animal sanctuary one day, so I would definitely be taking care of little pigs and goats all day.
What would you say to someone who tells you one person can’t change the world?
I think that putting “changing the world” on the shoulders of one person is difficult. We all need each other and if you have a vision, there are going to be many people that are going to help you carry this out and make it a reality because they believe in YOU.
All photos in this post belong to Axiology