While reading the ingredients on her favorite lipstick tube, Sasha Plavsic decided the perfect pout should not compromise her health. So the Vancouver native quit her day job as a branding designer and launched her own makeup line, ILIA Beauty—a prestige lip collection made from nourishing, certified-organic botanicals. Plavsic also felt that organic makeup needed re-branding, so she packaged her contemporary colors and quality ingredients in sleek, chic tubes (that design background came in handy).
Though the beginning included many sleepless nights and credit charges, her natural lipstick collection took off, and now includes products for the eyes, cheeks and more (not to mention quite the cult following!). Through hard work, following her gut, learning to stress less and frequent green tea breaks, Sasha has made her vision a reality.
What time do you like to be at your desk?
I try to aim for 8:30 a.m. but by the time I have another cup of tea, it’s 9.
What’s your morning routine?
Wake up and do a 10-minute yoga series in my PJ’s called the 5 Tibetans. Brush my teeth, have a shower and load up on all different types of products from friends and brands alike. Breakfast, green tea and then off to work.
Do you have a beauty routine or go-to product?
A very simple beauty routine in shower involves taking a loofah and rubbing all the lymph nodes on the body. Afterwards, I have been enjoying Kahina‘s new body serum to bring back moisture to the skin.
How would you describe a typical work day?
It varies, usually busy. But the morning is either for emails or to get some work in order. If there is lots of work to be done, I will ignore emails until after lunch, or vice versa depending on the day. I find being constantly available via email, social media, etc., makes it a challenge to accomplish what may really need to get done. By setting guidelines, I find I’m more productive.
Why did you create the brand?
One of my last jobs was working at a larger cosmetic brand in California. At the time I was looking for an organic counterpart, and I couldn’t find one. I thought if I could create a piece that worked like a lip balm and looked nice that possibly other people would like it as well.
How did you fund it?
One line of credit and two credit cards. I didn’t sleep so well the first two years.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
Knowing that it’s constantly in flux. It seems to almost be steering itself in a certain direction, which is the direction I originally envisioned, but didn’t know if it would be feasible at the start.
Power lunch or lunch at desk?
Lunch outside at our picnic table or at The Stand, which is a 5-minute bike ride away and serves the best veggie pita pockets in town.
What’s a professional obstacle you faced, and you how did you resolve it?
Learning to read my gut has become important, and also realizing that nobody is going to die if something goes wrong. In the beginning little things would bring so much stress, and during the second year I was quite sick which wrecked havoc on my body. In the end, I had to realize we are only making lipstick, and that if my health is not in a good place, none of what I am doing really matters.
First product you created?
Tinted Lip Conditioner. One formula in six shades.
Inspiration behind your lip colors?
For the first collection, our budget was limited, so I attempted to choose the best hue in category of pink, red, nude. After that, inspiration from the runways, trips to Palm Springs, old movies, Pantone books, a piece of clothing—it can essentially come from anywhere.
Favorite product ingredient?
Cacao seed butter. Coconut everything seems to be a trend, but the butter and oil itself are so healing for the skin.
Proudest professional achievement?
We’ve been placed in some really beautiful accounts, such as Colette in Paris and Net-A-Porter online, and those feel great. Yet, the best feeling was doing a small event in NYC this month, which was super busy and many people came in for ILIA. Some would open their bags and show four or five ILIA products, which makes me feel very happy.
3 key words for entrepreneurial success?
vision, risk, belief
Best advice you’ve ever received?
Listen to your gut, and don’t compromise your vision.