Late last fall I found myself at a mini conference highlighting ‘Women & Weed’ hosted by Van der Pop–an online publication known as the cannabis digest for discerning women–at The Addisons Residence in Toronto. I was immediately inspired by the badass women I was getting to know through their participation in the panel discussions, and quickly realized that women in the cannabis space are no fucking joke.
One woman who stood out in particular to me, was Brandi Leifso the founder and CEO of Evio Beauty Group. It was, admittedly, some combination of her incredibly dewy skin (which was noticeable even from the back of the room), her zest for life and the impressive success of her four-year-old beauty business (that all started while she was living in women’s shelter) that caught my attention and got me wondering “who is this amazing woman!?” Today I’m thrilled to share more about Brandi, her story and her business in our latest #FounderFiles feature:
Business Name: Evio Beauty Group
Name & Title: Brandi Leifso, Founder/ CEO, Evio Beauty Group Ltd.
Edit Seven: Tell us about your brand, what do you do?
Brandi Leifso: I’m the founder of Evio Beauty Group which is a brand portfolio with a focus on creating a conscious future with products that are good for your skin, the planet and your community. Our inaugural line, Evelyn Iona Cosmetics is all about elevated essentials for your everyday makeup routine. The Evio Community, is a female-led online platform with curated content on beauty, cannabis, entrepreneurship, feminism and fashion.
E7: How did you start your business? What inspired you to start?
BL: Evio was created 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 others and start conversation in a positive way. Together we can create a new standard of living that promotes kindness without compromising quality.
E7: Why do you love what you do?
BL: What gets me up in the morning is the social justice aspect of what I do. What drives me is proving people wrong. To me, our brand is very personal, from naming our lip glosses after badass women I admire in my life, to the partnerships we post, and events we host. We approach every challenge with empathy and a desire for conscious change.
E7: What makes your business special? What makes your products special?
BL: Our story and why we do what we do is what makes us unique. At Evio, we embody our values, mission and morals of being conscious, empathetic, genuine and kind. Kindness is infused into everything that we do, from the way we interact with our customers to the way we interact with each other.
E7: What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from running your business?
BL: I’ve learned to have A LOT of patience and an unwavering commitment to our why. And resilience. So much resilience to withstand the constant challenges thrown any entrepreneurs way…over and over again. At Evio, and in my personal life, when something tries to get me down, I come back even harder.
E7: You’ve shared that your brand came to life while you were living in a women’s shelter, can you share more about what that time was like for you?
BL: I lived in a safe house in Vancouver (and) it was a very transformative time. There are absolutely no boundaries or barriers to domestic violence, it can affect anyone. So the people that I met at the safe house were from all walks of life going through a very vulnerable time together; they were part of my transformation and the experience was hugely impactful for how I now look at the world.
E7: What advice would you give to other women who are in a similar situation right now?
BL: Believe that you’re stronger than you think. I might be a story of inspiration now, but I hope that in the future my story becomes the norm. So believe your inner strength girl, you will get through it and you’ll learn so much about just how capable and powerful you are on your own.
E7: What steps did you take to start making your idea come to life while you were living in the women’s shelter, and after?
BL: The first step was believing in myself to a fault and showing people that I would add value to their lives if they believed it too. Then, step two, I photoshopped a catalogue of products that didn’t yet exist. Then all of a sudden I was in over my head doing something I loved.
E7: How has your time living in a shelter helped shape who you are, what you’re building, and who you create for?
BL: It made me a much more conscious person. There was a moment in the shelter that changed and defined my life. It came from one of the night volunteers. There was one day when I so badly wanted to go home. So I started packing my stuff, and she told me not to go. She told me “Sleep on it. If it’s the truth, it will be the same tomorrow morning. If you feel the same way tomorrow morning, you can go.” The truth is, I woke up the next day, packed my stuff and went home, knowing I shouldn’t. And things got so much worse. Now, whenever I have big decisions to make, I do something that forces me to wait it out because the truth is still the truth in the morning.
E7: What have been some of the pros and cons of building your business in Canada?
BL: One big challenge in Canada is that we have a small population in a large area of land. Logistics are more expensive, and consumerism is more conservative. We’re not risk takers in Canada, and financing, unfortunately, is not as broad. Four years ago when I started the company, there weren’t many Canadian female founders. Funding options weren’t as obvious or readily available. I think we’re on a better upswing in the Canadian startup world at the moment, and I hope to see that increase. With that said, there are so many challenges to being an entrepreneur no matter where you’re starting off, but there is always a way!
Evelyn Iona Natural and Organic Concealer
E7: What is your #1 piece of advice to keep in mind when starting your own business?
BL: Know why you’re doing what you’re doing, so when you get knocked down (and you will), you can get back up. Make sure that your goal for going into business isn’t money. Money comes and goes, and if that’s your why, you’re in for a fucking roller coaster of a ride.
E7: Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting your business?
BL: If I had known everything I know now, I probably would have been too scared to jump in and just do it. So, I’m glad I didn’t know anything about it before.
E7: What is a challenge you’d tell future entrepreneurs in the skincare and makeup business to prepare for?
BL: Rejection. From everyone: Consumers, stores, banks, manufacturers. Everyone has an opinion. Don’t waiver from your values and mission, but be flexible to let in others advice and opinions even when it’s tough. Especially when it’s tough.
E7: What advice would you give to smaller skincare and makeup brands that are looking to grow their business?
BL: Dream big and take risks!
E7: Your brand is actively entering the cannabis beauty space, can you share more about that with us?
BL: Because we’re all about creating social justice, and squishing stigmas cannabis is a natural fit! There has been a lot of unjust stories coming from the ‘pre-legal’ days of cannabis. We’ve partnered with a cannabis license producer (excited to announce who it is, soon!) to share their authentic knowledge of the industry through years of challenges to get the industry to where it is today. We’re excited to share the benefits of cannabis with skincare consumers that may have otherwise not been exposed to the benefits of the plant. Not to mention, green beauty is thirsty for new ingredients and it’s exciting that this ingredient is shaking up beauty, finance, and society norms! We live for that kind of shake up.
E7: How do you stay organized, balanced and motivated?
BL: I try really hard (to stay organized), sometimes I’m really good at it, other times I’m not. Google Calendar is my friend–I would die without it–and I write a lot of notes because I’m still a paper and pen kind of gal. I know what the alternative (to being motivated) looks like, and it’s not an option. That alone is motivation.
E7: Who are some of your mentors/role models?
BL: Hugh Winters is one of my mentors, and the chairman of our board. He understands my drive and insatiable determination, because he gets where I’ve come from. All of my partners and mentors have watched some of my ideas crash and burn and haven’t judged me for it. They’re there to support me to pick myself back up, and help guide my vision. They are the most humble people I know. I so admire humble, kind, success.
E7: Do you have a daily or regular ritual you practice that you love?
BL: Meditation. And I go for a lot of runs with my music blasting.
E7: Where do you go or what do you do to look for inspiration?
BL: I listen to grungy, gritty rap music. And then I go for a long run and get focused. The raw hustle in rap music inspires me!
E7: Who is the Evelyn Iona client and where can your products be purchased?
BL: We love our Evelyn Iona customers. All of them. And we love engaging with them. We have so many great stories of how people come to find us and become loyal customers. The Evelyn Iona woman is a conscious, thoughtful consumer. She’s conscious, fun-spirited and a total goal-digger. She doesn’t go to yoga everyday, but she aspires to! All of our products can be bought at EvelynIona.com
(Story by Editor-in-Chief, Gracie Carroll)