On a very hot and sticky day in September (thanks to the unexpected arrival of a heat wave in Toronto), I found myself sitting on the sweltering rooftop of The Drake Hotel. Hanging out on a blazing hot patio when it’s 40 degrees out isn’t normally my idea of fun, but I had committed to being there; partly for the promise of a delicious lunch at The Drake, and to discover a new U.S.-based vegan makeup brand called CLOVE + HALLOW.
Not even The Drake’s infamous scones, or the fact that a portion of the makeup line was still stuck in customs, could distract me from the lure of this new brand and the whip-smart girlboss behind it. With one glance it’s easy to see that CLOVE + HALLOW is not your average vegan makeup brand. The packaging is as good as anything you’d see at Sephora, and the range of colours offered reflects the needs of a true makeup lover. Best yet? With one swipe of their lipstick, you’ll be hooked.
It’s really no surprise why I wanted to feature CLOVE + HALLOW founder, Sarah Biggers, in the #FounderFiles series; this young woman is not only killing the game, but she’s changing what it means to be a vegan makeup brand while she’s at it. Keep reading to find out more about your new favourite makeup brand (that also happens to be vegan) and the woman behind it:
Sarah Biggers of CLOVE + HALLOW
Business Name: CLOVE + HALLOW
Name & Title: Sarah Biggers, Founder + CEO
Location: Atlanta, GA, USA
Education: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Georgia Tech
GC: Tell us about your brand, what do you do?
SB: I’m the founder and CEO of CLOVE + HALLOW, a clean and vegan cosmetics line based in Atlanta, Georgia. We create ultra-high-performing cosmetics that work for every woman and don’t require a change in expectations or sacrifice compared to conventional products. Between our modern aesthetic, bold and diverse shade ranges, and affordable price point, we are revolutionizing the clean beauty industry.
GC: How did you start your business? What inspired you to start?
SB: I was working as a freelance makeup artist when I got so sick with a mystery illness that I had to quit working altogether. Confused by my symptoms, traditional doctors pushed me towards a more holistic approach. I was skeptical, but I followed my naturopath’s orders and healed so quickly that I saw the power in clean living and became determined to overhaul everything – including my beauty regimen. When I started my search for clean alternatives to my favorite products, I was underwhelmed. There were limited shade ranges, the products offered minimal coverage, and everything was so expensive! I wanted something different, so I decided to make it.
GC: Tell us about your past work experience and how it helped you create your company?
SB: Working as a makeup artist helped me in the R&D process immensely. From understanding product texture and pigment and having the ability to get real-time feedback from my clientele meant that I had a really tight idea of what was working and not working. Prior to that, I worked for technology startups, and even though I’m no longer in the tech sector, the fact that I was already comfortable with the pace and dynamics of a new small business put me ahead of the game.
GC: Why do you love what you do?
SB: Creation has always been a passion of mine. When I was younger, I was a writer and singer. I thought I would do something related to those. When I started freelancing as a makeup artist, I knew I had stumbled upon a type of art and creation that I really loved. Now I have the opportunity to create amazing products for thousands of other women and it’s honestly just magical.
GC: What makes your business special?
SB: Our business model is pretty special because we keep our pricing so much lower than our competitors. This industry is becoming more and more saturated each day with brands that are all doing things only slightly different from each other. I also think the community we’ve built around our brand is really great; we really interact with our followers and subscribers out of genuine appreciation, and I know they can feel it.
GC: What makes your product special?
SB: CLOVE + HALLOW is special for a number of reasons, but I can narrow it down to four things: a modern aesthetic, diverse shade ranges with bold pigmentation, a maximum of fifteen ingredients per base formula, and our affordable price-point.
GC: What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from running your business?
SB: The biggest takeaway I’ve learned is the importance of balance. Today’s world really glamorizes the sacrificial nature of start-up culture and I think that’s a shame. I’ve learned that when I don’t make time for myself outside of the workplace, the quality of my work decreases. I can’t give from an empty pot. The next big lesson I’ve internalized is the need to delegate and build a team. In the beginning, I did everything for CLOVE + HALLOW. Giving up control and spending the money to hire staff are both scary, but I needed to position us for growth by having specialized hands on deck. It really is so much more efficient (and fun!) with a team.
GC: What have been some of the pros and cons of building your business in Atlanta/USA?
SB: For CLOVE + HALLOW, the positives of running a USA-based business far outweigh the negatives. For starters, people really like that our products are made stateside because of the quality and ingredient control that goes into them compared to manufacturing in China, aka the cosmetics capital of the world. It’s a stamp of credibility. That being said, I’d be remiss to overlook the most obvious downfall of a US-made line: costs. Part of what makes China so lucrative for production is that it’s so much cheaper. To me, it’s an easy choice, but I understand why so many companies keep manufacturing in China.
GC: What is your #1 piece of advice to keep in mind when starting your own business?
SB: Get comfortable with flexibility and improvisation. Most things will not go according to plan and that is okay; in fact, some of our biggest milestones occurred in the wake of a decision that panned out totally different from how we’d planned it. Persistence and the ability to stay afloat when things don’t go according to plan are skills sets that set you apart from the pack of entrepreneurs out there.
GC: Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting your business?
SB: I wish I understood the importance of compartmentalizing my work life and could have started working on that before I launched. A new business is a lot like a baby; there are good days and bad days. If you don’t keep an eye on it, it might just end up in a place it shouldn’t be, and most importantly, a new business is all-consuming just like a baby. Most entrepreneurs work around the clock – at the office, from the living room, and from their beds. So when you go home to your personal life at the end of the day – which may or may not include actual babies – it can be really tough to keep the two separate if you haven’t actively worked on keeping them separate.
GC: What is a challenge you’d tell future entrepreneurs to prepare for?
SB: I always tell new entrepreneurs to expect lots of days in which they feel like an imposter. They sneak up on you out of nowhere and can cause problems because they fill you with doubt about yourself and all the decisions you’ve made (or need to make). When it happens to me – and after talking to many seasoned entrepreneurs, I am starting to think it never really goes away – I get out of the office to clear my head and refocus.
GC: What has your experience as an entrepreneur in Atlanta been like?
SB: Atlanta is a great place to own and run a business! Hartsfield-Jackson Airport – with flights to pretty much anywhere in the world – is only twenty minutes away which makes traveling for work a breeze. Our startup sector is growing like crazy thanks to new incubators, established businesses building offices here, and the amazing talent pool from 5+ top-tier public colleges. It’s also incredibly affordable compared to other major US cities.
GC: How do you stay organized, balanced and motivated?
SB: It sounds cliché, but I really love to meditate. My brain doesn’t shut off by its own accord, so practicing mindfulness via meditation really helps me disconnect for even just a few minutes. I also keep a balanced schedule to avoid over-working and ensure I have “me time” at night for volleyball, guitar lessons, or a lazy TV marathon.
GC: Who are some of your mentors/role models?
SB: I am fascinated by Elon Musk and his ability to see past the confines of current reality. Beyond that, my parents are my role models. My dad dropped out of college with $5000 to bootstrap his software company and has passed along a bevy of knowledge in terms of building and running a startup. My mom is one of the most intuitive people I’ve ever met and has taught me a lot about how to read people to understand their needs.
GC: Do you have a daily or regular ritual you practice that you love?
SB: I love my skincare routine! I spend a minimum of five minutes every night taking my makeup off, doing a light myofascial massage, and applying my skincare products. And don’t get me started on how much I love taking baths; I try to put on a face mask and take a bath at least three nights a week to decompress.
GC: Where do you go or what do you do to look for inspiration?
SB: Traveling is my greatest source of inspiration. Experiencing other cultures – the people, colors, textures, aromas, foods, etc. – always brings me fresh ideas to incorporate into our messaging or future product releases.
GC: As a U.S.-based company that just launched in Canada, what other countries do you have your eye on next?
SB: The European market! There’s a lot we have to achieve before we can get there, but I’d love to work with a few European retailers in a year or two. In the meantime, we ship internationally to ensure anyone who wants to try our products can do so.
GC: Are there any areas/cities/countries where you’ve gained popularity that have surprised you?
SB: Canada as a whole really surprised us. Just after launching, and without any direct marketing to Canada, we were seeing spikes in traffic from Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, etc. We were lucky enough to be picked up by The Truth Beauty Company really early on and that exposure brought a large Canadian audience to us. It’s been such an amazing market that we’re very thankful to work within.
GC: Who is the Clove + Hallow client and where can your items be purchased?
SB: Our customers are conscientious consumers and want to purchase from ethical companies that are creating safe products, but they don’t want to lower their expectations or make sacrifices. Our full product range is always available on cloveandhallow.com with shipping to almost anywhere in the world and available at select retailers throughout the US, Canada, Caribbean, and Australia.
For more info and to shop, please visit CloveAndHallow.com