The setting of Tata Harper’s third annual Technology Summit at her home and company headquarters on a farm in Vermont was inspiring enough to make the most citified of folk consider decamping to greener pastures. What’s more, discovering that many members travel into town for the work week (calling other states home) might make TH the high-style commune of 2016. The company’s small batch products are formulated, filled and packaged on-site (and shipped in under two weeks), so it’s easy to see how the business has grown into a small village. Among other things happening down on the farm, Harper is currently looking into the future of fish bones as SPF. Here, she talks all things beauty, from starting her own company (without a background in skincare) to the newest technological advancements.
What inspired you to start your own skincare company? My stepfather was diagnosed with cancer, and through helping him change his lifestyle I started learning about how little things can affect your health. I started transitioning to organic food and natural cleaning products, but I couldn’t find any natural skincare that gave me the results and luxury experience I was used to. I knew other women must have the same challenge, and I believe no woman should have to compromise her health for her beauty, so I decided to create my own line. And why natural, organic, and nontoxic? Have you found that people are more receptive to the idea now than when you started? Absolutely. The natural movement has really been taking off and gaining a lot of traction around the world; people are really trying to live better and make better decisions for themselves and their families. When I started in 2010 there was a lot of awareness around food, but now people are realizing that there are so many things to consider: you should use things in and on your body that are better for you. That’s why we’re 100 percent natural and nontoxic - we want to make our customers’ lives better by using the purest and best ingredients from around the world to provide real results. You're not from a skincare background, correct? How did you educate yourself? I’m not from the skincare industry so it really allowed me to have a fresh take and a new approach with no pre-conceived notions. I started attending a lot of conferences through the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, got a lot of books from experts in herbalism, aromatherapy, homeopathic medicine, chemistry, and learning from experts about how the skin works. I didn’t want the products to be just about one ingredient, but to be complex and about many sciences, so I reached out to the authors I thought were the most knowledgeable and whose concepts I liked, and they were the ones who really taught me everything.
Are there any educational resources that you think people should know about? There’s so little regulation in skincare and so many ingredients that aren’t good for you, so I think it’s really important that people learn more about the products they’re using and the ingredients in them. This is really an area where ignorance is not bliss. I always point people towards the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and EWG database. We also include a guide to the top 10 ingredients that are banned or restricted in other countries in all of our web orders. What new technologies are you most excited about? How do you research them? I learn about new technologies from our research and development team, the hundreds of labs that we partner with around the world, and by doing lots of reading. I’m really excited about developing neuropeptide technology. The clinical studies are amazing — it gives you the 'Botox effect' by relaxing subcutaneous muscles responsible for wrinkle production. You had a lot of great company and the indie beauty expo last year. Are there any other independent lines that you're loving? I love Ilia lipsticks, and the RMS eye shadows are both ethical and beautiful. How important is the quality of the ingredients? What else do you think bigger companies may overlook? For us, the quality of the raw material, benefits, and clinical studies are of the upmost importance. Other companies use diluted versions of raw materials as a way to cut corners and save money, which I just feel is disingenuous. And you're sold globally. What's the biggest challenge with becoming a big company yourself? Packaging compliance! [Laughs] There are so many regulations, and so many languages to fit on our cartons, it’s a crazy process!
You have people traveling from all over the northeast to spend the week working at the farm. How did you build such an inclusive and loyal culture? A lot of it has to do with the fact that we hire people who first and foremost love the company, and are really driven by our mission and what we stand for: a beauty product that makes our customers lives better. People feel very proud of being part of this movement and putting their effort and energy towards such a good cause. Do you see a big change in your team's skin when they start with the brand? What products do you first give them? In most cases, I do. It’s actually something that everyone notices, and they’re always so excited to tell me what they’re using. I usually recommend Regenerating Cleanser, Resurfacing Mask, Rejuvenating Serum, and Reparative Moisturizer; they're our best sellers, those products alone are life changing! What advice do you have for people who want to get into skincare or make their own products? The advice I’d give to any entrepreneur that whatever they do, especially in a saturated market like skincare, it should be a product completely different from anything out there. The most important thing is to be passionate about what you’re doing and really think about your customer and how you can make their lives better so you can make a real difference in the world.