Up-Close & Personal Conversation With Szilvia Hickman, Founder – Ilike Organic Skin Care
It was with such pleasure that I was given the opportunity to explore the passion behind and the creation of such an incredible organic beauty pioneer and brand.
Abby Mason, Safe Beauty & Body Panel Expert
Q. The ilike organic skin care line launched in 2006. How has the beauty industry changed since that time?
- Although ilike’s products have been around for 58 years, in the last decade, there has been a significant increase in consumer interest in natural and organic skincare products. Consumers are not only open to the idea of organic skin care, but they are actively seeking out organic and all natural brands.
Q. I love the name ilike. It instantly makes me smile. Can you share with me how the name for the brand was chosen? Did you know right away that this was the name for your company
- The ilike organic skin care brand name is a tribute to the creator of our products, Ilcsi Molnar, lovingly known as “Aunt Ilike” (pronounce: “i-lee-ka”). She was a true visionary dedicating her life to the development and advancement of natural remedies, as well as the improvement of worldwide aesthetics knowledge and practices. This lifelong passion was embodied in the creation of the ilike organic skin care products 58 years ago in Hungary.
The brand name of our products in other markets is Ilcsi, which is also a nick name of the creator; however the previous North American distributor trademarked this name for their own benefits, so we came up with ilike, which can also be and is often pronounced as “I like”.
Q. You grew up in Budapest, Hungary. You went to business school and earned a diploma in foreign trade and marketing. What led you to create the ilike brand? Can you tell me more about when, during this time, you decided to distribute natural, organic and green products (what was your inspiration and motivation)?
- I started to become obsessed with good skin care regimens when I was a teenager, and ever since had an affinity for this industry, and wanted to be an aesthetician helping people with their skin problems and self-esteem issues derived from those. It is very typical in Hungary that girls and boys, too, start to go to an aesthetician for monthly facials when the hormones first kick in and the first pimples show up. This monthly routine visit then lasts for the entire life for most people as facials are affordable and become part of life for most Hungarians. But later I ended up going to business school, earning a diploma in foreign trade and one in marketing. My first job was in foreign trade but soon moved into the marketing field and worked in the advertising industry for 10 years before having the opportunity to combine the knowledge and experience of these fields into my own business with my partner in life. Together we founded Szep Elet, LLC, the exclusive distributor of ilike organic skin care. (Szep Elet means “Beautiful Life” in Hungarian.)
While I have been using our organic skin care products since I was a teenager, I have not paid attention to certified organic food until I moved to the United States. I grew up eating mostly what my parents grew in their gardens or what Mom purchased at the farmers market. We always ate fresh meals that were made from scratch. Hormones and genetically modified organizations were banned in Europe, and I have never heard about these ingredients in food before I moved to the United States. I very soon realized how important it is to purchase certified organic food.
Q. Part of your company philosophy is “every ilike product is full of vitamins, fruit acids and bioflavonoids and combined with other active ingredients they treat, nourish and beautify the skin, rejuvenating it from the inside out”. Do you also have a company mission? If so, can you elaborate a bit more on this and what it means to you?
- Yes, ilike’s philosophy is simple and natural. We believe that nature has a solution for every skin problem. Therefore our products are always made of fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables, thus, they treat the skin with bioactive ingredients instead of processed extracts. Our products are like whole food for the skin. The wide range products are offered for those who prefer natural skincare solutions, free of chemicals with possible side-effects. We respect all forms of life, therefore during our research and product development we do not conduct any tests on animals.
Q. Your products are “organically grown, hand harvested, hand selected and made in very small batches”, pure, natural, free of artificial colors, “they do not contain animal by-products and they are never tested on animals”. What do you do with your packaging so that it is eco friendly?
We implement the following practices:
- 100% biodegradable, water-soluble peanuts and coolers for shipping – our peanuts and coolers are made of potato starch (instead of Styrofoam), they are 100% biodegradable, and so they will not pollute groundwater.
- Reused boxes – ‘ugly boxes saves trees’ – the company reuses as many boxes as they can to help reduce the impact of waste in our landfills.
- Shredded corrugate – if we cannot reuse a box, it is shredded, which can be recycled again.
- 100% of the company’s packaging is either fully or partially recycled, recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable.
Q. How do you embrace sustainability in your company?
- We treat everyday as though it is Earth Day. To that end, we have incorporated the following sustainable practices:
- Sustainable and certified organic farming and production (no-machinery farming, hand-picked herbs, fruits and vegetables, hand processed raw ingredients).
- Vegan/vegetarian products made with no GMOs, no harmful chemicals, petroleum based ingredients and petrochemicals.
- Absolutely no animal testing – never-ever!
- ISO certified manufacturing, research and product development facility and process.
- 100% recycled, recyclable, reusable or biodegradable packaging, avoiding the use of virgin materials (including biodegradable peanuts for shipping, reused boxes, shredding corrugate for recycling, gift packaging made of recycled and renewable sources etc).
- Green office and warehouse practices (incorporating 100% recycled paper products, toner refills, selective waste collection, paperless communication practices, marketing materials made of recycled paper and vegetable based ink, energy saving, eco-friendly biodegradable products for cleaning our offices and for the laundry, water filter system to avoid plastic bottles).
- We educate our team members about the importance of sustainability and encourage everyone to take these practices outside of the office and to home.
- We select vendor partners with similar sustainable practices whenever possible.
- We are Sponsors of the non-profit Green Spa Network, and our owners, Darren and Szilvia Hickman active as board and committee members.
- Since 2011 we also reached our goal to further reduce our carbon footprint by proudly purchasing 100% wind and biomass power that are renewable energy.
- After purchasing our new headquarters in 2012 we used recycled, sustainable and energy saving materials for the renovation of the building.
Q. What makes your brand unique in the arena of green beauty and where do you think it is headed?
- ilike organic skin care is unique in that it offers a feast of organically certified products packed with powerful antioxidants and minerals to treat, nourish and heal skin. Each product is made in small batches from organically grown and handpicked herbs, fruits and vegetable pulps containing the highest possible levels of natural active ingredients. Using handmade pulps versus extracts, the natural ingredients retain the full concentration and power of the herbal ingredients. This process results in an immediate experience of the rich, deep penetrating effects of the products as well as the magnificent aromas and natural colors.
Our continued success is the result of the care and attention we pay for the quality of our ingredients and overall products. Despite the fact that the ilike products look and smell great, the number one goal with any new development is efficacy. No new ilike product is ever introduced to the market if it has not proven to bring results.
Aunt Ilike’s mission has always been to provide all natural, raw, organic skincare products. Now, under the manufacturing leadership of her son Ferenc, her legacy will carry on. In 10 years, our company hopes to continue to do what it does today but on a larger scale – being an innovative leader in the organic skin care and raw skin product movement.
Q. What is your favorite healthy ingredient, and why do you love it? What products feature it?
Skin plumping Hyaluronic Acid! Besides the botanical ingredients, our Hyaluronic Time Erase ComplexTM line features two different molecular weight, vegan and certified organic Hyaluronic Acid components derived from marine alga and tara tree seeds. The medium molecular weight Hyaluronic Acid creates a barrier layer to minimize moisture evaporation from the skin, while the small molecular weight Hyaluronic Acid penetrates deeper into the skin and plumps it from the inside. I am in my forties, and this bestselling and well-awarded product line from ilike organic skin care really takes care of my skin by softening, smoothing out fine lines and keeping my skin hydrated all day long.
Q. Is there a charity your company is passionate about supporting? If so, what is the reason behind choosing this particular organization?
- We are passionate about supporting World Land Trust-US. The cooperation with World Land Trust-US allows us to purchase threatened rainforest lands to protect endangered wildlife and preserve biodiversity through community engagement and local partnerships. We chose to team up with WLT-US as we found this organization to have the highest accountability, transparency and overall ranking amongst the nature protecting foundations.
Since the 2013 launch of our Grape Stem Cell SolutionsTM line we donate a portion of each of these product sales to the World land Trust charity. Just last year, through this partnership we purchased 25 acres of rainforest land that can never be developed now. Our goal is that by Earth Day 2016 we purchase another 10 acres in the Andean cloud forest.
Q. The ilike organic skin care products are available in 45 countries. What are some of your favorite spa treatments featuring ilike products?
- I love so many ilike treatments but my ultimate favorite is probably the Chocolate Cherry Treatments for face, body, hands and feet.
Q. Your company is based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Can you tell me a little bit more about ilike headquarters, your team and your company culture?
- Our Indianapolis headquarters houses our management team, customer service, education, marketing, as well as our warehouse, and we all are enthusiastic about sustainability. Our company culture is reflected in our recent achievement, receiving the prestigious Green Skin Care Company of the Year award from the non-profit Green Spa Network. We were chosen for this award based on various criteria, including: achieving the highest level of sustainability compared to our peers; continuous improvement; setting an example of best practice for the industry to follow; making sustainable practices inviting and desirable to consumers and employees.
Q. How would you describe your ideal customer?
- Our ideal customer is either already knowledgeable about organics and sustainable lifestyle, and can truly understand the value of what we offer; or, she or he is the opposite with an open mind, and we can truly make an impact on her or his life by educating them about the importance of using organic products.
Q. Do you have any new products or launches that we can expect to see in the near future?
- Every year we expand our product offerings with all natural solutions that enhance wellness.
Q. I would love to know who inspires you and why?
- My husband, Darren Hickman, who is also the president of our company. He has taught me so much in life and in business. I am a much more analytical manager now. I remain calm under stress and make more thought over decisions. He has calmed me down in the past 17 years so I could mature into a more successful person in all fields.
Q. Your personal mantra is “Always pick the most natural solution”. Do you also have a company mantra?
- “Spread the knowledge of the many benefits of organic living.”
Q. What is your favorite product in your line?
This is the most difficult question to answer as I have been breathing and living these products and love them all for their result-driven focus. They all treat specific skin conditions, so each is my favorite for a specific benefit. However, if I really need to pick one or two, I would say it’s our AHA Fruit Peel and Hungarian Paprika Gel Treatment combo, a peel combined with a stimulating mask that gets rid of every single dead cell causing clogging and dullness, while also charges the skin with vitamins, antioxidants and boosts the circulation for a radiant complexion that lasts for days.
Q. What is your favorite way to relax?
- Hiking is my favorite frequent off-work activity. I am not a big fan of exercising but nature makes everything much more enjoyable.
Whenever I can I also go on snorkeling vacations with my family as I believe underwater life is the most relaxing environment with the soft cradling of the waves and the gorgeous colors of the corals and fishes.
Q. What are your goals for your company in the future?
- To provide pure and effective skin care solutions to as many women, men and children in the world as possible.
Q. How do you find balance while juggling life’s needs and work’s responsibilities?
- I am surrounded by a great team and we support one another. That balance in imperative to having a well-lived life both personally and professionally.
Q. What is your favorite edible ingredient to both eat and use on your skin?
- I believe grapes are the ultimate superfood. Our Grape Stem Cell SolutionsTM product group contains all parts of red grape berries – such as the stem cells, skin, pulp and seed – and provides fast, effective and lasting rejuvenating and antioxidant boosting solution against skin aging.
Q. What are two to three things you feel are important to share with your customers?
- #1. We are the ORIGINAL brand of organic skin care products made in Hungary that is also certified organic, and true to its core values, unique manufacturing procedures and supreme quality. Our products have been named as “Hungarikums”. A Hungarikum can only be bestowed upon an excellent Hungarian product that reflects remarkable, distinctive value, represents the outstanding performance of the Hungarian nation with its uniqueness and high quality, based on remarkable Hungarian know-how.
#2. Research shows that organically grown herbs, fruits and vegetables have substantially (20-40%) higher antioxidant content than conventionally grown plants. In other words, the same amount of product contains a more concentrated nutrient complex if it is organic.
#3. Equally important to consider is that the skin is our largest organ that absorbs products like a sponge. Anything that is chemically formulated is foreign to our body and affects the actual utilization of the absorbed nutrients versus the nutrients that are in their most natural form. Many chemical ingredients are also harmful for our body, and unfortunately many are not regulated (yet) by the FDA, even if they are banned in most other countries in the world.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to share with me about yourself or your company?
- Over the years, one of the biggest challenges we have faced is the confusion between our brand and another company. Prior to 2006, the now called ilike organic skin care products were distributed by another company under a different brand name. This company continued their business with the same product names but completely different product content in the jars and bottles. This has caused a lot of confusion on the market, especially for spas and aestheticians that were used to the original consistency and quality of the original products.
Although it’s been 10 years, there is still a little bit of confusion and we are often still explaining the different between the two product lines and the constant need to prove that we have the original products that are still made in Hungary and that are certified organic. Overtime, I know that the need for such explanation will become less and less. However, I still think it’s very important to stress that ilike organic skin care is the ORIGINAL brand found by “Aunt Ilike”.
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