1. Zosimos Botanicals launched in 2004. How has the beauty industry changed since that time?
There are two major changes impacting Zosimos Botanicals. First, back when I began formulating, small hand crafters were typically limiting their products to soap and candles. Now there is an entire cottage industry of independent makeup companies. The larger giant players in the industry like Revlon and Estee Lauder may not know about it, but nevertheless it exists. Demand for these products is evident in the existence of platforms such as Etsy, which were created to feature independent artists and included bath and beauty. Respect for Artisans has grown, no longer are companies like mine considered hobbies.
Also, the non-toxic ingredient philosophy that I adhere to was not generally on the radar. The “green” movement did not gain momentum until later. When it did, the general public was aware of products like mattresses, fire treated wood used for building, food and clothing “going green” first. Personal care products came afterwards. Now all the large companies have jumped on the bandwagon to offer mineral based makeup.
2. I love the name Zosimos and that it is derived from the historical personage Zosimos of Panoplis. Were there other names you were also considering for your brand? Did you know right away that this was the name for your company? Can you tell me anything more about how you came to choose the name and what it means to you?
With the passage of time, any other candidates up for consideration and whether there was an “a-ha” moment when the name Zosimos came to my attention. It is, however, something I feel very strongly about. I abandoned a career as a Trademark lawyer to dedicate myself to nontoxic cosmetics. The strength of a brand is the ability of the same or logo to act as a source identifier. In other words, “ZOSIMOS” is a strong trademark because most people do not have any association with the name. Once they see or hear it relating to my company, every time they see or hear it they remember my company because that is the only reference to the word Zosimos in their lives. After filing trademarks on behalf of other entities for many years, being able to act as my own attorney and get a Trademark Registration was a huge thrill.
3. Your company was created as a result of “your path to live a more serene, contented lifestyle”. Can you tell me more about when, during this time, you decided to develop “exclusive handcrafted makeup with original formulas which are paraben-free, devoid of synthetic chemicals and other toxins” (what was your inspiration and motivation)? How has your life changed since leaving your profession as an attorney?
The transition away from law into Zosimos and a different lifestyle happened concurrently. My path began by attending law school at GWU for 4 years at night while working. My husband attended graduate school at the same time, so we waited to start a family. Just barely, as our son was born 10 days after I sat for the MD Bar Exam. Practicing at a huge law firm with an infant was difficult. I was fortunate to be offered a part-time position back at the Postal Service HQ, where I had worked my way through school. My best friend started making products, and I wanted to help her. The problem was she lived across the country and working together was a logistical hurdle. During a visit, she gave me a test by making a product and the next day asking me to make it. That began my apprenticeship. I started out making that one product for her.
The cause of my divergence was my colleagues wanted makeup to match their weekend clubbing outfits, which let to creating my own colors. By working with them, I learned how to use the ingredients and what qualities they brought to a formula. That lead to my creating unique products, which is fun. Fun is it’s own motivation. My daughter was born during this period in 2004. My customers were private clients and the products were not organized into a complete “line” in any way. Someone asked me for something, and I made it. Commuting 1-1/2 hours downtown took time away from Zosimos, and clients were calling me at the office. My husband built a website and it launched in 2007. Momentum made it impossible to do justice to both, a choice had to be made, and I like to say that “I left the law for lipstick.”
Looking back, I’d have to say my growing young family led me to want to create a home based career.
As far as the motivation to crate nontoxic makeup, in addition to the admiration for my friend, it was the love for my sister. My sister has a compromised immune system and had to have all of her makeup made by a dermatologist. If she touches soap her skin starts to peel. That made me aware of the negative effects that commercially made makeup and cleaning products can have on your skin. I also was not able to wear eye makeup, Even after removing it my eyes would swell and crust overnight. The only eye liner that would be tolerable was kohl.
4. Do you have a company mission statement? If so, can you elaborate a bit more on this and what it means to you?
5. Your products are ranked within the 0-1 safest range by the Skin Deep cosmetic database. What do you do with your packaging so that it is eco friendly?
Plastic packaging is chosen based on ease of recyclability. We mostly use PET/PETE (1) and HDPE (2), sometimes LDPE (4) and PP (5). We avoid using PVC (3), PS (6) and OTHER (7), because they tend to leech chemicals and/or persist in the environment, causing negative impacts. When it comes to packing up the finished products, we reuse packing materials from parcels we receive. We also shred paper that is no longer needed and use that as well. We use eco friendly bubble wrap that is comprised of up to 40% recycled content and up to 20% from post-consumer sources.
6. How do you embrace sustainability in your company?
The products are all safe, because we use gentle and pure botanicals and minerals instead of petroleum-based ingredients. Our ingredients are grown or produced without the use of pesticides, which negatively impact the environment. We are always looking for ways to improve our operations so we have as little impact on the Earth as possible. We have applied to and received several honors or badges to display on our website from organizations such as: Green America, Natural Ingredient Resource Center, Green Products Alliance, Green Built Business, Environmental Award from the City of Gaithersburg, MD for 7 consecutive years, and our latest – Montgomery County, MD Green Business Certification.
7. What makes your brand unique in the arena of green beauty and where do you think it is headed?
Right from the beginning I wanted to make sure our products were pure and safe for people and planet. Zosimos Botanicals didn’t jump on the “green” bandwagon because it was a market trend, it’s simply a core value for us here. We also make everything by hand, in small batches, so our customers get the freshest possible products.
8. Are there any special/funny stories that you would like to share behind your brand?
A cautionary tale I tell the new employees relates to both safety and lingering traces of my New Jersey accent. One evening I was heating a product called a Lotion Stick, since discontinued, on the ceramic hot plate. The container was a glass mason jar, and inside was rosewater with a solidified layer of wax and oils above it. Typically I would be sitting at the work station, watching the melting process and occasionally stirring it. This time, I got up to work at an adjacent computer desk. Several minutes later, I came back, stood at the desk and inserted a wooden craft stick into the jar to stir it.
Well, the water at the bottom had reached its boiling point, and the top of the solid layer of oil had not yet melted. When I put the stick in, it released the pressure underneath and it exploded upward right at me. The palm of my hand and wrist suffered third degree burns. I made a mistake and put my wax covered hand on my thigh. The wax went on to the ceiling and some plopped onto my head. Of course I ran. Safely out of the studio, not wanting to alarm my young children, I calmly told my spouse to call 911 and asked him to go back downstairs to get the burn cream. Wax was everywhere, ceiling, behind the table, all the way on the other side of the room about 15 feet.
We slathered my hand in silver sulfadiazine as the hook-and-ladder truck bounded into our little cul-de-sac. Not wanting to take my pants down, instead of cream I put an ice pack on my leg and got a scar.
Here’s the funny part. I’m in the ambulance and the medic asks how I got burned. This is post 9/11. I am from Jersey and certain things come out with an accent. I said “I was making a balm in my basement.” To him it sounded like I said “bomb”. He was like “What?!??” I repeated what I said, but with more explanation. He says to me, “when we get to the hospital, I’ll do the talking.”
9. What is your favorite healthy ingredient, and why do you love it? What products feature it?
10. Your company supports the charities of Denali Citizens Council, Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary’s Run for the Animals, Reef Check Australia and Liberty’s Promise. You also listed that you honor a group for 1% for the Planet. What is the reason behind choosing these particular organizations? Are there other charities you are also passionate about?
1% for the Planet is a pledge to donate one percent of our annual gross sales to an environmental nonprofit organization. The Denali Citizens Council and Reef Check Australia were past recipients of annual donations. Denali National Park in Alaska and the Great Barrier Reef are on my bucket list, that’s why preservation of those areas is special. The Denali Citizens Council is a group of people living near the park, keeping an eye on proposed pipeline development. Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary is a local place rehabilitating abused farm animals and giving them a safe place to live out their lives. Liberty’s Promise is a nonprofit that helps high school kids new to the US with internships as an adjunct to civics classes. We host at least one intern each summer, and usually it is their first job.
Each entity is small, many times run by volunteers, and is doing their little part to help the world. That speaks to me.
11. Your products are featured in several spas/retailers. What are some of your favorite treatments featuring Zosimos Botanicals products?
Our products are carried all over the world, only a few in our local area. My favorite retailer carrying our products is a small grocery store called Dawson’s Market. They carry food sourced locally and have the best hot food bar. I am a Vegetarian and every visit they have delicious new offerings. Typically I call my kids and describe what is there, creating a take out container for each of us.
12. Are there more retail locations who will soon feature your products?
I certainly hope so! We constantly receive new Wholesale inquiries from potential locations.
13. Your company is based in Maryland. Can you tell me a little bit more about Zosimos Botanicals headquarters, your team and your company culture?
H.Q. is the basement level of my house. Our studio contains what we need for the formulation, production, packing and shipping of our products. There are several workstations in clear view of each other, so the Artisans and I get to chat while we create. It’s a casual setting where we share our thoughts and our lives with one another. The culture here is great; we’re mindful of each other. We value each others’ input on how to work and grow the company together. We laugh and have a lot of fun.
14. How would you describe your ideal customer?
The ideal customer is anyone who values health, not just of their own, but of the planet’s. They want to look and feel extravagant, and they appreciate how botanical & mineral ingredients enhance their natural beauty. They would place large orders from us every week without fail and tell their extensive circle of friends and family all about us.
15. Do you have any new products or launches that we can expect to see in the near future?
We are actively working on an Unscented Shampoo. I have many formulas in various stages of completion and have recently implemented “Formulating Friday’s” to train the Master Artisans to assist with moving them forward.
16. I would love to know who inspires you and why…?
Flowers inspire me. They are beautiful, and look interesting at different stages of their life cycle. When things I plant in the Fall come up in the Spring, they are like presents unfolding. Returning friends. I walk around the property each day to see what is blooming. That time in the garden settles my mind so that I don’t get overwhelmed and can focus on the tasks before me.
17. Do you have a company or personal mantra?
18. What is your favorite product in your line?
That’s like asking a Mother which is her favorite child.
19. What is your favorite way to relax?
Usually I work until after my family is asleep. Then I need some time to unwind. I love to watch foreign movies with subtitles. This is a great source of amusement for my husband and kids, who are not interested in that genre at all. I am also a trained Master Gardener and spend time outside planting, pruning and planning. Throughout the year I volunteer hours at events within the County dispensing gardening information to retain my Master Gardener status. Photographing the flowers is one of my absolute favorite things to do, years ago an annual calendar with the floral photos was given printed.
20. What are your thoughts on the natural wave of green beauty and where do you think it is headed?
The more nontoxic beauty products available in the marketplace the better! I think they ALL should be nontoxic. There is proposed legislation to regulate the chemicals allowed in cosmetics. It is going to become a more regulated industry, and hopefully small independent businesses will still have a role in the marketplace.
21. What are your goals for your company in the future?
The shopping experience with Zosimos Botanicals is going to become streamlined and compatible with all handheld and mobile devices. It would be fun to start creating our own videos with tutorials on using the makeup. I personally want to hold small group classes people can come make a lip balm or body butter in a few hours.
22. How do you find balance while juggling life’s needs and work’s responsibilities?
I carved out Tuesdays when the studio is closed for production. That gives me a few daytime hours alone. The studio is in the house, but it is easy to keep two areas completely separate since they are on different floors. The studio door is always closed. When going down, I say “I am going to work” There is a time log to sign in and out. When my family comes home I stop working, and if there’s more to be done it will happen after dinner.
23. What is your favorite edible ingredient to both eat and use on your skin?
I love honey! Honey is a humectant, meaning it draws moisture from the air. It also heals wounds. The Raspberry N Honey face mask has powdered honey.
24. What are two to three things you feel are important to share with your customers?
Just because a product name says “Organic” doesn’t mean anything. Read the ingredient list.
If a product does not have a Certified USDA Organic seal on it, it can still be organic. It costs a lot of money and requires a lot of paperwork to get the Certified Organic seal. Many small companies simply cannot afford to go through the process. It is unfortunate that the Certified Organic seal is not granted simply based on the worthiness of the product, instead of the ability to pay the fees.
We love to see photos and videos posted on social media like Instagram and YouTube. Lots of customers ask to see colors of makeup on an actual person. If you have a channel use hashtag #zosimosbotanicals to reach the community that follows us.
Did you try a product and then bought it from another company instead? We really need to know why. I formulate all the products, so if recipes need tweaking I can give it a try. Not all natural products can perform exactly like their chemical laden counterparts, so that is not a realistic expectation. Essential oils do not smell as long as synthetic fragrances.
By Abby Mason, AADP, INHC, Certified Holistic Health Coach