Brandi Leifso was living in a women's shelter in Vancouver when she founded Evio Beauty, a line of conscious cosmetic products, now based out of Toronto. Having persevered through tough times to get to where she is today, Leifso says her mission with Evio is to — genuinely — make the world a better place. To that end, she's incorporated hemp into her packaging and is launching a cannabis vertical this April with Evio's partner, Aurora Cannabis. The collection will feature three distinct products: a refreshing cleanse wipe (made from hemp), a rejuvenating face mask, and a revitalizing serum. While breaking into the cannabis space wasn't always Leifso's first idea, it's become part and parcel to her goal of treating both animals and the environment better — here's why.
So what's the 411 on Evio?
I founded Evio five years ago while I was living in a women's shelter in Vancouver. At the time, I had the idea to photoshop a catalogue of makeup products that didn’t yet exist, and shopped that around to local boutiques. I made enough money to bootstrap the company, which back then was called Evelyn Iona. Some major wins were when we signed an agreement in 2018 with BreakWater Venture capitalists, and shortly afterward were accepted into Sephora’s esteemed Accelerate Program in July 2018. In July, we were partially acquired by Aurora Cannabis, one of the world’s leading cannabis producers, and then we announced our cannabis skincare line.
What was your motivation for founding it?
When I founded Evio, I was going through a very difficult time in my life. Our mission always has been to create a more conscious future. I wanted to create something that wasn't just a product or company, but something that stood for something, and ultimately, made the world a better place. It was about being able to unite people and create a more conscious future. How can we make change through difficult times? I realized in going through those times, we can actually help each other and create a better world. From there, we were able to develop more layers to Evio, and it became much easier to make decisions as a value-driven company.
So how exactly is Evio creating a more conscious future?
Particular to cannabis, our focus is on being better to the planet, animals, and people. We're able to do that by reducing our use of plastic by 45 percent by 2021, and by reinforcing our plastics with hemp fibers. We're also able to reduce the kind of plastic we use, and [instead] use biodegradable plastic. In addition to that, we went completely vegan, are cruelty-free (and big advocates of that in the cosmetic space) and use hemp instead of plastics and synthetics. The cosmetic space is not regulated — you can say you're natural or organic simply by having one out of 100 ingredients being organic. These things are [changed] by companies that not only say good things but do good things, by walking our talk. In addition to that, we donate money from every product sold to the Canadian Women’s Foundation. And, for the month of March, our partners at Aurora have offered to match all donations. That’s a dream partnership and special support that goes back to our overall mission.
What are some values that came out of your experience in a women's shelter?
With our mission to create a more conscious future, one thing that leads back to that is empathy and kindness. If we were more kind and empathetic, I think the world would be a better place, and I think there is a place for that in business. Evio's values came from not-so-perfect circumstances - the time I spent in the shelter. It's really easy to make decisions when you're between a rock and a hard place, [decisions that] can make you more money or accelerate your career more quickly — or, you can do the right thing, and while it might take a bit longer, with good intentions and compassion as guiding principles, build a company that stands on creating a greater future.
What has the consumer response been to Evio?
People send great messages about how much our products mean to them. We have a customer who used to keep her empty Evelyn Iona products as a reminder that she, too, can overcome obstacles. We've become such a positive impact in people's lives, with people feeling like they can accomplish anything no matter their circumstances. And also, because of the compassion that people showed me, it's driven us to want to prove those people right.
Wait so how can you make a lip gloss so meaningful?
I didn't know what would happen when I started the company. However, by being open and sharing my experiences, it's not really something you can manufacture. Consumers today are wildly intelligent — you can't just say, "I'm going to create a product that will help people." It has to be something authentic, and then things naturally occur. To my surprise, so many more people could relate to what I went through. It’s been a healing experience for everyone involved.
How did cannabis come to be part of your mission?
We weren't looking to add a cannabis vertical, we were looking to advance our mission to create a more conscious future. It just so happened that cannabis could help us do that. Cannabis could reduce our carbon footprint by reducing the use of plastic by 45 percent. And we use cannabis to eliminate the use of beeswax. Those two things were really important to us — to be better to the planet and animals.