Britta Aragon, Natural Beauty Expert, Author, Cancer Survivor and Creator and Founder of CV Skinlabs
What do you need to be an entrepreneur?
Passion. I think if you’re going to pursue your own business, this is the most important thing to have. Passion will give you the energy and stamina to get the business off the ground, and will also help you sustain through the ups and downs that are bound to come along. As for where that passion comes from, I think it needs to be from a strong sense of purpose. For me, my business was a way to honor my father’s legacy, and to give back to the cancer community—two things that mean a lot to me.
What did inspire you to start your business?
Seeing people like my father struggle with skin conditions like rashes, dryness, dullness, acne, burning, itching—all these things can be not only irritating and painful, but they can completely wreck a person’s self-confidence.
I watched my father, who was a strong, self-assured, extremely capable person, become concerned about showing his face when he suffered from an awful rash caused by chemotherapy. It affects people a lot more than we realize, and I think it’s an outrage that many people are suffering these problems because of the questionable ingredients used in standard personal care products. I wanted to increase awareness about the toxins we’re exposed to every day, and offer people a better solution.
How did you finance it?
We are self-funded right now, and have just launched our first crowdfunding campaign. (http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/toxins-harm-skin-we-need-you-to-fight-back-with-cv-skinlabs-safe-skin-care)
Our goal is to raise $65,000 to create a sampling program in hospitals across the nation, where we can help those with sensitive skin and conditions like eczema, redness, and chronic dryness. Our products are free of irritating and toxic chemicals, and people with sensitive, fragile skin can use them to repair and recover with complete peace of mind.
Being Hispanic…Does it have any influence on your business?
In positive ways, yes. First of all, the name of my business, Cinco Vidas, of course means “five lives” in Spanish. That is a tribute to the five times my father renewed his commitment to life while going through cancer. He was initially diagnosed with colon cancer, but then he went through five recurrences of the disease in different parts of his body. His enduring courage in facing each of those occurrences was so inspiring to me. I also feel that because of my Hispanic heritage, I have a connection with others who share that heritage, and I understand the benefits and the challenges of that.
In the face of adversity, how do you decide to keep going?
It comes back to purpose. After I went through cancer and later lost my father to the disease, I knew that my purpose was to make a difference for other people going through similar challenges—whether from cancer or from battling a variety of skin conditions. I wanted to teach people how to reduce their toxic load by making better choices about their personal care products, home care products, and environment—how to live healthier lives all around. So really, this is about my purpose in life.
It’s just not something that I can stop doing or quit doing. It’s about my life path, and my reason for being here, so even though I may go through difficulties, which of course I do, there’s just no quitting for me.
What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
We are a small business, so we face the same challenge that all small businesses face, and that is to find the funding and the distribution needed to really expand and reach our target market. We have accomplished a lot already, but I want to go further. I want to get our non-toxic products out globally, and I want to continue to educate people about the toxins in their products and their environment. So until our reach grows broad enough to sustain us, we face the challenge of funding our endeavors.
If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
I would make it bigger and more well-known at a global level. We have amazing products that work and are helping so many but we need to get the word out to the masses. I would like every person with sensitive skin, a difficult skin condition, reactive skin—or who just wants non-toxic skincare—to know about CV Skinlabs.
What was your childhood ambition?
I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 16. After I went into remission, I wanted to be an oncologist, because I wanted to save everyone from this horrible disease. As I grew older, my passion changed. Instead of curing the skin, I became obsessed with making it look fantastic. Both my grandma and mother took very good care of themselves, and both had beautiful, even skin. My mom still does. So that was a big influence on me. Growing up, my grandmother insisted I wear sunscreen every day and that I take proper care of my skin. She even bought me my sunblock product and eye cream at the age of 15.
I guess all of these experiences lead me to the beauty industry. I became a makeup artist and skincare therapist to help people look their best—which usually made them feel their best, too. It’s poetic, really, that through beauty, I am helping people feel good during their cancer journey, or through other difficulties in life that affect their skin.
Tell us about three entrepreneurs that you admire?
Richard Branson is an entrepreneur that I admire. He has a huge empire, is committed to making a difference, and has done so at a global level.
I’m a huge admirer of Louise Hay. Not only is she a cancer survivor, but she overcame incredible life challenges to make a success of herself, eventually becoming founder of Hay House publishing, which produces so many helpful books for people. Whatever one might think of her beliefs, she has been a strong and powerful woman in our culture, reaching out to help people living with cancer and AIDS, and helping us realize that our health depends just as much on the condition of our minds and spirits as on our physical bodies.
Lastly, Shanda Sumpter is an amazing coach and entrepreneur who teaches women how to find their passion and make money. What is most inspiring is that she is successful, makes a difference in people’s lives, and still lives a life filled with joy and passion, herself. It seems this is a hard balance to keep for most entrepreneurs and she has got what most of us want.
For business meetings: breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
Lunch definitely! Breakfast is my time to nourish myself and set my attitude for the day, so I cherish that morning time as private time—and I always have the same thing for breakfast: a green smoothie! It’s really my sacred time. Dinner is usually spent with friends, and I use that time to de-stress and to reconnect to who I am, outside of work. So lunch is my time to really focus on my business and my business connections, a time when I’m all in and pumped up about what we’re accomplishing—but that’s only because I had my private morning breakfast and my fun, stress-relieving dinner! (ha)
What sacrifices on your personal life did you have to make in order to become a business success?
I think the biggest sacrifice is time, and a side effect of that can be my health, if I’m not careful. Running a business is all-consuming, and you can really start to neglect your body and your spirit. I preach safe self-care to my blog readers and my customers, so I have to walk the walk, you know? I regularly remind myself that my life is multi-faceted, and includes my work, but also my health and my spiritual well being.
I have had to learn to fully trust that all will work out—even if I don’t quite see how at the time—and to delegate tasks that I don’t absolutely have to do myself. Time is my biggest commodity, and while at first I had to put in most of that time myself, I know that it’s critical to delegate to be able to grow the business the way I want to.
What is your favorite quote?
Feel the fear and do it anyway! This was the title of one of my dad’s favorite books by Susan Jeffers. He passed it on to me, and I have shared it with so many of my friends. I have yet to ever regret doing something that I was a little afraid of doing. Like they say, you usually regret the things you don’t do more than those you do, so I try to make a point to continually challenge myself, as that’s the way we grow.
Is it difficult to be unconventional?
It can be, at times, but anything worth doing is usually difficult. Going against the grain can put you out there, and you have to be willing to withstand some criticism at times, but if that’s what it takes to accomplish your goals, then it’s much better to do that than to sit back and stay safe and then regret it later on.
Biggest mistake made?
My biggest mistakes invariably occur when I ignore my own instincts. If I listen too much to the “experts,” I can sometimes ignore the “inner expert” that guides me. I find that though it’s important to listen to others, in the end, you must go with your gut.
Do you consider yourself an innovator? Why?
I do, and not because I’m smarter or more talented than anyone else, but because the work I’ve chosen to do is something that needs to be done, and no one else is really focusing on in quite the same way that I am. I have a unique background to draw on, since I experienced cancer as both a fighter and a caregiver. I also saw first-hand the effect that today’s conventional ingredients can have on fragile skin, when I bought a supposedly “sensitive” high-end cream that actually burned my father’s irritated skin even more.
I felt so awful about that I was compelled to do the research, discover the problem, and set out to fix it, with the goal of making sensitive skin care much more nourishing and soothing than it has been up until now. Other companies are talking about natural and organic products, but no one’s really focusing on fragile, damaged, medically treated skin and how many standard ingredients can actually make it worse.
About the Company
I started CInco Vidas with The Cinco Vidas blog, a robust information source for people struggling with sensitive and damaged skin, and for those going through the difficult side effects of cancer treatments. Next, I wrote my book, When Cancer Hits, which is a guide for the newly diagnosed, and includes information on how to manage side effects, how to avoid harmful toxins, how to use skin care and makeup to look your best, and how to increase your odds of avoiding recurrence. Actres and President of Cancer Schmancer Fran Drescher said of the book, “There are lots of experts in the field, but advice from one who went through it herself is invaluable. I wish this book had existed during my own battle.”
Last year, I created my new skin care line, CV Skinlabs. This is a natural and organic collection of luxuriously soothing and clinically proven formulas that nurture and repair skin. Each product delivers outstanding beauty benefits and proven results, with an unprecedented, new standard of safety, every step of the way. The range of carefully formulated products can be used with peace of mind by all—particularly by those with sensitive or compromised skin, chemical sensitivities, or conditions such as eczema and chronic dryness, to name a few.
• We help restore skin to its healthy, radiant best, with renewed softness, suppleness and a youthful glow.
• We insist on the utmost in safety, by toxicologically examining and screening all ingredients for any link to irritation, cancer or hormone disruption, and by conducting results-driven, rigorous clinical testing.
• We adhere to strict formula safety guidelines and standards, making sure not to use any ingredients from an extensive list of potentially harmful thickeners, preservatives and aesthetic enhancers, often found in conventional skin care products.
Our goal is to always deliver beauty and safety, without compromise.
CV Skinlabs was created by safe cosmetic expert and author, Britta Aragon, who after failing to find safe, nourishing skin care products to soothe her own and her father’s troubled skin during cancer treatments, developed a skincare line for anyone seeking safe solutions to repair and restore radiance and luminosity to sensitive skin.