“One of my biggest learnings…The number of truly inspiring people that I’ve met who have had the courage to take a risk and follow their passion from an entrepreneurial standpoint. The level of vision, ambition — and hustle! — is like nothing I had encountered before joining the start-up world.”
Meet Annie Stansik WG13, Co-Founder of Untoxicated, a newly-launched skincare line that elevates the standard for those with sensitive skin by eliminating irritating elements responsible for 99%+ of sensitivity reactions.
Untoxicated is re-imagining sensitive skincare by being the first product line to completely remove all 128 allergens that cause almost all skin reactions. These allergens are found in many commonly-used products, including those most often recommended by dermatologists to avoid or resolve irritations!
Although this is Annie’s first foray into the start-up world, her background and expertise are a perfect fit. She began her career as a management consultant, then spent many years representing some of the world’s most recognizable brands at Unilever and Ferrara, and most recently helped transform Mindbodygreen from a branded media entity to an integrated wellness organization. With her professional background and personal experience, Annie was well-positioned and enthusiastic to step in when her co-founder — Martin Smith, MD — approached her with his thoughts about transforming sensitive skincare.
The first Untoxicated products launch this week, with more to follow later this year!
Tell us a bit about your company
Untoxicated is elevating the standard for sensitive skincare: We are the first product to completely eliminate the 128 skin-irritating allergens responsible for 99%+ of sensitivity reactions on the skin.
We were co-created by a Cleveland Clinic MD (Allergist and Immunologist), out of the realization that, for the 70%+ of us with sensitive skin, our challenges are often exacerbated — if not outright caused — by the leading dermatologist-recommended skincare solutions we’ve been relying on!
What inspired you to start your business — what opportunity in the market are you seeking to address?
I truthfully never envisioned myself as a founder — yet I have increasingly gravitated towards smaller, more entrepreneurial consumer endeavors over the past several years (versus big CPG where I was trained!).
So, when my Co-Founder approached me about Untoxicated, the notion of being able to truly incept something — and to do so in a category that is both a passion AND pain point for me — was too exceptional to pass-up.
What is it about your personal background, experience, or perspective that fuels your passion for this venture?
When I first met my Co-Founder (Martin Smith MD) and he told me he needed help transforming an insight into a living & breathing enterprise, the professional side of me was attracted to the opportunity to create something from the ground-up that represented the type of brand/business I wanted to see out in the world today.
And, the consumer side of me was actually living the insight (pain point) that Untoxicated was seeking to address. Ironically, despite the many years I had spent on some of the top brands in beauty and wellness, it wasn’t until I began to struggle with my skin — as a consumer — that I began to fully appreciate the magnitude of the problem.
Finally, as I began to dig into the category, I quickly realized that despite its size + rapid growth (dermacosmetics is over 1/3 of total skincare and outpacing overall category growth), it hadn’t been meaningfully disrupted in decades. On top of antiquated product formulas, the brands themselves were overly clinical and dated: white-haired MDs in lab coats providing paternalistic guidance with blue and white strewn everywhere. It dawned on me that a huge opportunity existed to develop a trusted clinical presence that meets today’s consumers — who are vibrant, discerning, values-driven and crave empowerment — where they are.
What are one or two of the biggest wins or most encouraging experiences you’ve had so far?
The number of people who have (actually) lit up when I share what I’m working on outside of the office (e.g. at a dinner or other social gathering).
While the vast majority of us DO have sensitive skin — statistics I’ve been reading on paper for years — experiencing firsthand how many people’s needs aren’t being adequately met by what’s in the market today is a truly motivating experience.
(And, the number of texts, emails, photos and phone calls we’ve received after people try the products and are blown away by the difference it has made is incredible. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I’ve saved every single one!)
What has been one or two of your biggest learnings so far?
1-The number of truly inspiring people that I’ve met who have had the courage to take a risk and follow their passion from an entrepreneurial standpoint. The level of vision, ambition — and hustle! — is like nothing I had encountered before joining the start-up world. It’s truly humbling to hear how much people — and their families — have sacrificed to make their dreams a reality.
2-How much I’ve learned / am learning about myself. This surprised me at first, but it makes sense: When someone moves from a place of stable employment working on household brands with tons of resourcing and into an unstable enterprise based on (just) a vision — that some people don’t even believe in! — with very little to fallback on but embedded knowledge and a surrounding network, there’s a lot that emerges in terms of how someone is oriented, what they value, what their style is etc.
What is an obstacle that you are grappling with as you continue to build this venture?
I would argue that launching any venture in this economy is challenging. Now try launching a DTC brand in beauty!
We’ve been SO fortunate to raise enough capital from friends & family and Angel Investors to support our launch but it’s not been without a herculean amount of effort, a bit of luck, and some great cheerleaders along the way.
That said; I would imagine that this will continue as we continue our (pre-seed) fundraise later this year.