Brandi Leifso, founder and CEO of EVIO Beauty Group, creates social change and empowers women through her Evelyn Iona makeup line which is cruelty-free, natural, and organic. Keep reading to find out her journey as a #BOSSBABE, the reason behind the creation of her company, her favourite skincare product, and exciting news for Evelyn Iona for Spring 2019!
“I was living in a shelter…so I Photoshopped a catalogue of products that didn’t exist…showed it to different stores…and got pre-orders to actually make the product to launch the company.”
Can you tell us how and why you started Evelyn Iona?
My journey started 4½ years ago. When I started it, my life was drastically different. I was living in a shelter at the time and I didn’t have resources, so I Photoshopped a catalogue of products that didn’t exist, and then I showed that catalogue around to different stores and that’s how I got pre-orders to actually make the product to launch the company. I was in such a different headspace in my life then, I was just surviving and doing what I needed to do.
Was designing and using Photoshop your passion back then?
No - I think my passion was social change. Because of what I experienced at the shelter, I realized that to see long-lasting change, you need to be able to sit down with people who can create that change, speak the same language, and have mutual respect. Being able to build this badass company that’s now on Bay Street is amazing. We are now able to have conscious, meaningful female empowerment conversations here, and that is only getting us closer to our goals. Rather than marching the street, my protest for social change was creating EVIO. And the irony in the beauty industry was interesting as well, because the beauty industry 4-5 years ago was dominated by men. I saw the irony in that too, and I wanted to break that stigma.
“I wanted to create future change without being an angry person, which I found through something as beautiful as makeup.”
It’s amazing that you donate $1 from every product purchased to organizations that support women. Can you tell us why female empowerment is so dear to your heart?
Many people focus on the drastic changes I’ve made in the past 4 years from my time living in a shelter, but what they don’t know is that I was in a shelter for the first time when I was 6 months old.
I went through a challenging upbringing, so when I landed in the shelter again at the age of 21, I was thinking, “how could this possibly happen? I changed my life so drastically from what it looked like in my childhood. I moved out of my home at the age of 17, and I was living a great life managing international models, so how was it possible that I landed back here?” I became obsessive over social change and historical patterns – for example, why is it that 70% of children who grew up in challenging home situations or with violence/abuse end up being in unhealthy relationships? That was really what drove me to create the social change because society wasn’t having a proper conversation about domestic violence and these social issues, because you don’t know unless you’ve been through it. It was my platform to be able to have a voice to keep myself safe in the situation that I was in, because I recognized that the system was a bit broken. I wanted to create future change without being an angry person, which I found through something as beautiful as makeup.
(From left): Coffee Mascara in Black, Gel Eyeliner in Black, Bamboo Eyeliner Brush,
Lip Gloss in Brooke, Concealer in Flawless, Green Tea Primer, Bamboo Concealer Brush
What does your typical day look like?
I think no days are typical in the startup world. I’m usually up at 7AM, and then I go for a run, walk my dog, and I’m in the office by 9AM, with meetings starting around 10AM. There’s usually an event – last night we sponsored a cannabis event with Aurora, which was really cool. My days are really long, but fun.
What morning routines or evening rituals do you have to help you stay balanced?
Going for a run. I do it more so to plug in my music and be alone with my thoughts. I run marathons too. That’s definitely something that helps me stay balanced. I do a full marathon at least once a year. I’d like to do a minimum of two next year, and each year increase. My goal is to eventually do the Boston Marathon!
What’s one skin care product you can’t live without?
I’m a minimalist kind of girl. I wake up, wipe my face, put on some of our concealer, and draw in some eyebrows and go. I’m currently using Kaia Natural’s wipes and they’re amazing. This is also exciting because we are coming out with a wipe next spring – we have a co-branded line coming up with Aurora. It’s a line of cannabis-infused wipes, masks and serums. It’s made with CBD derived from hemp, and it has really good moisturizing properties. The best part is you can use CBD to replace beeswax so you can create a product with an entirely vegan formula. We’re also using the hemp fibres to reinforce the plastics and packaging, so we’re trying to reduce the use of plastic by 45%. It’s a little magic plant!
But other than wipes, definitely Evelyn Iona’s concealer. I feel a little bit naked without it.
Interview conducted by Yuri Hirama