The Founding Story of Calithea Skincare
For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by the natural health, skincare, and beauty world. I was always engulfed in watching videos and reading articles about new products and ingredients. I tried out so many different products. My bathroom drawers were filled with brands and bottles. I was constantly cycling through different products because I could never find a routine that continued to work on my skin and satisfy my long-term skincare goals. After years of wasted time and money trying to find my perfect combination of products, I went back to my roots, specifically what my Yiayia taught me. I picked up a handcrafted soap bar from Greece made out of 100% olive oil.
The women in my family especially nurtured this curiosity of mine growing up. As a little girl, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. Staying overnight at her house and getting ready with her for church in the morning I would watch her routines so closely. She always had such beautiful skin and I admired it so much. Of all the products out there though, my Yia Yia’s go-to for nearly every application was Extra Virgin Olive Oil. She applied this to her skin daily, which kept it so soft and delicate.
My grandmother always told me how important it was to always take care of my hair and skin, to eat healthily, and wear sunscreen. Most importantly though, she felt all women, old and young, should love and nurture their own unique, natural beauty inside and out, rather than constantly compare themselves to anyone else.
Having grown up with such an appreciation for natural beauty products and practices, I was inspired to create my own clean and natural beauty brand at just 14 years old. I knew other people were struggling with the same thing I was; that constant frustration of cycling through products. I wanted to share with others what worked for my skin so they could find comfort, happiness, and relief in their own skin. I wanted this brand to be for women and men of any background or skin type, while still paying respects and drawing ingredient inspiration from my own Greek culture.
From the very beginning, I not only wanted to develop an organic Greek skincare line but perhaps more importantly, I was also on a mission to help people feel better about themselves and to strengthen their confidence. I wanted to take the amazing lessons I learned from my grandmother and pass them on to anyone and everyone who’d be willing to listen! Regardless of race, age, ethnicity, size, or shape, I want everyone to feel confident about themselves and embrace their inner, natural beauty and strength without comparing themselves to others.
When I first began building this company, I was naive to the odds stacked against me. I had no idea that 40% of US businesses are women-owned. I was also completely unaware that just 16% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 started new businesses successfully. I was at such a young age when the idea first came to me. I remember just telling my parents “this is what I want to do!” and the thought of failing never crossed my mind. Had I known how much of an anomaly it was (and still is) for someone like me to start their own business, I may not have had the courage to take that first step. I cannot even begin to list how many times I’ve had to endure the “no really, this is my business, these are my products,” conversations with people who, based solely on my gender and age, assume that I’m simple an intern or sales girls, not the CEO and founder of my own unique beauty brand. I am very fortunate especially in that I have had my fathers help throughout this whole process, but it can be frustrating when people just assume, when they see the two of us working together, that this was his idea and vision, not mine.
Nevertheless, for every difficult moment, each awkward conversation, there have been so many other extremely positive experiences. I am so blessed to have so many people help me along the way. From my amazing parents and family who have always supported my dreams and pushed me to achieve my goals. My fellow classmates and female professors who have become my mentors at RMU’s Rockwell School of Business who I’ve met as I pursue my degree in Marketing with certifications in sales, logistics, and entrepreneurship, and even our incredible partners in Greece. Their company is not only women owned and based in Greece, but their products, such as those in Calithea’s skincare line, are designed and formulated by female chemists! Each day, however daunting, I know I can handle anything that comes my way because of the incredible support system I have around me.
My best advice for any aspiring entrepreneur would be to reach out to your small business development centers and/or local university entrepreneur centers. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions and network. These are the absolute best ways to get started. It’s also so important to make sure you are picking something you are passionate about. You want to love what you do everyday and make it fun! Do not let those who don’t support your vision stop you either. Only you know yourself and what you’re capable of, and in the end if it’s something you really want, you will succeed one way or another.
~ Elena xoxo