Money & Career

Starting a business: Linda Zaurrini on being her own boss

The founder of LaVigne Organic Skincare shares the surprises and setbacks of launching a beauty brand

Linda Zuarinni, LaVigne organic skincare

Name: Linda Zaurrini
Profession: Director of LaVigne Organic Skincare
Years running business: 7 years

What made you want to start your own business?
I was a freelance photographer before I started LaVigne, so I was really self-employed already. The idea of being my own boss was a part of it: I’d always had an independent nature and liked to make my own decisions.

How did you decide to get into skincare?
I’ve always believed in the organic lifestyle and gradually the skincare side of that took a hold of me. As a consumer I tried to purchase the cleanest, most organic products, and seven years ago I began to realize what a struggle it was to find paraben- and chemical-free skincare lines.

Then, my husband and I were living in Mexico for a few months (his work took him there) and I came across a natural cream that was very effective in treating his psoriasis. I thought that if this product helped my husband, it might be a treatment that could help other people, too. I decided to import the cream.

What are the biggest obstacles you had to overcome?
There were some packaging issues when I tried to import the cream from Mexico (one bottle leaked everywhere) and the next day I received a letter from Health Canada saying that the product was not compliant with their regulations. That didn’t stop me: I was so excited about the product that I decided to import the cream’s key ingredient, tepezcohuite, which is derived from the bark of a Mexican tree.

Making the product myself turned out to have its advantages: I get to choose the exact ingredients and their percentages in my products.

How did you come up with the name?
My maiden name is LaVigne, which translates to “the vine.” When my marketing team found that out they convinced me it was the right choice.

How would you do it differently if you had a do over?
I sometimes wonder if I should have focused on one cream at the start to see how it went. I don’t regret launching multiple products but I think that just one might have helped to grow the brand itself more quickly. We also make a pet balm, which we have to sell on a smaller scale because the pet-store distribution company only deals with lines of three or more products.

What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Early on, I went to a sales rep who told me to sell my product at a flea market. I didn’t.

Any advice for other people thinking of starting up?
In any business there are always good days and bad days. You have to have faith in yourself.

What keeps you going?
I have business acquaintances and friends who say they’re amazed that I’ve come so far.  I have great support from family, too—my youngest daughter works for me full-time and my husband is very supportive. I’m always ecstatic when I hear the testimonials of people I have helped. One guy wrote telling me that his three-year-old granddaughter who suffers from eczema had just slept through the night for the first time. I also started painting three years ago—it’s soothing for my nature and a wonderful distraction from my busy life.

What’s been your proudest business moment?
Recently we received some great press for the Latin Grammys and were in the Oscars’ gift bags, but my proudest moment was when I received the first shipment of Mayan Magic Healing Balm after months of developing it.

LaVigne Organic Skincare is available in health stores across Canada and at Lavigneorganics.com.