Nurturing Beauty Naturally: Irina Dovganetskiy's Journey with withSimplicity

In the heart of downtown Harrisonburg, Virginia, lies withSimplicity, a sanctuary for those seeking natural and organic skincare. This thriving business is the brainchild of Irina Dovganetskiy, a mother of three, who has turned her passion for clean living into a flourishing enterprise. Irina, equipped with a master's degree in aesthetics and a certification in natural cosmetics formulation, has dedicated herself to creating products that are as effective as they are safe. With humble origins in an Airstream storefront, she has built a comprehensive beauty brand. Irina's journey is a testament to innovation, dedication, and the power of natural ingredients. 

Irina Dovganeski, the founder of withSimplicity

Irina Dovganetskiy, the founder of withSimplicity

Irina, I love your products and your perspective on skincare for women of all ages. And I'm so excited to talk to you today about your journey. Well, thank you so much for having me. This is super exciting. I love seeing other women-owned businesses doing what they love, so it's exciting to be here.

What inspired you to start your business? Two little sparks started it. I've always enjoyed wearing makeup to give me a little bit of confidence. The first spark came when I had my babies, and I went through this crazy detox. You know, you read every label and buy organic clothes, soaps, and everything. At that time, I was still using store-bought cosmetics. One day, I saw a little spec of glitter on my baby and thought, my goodness, here I am, paranoid about everything, but then I'm touching him and getting all these chemicals on him. That's when the light bulb went off: What am I putting on my skin? Because it's supposed to be fun! And if it's sold in stores, it's gotta be good for you, right? But I realized I had no idea what ingredients were in my skincare products.

The second spark came after I had my third child in 2014. My husband had this chronic crack in his lip. I thought, I'm going to figure this out. The more he used chapsticks, the worse it seemed to get. So I did some research, found a few ingredients, and made a concoction with five ingredients that actually helped him. That was a big moment for me, realizing that we don't have to have a list of crazy ingredients for products to work. The lip balm was our first product. Now we have a full line of products.

It's so true! When you look at the list of ingredients for many skincare products, there are a million things you can't pronounce and have no idea what they are.  

With everything going on in your life, what's been the most stressful for you? What's your go-to method for dealing with stress? We'll be in business for ten years in January. We've seen a lot and have grown from a really little to a very good-sized business. The COVID-19 pandemic was the hardest time for me to own a business. The unknown was really hard, and leading a team during that period was challenging because you just don't know what tomorrow will bring. The world seemed like it was going to end every day, and everybody had different opinions. Getting my team to come together and know that we have one mission, which is to serve our customers, was crucial. We focused on our work and not on everything that was trying to pull us apart as a team. There were times when I questioned why I was doing this.

For myself, I'm very strategic about keeping my boundaries. If I'm at home, unless there's something crazy, I'm not working. I try not to look at emails and I leave my laptop at work. In the beginning, I couldn't do this because I was trading time for money. Now, I can delegate and hire people. Having good boundaries and dedicating time to family is key. It's important, and so often, people don't expect us to have boundaries, especially being your own boss and running your own team. But it's essential for you, your team, and your family.

I want to ask about sustainability. It's become a little bit of a catch-all phrase. It means a lot of things to different businesses. What does it mean to you and your brand? There are so many answers in different directions. First, when we make any decision, whether creating a product or figuring out how to package it, safety for our customers is always number one. After that, we consider what kind of packages we can use. We try to use mainly glass, but we do use a little bit of plastic because some products just aren't available in glass, like compacts. We work with TerraCycle to recycle our plastic. We've been doing this ever since we started. We also locally recycle glass and work with a small candle-making business that upcycles our used glass products into vessels for candles.

We always ensure ingredients are sourced ethically and are of high quality. For example, we make sure mica is sourced without child labor. If we can get something locally, like honey, we prefer to support smaller local suppliers. Sustainability is a mindset. It's not about whether you are or aren't sustainable; it's about how much you think about it and incorporate it into your life or business. At home, we grow some of our food, have a garden, and keep chickens. These are little steps we take to be sustainable.

What do your customers think about your efforts? And how do you bring them into this way of thinking? In our store, customers can bring back their containers or mail them to us, and we reward them with points towards their next purchase. So, if sustainability alone isn't motivating them, we add a financial incentive to help them learn the lifestyle. We also educate them about our ingredients, packaging, brand, and products. I'm sure they appreciate it.

What are you most proud of about your products? What is the most unique thing about them that you like to talk about? I'm proud of our brand overall. I never thought I would be here. It started as something I wanted for myself and then for others. It has grown into a business I never imagined. Knowing that these simple ingredients provided by nature can be so effective is amazing. We've been in business for ten years because our products work. Our customers are loyal and keep coming back. We provide safe alternatives that are effective.

You do! I've been using the ProAge toner and love it. It's amazing. That product levels your skin's pH and does wonders for anything else you apply over it. It's a must for the health of your skin.

What does being a female founder mean to you? How has it shaped your business journey? And what, if anything, has held you back? Being a female founder or being in the position of ownership is hard because we wear many hats—mothers, wives, sisters. Setting an example for my kids is important. I want to teach them they can dream and chase those dreams. Loving the job and work they do is crucial. Inspiring my kids is my biggest motivation. And I hope it's not just my kids who are inspired but that I can also be an example for the women who work for me, their families, and our customers.

What are your goals for the future of your brand? For the future, I want to continue creating products. There are always new ingredients to research. We don't chase trends; we provide good skincare that is sustainable and effective. At my age, I don't want to look 20 years younger, but I do want to look graceful. That's what we aim to provide women. I think about what I would want my daughter to wear. How do I want her to think about her face and body? We're launching new skincare products that I'm excited about. We've learned a lot over the years and are reformulating some of our current products with the help of other chemists. We have a whole new perspective.

Is there anything else you want to share about your brand? Would you like to talk about the opening of your new shop? We're super excited. On July 5th, we'll reopen our bigger store and spa with a classroom across the street. It's a bigger space for us, and we'll have students for our aesthetic school in person. We've been doing a lot online, but now we have the facility to teach in person. Sharing what I've learned and letting others start their journey in aesthetics is humbling and gratifying.

I love your brand so much. I'm so happy I came across it. We're in California, so I haven't wandered by your store. It's great to be able to find small businesses like yours online. I'm so happy for your success. Thank you so much for having us. I love seeing your boxes and being part of it. We're grateful to inspire or lighten someone else's day with our products. If you're ever in Harrisonburg, come visit.

This interview has been edited and condensed from my conversation with Irina. To hear the full interview, follow Here I Am on our YouTube channel. 

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