Valeria Cole once traveled the world running marketing for Apple’s Latin American division. Now, the former technology executive is more likely to be found speaking about the benefits of fatty acids, essential oils and antioxidants than the latest mobile device.
In 2013, Cole left the fast-paced technology world behind to pursue a life-long dream of starting a company, launching a new beauty startup by the name of Teadora that sells sustainably-harvested beauty products from the Amazon rainforest.
The transformation may seem extreme.
But not to Cole, who grew up in Brazil, learning about the importance of the rainforest and natural beauty products from her mom.
“I wanted to marry those two things together with my passion for marketing and branding,” she said.
For the past 27 years, Cole has been living in the U.S., working at a variety of technology giants, including Apple, Palm, Microsoft and Compaq. Oftentimes, the 48-year-old served in Latin American roles, which gave her a chance to reconnect with her homeland. Frequently, she would introduce lotions to friends.
The friends always wanted to buy more, but the products weren’t available in the U.S.
Before leaving Microsoft, Cole researched potential products, and came up with five main ingredients, many of which are unrecognizable to most Americans. She says the ingredients —Buriti; Pitanga; Cupuacu; Andiroba and Acai — are naturally anti-aging.
It took about a year to develop Teadora’s products and produce the packaging, from the description on the box to the soft touch of the paper. “It all contributes to the awesome experience,” she said. “A favorite saying from my Apple days is that God and the Devil are both in the details. What does that mean? It means that when you put it altogether, it’s not exactly what they see, it’s the combination of all these things. People can feel the difference.”
Today, Teadora’s products are for sale on Amazon.com as well as at a number of small salons and spas.
To date, the company has raised $800,000 from friends and family, and she is looking to raise another $600,000 for a total of $1.4 million. In less than a year, Cole said the company has sold about $250,000 in products.
She hopes to raise additional capital to expand the company’s operations further, using the money to launch another skin care line that focuses specifically on anti-aging. Additional funding will also help pay for new sales channels, including direct to consumer efforts around subscription services and sales people, who conduct parties and in-home trunk sales.
She also has ideas for building her own flagship spa in Seattle, where a lot of the marketing elements could come to life. Picture the Rainforest Cafe, but a lot less Disney, she says. An immersive experience, where you hear the sounds of the rainforest and see beautiful imagery. “Beauty stores all look the same, with a lot of shelves and products. It’s not a very fun experience,” she said.
Teadora joins a handful of other beauty startups in Seattle, including Julep, Clarisonic and Butter London.
Teadora, which means “adore yourself” in Portuguese, sells about two dozen products, ranging from shampoo and conditioner to mud scrubs, body butter, body washes and oils. The prices are considered mid-range, or about $22 for a one-or-two month supply. The products are manufactured by partners, who are FDA approved. Teadora also abides with FDA regulations on ingredient list disclosure and marketing claims.
Right now, the company is small with only two other employees besides Cole. Being nimble has also led Cole to lean on her experience working for Steve Jobs at Apple.
“One of the big learnings from my days at Apple is that focus is key,” she said. “It’s so easy to get distracted as an entrepreneur, so I ask myself every single time, ‘what would Steve do?.’ It’s so easy to say yes to so many things.”
As for how she’s transitioning from the technology world to the beauty world, she says it hasn’t been as difficult as you might think.
“It’s so funny, one thing you realize is that the products may be different, but the consumers are the same, and how you reach them is the same,” she said. “Independent of the product you are selling, that expertise transcends industries in so many ways.”