Lisa Mattam, the founder of Ayurvedic skincare line Sahajan, isn’t your usual beauty geek. She has cast broad strokes in big pharma, leadership training, strategic process and organizational development. Specifically, she equipped Fortune 500 companies like Walmart with the tools to keep women in the C-Suite and advance diversity in the workplace. Notably, she co-authored a report based on the book The MomShift: Women Share Stories of Career Success After Children written by lawyer and gender equity advocate Reva Seth.
But it was Lisa’s daughter Julia (pictured below with her little brother Joshua) who interrupted her steady groove as an oft-quoted management consultant, and kick-started a new dream. “I came home and she was wearing my face cream and it scared me because I didn’t know what was in it,” she says. “My instinct told me that it wasn’t good for her which made me realize it wasn’t healthy for me either.” Her a-ha moment spurred on plenty of research and due diligence that sparked Sahajan skincare and its unique blend of clinical reviews and clean, plant-based formulas that combine Ayurvedic principles with modern results. Here’s how she lifted her one-year-old brand off the ground, step-by-step.
STEP 1. START LIVING LIKE LESS IS MORE.
“I invested a lot of my personal savings and got a loan from the Business Development Bank of Canada. They’re a wonderful resource and supporter of smart start-ups if you have a clear business plan and vision in place. Since starting my own consultancy years ago, I’ve been mindful about family expenses. For now, we’ve cut out family vacations, we don’t eat out as often as we used to and I don’t shop for clothing as much. My parents are first generation immigrants and I feel like I’m following in their footsteps: My children are watching me work hard and they’ll inevitably grow and learn from that experience like I did.”
STEP 2. PUT ON A LAB COAT.
“I didn’t even know I could make beauty products at home in my kitchen when I started. Because of my pharmaceutical background, I immediately went to a pharmaceutical chemist to create formulas with rigidity and regulatory approved quality. I also instinctively knew that if Sahajan was going to be a major brand, it had to behave like one. I spent a lot of money on preservation and irritability testing and all my packaging and claims are reviewed by a third party to make sure they’re compliant with Health Canada. I invested in a lot before I even launched, and now only a year and a half later, I’m debuting on The Home Shopping Network in the US. I was quickly approved because I had all my regulatory reviews and testing in order.”
STEP 3. DIVIDE…SO YOU CAN CONQUER.
“I rent an office. I know people who think I’m crazy for creating the extra expense but that’s why I make certain financial sacrifices and ensure that this venture doesn’t infiltrate my kids’ lives. I want our home to be their sanctuary as much as it is for my husband and I. Besides, there are places and people who warehouse and distribute much better than I ever could from home. I don’t think I could’ve stepped up to the demands of my US retailers if I shipped everything from my basement.”
STEP 4. FIND YOUR VILLAGE.
“With a vision of a global beauty brand, I knew I needed a board of advisors. I have a strategic business lawyer, a beauty industry executive, a managing partner of a global accounting firm and a VP of e-commerce who I consult with to help strategize and bootstrap the business. How did I find everybody? I wasn’t afraid to ask from within my pool of contacts and beyond. I am a meticulous networker. I’m part of a mastermind group of 8 women. We’ve identified our individual super powers and help each other using our best strengths.”
STEP 5. KEEP KNOCKING EVEN IF THE DOOR IS CLOSED.
“Last summer I spent 6-weeks in an inaugural beauty accelerator program offered by Sephora in the US. I was the only Canadian among 8 brands invited. We engaged with mentors like Pamela Baxter [who was most recently the President/CEO of Christian Dior Couture with previous leadership roles in the beauty biz] who spent a whole week with us. It’s an invitation-only program and I found out about it after the application deadline. I contacted them, applied and remarkably, they accepted me in. That experience led to making more connections and now Sahajan is available at clean beauty store Credo in the US. The whole experience has been so valuable. It exposed me to the inner workings of the beauty business that I never could have guessed at.”
WHAT’S IN HER CLEAN, BEAUTY ROUTINE
Refreshingly, she’s not married to her own skincare line. She’s discovered clean beauty products that she gladly added to her daily ritual. What do they all have common? Clean ingredients with modern skincare science. Sahajan Nourishing Cream and Protective Face Serum, Tatcha Polished Classic Rice Enyme Powder and Elizabeth Dehn Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Gel + Makeup Remover.