Sonia Keuroghlian heads up Keu, an online resource that decodes all you need to know about the non-toxic beauty biz and the products that pass her rigorous research and gain her endorsement (think of her as the Paula’s Choice of clean beauty). With the fine-tuned investigative know-how from her previous life as a corporate lawyer in tow, Sonia digs up the truth about clean beauty brands and is a go-to voice for green, organic and natural beauty consumers.
Her well-honed legal expertise also informed the measures she took to begin her entrepreneurial trajectory two years ago. Here, she shares with Love, Mom how she made her business ready for take-off.
Yep. Before you can do the fun stuff, you need to research. “The first thing you should do is set up a company by filing Articles of Incorporation. When your application is approved, by default your company receives a numbered name, i.e., 1234567 Canada Inc. You can operate under the numbered company if you haven’t yet decided on a name for your business. Once you start operating under a business name – in my case, “Keu” – you must register that name with Industry Canada. Registering a business name costs about $200 per province, and you need to register in each province in which you carry on business. You can read Industry Canada’s definition of “carrying on business” here.
Before approving a new corporate name, most provinces and territories require a Nuans report to ensure that the name is distinctive and not likely to be confused with names used by other businesses. The Nuans report is a list of existing corporate and business names, as well as trademarks, that are similar to the one you’re applying for. You can learn more about it here.
Operating under a corporation has several benefits, including limited liability and certain tax benefits. It also just makes life easier: you can streamline everything you do for your business—expenses, profits, accounting, IP ownership—under your corporation. I registered my company a year before I made any money. The cost is between $200 to $300 depending on where you go. Although you can do it yourself directly through Industry Canada, I would strongly recommend you get a lawyer to do all the incorporation work for you. There are a lot of factors to consider and a lawyer will help you navigate them and advise you on the best decisions to make. A lawyer will also maintain your minute book, registers, seal and share certificates and update them as needed. Trust me, you don’t want to be dealing with all this administration when you’re trying to start up and run a business.”
Own Your Brand
“Your brand identity is how you interface with the world, so spend the time to make it unique and compelling. I worked with The Brand Factory, a Toronto-based creative agency, to develop my brand identity. I loved the creative process of brainstorming with the design team on everything from my logo’s colour palette to the look and feel of my site, soniakeu.com. All of these characteristics that are unique to your brand comprise your brand assets and you need to protect them. As soon as your brand gains traction and has even a moderate client base, your brand assets become valuable. This ‘brand equity’ also raises the risk of copycats. Before anyone has a chance to copy any of your brand assets you should invest in protecting them. As soon as your budget allows, invest in trademarking and copyrighting your brand assets, and again it’s best to seek the help of an IP lawyer instead of trying to do it yourself. Spending the money upfront will save you a lot of money and headache in the future. For more information on trademarks see the Canadian Intellectual Property Office website.”
Stick To The Truth
“One of the most valuable skills I learned while practicing law was to make my statements airtight. Every word I say or write must be accurate and have a purpose, because my number one goal is to be a consistently trustworthy voice. I dive deep into my subject matter before writing about it and never make claims without good evidence behind them. Before recommending a product I conduct hours and hours of research, reading multiple scientific articles and cross-checking with other resources. What gets published on soniakeu.com is only a fraction of the work that’s going on in the background.”
Don’t Forget To Play Nice
“This may seem obvious but is too often forgotten: Avoid negative comments and talk about other brands or people, especially your competition. At best it creates division within your industry, when in fact you’re much better off supporting each other. At worst it can make you vulnerable to legal action for defamation, i.e..for harming another person’s reputation by making a false statement about that person to a third party. Besides, no one ever gets ahead by putting other people down.
In the beginning I struggled a lot with whether or not to publish negative product reviews because they can certainly be helpful to consumers. But there are so many good products out there that I’ve tested, researched and swear by, that ultimately I decided not to include them. It also makes things easier for the Keu community: My readers know that every product on soniakeu.com has my stamp of approval. My criteria for approving a product, broadly speaking, are that it must be:
- non-toxic (must not contain ingredients of concern);
- made with natural/clean ingredients, preferably organically sourced; and
My readers can close their eyes and pick any product on soniakeu.com knowing it’s safe and will make them look and feel beautiful.”
Know Your Game
“Finally, really familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations that apply to your line of work. In my case I need to be up to date with half a dozen regulations, including Health Canada’s Food and Drug Act and its Cosmetic Regulations; the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (which provides Health Canada and Environment Canada additional authority to regulate “toxic” ingredients); and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and its Regulations. As if that wasn’t enough, because I work with many US brands, I also need to keep on top of all the corresponding US legislation! It’s critical for me to be familiar with them because, as consumers are beginning to realize, just because a product is on a store shelf doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to use or made according to the applicable regulations. Every industry—whether you’re in media, advertising or retail—has working parameters that govern your operating decisions and it’s important to work within those rules or risk jeopardizing your business.”
Sonia family-proofed this media room with seating from Restoration Hardware upholstered with the company’s in-house Perennials fabric, an indoor/outdoor textile that weathers spills while still being soft to the touch.
Her favourite keepsakes include this vintage Dior clutch that belonged to her grandmother, “Affinity with Night Skies”, a book written by her cousin that chronicles her Armenian background (that’s her great-grandmother on the cover); and she still has the Miu Miu heels she wore when she met her husband.
Sonia is not only committed to non-toxic beauty but also to a clean diet. She’s a fan of Rich Roll, a former corporate lawyer turned clean-living activist and author of The PlantPower Way. “I listen to his podcast religiously. He’s at the forefront of why eating plant-based is so important.” She’s also a fan of cooking with In The Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn By Heart, Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes From The Restaurant That Is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine and…
…The Forest Feast For Kids and The Forest Feast. The family’s diet is always plant-based. “My husband was a big meat-eater before he met me. Now, it’s a part of our lives. I’m trying to teach the kids that it’s possible. to pick a plant-based meal even if you’re having dinner at a steak house.”
Naturally we had her show-off her favourite beauty buys and brands. Every potion shown lives up to her stringent clean beauty standards.
Highlights in this pic include Province Apothecary Radiant Body Oil that’s “made with integrity and sourced with ingredients across Canada,” Mèreadesso Signature All-In-One Moisturizer (“I love it because every ingredient has a purpose. There are no fillers,”) and Tracie Martyn Firming Serum that noticeably firms up your skin with its non-toxic formula.
Finding clean makeup that actually works is still a challenge on today’s store shelves, however Sonia tracked down a few including DaLish lipsticks, a Toronto-based cosmetic company that makes their products without the use of phthalates, parabens, petrochemicals, GMO’s, gluten or sulfates and Saint Cosmetics liquid eyeliner. “It’s the first totally clean liquid liner that I found and it’s made in Mississauga.”