Executive Q&A: Ericka Rodriguez

Axiology founder Ericka Rodriguez proves that high-quality, pigmented lipsticks can be cruelty-free, vegan, organic and ethically made.

With an eco-conscious mission to make ethically sourced, all-natural lipsticks and shed light on animal testing in the beauty industry, Ericka Rodriguez founded Axiology, a cruelty-free, vegan, organic line of lip colors and crayons. Rodriguez experimented with 200 combinations before she found the perfect lip formula that she sells today, which contains just 10 natural ingredients, including moisturizing candelilla wax, cold-pressed castor seed oil, vitamin-rich avocado butter and elderberry extract as a natural preservative.

The brand’s packaging is sourced from Bali and is made by local female artisans from recycled paper that’s boiled down to a pulp, dried in the sun, folded and decorated by hand, which reduces waste and benefits the Balinese economy. Also a proud member of PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies program, Axiology is not sold in countries that require mandatory animal testing for cosmetics. Furthermore, the products contain zero palm oil, an ingredient linked to rainforest destruction. Loss of habitat, caused by deforestation, negatively impacts both animals and rainforest-dependent communities. As a result, Rodriguez supports Orangutan Foundation International, an organization dedicated to rainforest and orangutan conservation.

We recently sat down with Rodriguez, who revealed that she’ll be releasing a new product this year. Let’s find out what else she has in store for the future.

Beauty Store Business: Tell us about your professional background.
Ericka Rodriguez: Axiology is my professional background. I graduated college and started working various jobs, such as selling timeshares and working at a juicery. I have always known that I was going to be an entrepreneur; I was just unaware of how that would play out in my life. Axiology was my third attempt at starting a business.

“I have always known that I was going to be an entrepreneur; I was just unaware of how that would play out in my life.”

What inspired you to create Axiology?
I created Axiology after discovering the horrors of animal testing. I have been a vegetarian since I was 12 and a vegan for many years because of my extreme love for animals and the injustices in the meat industry. However, I truly thought animal testing was a historic practice. When I realized how wrong I was, and that hundreds of thousands of animals die and suffer every year for cosmetic testing purposes, I became enraged. I decided I would only purchase cosmetics that were vegan, natural and ethical. However, my search results fell shortÐand that was when I started formulating Axiology in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen. The brand officially launched in November 2014.

What was the formulation process like for creating a vegan, cruelty-free line?
The formulation process was time-intensive. It took me almost two years and over 200 formulations to create the Axiology lipsticks that are on the market today. I was very dedicated to creating the most natural and ethical brand on the market, so my assessment of ingredients was strict. I also don’t have a cosmetic chemistry background, so I had to work really hard to understand the chemistry and basically started from scratch.

“Our lipsticks have only 10 ingredients, which is basically unheard of in any other cosmetic line.”

What makes the brand’s all-natural lipsticks so special?
Our lipsticks have only 10 ingredients, which is basically unheard of in any other cosmetic line. What’s also amazing is that you can pronounce and understand every single ingredient in our ingredient deck (and most you have in your kitchen). Ingredients like coconut oil, avocado oil, grape-seed oil and sweet orange oil help to make the product creamy and moisturizing.

What are some of your goals for the future?
We will continue expanding our product line. Look out for new products in summer 2018.

What retail stores is Axiology currently available in, and do you hope to expand retail distribution?
We are in Credo, select Sephora stores as well as almost 100 various retailers worldwide. Yes, we hope to keep expanding and allowing more people to shop natural and vegan.

Tell us about your packaging sourced from Bali.
I lived in Bali while I was preparing to launch Axiology. I noticed while living there that the locals had a hard time disposing of their trash. Their options were either to burn their trash or throw it into the ocean. I stumbled upon a group of women who wanted to end this environmental damage and started hand-recycling used paper. We ended up partnering with them to hand-recycle, hand-fold and hand-stamp our boxes.

What has been your highlight as a CEO?
Growing into this role has been a huge highlight.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
That work/life balance is very, very important, and that I should always make time for fun.

What advice can you offer other entrepreneurs in the beauty industry?
Find support in others; they will guide you and make the journey much more fulfilling.

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[Photos courtesy of Axiology Beauty]