Executive Q&A: Svetlana Zakharevich

Born out of a passion for traditional herbalism and science, Gressa elevates green beauty and skin care with luxurious botanical blends.
Svetlana Zakharevich

What do you get when you fuse the power of ancient ingredients with modern formulations? The answer is Gressa, a makeup and skincare line fortified with vitamin-rich botanicals. With the philosophy that cosmetics and skincare products should be effective and rich in natural and organic ingredients, founder and owner Svetlana Zakharevich says she created Gressa to fill a void in the market almost 10 years ago.

“I grew up in the Far East of Russia, where traditional medicine was not ‘alternative’ but was the primary source of prevention and treatment of health ailments,” Zakharevich says. “It absolutely drove and inspired me to formulate Gressa the way that I did–relying on traditional herbs, botanicals and beauty rituals.”

She formulated unique products free of harmful silicones and preservatives and enriched with natural ingredients, such as the Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation (made with cold-pressed broccoli seed oil), Lip Boost lip colors (made with castor seed oil and cocoa and shea butters) and Balancing Cleanser (enriched with castor, jojoba, extra virgin olive and rosehip seed oils). Let’s see where it all started, and her exciting plans for expansion this year.

Beauty Store Business
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Tell us about your professional background and how you entered the beauty industry.
Svetlana Zakharevich: My academic background is in pre-med and health and wellness. I started the concept of Gressa when I was still doing my undergraduate [degree]. I didn’t have any direct beauty experience other than as a consumer. I did grow up with traditional medicine as the primary source of treating health ailments. This included skin care as well. The knowledge of chemistry fused with traditional herbal medicine gave me an edge to create Gressa’s proprietary formulas.

What inspired you to create Gressa, and when was the brand founded?

The brand was conceived in 2009, when I decided that as a consumer I desired more out of my skincare routine: efficacy and purity. I also desired a certain aesthetic that, 10 years ago, simply did not yet exist on the market. I thought to myself, “What if ‘green’ also was synonymous with ‘luxury.’” [I didn’t want women using] products that were only cosmetically luxurious on the surface but lacked in ethics and long-term efficacy.

What was the formulation process like for your first product?
The first product I ever formulated was the Balancing Cleanser, nine years ago. It took about a year to finalize the formula. It is still my favorite skincare item in the line (it’s hard to pick a favorite once you try them all). Balancing Cleanser is a priceless multitasker. It cleanses without disrupting pH levels of the skin; the oil cleansing method incorporates massage, steam, light mechanical exfoliation; and it removes all traces of makeup, leaving your skin supple and hydrated.

What are some of the key effective ingredients used in your skincare products?
Potency is what makes Gressa products effective; potency of ingredients depends on their purity and concentration in every formula. My two favorite ingredients are broccoli seed oil and rosehip seed oil. Both are incredibly emollient and provide a natural source of vitamin A, which is a clinically proven ingredient for clarity, even skin tone and more graceful aging due to its aid in cell turnover.

What inspires you?
Beauty in many forms inspires me. I draw inspiration from unorthodox sources like philosophy, art, dance, music and iconic beauty, like the Renaissance period. Gressa is very much a fundamental beauty brand that isn’t necessarily concerned with market trends; however I do like to challenge myself with “green science.” It is exciting to combine beauty and innovation to create something that doesn’t yet exist in the beauty world. The philosophy I tend to lean towards is both timeless and authentic, so I am interested in both the past and the future when it comes to the definition of beauty.

What are some of your long-term goals for the company?

Gressa is growing, and it will continue to grow while remaining true to its ethos of being made in-house, using proprietary formulas unique only to Gressa and using only the best- sourced ingredients. I believe that integrity ensures longevity in any business.

“Potency is what makes Gressa products effective.”

What are some of the retail stores Gressa is currently available in, and do you hope to expand retail distribution?
We currently have about 70 partners worldwide. I handpick our retail partners, so each is special for their own reason. Among those in the United States are Detox Market, Credo Beauty, Integrity Botanicals and Follain. We are expanding exponentially in 2018, and you’ll be seeing Gressa enter some very exciting retail partnerships.

What are Gressa’s top three best-selling products?

Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation, Eye Tints and Purifying Oil. All three are staples in my travel kit.

What have been your high- lights as a brand founder?
My personal highlight was in 2013, when the Minimalist [foundation] was launched and exceeded combined sales of three years in one month. It was a defining moment when I knew something really special was taking place in the beauty world and Gressa was a part of it. It really gave me conviction that the brand was on its way to making a dent in the beauty industry.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is that every challenge is there for a reason. Regardless of whether it’s streamlining, scaling, figuring out budgets, research or development–all of these challenges are necessary to overcome and grow as a brand as well as a leader for myself personally.

Will any new products be released soon?
We are excited to be finalizing a concealer this year. For the green beauty world, it will be both a first of its kind in terms of formulation as well as packaging.

What advice can you offer other aspiring entrepreneurs?
Unless you are absolutely obsessed about your idea, it’s not worth the journey. The journey from the conception of an idea to execution to growth to its sustainability is not an easy one. This will sound cliché, but if you’re willing to go through with your idea and be happy doing it for free, that’s a great sign you have a passion project that’s worth every challenge the journey may bring.

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