Update 1/25/16 3:00 p.m.: Ava Anderson Non Toxic has shut down. You can read the family’s statement about it here.
You will never find Ava Anderson’s non-toxic products on store shelves. And Anderson prefers it that way.
“We wouldn’t achieve our education objectives in a retail store,” she says. “Plus, we would put our consultants out of business.”
More than 15,000 independent consultants are selling Anderson’s 90-plus products. The products span 17 categories, including cosmetics, pet care, home cleaning, and sun protection, and all are made without the use of harmful chemicals. Sales have nearly tripled year over year since 2013 and, in 2015 alone, the company donated more than $1.3 million in products to nonprofit organizations, such as the Crossroads Homeless Shelter and the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.
What sounds like the success of a veteran CEO, however, is what Anderson will have accomplished by the time she graduates from Babson College this spring.
“This is all I’ve ever known for the last six years,” Anderson says. “When other kids are at sports practice, I’m writing blog posts, finalizing catalogs, and approving labels.”
Anderson founded Ava Anderson Non Toxic in 2009. She was 15 when her mother called her into their living room to listen to a study on the news about the prevalence of harmful chemicals in teenagers’ personal care products. Anderson immediately threw out her cosmetics and started a blog to share the safe alternatives she found on the market.
The problem was that she couldn’t find any. So she set out to create her own, focusing first on skincare. Anderson’s now-public list of 18 chemicals to avoid, such as aluminum and mineral oil, helped inform her non-toxic formulas, made with the likes of shea butter and beeswax.
When it came to distributing her products, Anderson drew inspiration from her father and grandfather, who were involved in firms that manufactured and distributed services directly. She became a third-generation member of the Direct Selling Association, with the goal of not just selling to consumers, but educating them.
“If we were hypothetically on store shelves, there would be no way to educate the consumer,” Anderson explains. “People know about working out and eating right. Now we want to make this common, everyday knowledge.”
For $99, interested consultants receive a kit featuring a range of Anderson’s products, as well as catalogs, brochures, customer order forms, and access to their own online “avaOFFICE,” where they can manage their sales. They earn 30 to 50 percent on personal sales and up to nine percent on group sales. Approximately 1,000 new consultants are enrolling per month, according to Anderson, who describes her company’s compensation plan as “one of the most lucrative in the industry.”
“Many [consultants] are now making six figures,” Anderson says. “Every month, we’re getting a picture of someone who was able to buy a new car for their family or a new house.”
Anderson also offers the opportunity for customers to host “avaHOURS”—similar to a tupperware party. The event allows guests to test the products before buying them, and those who host earn up to $200 in free and discounted products.
More than 85 percent of Anderson’s products are manufactured, packaged, and shipped out of the company’s 120,000-square-foot facility in Warren, Rhode Island, which employs roughly 100 people. The company is continuing to expand and considering adding new “non-toxic alternatives to products you’d use on a daily basis,” such as hairspray, hair dye, and nail polish.
“If you think of it, it’s definitely on our list,” Anderson says. “Our main mission is about educating people on their daily personal care.”
Anderson has most recently visited Orlando, Florida to meet with consultants and educate them on the benefits of her products, as well as help them grow their personal businesses. To her, that’s more important than seeing the words “Ava Anderson Non Toxic” on store shelves. Although that doesn’t mean the 21 year old isn’t hoping for a brighter future.
“There are other safe alternatives out in the marketplace, and that’s really exciting,” she says. “But we would love to see day a where you can walk into a drugstore and every product would be safe.”
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