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Virago of the Week: Wan Lu, Pretty Organic Cosmetics

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Six years ago, frustrated after years being unable to find the right skin care products to treat her sensitive skin, Wan Lu tried a DIY approach that led to her creating a successful holistic skin care line now sold in over 100 stores across Canada and the US.

Previously a dietician, Wan had a strong foundation for understanding the way products interact with your skin. For many years, she had resorted to making her own skin products made from natural ingredients to treat her chronic eczema.

“I felt like there was a big gap for what I was looking for in cosmetics. At the time there weren’t a lot of options out there for healthier alternatives in green beauty,” says Wan.

Teaming up with her sister Sandy Lu, then a make-up artist, the pair launched Pretty Organic Cosmetics. Sandy focused primarily on marketing and Wan on the science of it all. Their first step: coming up with a list of ingredients they did not want in the products – this approach laid a unique foundation that continues to distinguish the line even now in a more competitive market. They then worked with manufacturers, aroma therapists and holistic nutritionists to create their formulations.

The result: products that are biodegradable, organic or derived from sustainably wild-harvested sources – nothing fake, nothing toxic, and it’s never tested on animals. Everything on their product labels are completely recognizable ingredients and packaging is eco-friendly or from recycled materials.

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Initially testing the products on themselves and then selling to friends and family, the business quickly gained momentum.

“We got into a few stores fairly quickly in about six months or so. There were a lot of people who were actually asking for our products. Things just evolved from there,” says Wan.

Initially both Sandy and Wan retained their full-time jobs as they pursued their venture. Wan says “I knew there was a market for it. But I also knew that even if it didn’t do well, or if nobody bought it, we didn’t make it for other people we made it for ourselves. It just happened to grow which was great.”

One of the things that Wan sites as helping the brand grow as rapidly as it has is their packaging which intimately reflects the products and values of the company: simple, beautiful, and healthy. It can be difficult as a new company finding a team who can really understand your brand and interpret that into effective packaging or as a new entrepreneur it can be challenging trying to communicate to your market in a way that speaks to them. But a DIY’er to the core, not too long after launching Wan felt that she and her sister would be the best ones to execute their vision for the Pretty packaging. And so, Wan enrolled in a design course, and now, in addition to running a successful and growing business, she also does the majority of design work for Pretty, and it’s clearly working.

Over the years, Pretty has grown to become a recognizable name in the holistic beauty market and continues its dedication to using incredibly clean, ethically sourced ingredients. Their most recent source of pride was being showcased on the Dr. Oz show where their essential oil package was featured and garnered terrific feedback. “You know it’s really encouraging. I know I love my products but it’s good to know that other people do too,” says Wan.

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