Online Exclusives

Teen’s Non-Toxic Dream Gets Real

By Christine Esposito, Associate Editor | June 8, 2015

Rhode Island teen Ava Anderson serves as CEO of a fast-growing direct sales company that’s playing in multiple household and personal care categories.

This company sells hair care, skin care, color products, laundry packs, deodorants and candles too. Is it P&G? Not exactly. It’s Ava Anderson Non Toxic (AANT), a company founded by a Rhode Island teen who’s on a mission.
 
That teen is Ava Anderson, and her goal is to spread the word about questionable chemicals that she found in common personal care products, and offer an alternative.
 
At 14 years old, Ava conducted some research for school about chemicals found in teen’s bloodstream. She started a blog, and attracted several hundred followers. But when she couldn’t find products she felt comfortable recommending online to her followers, she decided to create her own products to use, that maybe she would sell locally.
 
By 2009, she had entered the personal care space with six skin care products sold under the Ava Anderson Non Toxic banner.
 
Today, with Ava at the helm as CEO, AANT has grown to include 75 products that range from cosmetics to sun care to hair care to candles to home and car care products—all with the promise of being free from what she deems as “toxic” chemicals. Last year, sales reached an estimated $20 million, according to industry sources, and the firm boasts more than 7,500 consultants in the US.
 
Not too shabby for someone who is still in college—Babson, to be specific.
 
Back was she was just a teen, Ava personally sat down with potential contract manufacturers, and she came prepared with a laundry list of what chemicals wouldn’t be in her bottles. It helped her to forge a partnership and roll out those first half-dozen SKUs.
 
Today, AANT works with three contract manufacturers, but has recently brought some production in-house at its new East Providence, RI facility in order to meet growing demand.  It now makes 20 of its 80 products in its own Rhode Island center.
 
According to company officials, Ava Anderson Non Toxic grew 300% in 2014, and its new 55,000-sq.ft. space in East Providence is already bursting at the seams.
 
And growth is still coming. In fact, when Happi connected with the firm for this story, 1000 consultants had just signed on during a 65-day span, according to Kim Anderson, who is Ava’s mom and the company’s president.
 
The Anderson family has long ties to direct sales; her late grandfather Charlie Collis, was a direct-selling industry icon, having started home and entertainment firm Princess House. They saw the direct-to-consumer model as the best fit in terms of delivering education—a critical component of Ava’s mission.

“Retail doesn’t have the ability to communicate with the consumers,” Ava told Happi.
 
Ava consultants, who can sign up and get started for just $99, host “AvaHours” in which they educate guests about the company’s mission, as they show products.  
 
One of AANT’s top sellers is a diaper cream. But according to Ava, it’s not just for diaper rash—it can be used by the entire family to treat eczema, psoriasis, acne and other skin ailments.
 
“People call it the miracle cream,” Ava told Happi about the formulation, which contains ingredients like calendula and chamomile.
 
Other hero SKUs include a skin toner that comes in spray bottle as well as shampoo and conditioner. Newer additions to the Ava Anderson lineup include men’s products and a BB cream.
 
“It is amazing; creamy, smooth, soft and moisturizing, with SPF 20. You have never seen ingredients like this before,” Ava gushed about the beauty balm.
 
The BB formulation, which delivers SPF via non-nanoparticle zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, includes ingredients such as organic aloe vera, organic grape seed, sesame and olive fruit oils, organic jojoba and organic shea butter, and shell and fruit powders for color.
 
Recently, Ava Anderson Non Toxic won Inc.'s 2015 Coolest College Startup, beating out 15 other companies—including many mobile apps, a pet food brand and a wearable technologies business—in what is dubbed as a March Madness-like competition. 
 
According to Ava, her company’s vision and mission has held steady since the start; what has changed is its size. 
 
“At first, we thought, we’ll make this in the kitchen sink and sell locally or online. But how big we have grown in five years—I don’t think I could have ever predicted that.”