Each month we feature a woman in business who personifies what it means to be a Business Betty- she is confident, smart, stylish and successful. Do you know a woman that you consider a Betty? Tell us about her by sending a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This 21 year old dynamo began her entrepreneurial journey at the age of 14 when she tried to find non-toxic skin care. Since then, Ava Anderson Non Toxic, has grown into a multi-million dollar direct-sales business, with over 7,000 consultants across the United States. And she’s done all this while completing her degree at Babson from where she’ll be graduating this year.
Ava Anderson, the company, is poised for more dramatic growth in 2016. Yet, the mission remains constant: to share information on the toxic issue, help individuals and families become better-informed consumers, and offer the safest, full line of product alternatives for personal care and home use.
You’re finishing up your senior year at Babson. Why continue with school now that the company has been so successful?
My parents and grandparents value education, as do I, so going to college was always in the plan. My business studies – combined with real life business experience – is giving me a 360 degree view and perspective, which is so important. No two businesses are the same – but you can learn lots of valuable lessons from the trials and triumphs of other companies. How did they deal with a setback? How did that deal with rapid success? What does good leadership look like? At Babson, I’ve been surrounded by entrepreneurial teachers and peers and the experiences I’ve learned from them have been invaluable; I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
What have you learned at school but not on the job, or vice versa?
I think I can attribute lots of what I know today, to both school and on the job. One particular skill that I’m grateful for having learned in the classroom is accounting; both the basics and many facets of managerial accounting. Had I not been required to learn these skills, I probably would not have taken the needed time away from “AANT work” to learn what I know now, to be able to be fully involved in long range planning discussions, monthly meetings and daily numbers projections. It feels really great to be involved in all departments of the business, and not just in what is in my comfort zone.
Tell us about the WIN lab, and why it is important to you?
The WIN Lab, the first women’s entrepreneurial accelerator program in a US College, is really important to my family and me because we wanted to be able to help other entrepreneurs with the expertise they needed to start their own business’. I was fortunate to have lots of help from my family, many of whom are experienced entrepreneurs, but for someone without that business support system, I know the road to launching a business could be even harder.
The WIN Lab pulls from the incredible teaching staff at Babson to provide the Women with legal, financial, accounting, marketing, operations help and so much more! They regularly have speakers join their sessions who can help advise the class on their specific challenges. I’ve also spoken with them and attended some of their pitch nights, so it’s been a wonderful experience for me to get to know them and give advice on their ideas and plans to go to marker or expand. We’re also involved in similar programs that are Unisex – one a great local (RI) accelerator for social enterprises.
What is a typical day like for you?
Nothing is ever typical I’ve found, as an Entrepreneur, especially in the hyper-growth we’ve been experiencing. Some of my responsibilities include managing all the social media content (FB and Instagram mainly), creating blog posts (avaandersonstories.com), helping with the verbiage and content for, and then approving final versions of, everything from the catalogs to monthly promotional squares, FB marketing squares, press releases to interview questions!
I’ve also been working a lot recently in our in-house manufacturing facility and lab space – a nice addition to my schedule. Despite the hard work, it’s been a lot of fun because we have such an incredible team. I also am still a full time student and enjoy cooking and skiing when I have some time, but most of my work doesn’t seem like it, because I really enjoy what I’m doing and being able to interact with our Consultants and customers.
How do you manage being a student and running a company?
It is definitely tricky at times, but almost all of my High School (I started the research Freshman year and launched the business in my Sophomore year) and all of my College years have been spent balancing schoolwork and AANT work and I’ve just come to learn what works. I don’t play sports like many of my peers, so while they have long practices and competitions, I’m dedicating that type of time, and often more, to my business responsibilities.
What is the one tool you couldn’t live without, that is not your smartphone?
I’m assuming this also means a laptop? That’s a tough one – those two gadgets are so integral to so much of my work. As of right now, since I’ve been working in the Lab a lot, I’ve learned how important some of their tools are – like temperature guns and mixers!
What inspires you?
Seeing how hard my parents work. They’ve each started several businesses and they just persevere at whatever is thrown their way. I also learn a lot by seeing how they lead (and mentor) and try to implement a lot of what they do into my own leadership. My mom has spent hundreds if not thousands of hours on the shipping line at AANT and is now spending a big part of her day in manufacturing, even with all of her other responsibilities – it shows me that there’s always more to be done! She’s also incredibly kind and has made sure to impart that on my brother and me. Kindness is one of the most important qualities to have and key in building meaningful relationships, which is especially important because we live in a small community.
What do you do when you’re having a bad day?
I like to read some of the incredible product and business opportunity testimonials from our Consultants and customers. It also helps remind me that whatever I’m going through will pass and we’ve got so much more work to do, with everyone’s help, to get this message out there! Doesn’t leave much time for trivial things. But my mom and friends are always there if I need them, too… and Netflix/Hulu! Love Masterchef Junior – it’s mind-blowing what these 8-12 year olds are able to create, and especially under crazy pressure and time constraints!
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I think that while I can be extroverted, and many can see that when I speak at events and at our conferences (this year we’ll have 1,500 in attendance!) or my TEDx Talk, I tend to, at least for now with dorm life, work a lot alone and enjoy that quiet time. I don’t go out much at night like most college kids, but that’s also mainly because I get too sleepy to start getting ready at 11pm!
Coffee or tea? Tea for sure!
Morning Person or Night Owl? Night Owl (I’ve orchestrated my school schedule start at 11:30 and later), but when I travel I’m usually up early. I’ll need to be more of a morning person when I start commuting to work after I graduate.
Comedies or Horror Flicks? Definitively comedies – horror flicks will leave me with nightmares for weeks!
Learn more about Ava Anderson Non Toxic at: avaandersonnontoxic.com