Melodie, the owner of Elate Cosmetics in Victoria, BC.

In Conversation with Melodie // Elate Cosmetics

Name: Melodie Reynolds
Shop: Elate Cosmetics
Address: Online or at select retailers
Instagram: @elatecosmetics

A few products with Elate’s signature bamboo & glass packaging.

Can you describe Elate? 

Elate Cosmetics is a conscious beauty brand born out of a desire to celebrate joy and create kindness each day with my sustainable beauty rituals. We create safe, effective beauty products using exceptional ingredients, ethical supply chains and sustainable packaging. Our vision is to educate, empower and inspire everyone to simplify their beauty rituals to reduce waste.

Tell us a little about your business name. Any significance?

The funny thing about the name Elate is that it was my second choice. My company’s original name was Mantra, as I loved the tie-in between daily rituals and the idea of a mantra. Because of my lack of business experience, I — of course — didn’t realize that I should have checked to make sure that the business name was not already spoken for. I ordered all the packaging, had the logo designed, and got ready to start my business. One day, by chance, I realized that there was another brand called Mantra Cosmetics. I immediately called my packaging company and asked them to hold production. Thank goodness they hadn’t already started laser-engraving the logo into the bamboo! Now I had the difficult task of coming up with a new name for my baby that I had already named. I chose Elate as it was actually the name of one of my first products, a universal creme. I always loved that word because it means “great joy,” which is an emotion that I absolutely adore. I love the idea of that moment that you spend putting on your mascara bringing you great joy, and so Elate was born.

An Elate team member packs up online orders.

Can you tell us about your background? 

Fun fact about me: I wanted to be an accountant! It only took me a few months at uni to realize it was not the vocation for me. I fell into the beauty industry and managed my first salon at age 20 with 12 employees. During that time, I also worked as a freelance makeup artist and won the North American Makeup Artist of the Year in 2005. After this, I spent the bulk of my career as a global educator for a large cosmetic company.

I’d begun to question some of the methods that the company I worked for was using and some of the ingredients and packaging. Whether or not we were truly doing good for the planet, I recognized that although I had lots of experience in the beauty industry, I didn’t have much business experience — but what I lacked in business experience, I made up for in passion and drive. I believe nothing is impossible. I have a true desire to help empower everyone to know that they matter and that they can make a difference.

Have you always wanted to run your own business? How did Elate come about? 

I definitely didn’t grow up thinking about running my own business. To be honest with you, I didn’t even think it was a possibility for me. I’d never thought of myself as an entrepreneurial person, but what I did have was passion and drive and an idea audacious enough that I could change the world. When I became disenchanted with the companies that I was working for, I recognized that I could make a difference myself. I started looking at my options of what type of business I might want to run … maybe a salon, maybe a spa. Those were the areas that I was comfortable in. After my partner and I moved to the UK, I began taking “make your own skincare” workshops, and I realized that I could make my own products! Taking those first leaps into mixing up my own concoctions, adding micas and colours, and experimenting with changing skincare formulations to makeup … I knew that I was in the right place, it was so exciting and empowering! That feeling, coupled with the fact that I knew that the cosmetic industry needed a major overhaul in sustainability and packaging, meant that I knew I had something new to offer in a crowded market. I’m incredibly proud of all the great work that we’ve done at Elate in raising awareness around the products that we use every day and how making those small changes can really make a difference.

Bins of beautiful cosmetics.

We love your style. Can you tell us about your personal style and aesthetic?  

Oh my goodness! Thank you so much. I would describe my style as David Bowie meets Florence Welch. I live in jeans, white shirts and jackets, or long flowy boho dresses. That’s pretty much it. There’s nothing in between — ha!

What or who inspires you?

I love to read. In fact, my goal for 2020 was to read a hundred books; I only made it to 87, but that’s still pretty good. I’m very inspired by authors of both fiction and nonfiction. Margaret Atwood is such an icon to me. The way that she has been so thoughtful about the future for her entire career makes me want to emulate that. I find that I admire writers most often who have the foresight to think about what problems could arise and how the human condition will shape those problems positively.

Melodie by her pink neon “Own your beauty” sign.

You have a huge Instagram following. Can you tell us a little about your social media strategy?  

My strategy from day one has been to build a safe space. A community where people feel like they belong, with the mandate that beauty is for everyone. We have always used what we call “role models” in our campaigns, humans that you would maybe have never seen in a makeup photo shoot before because of the preconceived notion of who beauty is for. The other thing that makes us stand out online is our honesty. We are always very forthcoming with info about our successes and failures, and we ask our community to shape the future of our company. 

What are some of the hardest lessons you’ve had starting your business? How have you overcome them?

Oh, hard lessons always!

#1: Take people with you. You absolutely can’t do it alone. It is important to recognize your strengths and surround yourself with people that complement those strengths. You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole! As a general affliction of entrepreneurship, we think that anything can be accomplished if we work hard enough; however, I have realized that if there is someone or something on your team that is not quite the right fit, no amount of hard work will fix it.

#2: You don’t know what you don’t know. So try your best to figure out what that is.

#3: Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Everyone truly wants you to succeed, and people will always jump up to help if you ask.

Bamboo eye pencil sharpeners.

As we navigate our new reality, what advice would you give to your fellow business owners on what keeps you moving forward? 

This has been a hard year, but we know every year has its challenges, to be honest. Stay focused on your “why” and know that all things worth doing will be hard. I’m right here with you! 

Have you made any hard decisions to get you through this difficult time? Can you share some of those decisions?

Yes, back when things were all shutting down, and we were looking at the prospect of lay-offs, we decided to band the team together. Instead of laying some team members off, we all took reduced hours, and some of us took pay cuts or did not draw a salary at all. In the end, we laid off only 5 people for a total of 2 weeks. I am so proud of our team for sticking together. 

The team at Elate.