Ericka Rodriguez entertained a lot of careers growing up—from dolphin trainer to veterinarian—but she never thought she’d work in beauty. Today, she’s the founder + CEO of cruelty-free, vegan, and sustainable beauty brand Axiology (one of our personal favorites). We were lucky enough to correspond with Ericka to learn all about her winding path to beauty, as well as the incredible ways her brand is combating animal cruelty and waste in the beauty industry. Read on for a conversation about starting a small brand, reforming the beauty industry, and the inspirational power of nature, and lessons we can learn from Buddhism.
1. You've said before that you never imagined you'd run a beauty company. Can you tell us about the path that led you to founding Axiology?
I definitely didn’t see myself running a beauty company. I always wanted to work with animals. When I was really young, I wanted to be a dolphin trainer (this was before I learned about animal cruelty at Seaworld) and then in high school I tossed around the idea of becoming a vet (but then I remembered I hate seeing animals in pain). So, I went about my life as a vegan holding lots of different jobs, until I discovered that animal testing still exists in beauty and I set out to make vegan lipsticks for myself which grew into Axiology!
2. What was it like developing products without a beauty background? How did you settle on lipsticks first?
Developing products without a beauty or chemistry background was super challenging but also fun. I had no intention of starting Axiology at the time, so I was just playing around in my kitchen and didn’t put a lot of pressure on myself.
At the time, every vegan lipstick I tried was super drying so I decided I would start by learning how to make lip balms (they were easy enough to make) and then tweak the formula to make it a lipstick. This low-key approach turned out to be an unintentional winning strategy because it resulted in what was at the time, the first truly buttery smooth, non-drying vegan lipstick and it was made with only 10 ingredients.
3. We’re obsessed with everything about your Lip-to-Lid Balmies, but we especially love that they’re 100% zero-waste! Was it challenging to create a product that was so completely eco-friendly?
Yes, it was challenging. We initially thought we could partner with a manufacturer to create sustainable packaging for us and we quickly learned that it just wasn’t possible. The best the manufacturers could offer was packaging made from recycled plastic or aluminum. We realized we needed to innovate and do this ourselves if we wanted something completely zero-waste. We actually have a lot of videos on our Tik Tok and IG showing our sometimes hilarious journey from concept to product. We tried a lot of things that definitely didn’t work, like a ring-pop balm. Eventually someone on our team said, “why don’t we just wrap the Balmie in paper like a little crayon?” And the rest is history.
4. What changes would you like to see accelerated in the beauty industry?
I think the beauty industry - all companies really - should be more intentional about what they produce and sell. Fast Beauty, similar to fast fashion, is a real threat to our environment. So as an industry we need to focus more on launching products that solve real problems (like wasteful packaging, toxic ingredients, unethical sourcing) and not just products that are on trend.
5. How would you describe your personal style?
I love fun patterns and lots of color but also lean into simple, easy staples. My ideal outfit is a patterned, colorful dress or jumpsuit because it’s an easy outfit that doesn’t require a lot of thought. I try to thrift my clothes as much as possible so my style can be quite eclectic too.
6. Any beauty staples or routines that you can’t live without?
I’m big into having a clean and well-oiled face. I wash my face every morning and night and apply face oil or a face moisturizer afterwards. Funny enough, I am actually quite minimal when it comes to makeup, which is why our Balmies are a staple for me. I just apply Balmies to my eyes, lips and cheeks, add some mascara, do a quick eyebrow touch-up and I’m good to go.
7. What’s the most recent book you’ve read and felt moved or inspired by?
We Are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer. It’s all about animal agriculture and it’s massive contribution to the demise of our planet. Though I am already vegan, it was a great reminder of why I continue to live this lifestyle.
8. What’s the best advice you’ve received so far and who did it come from?
I’ve been meditating for years and lean into the wisdom of Buddhism. Lessons from Buddhism like we create our own suffering, and staying present are life affirming for me.
9. Where do you go or what do you do when you’re seeking inspiration?
I’m so in love with nature. I live in the mountains, in Bend, Oregon and right outside my door I can get to the river and am surrounded by trees. I see bald eagles, deer, hawks, and river otters often. It’s beautiful and really grounds me and inspires me
10. What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business, but doesn’t quite have a vision yet?
Find people you can talk to and bounce ideas off of. Ask everyone you know to tell you about their life and just listen. Ask the owner of your local bookstore what it’s like to run a business, talk to the friend of a friend who owns a tea company, chat with the tour guide next time you’re on vacation. It’s amazing how hearing other people’s stories can help you clarify what you want to do with your life.
11. What are you seeking more of in 2022?
I am always seeking more love, connection, and fun times. I feel super grateful to have the best family and friends in my life and it’s so important to me to continue making memories and spending quality time with these people.