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How did the idea for your business come about?
Competing professionally as a Ballroom Dancer, training intensively for national and world dance events and traveling around the world to represent the USA was my dream life for years. Winning the coveted US title brought me immense fulfillment, but it also precipitated a massive burn-out.
I had been pushing my body past its limits for too many years. The reward was sweet but short-lived. I was now paying the price. Doctor's visits, holistic treatments, and change of lifestyle provided a slow and steady path to recovery. My skin, however, was showing it all - the intense heat, daily sweating, constant stress, and heavy stage make-up were taking their toll. A jam-packed jet setting schedule and lack of proper sleep caused stubborn breakouts, persistent eczema flares and overall prematurely aged appearance.
A close friend, a doctor in dermatology, was a God-sent during the years that followed. I was busy building a performing career and running a successful dance studio in the heart of New York City. My career depended on my looks, and I was willing to do almost anything to boost it. During those years I learned plenty about peels, facials, fillers and, yes, Botox. My eczema, though, thrived and flourished. I was only able to control it with ever stronger steroids. And I did not like that.
Fast forward through the next five years: life was beautiful and I lived it to the fullest!
I met the greatest love of my life while performing belly-dance atop a table in the city that never sleeps. We married, had two beautiful babies back to back, and business was booming.
And then . . . ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
My landlord decided to sell the property and I had to close the studio.
On his second birthday, my dear son was diagnosed with severe autism.
It became a haze of endless therapies, treatments, doctor's visits, sleepless nights, behavior management and frequent collapses on the couch.
One thing was crystal clear - my life as a dancer, performer, and successful brick-and-mortar entrepreneur was over. For good.
My family needed me. My son needed me on an hourly basis if he was to improve.
I learned how to chunk down life in little half-hour pieces so I could manage it. I learned to breathe and pray while rocking, bouncing and swinging a toddler who was quickly regressing into a terrified, screaming mess.
All the glamor was forgotten. I was lucky to take a shower. Supermarket visits felt like vacations. On many a morning, I looked at my face in the mirror and asked:
"Kristina, what happened to you? Who have you become? Look at yourself. Look at your face, look at your hair. How long since you put on a lipstick, let alone a foundation? How long since you have laughed? How long since you have danced?"
I simply didn't care. I only cared to survive through the day.
And yet, the human spirit and its power are a mystery.
By the grace of God, deep down I fought to preserve a particle of my former self.
I faced two choices - to surrender to a life of pitiful breakouts or to take this new “normal” by the horns and ride it.
Turns out, entrepreneurship is in my DNA - sleepless nights could not amputate it. My brain was going a mile a minute. How could I create a business that:
- Would allow me to care for my two daughters (we were blessed with the sweetest baby girl shortly after the diagnosis) and severely autistic son.
- Would create a legacy I could pass onto my son in case he never learned how to speak or be around people.
- Would make me feel beautiful again.
- Would be creative enough I could tolerate the loneliness and hardship every entrepreneurship comes with.
- Would not be a brick-and-mortar based.
- Would generate the income we needed, taking into account the demands of the therapeutic and educational interventions.
- Would improve, in a very meaningful way, the lives of more people than just my immediate family
As I kept facing my image in the mirror, witnessing the merciless aftermath of many sleepless nights, I kept wondering when I'd find time to go to the dermatologist. Couldn't somebody just make a product that would soothe the inflamed patches without steroids preservatives and irritating perfumes? Life with babies and autism had made me so acutely aware of the ingredients and chemicals in our household products and food, I had become an expert researcher.
I kept reading and looking for a solution. To my disappointment, every time I would find a decent formula, there would be that pesky EDTA, phthalate or “fragrance” in it.
One day, it clicked. If I wanted a product I could trust, buy and use, I had to create it.
Hence, Velv8 Skin was born.
How did you come up with the name of your company?
I long for beauty in the midst of the daily grind. Being a swamped mother of three children under five, including an autistic son who barely sleeps, makes it next to impossible to look or feel glamorous. I crave luxury. I want it delivered in an instant, because I only have an instant to consume it.
Velvet and silk are some of the softest, most lavish textures on earth. They are often used to describe the perfect complexion.
"Silk" was taken."Velvet" was taken.
But “Velv8” was available.
“8” felt lucky and endless in a special way: the business I wanted to create would be an endless loop of win-win for everybody.
So I took it.
~ What motivates you?
Motherhood in general, the forced end of my career in the dance industry and my son’s autism diagnosis fuel the most fierce Perpetuum Mobile one could dream of.
I operate in a permanent high gear.
It might seem extreme, but it makes sense to me.
Everything I do begins and ends with one thought - how would it benefit my children, will it help my son recover.
I couldn’t ask for a better motivation than that.