Thank goodness for mamas who decide to turn their passions into a business. We came across ONDA Beauty one day while scooting by with the kids and we immediately did a hard stop. The dreamy Tribeca space complete with crystal accents, pale wood shelving and a general beachy aesthetic, instantly relaxed us the minute we walked through the door. With a focus on clean, non-toxic beauty brands, Larissa Thomson and Sarah Bryden-Brown have combined their years in fashion and e-commerce to create the most buzz-worthy new comer on the block. Naomi Watts is an official partner at ONDA Beauty and recently Vogue declared it has having one of the Top 5 Facials in New York City – we knew we had to find out more about this new venture. Read on…
Larissa, you were formerly a Fashion Market Director at Conde Nast. What first drew you to holistic living and natural beauty?
Larissa Thomson (LT): I’ve always had an interest in living a healthy lifestyle. When I was a kid I was always drawn to health food stores where I would buy rain water shampoo and Skin Trip coconut body moisturizer and leave with a sandwich on WW bread with sprouts and avocado. It was all very hippie back then. Lol! But, it felt right to me and like I was being good to myself. As things evolved in the natural world, so did I. When clean beauty products started to merge more with the concept of luxury and become more ingredient conscious and effective, I knew I wanted to be a part of this movement. After I left magazines, it all just fell into place.
How did you get the idea for ONDA off the ground? What were the first 3 things that helped you turn your dream into a reality?
LT: Seeing the overall vision clearly, asking my husband (he has an Ad agency called Vans General Store) to connect me to the right people to help me start working on a brand deck and researching ingredients and testing lots and lots of products.
Sarah, you have extensive experience in the startup world and online space. What drew you to partnering with Larissa and what excites you the most about this venture?
Sarah Bryden-Brown (SBB): When Larissa first spoke to me about her passion for clean beauty I didn’t realize how important it was to the growth of the wellness industry, and being able to become a founder of a business that would help grow not only the clean beauty market but also the wellness movement was key to my jumping in.
Larissa, you’ve spoken about how the traditional beauty industry is largely based on fear. Tell us more about this sentiment and how your approach to beauty differs.
LT: I feel like up until now, many women feel they have to change themselves to look different than who they are which they equate with better and think that chemicals are what they need to achieve that. And who would blame them really?! A lot of the advertising for beauty is predicated on telling people they need to use certain chemical products if they want to look their best. My feeling is that’s a sure fire way to never feel good enough. We all have the potential to be our best selves and with beauty that means nourishing and feeding your skin, your hair, your body etc. To truly feel good about who you are and how to bring out the best version. It’s been my experience that by using clean and effective products I have way better results than using anything toxic based.
Your new store in Tribeca is gorgeous! Tell us what it was like bringing to life your brand in a physical space. What was important to you when finding and designing this space?
LT: I knew from the beginning what I wanted it to look and feel like. I wanted it to be a respite from our urban environment. Someplace that was a destination for all your senses. That looked beautiful and calming, smelled heavenly, had the sound of waves in the treatment room and where you could experience treatments that transported you. I’ve been traveling to Tulum in Mexico for over 20 years and it has always provided that experience for me so it was important to bring in some elements of Tulum and a beachy vibe as well. My hope is that people come in and they don’t really want to leave.
A lot of the advertising for beauty is predicated on telling people they need to use certain chemical products if they want to look their best. My feeling is that’s a sure fire way to never feel good enough.
Sarah, the digital landscape is changing at such a rapid rate. How do you stay on top of best practices and making sure you stand out in an arguably crowded marketplace?
SBB: I’ve worked on digital start-ups since 2005 and through all the changes and growth that has come with the territory one thing has never changed: being authentically connected to a community is the fastest route to growth. All the tricks in the world won’t build solid, sustainable growth. People do that. Technology helps to scale your business but people grow your business and without growth you can’t scale.
What advice would you give for women wanting to start a business with a friend?
SBB: The same advice I would give if it wasn’t your friend: make sure you have agreed on specific goals, detailed responsibilities and then make sure all is covered in a set of legal contracts. Address small issues quickly, and commit to providing each other with the support you both need to be the best version of yourself.
Photo courtesy of A Wild Dove.
Sarah, the day that we came into the shop, you were working there with your daughter. We loved that! How has motherhood impacted your careers?
SBB: Motherhood is as much a part of who I am as my career. I first became a mum at 23 years old, before I started my career let alone my university degree that would lead to the beginning of my career as a journalist at 26 years old. The two have been intertwined from the start and so I have no idea what it would be like to work without my kids being a constant presence in my days and nights. And they have always found a spot for themselves whether it’s sleeping on the floor of the newsroom during a late breaking story when they were little to working in the ONDA Beauty store with us in Tribeca as an 18 year-old natural beauty junkie.
You ladies have a very impressive mama tribe and count Naomi Watts as one of your partners. What does your community look like and what do these women mean to you?
LT: Our community is everything. Personally, I’ve lived in NYC almost my whole life, was in the Fashion industry for over 24 years and in Tribeca for 15. All this results in having a lot of really fantastic people as friends and acquaintances. That was definitely helpful in spreading the word and receiving incredible support along the way. I feel like you attract what you put out and so far we must be doing something right because we have so many confident, talented, intelligent, kind and supportive women in our community doing a variety of great things in this life. And it just keeps growing. I’ve loved everyone who has stepped foot in our shop. It’s been such a great experience so far. Naomi of course being at the top of that list. She is just one of the best humans we know. She introduced me to Sarah right when I knew I could go no further without a business partner. She’s been supporting ONDA literally since day one and has been involved and interested in trying products and being part of this journey. So it seemed a natural evolution for her to take on a larger role. Just her being her as an authentic, beautiful inside and out, savy and super smart person in general brings so much to the equation.
What are your morning routines? Night time routines?
SBB: MORNING: As soon as I wake up I write down my dreams then meditate for 20 minutes before making a smoothie. After showering, I spritz with May Lindstrom’s Jasmine Mist, apply Vintner’s Daughter serum, Goop eye cream and finish with In Fiore’s Creme De Fleur Age-Defying Moisture Complex. I do either yoga at Lyon’s Den or a class at Taryn Toomey’s The Class at least 3 mornings a week.
EVENING: I love the feeling of walking into my apartment at the end of a day and putting my keys down. That one small act feels so calming. I’ll have a glass of wine and either cook dinner or order in, which is embarrassingly too often dumplings from Nom Wah Tea. My night time cleansing ritual starts with Angela Caglia’s Power Cleansing Balm, then at least once a week I include Tammy Fender’s at-home purifying facial treatment kit before applying the must-have Marie Veronique Gentle Retinol, followed by Vintner’s Daughter (day and night for this one!) mixed with True Botanical’s Vitamin C Booster powder and all sealed in with Goop Replenishing Night Cream. I will either work or read or watch whichever series I’m addicted to and right now that is The Marvelous Mrs Meisel!
LT: MORNING – Hmmmm, well I’m just going to say I am not an early morning person. That being said, coffee is imperative. Very good coffee, very strong and I take it very specifically, which my husband makes perfectly so if I’m lucky he will make it for me. If I’m not jumping up to take my son to school that morning I have my coffee while I’m still in bed, sit up and try to meditate for 15-20 minutes before getting up to do anything. Not always possible, a lot goes on in the morning at our place. Boy, dog, husband etc.
If it’s a work out day I eat half a banana 30 min before my class and then I head off to do The Class by Taryn Toomey at her gorgeous studio on Park Place. After class, I race back, make a smoothie with cashew milk, 1 scoop of The Beauty Chef Body, frozen blueberries, almond butter, half a frozen banana and I add some chlorella, cordyceps, maca and bee pollen. Then I take a shower. Right now I’m using Rahua Shower Gel, True Botanicals shampoo and conditioner and on my face I do the InFiore 4-2-4 cleansing method with their 2 cleansers Treate and Lustra Illuminating Essence. When I get out of the shower I have my Turkish towel that I use and love. It’s become a bit of a joke in the house that it’s my special towel. Can’t explain it but it’s just the perfect towel. After my shower I brush my teeth with an ionic toothbrush and David’s whitening toothpaste, I floss and use a copper tongue scraper which I do 2x a day no matter what. I use a mist which right now is Hannes Dottir Mineral Mist, I apply either Marie Veronique Vitamin C, E and ferulic serum or the True Botanicals serum with Vitamin C booster added, and finally Vintners Daughter Active Botanical Serum/Oil as my moisturizer. If it’s really cold out I will add Ursa Major Recovery Cream or Tammy Fender intensive repair balm. I do very little makeup just a bit of concealer, a bronzing illuminator and lip to cheek tint. All rms and Kjaer weis. Then, I get dressed and bolt out the door. Phew!!
NIGHT – By the time I get home I usually have to get dinner going in some capacity, if my husband is doing it I can talk to my son about how his day was and what homework or upcoming projects he has.
Usually I have a tall glass of water right away with The Beauty Chef’s Hydration and collagen added. Then I have a Pimms and ginger beer If I’m having one that night. Two very different things, I know but it’s all about the balance. Plus, that’s the only thing I drink, when drinking. I try to wash my face early in the evening in case I get too tired later on. I cleanse again and try to do a scrub usually with Joanna Vargas exfoliating Mask. Or if I feel like I need clarifying and hydration I will do May Lindstrom’s Honey Mud mask. After that I apply Marie Veronique’s Soothing B3 serum, then her Barrier Restore Serum followed by her Gentle Retinol serum. All about the layering. Finally I hydrate with whatever I’m using at the moment. Right now Vintner’s Daughter and Ursa Major Recovery cream. Same as day. At this point I’m shut down for the day I hang out with my son and husband talk, play games etc. and eventually wind up in bed either reading or watching something with my husband. When the lights go out I do a specific meditation before I go to sleep and drift off. Hopefully.
What product are you currently obsessed with?
LT: Right now I am obsessed with something brand new that we will be stocking shortly, but I can’t say what it is shhhhhhhh. I’m also really loving our first proprietary product the ONDA Coffee Body Scrub, the True botanicals Nourishing Shampoo and conditioner, Vintners Daughter (always), Tammy Fender intensive Repair Balm, InFiore Complex de Fleur serum, Marie Veronique Barrier Restore serum, The Beauty Chef Hydration Inner Beauty Boost….I mean, I could just keep going.
What is next for your company? What can we look forward to?
SBB: We are planning store openings in cities where we have roots in influential communities, including Sydney, LA and London, along with product collaborations with key brands in the natural beauty space, and most exciting, our own product development under both the ONDA Beauty brand and Naomi Watts.
Photos by Caitlin Mitchell
Photo courtesy of A Wild Dove
3 pearls of wisdom
Benign neglect breeds resilience, courage and creativity in your kids.
Be their parent always and friend sparingly.
Teach your kids how to appreciate music very early and you’ll never have to suffer a pop-music phase and will have amazing Spotify playlists to follow when you’re old.
3 pearls of wisdom
Model behaving is everything to me. But that doesn't mean I always get it right but I always try.
Communication and Trust. It goes both ways for us and I want my son to know that I’m always here to listen no matter what the topic. No judgements only guidance.
Mistakes are not something to be ashamed of or shamed for. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn and do it differently the next time. So that means ultimately take as many risks as you can and don’t be afraid of failing. Plus you might just surprise yourself!