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Taking on Toxins

A Rhode Island teen starts a non-toxic cosmetics company

By Linda Buchwald | May 2, 2011

When 18-year-old Ava Anderson was a high school freshman in Providence, Rhode Island, she saw a news story about harmful chemicals called toxins that are often found in personal-care products like makeup, shampoo, deodorant, and sunscreen.

“I couldn’t find one [product] line that I felt comfortable using,” says Ava, who is now attending Babson College in Massachusetts. Although the long-term effects of these toxins are unclear, Ava wanted an alternative. With the help of scientists, she created healthy substitutes.

When you start a business, the money you need to launch it is called capital. In Ava’s case, her family invested money for research, raw materials, and office space and to hire a few employees.

Today, Ava works with six manufacturers in Rhode Island and elsewhere in the U.S. to create her products. Ava Anderson Non-Toxic sells products on its website and through salespeople who sell products to their friends and families. In return, they receive a portion of the revenue from sales. They also get bonuses in the form of credit for free products and discounts on purchases. Four years after its start, Ava Anderson Non-Toxic has close to 50 products and has more than 2,000 sales people in 50 states.

What does Ava do with her earnings? “All of our profit [money a business keeps after expenses are paid] from the business, we put back into expanding the business and continuing to launch new products,” says Ava.

This article originally appeared in the October 8, 2012 issue of Math. For more from Math, click here.

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