BECU Business Services spoke with business member Karissa Bodnar, the owner and founder of socially-minded cosmetics brand Thrive Causemetics, at the company’s newly opened headquarters in Queen Anne.
BECU: What's the story behind Thrive?
KB: I went to University of Washington, which is where I met my friend Kristy, who inspired me to start this brand. Kristy is from Sammamish. She got diagnosed with cancer when we were just 23 years old, passed away when we were 24. She inspired me to be purpose-driven in my life, like she was. Inspired me to pay that forward and to do things to empower and inspire other people. To empower women to live their most confident and purpose-filled life. We have to have amazing products so people want to use them and further our mission for the one-to-one giving. We donate that same product to women in need. That might mean women who are reentering the workforce, after experiencing domestic violence, or experiencing cancer treatment. We say “women in need” because we're open to what that might mean.
BECU: That's an amazing mission. We're happy to partner with a business focused on social good – as a not-for-profit, we're purpose-driven too.
KB: When you're banking with someone that you know is a not-for-profit, you know they care about the people. We all have to run profitable businesses at some point, but knowing that your financial institution is a not-for-profit feels good.
I just really liked BECU and what you stood for. I would definitely recommend BECU to other businesses.
BECU: We're happy to hear that. What's coming up that you're excited about?
KB: I'm just about to leave for New York to meet with ABC and People Magazine. We're going to be surprising one of the beneficiaries of our cause: a ballerina diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 23 years old. We gave our products to her before we even had a business. She wears them for her performances. We also named our new product, the Triple Threat Color Stick, which is this beautiful ballerina pink color, after her. We're so excited! We're going to surprise her with Robin Roberts and People Magazine.
BECU: That's a huge deal! Congratulations. How did you get started in this industry?
KB: I started at Sephora. I fell in love with makeup when I was 13 years old. I grew up on Camano Island, on a farm, basically. I really was inspired by the way that when a woman feels beautiful, she feels like she can do anything. The confidence that it gives. It's really the confidence that you're giving. It's really that empowerment.
I self-funded the business. I put all my personal BECU savings into Thrive to start. No borrowing. I put my life savings into the business.
BECU: How long have you been working with BECU?
KB: I was a personal member before I became a business member. So when I started Thrive it was a natural choice. Thrive has always been with BECU.
BECU: Why did you choose BECU?
KB: Because I wanted to support a local business. As a [personal] member, I knew they had great customer service. Low fees, things like that, are really important as a small business when you're just getting started.
I was 25 years old when I started the business; I had zero assets to leverage. Taking those baby steps, not having a lot of money, is a blessing in disguise. You don't spend money on things you don't need to. You have to stay true to that.
BECU: That's right. You started just last year – and you're growing fast.
KB: Things are going really well. We're getting ready to launch at luxury retail. We also just moved into this office. It's a really good space for us to be able to grow.
BECU: Any advice for other entrepreneurs just getting started?
KB: One of the things I mention to other entrepreneurs is that you should know why you started. If you're doing it to get rich, you might as well go work somewhere, not start your own business. Knowing why you started keeps you grounded. You're going to have bad sales days; you're going to have good days. Knowing your “why” keeps you going. Our why is the women we're helping, the lives we're changing. That keeps me going no matter whether it's going well or badly, and it keeps me grounded.
Thrive Causemetics is Beauty with a Purpose: for every product you purchase, they donate one to a woman in need. They believe changing the world starts with a single ingredient, and that's why they create formulas containing proven, cruelty-free ingredients without the use of parabens, sulfates, toxins or petrochemicals. All of their high-performance vegan cosmetics are developed at Thrive Lab in Seattle—they control every step of the product development process, and a large part of it involves you.
With over a decade of experience as a makeup artist, beauty product designer and formulator, Karissa has traveled the world sourcing powerful ingredients to create clean formulas with skin-loving properties. Her passion for empowering women of all walks of life through the gift of beauty has taken her from backstage at Fashion Week to working with an impressive roster of high-profile clients.