While kids were selling lemonade on hot Summer afternoons, 8-year-old Tara Foley set up a bracelet stand. “I remember thinking, ‘No one actually wants lemonade, but people will want my bracelets!’” she laughs.
The CEO and founder of “clean” beauty emporium Follain, Foley has always had a knack for knowing what people want, even before they do. After a brief stint workng in marketing at a law firm, she quickly realized that it was not for her. “I was in this job that I hated, working really long hours, and the only thing that I had any control over and made me happy was taking care of myself,” she remembers.
Foley Soul Cycled, competed in triathlons and ate healthy meals made from farmers market hauls, but realized her beauty products didn’t fit her healthy-oriented routine. “The lack of regulation in skin-care ingredients motivated the fiery activist in me!” she remembers. “No one in my life knew there were better products out there, so I wanted to tell as many people as possible that there were!” Foley started her own blog, the Natural Alchemist to get the message out.
She left the law firm and worked on a French lavender farm and shadowed a skin-care formulator. She later enrolled in Babson College’s entrepreneurial MBA program, submitting the idea of Follain to the National Business Plan competition. She won the grand prize.
With the money she’d won from the competition, plus extra savings she and her husband cobbled together, she opened her first store in Boston’s South End. “We set a few milestones to hit within first year, like gaining repeat customers and paying off our investment,” she says. “But we hit those goals in just three months.”
This was 2013, years before any of the other big-name clean boutiques had opened. Foley implemented a five-step approval process (it’s proprietary!) for Follain-approved brands, and continues to focus on customer service.
“When a woman tries a conventional product that doesn’t work, she moves on. But if she tries a clean product that doesn’t work, she’s going to believe that all clean products don’t work,” says Foley, who has opened five more locations since.
Foley spoke with the Cut about her favorite SCOTUS, why she avoids ginkgo biloba trees, and why sleep trumps all other wellness.
Bath or shower?
Are you kidding? Bath all day long. Follain x Farmaesthetics Dream Bath Elixir.
Scent of choice:
I don’t really wear perfume. If I do it’ll be an essential oil blend or even just a heavily scented body product like Tammy Fender body oil (lavender).
Favorite CBD product:
Recess sparkling waters are so tasty! I’ve been trying a lot of these products in the skincare world and haven’t nailed down a favorite there yet.
What beauty look do you struggle with achieving?
I struggle with most “looks.”
Preferred daily underwear:
Athleta incognita briefs.
Fashion item you can’t believe you once used to wear:
What fashion item would you never wear?
What is your classic uniform?
Black on black and really fun sneakers. I’ve become a sneaker junkie.
Is it okay to have many? Arianna Huffington (for the girl power and focus on extreme balance), Gay Timmons (the godmother of clean beauty), Jim Brett (constantly reinventing retail), Jeffrey Hollender (activist of consumer packaged goods reform), Danny Meyer (extreme hospitality), Alice Waters (if I can do what she did for the food industry to beauty, we all win).
Wish list travel destination:
A full Japan excursion — including mountains, seaside, and cities.
What’s for breakfast?
Rolled oats with berries and nut butter, every day.
How do you stay fit?
Peloton, spin classes, and yoga. And walking everywhere.
Who was your idol as a kid?
Sandra Day O’Connor.
What phrase or word are you known for saying?
Last great book you read?
Setting the Table by Danny Meyer. It’s the best business book I’ve read yet, about extreme hospitality, which can be applied to any industry.
What would you like to see us doing more of?
Getting more sleep. I’m always pleasantly surprised by how everything just works better for me when I get enough sleep. This sometimes means I have to skip the early morning workout, late-night show, or email catch up. Getting enough sleep is always more beneficial for my overall mind-body wellness.
And less of?
I want people to stop skin-care fads as much as diet fads. Find what’s best for your very specific needs — no two people are the same!
Freshly harvested lavender.
Least favorite smell?
Ginkgo biloba tree fruit. It smells like vomit!
Nickname you had as a child:
Taco (my initials at the time) … also “Scooch” by my parents, for whatever reason.
What item stresses you out if you’re running low on it?
My vitamins and liquid chlorophyll.
What product in your domain is misunderstood and should be a best seller?
Toner! While many people associate toners with strong, astringent formulas, they are actually a secret weapon to hydrating and repairing dry skin and helping serums absorb deeper.
What product is currently your favorite (understanding that this could change all the time)?
Josh Rosebrook’s Hydrating Accelerator. I just think it makes everything else in my skin-care routine work harder and it’s so imperative for my dry skin, especially when traveling.
If you won the Power Ball tomorrow, what are the first five things you would do? (After, of course, donating the majority of it to your top charities…)
I’d probably launch more products and open more stores, faster. I really want to meet as many women as possible, and help match them with the best clean beauty for their skin!
Then, I suppose I’d go on that super lavish, exciting and long trip through Asia that I’ve always dreamed of, but I likely would be restless on that trip unless I knew I had done everything in my power with Follain first!
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