As part of AndMakers’ mission to celebrate the Makers of the world, we’re starting an interview series with the leaders of some of our favorite brands. In this edition, we talk to Laurie O’Hara, Founder and CEO of eco-conscious sun care brand Olita.
What inspired you to start Olita?
Myself, my family, my friends – we’re outside all the time. It’s important to get outside and be active while being able to protect your skin. Most people have no idea of the extent that chemical sunscreen damages our environment (coral reefs, for instance) and our bodies. I started Olita to build a line of premium sun care products with ingredients that are all-natural or certified organic. We’ve partnered with EWG (Environmental Working Group), which is a great resource for current information on clean products. Olita is safe for your skin and safe for the environment.
What unique qualities do your products bring to your market?
I’ve always developed everything, whether it’s a mission statement or brand identity or products, keeping the customer and their POV in mind. What do they want? Can they find it? Is it good enough? And then I develop the next thing. Other than being all-natural, the products we created have vitamins, antioxidants, and plant nutrients formulated to nourish and protect skin – it’s great stuff. It really does restore skin, whether it’s after shaving or a day of sun exposure.
How did you come up with your brand name?
Olita means “little wave” in Spanish. Our logo is a little wave, which fits perfectly since our products are made for a beach lifestyle. “Olita” is also a combination of our family initials and represents our family’s multicultural layers, which include Hispanic.
How are you hoping to affect your industry?
As a manufacturer, we’re trying to lead the industry to go all-natural, organic, and clean, and I believe that’s the direction we’re headed. Remember, sunscreen itself is a pretty recently invented product – I didn’t use it when I was a kid – so change can happen quickly.
People are demanding more natural and organic ingredients in everything we consume: beverages, food, cosmetics, and sunscreen. We’re evolving from consumers being aware of the natural option to discerning/selecting it to demanding it.
There will also be an evolution from non-chemical products being a nice option to being legislatively mandated. For instance, the state of Hawaii has banned chemical sunscreen, and Olita is doing well there. Things are changing quickly, and in 20 years, I would really hope that non-chemical products will be the norm. Right now, we’re trying to lead the change and put our products where lots of people have the option to try them.
What’s your strategy for building your brand?
We’re a manufacturer, we sell wholesale, and we sell retail on our site, Olitashop.com, and Amazon.com. We’re staying true to the belief that safe skin care should be affordable. Right now, we’re doing a huge push for distribution and trying to get out everywhere and grow, grow, grow.
Obviously COVID has changed our strategy somewhat; our channels have shifted from brick & mortar sales to selling through Amazon, the FSAStore.com, affiliate marketing, and direct to the consumer from our website. Selling on more online outlets has really been a big change.
Let’s say a customer asks you, “Why should I buy your products?” What would you say that they wouldn’t know from reading your catalog or product descriptions?
We have extremely strong values: we protect your skin; we protect the environment; and we practice inclusivity. While many brands are rushing to claim they’re inclusive, we have been working to build an inclusive audience for a while. For instance, our tinted sunscreens include the shade “Coco Bronze,” which works for a range of dark complexions. We had developed this product well before the current push for social justice, where some brands (e.g. Band-Aid, which didn’t develop a line of products for Black and Brown people until June 2020) have only recently been pushed in a more inclusive direction.