A Glimpse into Sappho Founder JoAnn Fowler's Ongoing Journey
A little while ago, we sat down with Sappho: New Paradigm founder, JoAnn Fowler. Over lunch at Planta we talked about everything from feminism and American politics, to green beauty and the time she met the Dalai Lama. We heard the story of Sappho from the beginning and what stuck out to us was the attitude that JoAnn has be able to maintain and perfect in all her years navigating the makeup and business world. We've decided to share just a bit of JoAnn's story and philosophy here. It's always nice to hear the ideas behind the brand, but JoAnn's story and values in particular serve as important reminders in 2018. Here's a little bit of JoAnn's journey below.
And be sure check out the launch of Sappho's new gorgeous spring peach collection below. Welcome eye shadow shades Monica, Merrady, Victoria and Jessica, new blush Andrea and lip glosses Christine and Amy.
In the late 2000s I was head makeup artist on The L Word. I remember Jennifer Beals telling me that I should start a makeup company. I laughed. “The world does not need another makeup company by a makeup artist.” Cut to Mia Kirshner sitting in my chair announcing she would no longer be wearing any makeup containing parabens (What the f*** are parabens, I thought). But I said, “okay. I'll do some research.”
My research led me to the revolutionary Not Just a Pretty Face, a book that would change my life and lead to me to see actually, the world did need another makeup line. I needed another makeup line. I could no longer go to work and put crap on people without making them aware of the consequences. I would not be responsible for giving anyone cancer. I would offer clean makeup.
So I set to work, researching and creating, I learned all about parabens, phthalates, and all the junk that's in conventional makeup. And by summer 2015 I thought I had met the people that were going to help make my dream a reality. But by Christmas of that year, I realized I had made myself vulnerable to unsafe people. With eczema up both of my arms, unable to buy groceries, on the cusp of entering my 60s, I realized I was financially trapped.
There is an attitude in business that has existed for years: It’s just business. Don’t take it personally. It is an atrocious attitude that claims there is no room for emotion, no room for compassion, there is only room for profit. The idea that a person can jeopardize someone’s health, someone’s life, in the name of profit, and then go home and love their family is bullshit. Who you are in business IS who you are as a person. Energy does not know what room you are sitting in – intention does not know the difference between home and office.
Those that have bought into this profit driven attitude are able to compartmentalize their actions and their persona. This is not to say that you don’t need to de-stress at the end of the day and let go of work to be present at home. You absolutely should. What I am saying is that it is important to realize that we are all one, and to disconnect completely, to stifle your humanity for the sake of greed, is a disservice to us all. The idea that "it’s just business” is devoid of all compassion.
Women are opening businesses in unprecedented numbers and we need to help one another navigate the business world with compassion. Contrary to “it’s just business,” success and compassion can coexist.
Ultimately, I had to sell my loft, the one that I built myself, the home that I thought I would have forever and the home that I still miss.
I went to small claims court and for 2 years I jumped through every hoop they threw at me. I won. But the challenges were far from over. I threw myself into saving my company. I designed and produced a whole new line of 84 products that I am incredibly proud of. I learned to meditate, I learned to change my thinking. My life’s philosophy became one of intention, the intention of being a better person today than I was yesterday.
Who I am as a person IS who I am in business. My business is an extension of my values, my principles, my entirety. I take responsibility for my actions and my reactions. Life is about perception and as I get older, I see that no experience is inherently good or bad; they are all steps along the road of learning and becoming.
Today my company is valued at six times it's original worth. We have grown despite the drama, despite the bullying. We do business with compassion.
And so I leave you with this. When I stood in my loft that I would have to leave behind, shaking with fear and crying uncontrollably, I never could have guessed that the hardest time of my life would be the best possible thing to happen to me. It was then that I made my case to the universe, to help me live my life and run my business with uncompromising compassion. Years later, it could not be more clear that the universe answered me. I am and will continue to be taken care of.
New Paradigm is my apology and offering to the new generation – my generation is leaving you a world that is full of plastic and petrochemicals, hate and greed. Sappho’s ethos and promise is to get greener as we grow, to work towards a company that is sustainable in all ways. In my life there is no such thing as “just business” and when I buy green I am willfully supporting the feminist agenda – that of saving the world despite the patriarchy.
We are a small company growing by choice, looking for a way to align in as many ways as possible with no outside pressure. We are allowing ourselves not to be perfect and and loving all the time while organically expanding.