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Female Disruptors: Leah Garcia of NULASTIN On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry,, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leah Garcia.

Leah Garcia is an entrepreneur, television talent, award-winning infomercial host, and athlete. She is the Founder and CEO of NULASTIN®, a direct-to-consumer personal care company that is disrupting the beauty industry with novel, clinically proven, naturally derived, ethically sourced elastin-replenishment products for lash, brow, hair, and skin. Raised on a ranch in Northern California, she spent years on the rodeo circuit where she captured several all-around championships; a foundational sports path that transitioned her to professional mountain bike racing, fitness, world travel, marketing, and a profound passion for ethics, performance, and wellness.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Thank you for the opportunity! I had a rural upbringing, and growing up on a ranch, I have always been adventurous and ready for the unexpected. Hard work and responsibility were the norm, along with involvement in sports/outdoor activity and a heavy emphasis on etiquette. These were values that my mother (female mentor #1) had instilled in me. My Mom’s family is Basque — both my grandparents immigrated from Northern Spain and no one in my family had graduated from college, making a college degree one of my first major life goals.

At university, I found my niche in studying public speaking and business all while competing in rodeo and triathlons. The first job I landed after college was at an employment agency where the founder (female mentor #2) did everything one should do to run a smart business. Every morning, we would read affirmations centered around lessons from, “A Course in Miracles.” The teaching was to “step into our fears” and meet them face-to-face. I am forever grateful for her guidance. I ended up working in the hospitality industry as a sales manager and loved collaborating and creating with a team of women. After a couple of years under the leadership of a powerhouse G.M. (female mentor #3), I noticed that although I came from a Spanish speaking family, my lack of fluency in the language was preventing me from being able to help a lot of the Spanish speaking staff who turned to me to help communicate with upper management. So, I decided to quit my job, buy a one-way ticket, and move to Spain to immerse myself in the culture.

During this time in the hotel industry, stress had gotten the better of me and I suffered Bell’s Palsy, or facial paralysis, from the pressure I was putting on myself. The right side of my face flopped and the left side was overcompensated. I couldn’t blink, close my eyes, or even drink out of a straw without drooling. In retrospect, I gave myself 10 minutes to have a pity-party. Then, I got to work planning my future with this new norm. The physical setback, as it so happened, was the best thing that ever happened to me as I began to clearly understand what was important to me in life.

While living abroad, I met (female mentor #4) who owned an English academy, and she hired me on the spot. We worked together on developing her company offerings and under her watchful eye, I was introduced to more insight on running a business, press, budgeting, follow-through, and maneuvering to stay ahead of the competition. Teaching English in Spain was lucrative (for my modest needs) and allowed me to have the money and time to pursue my athletic passions. Riding my mountain bike for exercise went from pleasure to purpose. Within the first year of competing, I turned pro. Professional athletes in outlier extreme sports market themselves, pitch to sponsors, fight for position, set goals, and execute. If we fail, we learn, fix it, and continue.

After years racing all over the world and winning my fair share of titles, the door opened to work for ESPN as a side-line reporter and commentator for the U.S. National Mountain Bike Series. Shortly thereafter, the door swung full circle and I was hired to cover rodeo and bull riding. I filled the rest of my time by starting my own business, Naturally Caffeinated®, Inc., with a tagline, “Wake up your potential.” I wrapped my on-air talent work, personal training, and fitness under this corporation. Being on the road 200 days a year presented an opportunity: how to work out while on the go? I launched the Zone Workout Series, later rebranded to Leah Garcia Fitness. The Zone Workout Series was one of the world’s first hotel room workout programs. Despite my best attempt to get funded, I couldn’t get the funding I needed. Production cost a fortune back then. We didn’t have the technology that we do now for video creation. This was go-time, so I self-funded and mortgaged my home to produce seven videos.

I was eventually hired as a spokesperson for Slendertone and later for Contour Core Sculpting System. I worked at HSN hosting infomercials and in 2008, won the Female Presenter of the Year Award at the Electronic Retail Association. Being involved in the soup-to-nuts building of the later brand, which went on to sell $220M and was one of the most successful direct response commercials, was the pinnacle of my DRTV success-driven heartbeat. Nevertheless, after five years my time as a spokesperson had run its course. What I learned during the infomercial tenure was just as much “what not to do” in business, as it was, “what to do.”

All this brought me to where we are today–Boulder, Colorado. Home of entrepreneurs, start-ups, natural food, outdoor adventure, and organic products. Through mutual friends, I met my business partner, Dr. Burt Ensley, a pioneer in the field of microbiology and the inventor of our novel elastin replenishment formulations. This was the missing link to bringing skin back from sun damage, aging, stress, and environmental challenges. Something that was near and dear to my heart, as, to date, I have not completely recovered from my facial paralysis. No other brand seemed to be truly addressing the loss of elastin. My criteria for launching this company were specific: products that are scientifically proven, performance-based, results-oriented, ethically-derived, and accessible. NULASTIN is not just a cosmetic brand, but a lifestyle brand. My vision is that elastin replenishment becomes an essential part of everyone’s life. The end goal is a more vibrant and enriched personal care journey, one where we radiate confidence along the way.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

At a glance, it appears that skincare and haircare brands are all saying the same thing. So, claiming to be disruptive tends to be cliché. Finding a niche is what everyone wants and at NULASTIN, we are doing just that with our skincare and haircare collection. We are disrupting the industry by providing a synergistic blend of active ingredients that deliver scientifically proven biological activity and clinically supported results. Our flagship ingredient, Elastatropin® is a novel elastin protein, the DNA precursor to human elastin, never-before used in cosmetics. NULASTIN’s technology was developed in cooperation with the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Defense as a treatment for wound healing.

Our elastin source is cruelty-free, vegan and ethically derived, and essential. Inadequate and damaged elastin slows and weakens the body’s healing of wounds, increases scarring and wrinkles, contributes to brittle, fragile, sparse hair, and prohibits regeneration of certain tissues and organs. What’s shocking is that the human body stops producing elastin around puberty — meaning what we have at about the age of 12 is intended to last a lifetime. Our formulator and co-founder, Dr. Burt Ensley, is a pioneer in the field of microbiology and has dedicated his life to this research.

The quality and potency of our NULASTIN ingredients is unsurpassed. Our products are proudly made in the U.S.A in small batches to ensure freshness and maximum bioavailability. We literally courier finished batches from our cGMP facility in Colorado to our fulfillment warehouse (a town away), where we pick, pack, and ship to customers’ doors with little to no shelf-time. We don’t just answer to shareholders and chase profits. Our goal is to deliver results and I often joke that it’s impossible for our products not to work. Even the most lackadaisical human will benefit from NULASTIN — which is great news for those of us who are overworked, sleep deprived, stressed or aging. Our skincare products also play well with others, making it easy to incorporate into your current routine.

As the founder, I pride myself in being accessible and involved in the day-to-day of the business. I’ve been a one-woman show for years. The people you see in our marketing and our ads are friends, colleagues, and real customers who have used and loved our products. I would say we are disrupting by delivering on the promise. Real Science. Real People. Real Results.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was so bold and brazen when I first launched this business. As a former professional athlete my mindset was to race to the top of the hill, push over the peak and sprint down the backside; no coasting allowed. So, I thought with this business, I could work hard, put in the effort, and be rewarded. NULASTIN is 100% self-funded. I tried to get investors but I didn’t know how or who to pitch. Being a TV personality, my instinct was to shoot a video and upload it on a crowdfunding site. After being turned down by Kickstarter, I landed on Indiegogo. To save money, I taught myself to video edit, wrote the script, and created the assets.

In the video, I made promises on hair growth, guaranteed changes to length, thickness and volume, and skin repair, but I had no idea that in doing so, I was violating a lot of FDA rules around the claims you can make about your products.

That iteration of NULASTIN lasted 2 days. Our credit card merchant shut me down. The fault was mine. I failed to stay within the boundaries of what language is legally allowed for a cosmetic brand. I didn’t do my homework.

Shortly thereafter, I hired a regulatory lawyer and revamped the entire campaign, edited the crowdfunding video, and relaunched. I raised $17,000 through crowdfunding, which was enough to purchase my first round of product containers. My business partner manufactured and filled them for me — and I was off to the races, again. This time, with more respect, humility, and awareness.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Earlier in this interview, I talked about a handful of female mentors. The women that were the foundational business mentors in my life. I also had a lot of male influences when I was launching my business. A buddy of mine is probably tired of me asking, “Tell the story of how you started your business.” Like oral history, I find that hearing from those who have walked the walk is enlightening.

Athletic coaches and educators (both high school and college) provided me with different skills: Knowledge about how to think, analyze, get creative and maximize potential. I still apply those lessons daily. One quote that I repeat often is, “Following directions is an essential element in maintaining a learning environment in our classroom.” That’s a sentence I had to write 1,000 times because I was unruly in grammar school. What I love about that lesson is that it turned me into a rule follower…without losing my insatiable desire to test the boundaries. There’s an invisible box around us. If you cross the line, you’ve gone too far. But — you can play to the edges and not live in the middle of the rule-box. That’s the fun of life and work. That’s the restlessness that drives innovation, that seeks the extraordinary.

Great minds attract me. I’ve surrounded myself with positivity and people who are making an impact in their worlds. My husband, Ian Adamson, is one of those people. Former Nike Athlete, 7x world champion adventure racer, Guinness book world record holder and classically trained musician. His brain works on all cylinders. He and I met in our 40’s and had already finished our respective athletic careers. Television and entrepreneurship are where we picked up.

Ian took what was great about my experiences and made them better. Training tips and techniques, methodologies, nutrition, marketing, goal setting, planning, organizational savvy, and business acumen. The list goes on and on. He reminds me that “correlation does not imply causation,” and to seek “evidence based science.” He’s that guy that follows the facts. I am a conceptual thinker at heart, a big picture visionary person. This balance of seeing facts, data and science, coupled with the feel-good part of analysis is paramount to the success of my current business.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I’d say that what we can do with science is both positively disruptive and destructive. Chemical warfare, bioweapons, bombs, GMOs, vaccines, robots are disruptive scientific discoveries. Not all of them are morally neutral.

Looking at medicine and the cosmetic industry, we see a push and pull when it comes to disruptive science. Do we love those genetic improvements and how stem cells can repair tissue and organs? Are we queasy that human stem cells may come from animals, embryos, or adult human tissue? Do we question if it’s okay to use genetic “reprogramming” techniques? How do we feel about placental fluid as an anti-aging ingredient?

At the risk of causing a debate, in business, we need to understand the difference between good-science and bad-science. If what we are doing with science works constructively towards helping people, without causing harm, this is a positive disruptive path in my mind. In the case of NULASTIN, we are committed to ethics in science and publication. One thing I like to keep in mind is that without disruption, there is no change.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“Never quit a race.” Metaphorically speaking, a race is competition, life, business, forward progress, challenge. Once you quit, you learn to quit, and it gets easier and easier.

I think the quote speaks for itself. Let’s put it into a real-time perspective. Say, you’ve entered your first ½ marathon and your part way through the event, getting passed by other people. You’re tired, scared, doubtful. Your ego gets the best of you and instead of staying in the moment, remembering why you are there in the first place, knowing what it is you want to achieve, you simply stop. Given no external factors (severe dehydration, an injury, or other physical reasons), it’s classified as a mental failure. When you quit, that sets a tone. My experience is that even if you decide to compete again, you’ll find another reason to quit. I’ve known people who self-sabotage way too often. They create an opportunity to fail.

Athletic examples are widespread in my interview responses, but I truly believe they apply to business. I have worked with a few men over the years who have demonstrated this sabotage behavior. They make last-minute, poor choice negotiations that sets the company back detrimentally. COG’s are too high, too restrictive, inappropriate partnerships. The moment they shrug their shoulders and quit taking responsibility, thinking it’s not really their fault, it’s the beginning of the end. Being in the trenches and seeing this phenomenon firsthand, watching someone hit home run after home run — and then witnessing the egregious failures, convinced me that these are moments when someone has quit the race previously — and have come to do it again. It’s their self-fulfilling prophecy of hard-knocks, bad-go-of-it mentality. What I’ve seen is that they’ll start another business soon after, get about to the same spot and repeat the process all over again. This is quitting the race.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I’m focusing on being in the moment right now and scaling my business. What’s inspiring about this phase is that I’m shaking things up in real-time, touching so many lives. I am providing jobs and opportunities to individuals, companies, and networks. People are benefiting from my products. Visual transformations are empowering confidence. The ability to take control of personal care is freedom and authenticity is power.

Frequently, I get an email from a customer that has had a life-changing experience with NULASTIN. This is typically from the LASH & BROW Serums, or the Vibrant Scalp Treatment. If shaking things up is giving people better eyelashes, fuller brows, and healthy hair, then, I’m on the right path. While I’m hyper-focused on accentuating people’s lives aesthetically, I’m also keenly aware that it’s confidence that I am able to help deliver. Especially for those suffering from thyroid issues, post-chemotherapy, and/or other conditions.

At 57 years old, I think about the meaning of life a lot and what my contribution will be. Hopefully, it’s to make other people’s lives easier and bring some joy to the world. Regarding work, I do think about what my next chapter will look like. Professionally, I’d like to invest in start-ups and mentor founders like myself.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Funding, opportunity, advancement, and respect. I’m not typically one to harp on these things, but they are very real challenges we face.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

I used to belong to a book club that sent positive affirmation and feel-good publications monthly. My library is still filled with these gems. From Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill to Happiness is a Choice by Barry Neil Kaufman, to one of my all-time favorites — All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum and his follow-up, It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It. The paragraph about “Ponder” flows into a, “What is it we do” question. Fulghum writes, “Making a living and having a life are not the same thing. Making a living and making a life that’s worthwhile are not the same thing. Living the good life and living a good life are not the same thing.” A job title doesn’t even come close to answering the question, “What do you do?” My takeaway was on par with Fulghum’s point. My work should not be what I do to get paid. The focus should be to do that which gives me great pleasure and makes me feel useful to others.

The book, Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype still sits on my shelf, reminding me, “With every woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing.”

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would love nothing more than to inspire people to be beautiful versions of themselves. A worldwide invitation to radiate in kindness, love, understanding, acceptance, and potential. I’d like to create a movement where people practice honest communication, have trust and transparency, are empathic and inclusive. In this utopia, I see laughter, wit, and wisdom.

Imagine if we put our collective energy toward these things? If I can personally contribute to this, through my practice, business, and life, then, I am making a difference.

Over the years, I’ve had people tell me that I’ve impacted their life, or that what I did by example or action was what they needed at a particularly tough time. These acknowledgements always catch me by surprise, and they are solid reminders that I am better when I am putting myself out there.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

If the “why” is big enough, the “how to” will come. I’ve had a lot of “why” in my life, which I’ve mentioned previously. The “how to” has always come to me through my hard work, the wonderful mentors I’ve had and my persistence on not giving up on the things that are important to me.

How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/leahgarciatv/

https://www.instagram.com/nulastin/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/missleahg

https://www.facebook.com/nulastin

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/leah-garcia-592988/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/nulastin/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nulastin

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.