When scandals happen to a company, like Ava Anderson Non-Toxic, it obviously affects customers and employees, but it also exposes industry standards and shakes entire communities, such as female entrepreneurs. Ava Anderson, the young female entrepreneur who created Ava Anderson Non-Toxic at age 14, has decided to walk away from her company. In this bizarre turn of events, Ava Anderson LLC’s official note on their website is that the primary reason they’re closing their doors is she has been bullied and harassed. Their secondary reason is some of their third-party vendors have been less than honest, and some of their products did in fact contain questionable ingredients.
This may not seem like a big deal to you if you don’t use Ava Anderson products, but if you’re someone who cares about organic living, product labeling ethics, business integrity, or are an entrepreneur—particularly a female entrepreneur—this is a big deal.
It All Started with AvaHome Dish Soap…
This Ava Anderson scandal all seemed to begin when Jess over at Ecofriendlymamausa.com began questioning the ingredients—or lack of ingredients—in AvaHome Dish Soap. In her all-natural experience, along with at-home soap making experts, she felt it was impossible for AvaHome Dish Soap to create as many sudsy bubbles as it does with the list of ingredients on the label. She wanted to know exactly what ingredient was causing so many bubbles. In Jess’s January 23, 2016 blog post she shows photographic evidence of her email thread with Kim Anderson in 2013 stating that Kim knew where “everything is from, how it is made, and from what materials.” Essentially shutting Jess’s questions down. Fast forward to almost 3 years later, and a blogger investigating a product’s ingredients is considered “bullying.”
No. Just no.
What Female Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Ava Anderson
1. Haters Gonna Hate
If you’re a business owner, a celebrity of any sort (even if you’re just a local celebrity), an internet sensation, an entrepreneur, or really just a breathing human who speaks, you’re going to have haters! That’s the way it works. And in my opinion, if you have haters that means you’re doing something right. You have a message or a purpose that people either don’t want to hear or, more often, it makes them question themselves too much so they feel intimidated by your facts. In Ava Anderson’s case, she was spreading the much needed message that the chemicals, toxins, and questionable ingredients we have allowed in our mainstream personal and home products are causing cancer, metabolic disorders, autoimmune diseases, hormonal disruptions, and many other ailments. Ava was trying to educate others, promote an important issue, and offer a solution. That is the very basis of a brilliant business idea! One that is going to have a slew of supporters, and one that’s going to have a slew of haters who don’t want to hear the truth. And in this case, “haters” that want to just go to CVS or Rite Aid to buy their regular bottle of cheap crap, and not have to question it.
Lesson to female entrepreneurs: Grow a thick skin. And change your perspective to see “haters” as a sign you’re doing something right! Additionally, be able to separate and know the the difference between people who are haters, and those who just disagree with you.
2. Don’t Walk Away From Your Business Amid Controversy
Ava Anderson Non-Toxic emailed all of their consultants and leaders to reveal the results of the third-party testing of ALL their products. It turns out that yes, Jess was correct in that something was missing from the list of ingredients. Per the email last night, every item in the Ava Anderson product line, except for three—hand soap, dish soap, pet shampoo—“were found under this testing program to contain no chemicals of concern detected above a concentration of 0.02%.” This is on the heels of them announcing the week prior that AvaLove scent and AvaMen scent had tested positive for pthalates, and their foundation and blush had traces of iron oxides. Both of which Ava Anderson officials said they had no knowledge of since these products were produced by a third-party vendor who had omitted that information.
This is what crisis PR firms live for, and many a company has bounded back after FAR worse an issue than this! What could have been handled in an honest, apologetic way is now 100,000x worse because Ava Anderson is walking away. Especially when her reason is something as lame as “bullying.” In fact, they could even have launched a new campaign in developing better relationships with organic companies, and played up the economic aspect that not only have they kept their growing company at home in Rhode Island, USA but they’re now creating more jobs by producing all items in-house. I can just see Ava Anderson (the person) doing another TEDtalk on how she had to learn the hard way that sometimes you have to do it all yourself! She would gain the support of pro-USA consumers, fellow entrepreneurs, and been a lesson on “how to win back your customer’s trust” instead of becoming the featured “What Not To Do” in the next edition of a Business 101 text book.
Lesson to female entrepreneurs: Stand firm in your company’s beliefs and always fall back on the simple code of ethics that honesty is the best policy. Hire a great PR firm and don’t be afraid to play up your unique selling points, and be HONEST about your weaknesses.
3. Know That You Will Be Burned By Association At Some Point
I think it’s inevitable, if you put your name on a business, there’s going to be some point where an employee, vendor, or even a customer is going to tarnish you by association. It may be something small like an employee with a porn addiction, or it might be something like Ava Anderson where a third-party vendor lied about their ingredients so that they could win a contract making Ava Anderson products. Yes, Ava Anderson probably should have vetted out their contractors a bit more. But I strongly believe, that even those who have done their due diligence and extensive research on a company, can still be burned. If anything, this was a great opportunity for Ava Anderson to admit the truth that a vendor misrepresented themselves.
Lesson to female entrepreneurs: Be trusting of others, but still be on guard.
4. Know You are Your Unique Selling Point and the Answer to a PR Crisis
Ava Anderson is a beautiful, intelligent, 20-something year old. She is the epitome of a media darling and this easily could have be put in her favor. I’m not talking about shady PR practices where they blame someone else. But I honestly believe that if you put this eloquent young woman in front of the public (did I mention how beautiful she is?) she could easily speak the truth and win back the hearts of many.
When you create a business—particularly one that is literally named after you!—you become your unique selling point. Personally, I was won over by Ava Anderson because she’s from New England, like me. And she went to Babson College, like my dad. And she was 14 when she created her business. Ava Anderson the person is Ava Anderson Non-Toxic the company. So for her family to throw up a cryptic note on their website about “the difficult decision to end their 6-year journey by closing what you have come to know as Ava Anderson LLC” is a complete catastrophe of the business. And while they also add that the “capable management team with a combined 150 years of experience in the direct sales industry will re-open with a new company, brand and many of the same wonderful products,” they have literally lost the heart of the company.
Lesson to female entrepreneurs: If you’re not in it for life, do not name your company after you or brand yourself. You hold a larger responsibility to your company if it is named and branded after you. If you are the type of entrepreneur that wants to create a business, make money, and then walk away then definitely do NOT name a company after yourself. (I don’t believe Ava Anderson planned to walk away, but it’s a lesson all the same.)
The Future of Ava Anderson, the Company & the Person
I was asked during my Periscope broadcast today (see it on YouTube or above), if I would continue to use Ava Anderson products. That’s a really hard one for me to answer. I have been hyper aware the past few days that I’m surrounded by Ava Anderson products and use them every day in my morning and evening routines. I have her entire AvaSkin product line. My children use Dream Cream after every bath. I want to believe that the list they emailed their consultants last night is correct, and that truly the hand soap, dish soap, and pet shampoo (3 products I’ve never used or purchased) are the ONLY ones that contained unlabeled ingredients. However, there is such an element of shadiness with the abrupt “closing of doors’ and renaming that I really feel there has to be more to the story. There is no evidential support of bullying, so that excuse seems weak at best.
Ava Anderson the person is going to need to speak up in the next few days. This may sound dramatic but this feels a bit like a death: a young, beautiful, brilliant mind lost too soon, and we’re all left here with a million questions. There has to be a deeper explanation. Just last week she was still being celebrated within the Rhode Island and New England community for her contributions to the economy. They had just moved to a huge restored warehouse and had already announced their plans to bring their products in-house. I just don’t understand why they would cut off their nose to spite their face. Especially when the results of the lab report came down to 6 measly products. I’m very curious to see how this all plays out!
What are your thoughts? Please let me know in the comments below or fill out my contact form to reach me directly!