Where It All Started…
My name is Dominique Caron, and I'm the founder and CEO of Apoterra Skincare. After a long and winding road, we've now made it to 10 years in business! Take a walk down memory lane with me to learn how it all began.
Although I founded Apoterra (then Caru) in 2012, the story begins even earlier. In 2008, while working as a film electrician, I had hit a low with skincare—I was so frustrated with the available commercial skincare products and how none of them helped my super sensitive, dry, and acneic skin! I also couldn’t stand how there was no transparency about the ingredients, and how everything was packaged in non-recyclable plastic containers…I wished skincare could be effective, simple, eco-friendly, and enjoyable to use.
Here I am working on the set of Orange Is the New Black—or more accurately, taking part in Halloween shenanigans.
I have always believed in the healing power of the earth, and that nature gives us everything we need. But I didn’t see that reflected in the skincare products on my shelves, and I also didn’t find the transparency I was hoping for about their ingredients or practices.
So that year, I started learning how to live in reciprocity with nature (a lifelong journey!). I began to eat local and in-season produce and reduce my environmental footprint wherever possible. I also took a big leap toward natural skincare by studying herbalism, completing the Herbal Bear School of Herbal Medicine program in 2012.
Creating homemade natural skincare products became an escape from my stressful career as a film electrician. By day, it was fast-paced bright lights, but by night, I was rediscovering a sense of well-being through handcrafted tinctures, teas, mists, soaps and deodorants—anything I could think of, I would learn to make. I especially found solace in the creative outlet of crafting from plants, which helped me connect with the earth and disconnect from the stress. Natural skincare was officially my biggest passion.
Sharing the Love
As I started to find healing through my skincare formulas, I wanted to share this love with others. I made custom blends for my coworkers’ unique skin concerns, and even started selling my products on set when demand grew among our coworkers. Sometimes I was just as amazed as they were when my products worked so well—I thought my hobby was just a de-stresser, but it was changing people’s lives. Seeing how much these products helped people, I realized that I wanted to help a wider audience with natural skincare techniques.
In 2012, I launched an Etsy shop called Caru (“Love”) Skincare Company with the goal of making skincare “Rooted in Honesty”—transparent, clean, and effective. I also expanded my professional credentials to become a certified aromatherapist in 2015 through a program by Aromahead Institute. Though I wasn’t ready to leave my day job, I was officially a small business owner!
On the Up & Up
During those first three years, Caru was embraced from many sides. We were picked up by ABC Home, Anthropologie, and Free People. Caru was featured in BBC News, Willow & Sage, Vogue, TimeOut, Free People's Bldg 25, and more. Elle listed our facial oil (now Herbal Clarifying Oil) in "The 33 Most Effective All-Natural Beauty Products On The Planet," and our Mineral Mask was nominated for Refinery29's "Best of Beauty Innovator Awards" in 2016. We were growing fast!
Having bootstrapped the business from the ground up, I needed an investment in the company to continue growing and meeting demand. As a woman running a small business, one of my most difficult decisions came in 2014 when I seemed to find that investor—only to hear that he would not pledge the money unless I promised I was not planning to become pregnant anytime soon. I wanted to have children, and I believed that I could do both. So I refused to make that promise and became pregnant with my first child the following year, even though it would take me 4 more years to finally find the right investor.
In the same year, we had our other biggest challenge. I thought we were about to become officially trademarked—only to find out that my trademark application for Caru Skincare was denied because an Irish company held the rights for the name. I had to start over designing a new brand name, logo, and packaging, with the associated costs—all while facing the unavoidable risk that I might lose connection with past customers or press features.
We didn’t slow down during those years, despite the financial and legal obstacles. I launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the big rebrand, and with the help of generous donors, the campaign was a success! We officially rebranded as Apoterra (“Of the Earth”) in 2015, and I took the opportunity to become Leaping Bunny Cruelty-Free Certified—an official recognition of a value we always held—as well as to partner with Trees for the Future, committing to plant a tree for every product sold (over 68,000 trees planted to date!). I also launched the Batch # system as part of my ultimate commitment to transparency, so you can see EXACTLY what went into your batch of products and when it was made!
Patience and persistence paid off. I took the big leap to leave my day job in film in 2017, although we were still ironing out the kinks. And then…We finally found the right business partner in 2018! Life’s Abundance officially became co-owner of Apoterra in 2018, giving us the resources needed to increase our team size to better serve customers. I moved our manufacturing facility to a 3,000 sq. ft space (from a 400 sq. ft studio, it was such a luxury!), and drastically reduce shipping times from 5 business days to only 1 business day. You could say I was starting to feel like a business owner, after all this time.
In 2021, we updated our packaging and launched updated formulas that were refined after nine years of learning, listening and researching. We also became an inaugural member of PACT, a beauty empties recycling company. We currently make facial cleansers, facial mists, facial oils, balms, masks, and aromatherapy-focused body care products—all still handmade in-house from organic, sustainably sourced ingredients.
Some Things Are Evergreen
Looking at our polished and perfected line, it sometimes feels like so much has changed…but I always remember that the important things have stayed the same.
Ten years later, the line is still all handmade from natural ingredients, using herbalist and aromatherapy techniques in the manufacturing and formulation of our products. At our core, we are still motivated by sustainability goals and improving the world around us. In addition to the tree planting program, we make financial donations to nonprofits on a regular basis and donate “still-good but not perfect enough to sell” products to a local women’s shelter. Everything is still made in-house, and the team is made of an amazing group of women who are estheticians, herbalists, bakers, writers and artists.
At the heart of Apoterra is the amazing community we’ve built during this time—real women who found real change by incorporating natural skincare, who have sustained us through so many transformations across the years.
Thank you for supporting us and believing in us!
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An amazing story of business growth! So inspiring and with a true sense of modesty and honesty.
Congratulations to the team and especially Dominique for never letting go of her vision and values.
Thank you for sharing! It is an inspiring story!
I am waiting for my first order to be delivered all the way to Sweden and I am excited to try your products which I have been reading so many good things about!