Today’s female feature introduces you to the female mastermind behind the beauty brand Esker – Shannon Davenport. I’ve raved about Esker body oils before. And I used her body wash all through my pregnancy (and beyond)! The Esker scents are totally natural and just make you feel good after applying them!
A friend of mine here in Southern California met Shannon at South by Southwest (SXSW) a few years ago and then brought us together over coffee and breakfast! Our paths crossed a few more times before Shannon and her family moved to Austin. She is such a calming, positive spirit – a complete joy to be around. I wish she didn’t live so far away, so we could hang out more (and my baby boy could hang out with her baby girl)!
1. Tell us about Esker and your inspiration for starting the beauty brand!
I started the brand last year in Los Angeles and was super fortunate to launch with some incredible retailers including Jenni Kayne, Goop and Cap Beauty.
An esker is a geological formation—a long windy ridge of gravel and sediment made from meltwater from a retreating ice sheet. It almost looks like a vein from aerial views, so I named the brand after becoming inspired by how beautiful eskers were and how much they reminded me of, and actually resembled, the connection between our skin and the earth.
2. What was your background before starting Esker?
I worked for over 10 years in New York as a trend forecaster, working with fashion, food and beauty clients like L’oreal and Unilever. My job was really fun; I got to research consumer shifts and track trends across industries to help grow innovation pipelines. The pace was really strenuous though and as I got into my thirties I started to question how long I could keep going with the pace.
I found myself feeling very burnt out traveling all around the world to see corporate clients and go to conferences. I always loved the world of natural beauty and felt like I needed an outlet to take a break from my laptop and learn about something different. So the moment I had an opening in my schedule I enrolled at a small aromatherapy school in the East Village called the New York Institute Of Aromatic Studies and got certified, and that was an incredible experience.
We started out by doing a deep dive into one essential oil every week. The more I learned about each oil and plant I fell totally in love – with the plant, the history and emotional effect of the plant, and the skincare benefits. I was so inspired by the world of plants and skincare that I knew I wanted to craft a really special product line around essential oils in a way I hadn’t seen before.
3. The world of clean beauty is getting more and more populated, which is great, but how do you stand out?
For us it’s really about focusing on body and doing it really well. Coming from a research background I want to make sure we can always put our own spin on things to make us stand out from other brands and products out there, whether that’s our branding and use of color or the wildflower seeds we put into every box to encourage people to support local bee and butterfly populations.
Our new Allover Roller has really helped us stand out. I designed it and it’s the first jade roller made specifically for the body. We’re looking to do more products along those lines – things that are a little bit different and exciting.
4. What were the unexpected struggles (personal and professional) during the process of starting the brand?
Looking back I guess I was a little insane because I launched right around the time I had my baby, and at the time I also had a full time job. Juggling becoming a mom for the first time, continuing to work until I felt like Esker was financially viable, and going to market with the products was all pretty wild.
It was nuts and I had a lot of anxiety, but I think Esker was a great outlet for me and a huge motivator to keep hustling.
5. What was the first big moment where you felt as though things were heading in the right direction?
Launching with Goop was pretty amazing. Everything is very vetted by an entire team so I felt really validated in all the choices I had made about the product.
Not long after, out of nowhere Anthropologie sent me a message directly through my site about picking up the line. I felt like we were so under the radar and having a large retailer notice you and reach out was so exciting and unexpected.
6. If you could change one thing you did early on in building your business, what would it be?
Early on I had a lot of impostor syndrome, feeling like I didn’t know what I was doing and worrying that I was making bad moves. I still make tons of missteps and feel worried about certain decisions about the business, but I feel like I’ve really learned to believe in myself and be proud of what I’ve done so far. I wish I had had that attitude about my business and my career in general much earlier on!
7. Anything else?
I think people are now starting to think about how to elevate their body care routine, making it more mindful, elevated, and sensory. We definitely want to be a part of that process for people. First and foremost it’s about your skin but also taking care of yourself and slowing down. We’re living in pretty stressful times, so anything that helps you feel a little more nurtured is a good thing in my book.