How tragedy inspired Ashleigh Cortes to create her non-profit, the Stay Beautiful Foundation to bring quality makeup products to cancer patients

Ashleigh Cortes_Blog Header

Ashleigh reveals how her clean beauty boxes have inspired sick patients get through treatment, why she hires employees based on their willingness to help others, and why she finally took the leap of faith to start her own nonprofit.

Describe your business in a few words?

Beautiful, motivating, inspiring, powerful.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

I came up with the idea for the Stay Beautiful Foundation after my grandmother passed away. I was walking along Lake Michigan with my mom and we joked about my grandmother asking us to bring her products from the spa because she didn’t love the options that were being provided to her at the hospital. I reminisced with my mom on the memories of collecting items from the spa and bringing them to my grandmother to make her feel a sense of beauty and comfort. My grandmother felt most beautiful when she looked good, it was her form of therapy. The memories of my grandmother during her journey fighting cancer ignited a fire in me to want to carry out her legacy. I began putting some of her favorite products in boxes and giving them to a few family and friends who had been affected by cancer. Fast forward to today, we now have more than 400 monthly subscribers who are part of our community of women who are conquering cancer with beauty.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I had just graduated college from University of Missouri as a Communications major with a Business minor and I was interested in working in the tech industry. My first job out of school was a business analyst and now I currently work at Salesforce as an Account Manager.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

No, I don’t think it was something I ever really had in mind — the idea to start The Stay Beautiful Foundation really came from a place of just wanting to help women in need and not so much because I wanted to start something of my own. It is a nonprofit passion project that I feel makes a true difference in the lives of many women.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

I initially tried partnering with hospitals to spread awareness about SBF’s clean beauty boxes for cancer patients. However, there were too many roadblocks and hurdles to securing partnerships with hospitals and I quickly shifted to social media and good, old-fashioned word of mouth! I started giving Stay Beautiful boxes to family and friends to pass on to those they knew undergoing cancer treatment, and doing that alone really helped to boost beauty box requests. One thing I learned during this process is that you are in control of your own success — in order to get it done, you have to hustle and not rely on others to help with your success. 

It’s amazing today because we have so much demand for the boxes that our problem has shifted: we now focus on partnerships with the brands that supply the boxes, fund shipping and more. These generous brands and their donations, both financially and in-kind, make it possible for us to supply these incredible products to women who truly need them.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

When I first launched The Stay Beautiful Foundation, my initial delivery strategy was to send beauty boxes directly to the hospital, however, this process came with many leaps, hurdles, and roadblocks, which forced me to shift my strategy and deliver directly to women’s homes instead. Shipping has been a challenge throughout this entire process. Most recently, I updated my shipping strategy by leveraging programs like ShipStation and Salesforce.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

When our team had to upgrade the size of our storage warehouse to a bigger unit to store all of the donations we were receiving from amazing beauty, skincare and wellness brands. This entire organization wouldn’t be made possible without the help of brands that are looking to make a direct impact on women’s journey to healing. We are so thankful we have been able to work with some amazing partners like Dashing Dilva, Milk Makeup, Vital Proteins, and more.

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

A go to interview question is how would you uplift a family member or friend who’s having a tough day? Our audience consists of women who are fighting for their lives. We need people on our team that are genuine, compassionate, caring, and those who want to be part of a person’s journey to healing.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

In the beginning of COVID, we were hesitant on shipping beauty boxes due to the vulnerable population we service so we halted shipping for a few months until we could ensure safe deliveries to our customer base.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

We hope to continue expanding our reach and delivering more and more beauty boxes to women battling cancer. We are also working on building out our community by offering a place where women can connect, share their stories and inspire each other.

One of our main goals is to continue activating some amazing partnerships with go-to beauty, health and wellness brands that women in general love. People often forget that just because you are fighting cancer doesn’t mean you don’t want to look good, or work out, or meditate. We want women who receive our boxes to feel amazing and pampered, and that means we want to partner with the go-to, must-have brands they’ll be excited to see when they unbox.

Our reach is limited only by the generosity of the brands that we work with, and we know they see the value in what we do so we look forward to that growth.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

Being flexible is key. 2020 taught me how to adjust, pivot and find comfort in uncomfortable situations.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

I wish I knew that it was OK to be afraid to start my own nonprofit organization. I held back for so long because I let fear get in the way of that. It’s definitely scary to start something of your own, but you’ll never know what could happen unless you try — just do it!

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

Meditation has been a huge part of my routine. One of my favorite apps I could not live without is the Calm app. I listen to it every morning before I start my day. Meditation helps me get in the right mindset and stay focused. It’s become part of our everyday lives to grab our phone immediately when we wake up and start scrolling through social media. Instead, take those few minutes to be with yourself and meditate. I highly recommend everyone try it!

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

Absolutely! Having a healthy work/life balance is essential — it helps to reduce stress, and helps prevent burnout. In order to be your best, you need to feel your best!

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I am always quoting song lyrics. I quote 5-10 song lyrics in conversations with my friends and family on a daily basis. I find that music is so therapeutic and I love using phrases in songs to communicate how I’m feeling.

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

1.) Meditate. I love taking a few minutes out of my day to just be still, since my days are usually very busy.

2.) Hydrate. Staying hydrated is key to help improve brain function. If you’re dehydrated, you can feel tired and unmotivated, causing a lack of productivity at work. Drink that water!

3.) Express Gratitude. Like most people, there are certain parts of my job that I love more than others. Instead of constantly putting off the tasks I don’t love, I’ve decided to shift my mindset by expressing gratitude for the opportunities that come my way. It helps to stay motivated and on track.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

It means being unapologetically a hustler. When you have a vision and you need to bring it to life, you will let nothing get in your way of achieving your dreams!

Share it!

Posted in
Tags

Leave a Comment





How to achieve a life of financial freedom with Alisha Pennington of ATvantage Athletic Training

Describe your business in a few words? Empowering, Dynamic, and Comprehensive. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I have been a business owner in a very niche industry (athletic training) for almost 10 years, so I have experienced the freedom and flexibility that comes with being a business owner. My…

How Jenny Strebe used positive affirmations and crystal healing to create her modern haircare brand AIIR Professional

Describe AIIR Professional in a few words? A modern haircare brand that is focused on well being through positive affirmations & crystal healing. What made you take the leap to start your own business? As I was driving every aspect of my stylist business and social media facets, the peace and relief I found in…

How FLyQuest CEO Tricia Sugita is using the esport platform to affect real change and make people happy

Describe your business in a few words? FlyQuest is an esports organization competing in the franchised League of Legends League Championship Series (LCS). What made you take the leap to help transform FlyQuest into the organization it is today? One of my primary goals throughout my career in esports has been to create a community…

Lauren Montgomery, founder of Monty’s, on making simplicity the new sophistication through her line of plant-based dairy products

Describe your business in a few words? Monty’s makes clean and craveable plant-Based essentials like cream cheese and butter that nourish your mind & body. With simplicity and nutrition at the core of the brand, Monty’s selection of cream cheeses and butter are made from real-food ingredients and crafted using time-honored techniques like fermentation. What…

How Maradith Frenkel turned bamboo into pajamas for the whole family with Little Sleepies

Describe Little Sleepies in a few words? We make buttery soft bamboo sleepwear that your whole family will love. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I saw a white space in the market after I had my son. I absolutely could not find a sleeper that checked all of the…

Erin Coles couldn’t find exactly what she was looking for in a band for her wedding so she launched her own — The Metropolitan Players

Describe your business in a few words? The Metropolitan Players is a wedding band collective based out of NYC – so we provide incredible music for weddings! What made you take the leap to start your own business? When my husband and I were planning our own wedding, we couldn’t find exactly what we were…

Azora Zoe Paknad on creating a new entry point to sustainability with Goldune

Describe Goldune in a few words? We make sustainability less beige! What made you take the leap to start your own business? I was into the sustainability world, personally and professionally, but I didn’t see myself in any of the dominant narratives I saw on Instagram or online in general. On one end of the…

Elisa Marshall on creating warm, French-inspired spaces with Maman, a collection of NYC-based cafés and venues

Describe your business in a few words? Maman is a New York City-based collection of cafés and event venues, offering family inspired recipes with French influences in a warm and welcoming home like environment  What made you take the leap to start your own business? Before I opened Maman, I had many passions and there…

Kim Hehir, co-founder of Brutus Broth, on enhancing your dog’s health through specially formulated bone broth

Describe your business in a few words? Brutus Broth is the latest innovation in pet health, made with human-grade bone broth that has been specially formulated to enhance any dog’s existing diet by adding beneficial nutrients, amino acids, and joint protecting supplements. What made you take the leap to start your own business? Sue’s dog…

How a lack of female empowerment in the real estate industry lead Marina Shiferman to create her business, The Real Estate Academy

Describe your business in a few words? I teach women how to buy and own real estate correctly so they can be the bad ass queens of their own lives. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I was a realtor for 10 years, I loved it but something was missing.…

Carla Olivia on revolutionizing the beauty bar experience with DashBar

Describe your business in a few words? DashBar is beauty made efficient! We are one stop beauty and wellness for the modern woman. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I have been an entrepreneur since I was 22 years old. I started my first business because a great opportunity was…

Christina Matteucci (a.k.a TeucciMama) on her 19-year tenure as the ultimate Number Two

Describe your business in a few words? I’m Christina Matteucci, Executive Director of David Beahm Experiences and proud “Number Two” to celebrity event designer David Beahm. I’ve produced legendary soirées all around the globe, but it’s my unique, 19-year tenure as the ultimate Number Two that qualifies me as a sought-after speaker and coach. In…

Niki Shadrow Snyder on coining the term “givefluencer” and making an impact with the Project Pop Drop foundation

Describe your business in a few words? My husband and I started the idea for the Project Pop Drop foundation on our first date. Our business sponsors a monthly drop off at a different homeless shelter each month. We spearhead these donation events with our children, and with local businesses and schools. We call this…

How Natasha Case of Coolhaus is disrupting the dessert space with cutting-edge ice cream creations

Describe Coolhaus in a few words? We are an innovative dessert company, specializing (for the time being) in ice cream/ice cream novelties. We are known for thinking outside the box, super unique partnerships, a truly cutting-edge brand identity and an inventive way of entering the marketplace with our trucks, brick and mortars, and now national…

How Jennifer Jolorte Doro used strategic partnerships to build Nouri from the ground up

Describe Nouri in a few words? Supporting people to feel their best. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I wanted something of my own. I’ve worked for many successful entrepreneurs and I knew I could do “it” my way and really enjoy it. What was your background prior to starting…