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





8 Inspiring Latinx Entreprenistas that have launched groundbreaking companies

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’ve put together a list of 8 incredible Latinx women founders that have launched groundbreaking companies. Check it out: Jessica Alba: The Honest Company Founded in 2011, The Honest Company makes sustainable, well-designed products that work – built on transparency, trust, and a deep sense of purpose. In…

Susan Sarit of Operations-Made Easy on achieving your goals by getting organized

Describe your business in a few words: I am a mom, daughter, sister, business owner, and more! I started my business for both financial freedom and to be a work-at-home mom. I created Operations-Made Easy to help diverse women with the Operations of their business. Deliberative, disciplined, and detail-oriented are just a few words we…

Lisa Nutt of Make Every Minute Count on personal and professional growth

Describe your business in a few words? The Make Every Minute Count ecosystem encourages us to go (do that thing), grow (personally and professionally) and give (through a membership based family to family giving circle). What made you take the leap to start your own business? I’m a serial entrepreneur. This is the third time…

Connection Coach Kristjana Hillberg on trusting your intuition and having an open mind

Describe your business in a few words: I’m a Connection Coach who helps women unearth their deepest desires, move from auto pilot to intentional action and prioritize their wellbeing. What was your background prior to starting your own business? I’m a multipotentialite – meaning, I have tried multiple things and tested multiple careers ranging from…

Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon: Finally Back to Delicious Meals For Everyone

Cuisine varies by culture, but no matter how societies segment and define themselves, certain foods show up in households across the globe — only differing in their forms. Some of a culture’s time-honored meals are created by its culinary icons.  Among America’s culinary icons, Martha Stewart is, without question, its most trusted. In 2014, Martha…

7 Entreprenista League Members share the biggest business challenge they overcame and what it taught them

Brand Photographer Brittney Guy-Atakpo of Brittney Jean Photography The biggest business challenge I have faced is sticking to a schedule that made me feel productive and good about my work ethic. What I have learned is that there is no right or wrong schedule or routine that produces success. I have been more grateful for…

Courtney Spritzer of WorkRobe on her “secret sauce” for a successful product launch

Describe WorkRobe in a few words? WorkRobes are designed to have you looking your best during any video meeting, so you can go from bedroom to boardroom in seconds and in comfort. My mission is to reimagine what you wear to work (from home).  Can you pinpoint the moment you knew you wanted to create…

Brand Photographer Brittney Jean Guy-Atakpo on helping women show up confidently on camera

Describe your business in a few words? I’m Brittney with Brittney Jean Photography & Company. I help women show up confidently in photos and on social media to grow their brand and business. I’m a Brand Photographer and Strategist. I have over 5 years working for Fortune 100 companies in sales and marketing and over…

Lorena Tapiero of Conscious Consulting on the power of networking

Describe your business in a few words? Conscious Consulting is a Latina-owned, bilingual marketing and public relations agency with 20 years of experience in the hospitality, sports and wellness sectors. Our thoughtful, comprehensive approach helps brands establish clear communication priorities and a long-range vision for meaningful press coverage, value-added partnerships and sustainable influencer relationships. As…

Lindsay Applebaum Stuart of Mamalux on the beginning stage of business

Describe your business in a few words? Mamalux is a first-of-its-kind leakproof sleep solution for breastfeeding moms. Our Kickstarter launches on 10/19! What was your background prior to starting your own business? I spent the first 10 years of my career as a sports journalist for the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated! So this has…

Jessica Bargenquast of Lady ChangeMakers on organic marketing strategies that work

Describe your business in a few words? Lady ChangeMakers is an exclusive e-commerce platform for women-owned businesses to gain valuable exposure and sales. Most of my life I’ve been encouraged to be seen and not heard. Growing up extremely introverted and shy I felt invisible. I wanted to create a platform so women-owned businesses could…

Jennifer Gligoric of EntrePods on the importance of mindset

Describe EntrePods in a few words? Cutting-edge entrepreneur and investor network answering the question “So Now What?” for business owners powered by fractional consultants and coaches with decades worth of experience. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I had no choice.  My mother owned a staffing company for 54 years…

Certified Financial Planner Maggie Gomez on investing and building wealth

Describe your business in a few words? An accessible place where anyone can learn to invest and build wealth, regardless of their net worth. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I realized that it was only those who were already wealthy that had access to quality financial guidance. I got…

Claire Jones of Cushy Couture on shifting paradigms in the fashion industry

Describe your business in a few words? Cushy Couture is a customer-driven clothing brand that creates high quality sweatpants in a wide range of colors and patterns that come in three different inseam lengths because we believe that you don’t have to settle for less. We create functional sweatpants that will last you for multiple…

Writer, Speaker, Podcaster, and Life Coach Chelsea Austin on taking care of yourself first

Describe your business in a few words? I advocate for others to find their own self-worth and acceptance through self-care, love, respect, and storytelling. What made you take the leap to start your own business? When I started writing my book and my blog, I don’t think I ever realized it would become a business.…