Seven years ago, Valerie Gundary learned she had breast cancer, so she changed her lifestyle, changed her life and created a nontoxic skin care product line and the Detox Market.
Most of us never think twice about what we put on our skin. Chemicals added to almost all skin care products, no matter how glamorous or prestigious the brand name, contain preservatives that guarantee shelf life of up to four years and many are known carcinogens. Parabens and phenalthalates have been banned in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere because they've been linked to among other things, breast cancer.
"Six years ago, I felt like my life was over and I was really down, says Odacité president and CEO, Valerie Gundary. "But it was the event I needed to come to what I really liked to do."
Her fight against the disease led to a mastectomy and chemotherapy. It was a no-nonsense wake-up call. "While I was in the hospital, a voice in my head told me, ‘You have to change everything.'"
And she did. "I used to be a film producer, a stressful job, so I sold my company, my house in the Hollywood Hills, moved to Topanga and decided to detoxify my life."
The Healing Journey
The first thing Gundary did to heal was go to the Optimum Health Institute (OHI) in San Diego where she detoxed on raw foods. "I also detoxed from past traumas that are just as toxic and reconnected with my spirituality. OHI has a testimonial session every Friday where people tell their stories that are always about changing their lifestyle; miraculous stories are always about changing something that is making you sick in life. "
Gundary revisited everything about her life, followed a vegan diet, added meditation and yoga, studied the "Power of Plants" and everything healthy. "It made a huge difference," she says. "I detoxed for six months and mixed it with conventional therapies of a mastectomy and chemo. I didn't want to do radiation or drug therapy and then went on this diet. I go back to OHI every year and it's the best holiday ever. I'm away from everything for a week and it allows me to be myself with no external stimulation.
The Birth of Odacité
During her healing process, people started asking her for advice about alternative routes for health. She started counseling and coaching people, then went back to school. Still, she felt she had something more to do and wanted to share what she had learned.
"I'm in my fifties and everything I'm good at is chrystallized in making Odacité and helping women prevent things that I didn't prevent for myself."
She had started making her own skin care products because none of the organics had a manufacturer's date on it. "If you want a nutritional value in a product, it has to be fresh," she admonishes. "I didn't have the energy to start another company, but it's interesting how the universe comes to you."
Out of the blue, a friend and financial guru in Silicon Valley, Romain Gaillard, called her for coaching. She invited him to spend the weekend in Topanga and she would trade her coaching for a business plan. "He watched me make my products and thought it was amazing. I asked him if he thought I could turn it into a company. He replied it would be hard for him to do a business plan because there was no business model for what I was doing."
"You just need the audacity to do it," he told her and that's where the name originated.
"We used the ‘O' because it was organic, ‘O' for the planet and ‘O' for the female symbol," Gundary recalls. "Then, being French, I wanted it to sound French and changed the spelling from the French word, ‘audacité,' to ‘Odacité.'" Gaillard partnered with her and they created it.
The next step was finding a lab to make it and they spent a year scouting for labs and refining the product.
"The process of finding a lab was conducting a series of interviews with labs that specialize in formulating organic products," she says. "The hard part was to convince them to follow us on the concept of freshly made. It took us six months to find the right one that was animated with a passion for organically pure products."
She chose ingredients for their track record of high antioxidant activity. "We tried to design a very potent line that would deliver anti-aging benefits, difficult to do in the organic world, because when products are manufactured to have a two- to three-year shelf life, they lose their antioxidant activity. Worse, oils can become rancid and filled with free radicals," Gundary says. "The Federal Drug Adminstration (FDA) does not rule on skin care. There actually is very little regulation in skin care and this is how we end up with so many toxic ingredients in personal care products."
Gundary launched the business in June 2009 – right in the middle of the recession. But people were looking for something organic, freshly made and good for you. "You can research every ingredient in my products and know why it's there," says Gundary. "We have a lot of pregnant women using our products."
She began marketing Odacité with an interview in France and the American press soon followed suit.
"There's a great thing about selling on the Internet. We ship carbon free from the Topanga post office to 22 countries. The U.S. is the biggest market and it's mostly word of mouth. That's the most important thing: when somebody tries it and tells their friends.
"My skin coaching is mostly for people with sensitive or mature skin. You don't have to compromise beautiful health. You can find something that works that is non-toxic."
When someone calls, she consults with the customer to create a routine and sends them samples to see if it works. "Our website goes beyond skin care with the message that it's just as important to put something healthy on your skin as it is to eat right." Gundary also has an Odacité Facebook page with healthy tips and recipes.
The Next Obvious Step: The Detox Market
Grandury and Gaillard have created the Detox Market at 1524 Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, a collaborative pop-up store of hard-to-find, best-in-breed, eco-friendly brands that you can visit throughout the holiday season until December 31.
Traveling from city to city, the Detox Market introduces carefully screened green brands in beauty, fashion and food to the consumer who wants to detoxify their body and living environment.
Follow the event schedule at thedetoxmarket.com for complimentary demos, tastings, facials, hair styling, manicures and parties. Warm and knowledgeable staff will share vital information on how small changes can make a big difference in your overall well‐being.
"Of course, a person's attitude is also important," she says. "Every morning I wake up in Topanga, walk my dog and walk in nature and I'm always in happy mode. Four years ago, I would never have said that I'd be in Topanga in a business that does healthy skin care. I went from being a film producer in a crazy world to this. I have a lot to be grateful for."
© 2010 Phoenix Rising Inc., www.TopangaMessenger.com