Not many people think reconnecting with their heritage means changing their skin care products, but Terry, the founder to the Greek-inspired beauty skin care line, YASOU, did just that. Her organic skincare ingredients are sourced within the United States, but mimic the remedies her grandmother used to make when she lived in Greece as a child while using the highest quality of extra virgin olive oil as the main ingredient.
Radiant Roots spoke with Terry about the struggles of finding organic luxury skincare products with a smooth application, the process of finding a company to help her create the products and the benefits she’s seen when people use her organic skincare. To listen to the full podcast, view the link below.
Why did you start YASOU and what inspired you to create the skincare line?
I’ve been interested in natural, organic wellness living since my 20’s which was a while ago. But when I think about it, I’ve probably have just grown up that way through my family and through my heritage. I reached a certain place in my career and I wasn’t really very happy and I had distanced myself from my heritage and I realized that I wanted to reconnect with my heritage. I realized about six years ago there weren’t very many high-end luxury wellness lines. Today there are tonnes of them but back then when you would walk through department stores there were very few organic lines. People would love the high-end products at the department store because of how smooth and easy they would go on but sometimes those ingredients aren’t the best. In my day, or even seven years ago, a lot of the organic products had a lot of great ingredients but the application experience was somewhat gritty. I was thinking why not have a product that’s filled with really good ingredients but feels like the high-end line when you apply it? I wanted to reconnect with my Greek heritage so thought it has to be Greek inspired.
I started thinking about how I got to experience the Greek culture in my youth when I lived in the mountains with my grandparents and my grandma made all her own health and beauty remedies herself. I have a natural nac for loving those medicinal kind of ingredients anyway because I was just exposed to them and kind of thought everyone knew these types of ingredients or this natural way of living. I realized that that’s not the case. I realize we’re becoming more educated in the movement but back when I started YASOU it wasn’t.
While I had visited Greece to see where my grandparents were buried, I wanted to go to this little village where I lived as a child and I came across a product. It was during the time where Greece was going through some economic problems and I thought I could import the product, repackage and rebrand it. It was made by someone local and had about 10 different essential oils from the local area. But the product was so inconsistent and I kept thinking that if something happened legally, I wouldn’t have anything to stand on. I got really sad but my husband offered the idea of creating my own line. So that’s when I decided to do it. I lived in New York at the time and my husband told me he was going to be my first investor. Then I spoke to friends and they said they thought it was a great idea and offered to be my second investors and that’s how it all came together for me.
How did you go from the idea to finding ingredients to create the skin care products?
I was really blessed because I got two investors right off the bat from the concept level but they were my husband and good friends of mine. Within your family and friends is a great place to start.
I first thought of the name. It came to me right away which is really funny because I have a really good girlfriend who is also Greek and when I told her she said that Yasou is great because in Greece it’s such a common greeting like hello or goodbye but it always stands as a toast to your health. People from Greece take this little word for granted. You’re saying this word all the time and you’re wishing good health whenever you see someone out in the universe but I wanted to take it to the other side of the globe.
I knew I wanted YASOU to be a luxury wellness line. DIY products are lovely but I wanted to put YASOU together with ingredients that would be a little more costly for me to sit down and try to do them by myself in a kitchen without having a background that some people are blessed to have. I knew I had to hire a formulator to work with me. So what I did was I wrote down my idea on what type of ingredients I wanted to use and after some research I went to a free service for entrepreneurs where high-end retired business executives who used to work with entrepreneurs volunteer their time to speak with people who want to start their own business. I met with them and spoke about my idea and they’d be bluntly honest with you if they think it’s a go or not a go.
I sought out all the services that were available to me and to confirm that this is a pretty good idea. I sat down and found a beauty association since I didn’t know how to look for a formulator as they don’t advertise. They’re an interesting group of people but I found a beauty association that was doing a trade show. I am usually familiar with trade shows and they usually post a map of all the booths and they’ll list a company that will be showcasing a trade show and wrote every company that was located in Chicago or in the chicagoland area. I started calling each one and the more phone calls I’d make, the more information I got and the more I educated myself. That’s how I gathered names to call formulators to set up appointments so I could see if there was a connection. During that process I spoke to a supplier who worked with essential oils who was wonderful and he told me to be careful because manufacturers could take my recipes. It was about a two-year process to put everything together. I found a good lawyer, I set up my business as an LLC and I went ahead and trademarked my name.
How did you know how to launch your product?
I was a creative director for many years so even though I am not an esthetician, I understand how to launch a product. I understand what kind of research I need to do and that’s been such an asset for me. It’s been amazing how you can start in one place in life and end up someplace else and something can come to full circle for you. If you’re thinking about a career and something you love to do and decide to change and everything comes around and you go wow, I never thought this would connect for me somehow. And I think that’s what naturally happened here for me.
Where do you source your ingredients?
I was thinking about importing ingredients from Greece but to be honest, we have a place like California who produces some of the best olive oil. It’s great to import and I’ve come across a lot of people who use those products but at the same time if you cannot get paperwork from those suppliers guaranteeing that they are organic or using certain regulations then I would be hesitant to import them. I knew I needed to work with olive oil, but not with just regular olive oil. So many product lines say they use olive oil but just like cooking, olive oil compared to extra virgin or cold pressed olive oil is a completely different because regular olive oil goes to a synthetic process. You get twice the benefits just like when you eat extra virgin olive oil. The reason you don’t see it that often is because it’s three times more expensive to use as an ingredient.
I’ve been called a purest even in the way I eat. And I feel that I like to stick to those really great ingredients and it comes out in my skin care. I have a manufacturer who goes through every single ingredient and have been Leaping Bunny certified. That gave me a whole other layer of double-checking my suppliers to make sure they’re not testing on animals and that if they say they’re organic they aren’t lying. I get paperwork from third party suppliers if need be.
How do the products benefit your customers?
What has brought me the most joy is when customers have come to me with burnt hands after being in the hospital asking for help. I’ve given them my vegan hand cream and it’s a game changer for them. I have customers who have been going to chemotherapy and studies show if people can keep their skin looking healthy they can start feeling healthier. Sometimes customers like that have difficulty tolleraterating even essential oils or an aroma and the aroma free body cream aroma has really helped them.
When you decide you want to start using natural products or organic it really is about changing your life. I tell people to get ready because it’s like going to a therapist and opening up a can of worms to make this life change. Before you know it you’re looking at your detergent and soaps. It’s not just our food, it’s our products and it can be overwhelming. Even drugstore lipsticks can have women consuming up to four pounds of led in their body. Isn’t that horrifying?! It’s a lot of work but the benefits are so much better.
Do you have any new products coming out?
I’m really excited about a new lip treatment that will hopefully be out by the holidays. I’m really excited because I want it to be something that both men and women can use. All my products are unisex except for maybe my face cream is a little more feminine. The lip treatment will have some red raspberry oil which is a natural sunscreen. The oil is amazingly hydrating and can plump up those fine lines.
Thank you, Theodora for your partnership with Radiant Roots! Make sure to check out and purchase her products here.