July 30 was World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. As part of our Client Spotlight series, we are delighted to feature a client that has made it her life’s work to provide women with clean, high-quality, and effective skincare products that also economically empower marginalized women and communities as a strategy to address human trafficking.
Deborah Agustoni grew up in Switzerland and from a young age, she has been traveling the world extensively.
In 2007, she took a life-changing trip to Cambodia where she encountered trafficking survivors and women at risk. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Deborah had been studying and working on counter-trafficking measures for over 10 years at places like the United Nations International Organization for Migration. During this time, she saw a lack of long-term solutions to economically empower women who are vulnerable to human trafficking. This motivated her to learn more about how to support these women long-term.
In 2016, while earning her master’s degree in Social Enterprise, she returned to Cambodia to conduct an economic needs assessment through in-person interviews with trafficking survivors and women at risk to understand their needs and how to better support them. By a stroke of serendipity, she came across an incredible super-antioxidant botanical that she couldn’t ignore. The more Deborah researched this botanical, the more astounded she was by its transformative properties: “It became clear to me that I had to share this super antioxidant with other women and offer them all its amazing benefits formulated in high-quality skincare products. Furthermore, I saw how this ingredient could help marginalized Cambodian women find dignified work and break the cycle of poverty that fuels human trafficking through economic empowerment."
In the summer of 2017, she founded Aurore, whose mission seeks to “help women avoid harmful ingredients in their skincare routine by offering clean and effective skincare products that, in turn, empower women who are vulnerable to human trafficking with economic empowerment.”
1. What is your relationship with Good Counsel?
Deborah met Elizabeth at the 2016 Harvard Social Enterprise Conference. In 2017, Deborah was selected to be a part of Good Counsel’s Cohort Program, shortly after establishing Aurore. Good Counsel provided Aurore with legal advice around the company legal structure and internship agreements.
2. What were some of the greatest challenges you faced when you first established Aurore?
Lack of knowledge/awareness of social enterprise – Initially, investors and other stakeholders struggled to understand the idea of social enterprise — that is, how a business could deliver both high-end products and tackle human rights issues. However, over the past few years, Deborah says that there has been a stronger shift in mindset in the beauty sector with regard to sustainability, especially ethical sourcing, which has thus given greater visibility to the importance of sustainable businesses like Aurore and their impact products.
Being a first time entrepreneur – There is a lot of learning and growing that comes with that: “When you become an entrepreneur, you quickly need to learn many skills that you didn’t have before and you sort of learn as you go.”
Being a woman entrepreneur – Women entrepreneurs have less access to capital than men and are often not considered for top positions despite the same qualifications. Deborah wrote an article on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s blog, which outlines the challenges women entrepreneurs face along with solutions to the problem.
3. What are your goals/what do you envision for Aurore?
Deborah’s vision is to grow Aurore from a skincare to a wellness brand that offers a variety of clean, effective, and sustainable products using their star ingredient to ensure that as many women as possible can reap the benefits of their super-antioxidant ingredient. This strategy will also allow Aurore to scale. “The more products we sell, the more we can help and scale our social impact,” Deborah says.
4. Any advice for those want to be a social entrepreneur?
“From the beginning, try to go deep rather than wide and stay as focused as possible. You can’t do everything without a team or funding, and you shouldn’t try. It will only consume you and your limited resources,” she says. Her advice is to: “Be very deliberate in what you focus your energy on. Decide what metrics are important and will give the highest returns to your brand. Then, relentlessly focus and work on those.”
“Keep those who want to see and buy into your success close…Do not chase too long after those who do not open doors for you. Those are the wrong people you’re talking to; instead, knock on different doors.”
“As an entrepreneur you will face many rejections, but these rejections will help you grow for the better and shape you into the entrepreneur you are meant to become. Never stop asking for what you want and don’t take rejections personally. When you get a rejection, try to understand the why behind it, learn from it, and stand back up."
"Rejections are going to make you grow more than any yes will ever do. If you get into that growth mindset and understanding, and are able to jump over them quickly, that’s going to eventually take you to the BIG YES.”
Aurore Skincare plans to launch their first Skincare for Humanity product line in 2021.
For further information on their products, launch and greater news and updates, please subscribe to the Aurore newsletter on their website.