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Hometown Heroes: Johanna Peet, Founder Of Peet Rivko

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It’s always fascinating to sit down with our Hometown Heroes (i.e., local makers, artists and creatives we love) to hear their stories and get a closer look at how they work. We visited Johanna Peet, founder of Peet Rivko—a line of plant-based products specially designed for sensitive skin—at her upstate New York space and talked about everything from a surprising career change to what “clean” skin care really means.

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First things first—tell us how Peet Rivko began. What were you doing before you decided to start your own line?

I launched Peet Rivko in January 2017. It was a big career change for me. I was working at the State Department in DC. I left to go to law school and had a grand plan to become a lawyer and continue working in foreign policy. At the same time, I had this nagging voice inside me to do something creative and start my own business. I have supersensitive, reactive skin and had been making my own natural skin care products on the side for several years. I realized there was a gap in the market for natural skin care products geared toward more sensitive types—no fragrance, no harsh actives and no synthetics.

After a lot of soul searching and long talks with friends and family, I took the plunge to make the side hustle my full-time job. I partnered with an esthetician friend to develop the formulas and found a lab in California to make the products. After 18 months of research and development, we launched with three core products: cleanser, moisturizer and face oil. It’s been a wild ride ever since!

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What do you think are some common misconceptions about “clean” skin care?

That natural is always better and that all natural ingredients are equal.

Most natural skin care lines today are full of active and irritating ingredients. For example, you can’t put a citrus essential oil directly on skin—it’s harsh and has to be diluted. Just because it’s 100 percent natural and made from the leaves of a plant doesn’t mean that it’s the best thing to put on your face.

We source ingredients that are natural and organic but most importantly gentle and soothing. This means no essential oils, no acids, no floral extracts and no nut oils, which can be allergenic for a lot people.

Second, not all natural ingredients are equal. Lots of mainstream brands use highly processed and refined plant ingredients that have lost their vitamins and nutrients. Think of a can of tomatoes versus an organic tomato from the farmers market. There’s a big difference in the quality and nutritional value. The same is true with plant ingredients in skin care. Often plant oils are deodorized and heavily refined with toxic solvents. Look for products with unrefined, organic and cold-pressed ingredients; these will provide the most benefits to the skin.

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What keeps you motivated when you’re feeling tapped out?

Great question. I think it’s really easy to feel lonely or drained as a solo business owner. For me, it’s important to spend time with friends and other entrepreneurs in a similar situation. I’m really fortunate that I have a community of talented female founders that I can go to for advice on how to navigate the highs and lows. On a more personal level, spending time in nature is really essential for me to stay grounded and motivated. That’s part of the reason we made the move upstate. Walks, hikes or even just sitting out in our garden helps clear my head when I’m feeling stuck in my own thoughts.

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Any advice for others looking to start a business they’re passionate about?

Talk to as many people as you can before starting your business. Don’t be afraid to share your concept and ask everyone if they know someone you can go to for support. At the same time, don’t be afraid to ignore what other people tell you. Trust your own judgment. And most of all, make sure you start the business for the right reasons. It’s got to be something you love and are willing to live and breathe—at least for the next few years!

Thanks for the chat, Johanna. Meet more of our Hometown Heroes right here.