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Madeline Alcott is the founder of Petit Vour, a luxury vegan beauty box subscription and boutique. Former nomadic teacher, Madeline’s business came to life after many years of green beauty enthusiasm and a dream of creating the ultimate ethical beauty destination.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, everybody. I’m Caryn Hartglass, and it’s time for It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me today.
Ho! Thanksgiving’s rolling right in and it’s a favorite time for me –I don’t know about anybody else. I think for a lot of vegans, it’s a very important holiday. And I want to say that we own it or we’re starting to take it over. It’s an interesting time where, for most people in the United States, this is a time to display the flesh right in front of everyone on the table. Which is why it’s such an important holiday for vegans. Many people have their own Thanksgiving events or go to others. Or they make their own dinners. It’s also a time that really highlights the dynamics with family members. So I’m wishing you very well, a very happy holiday. Maybe later on in the program we’ll talk a little bit more about Thanksgiving.
I want to bring on my very first guest. It’s somebody that I met not too long ago at the VegNews Comfort Shindig, celebrating VegNews relaunching. We’re really excited about VegNews and everything that they’re doing, and I met a lot of fabulous people there.
And I met Madeline Alcott. She is the founder of a company called Petit Vour, a luxury vegan beauty box subscription and boutique. She’s a former nomadic teacher, and her business came to life after years of green beauty enthusiasm and a dream of creating the ultimate ethical beauty destination. Hi, Madeline, and welcome to It’s All About Food.
Madeline Alcott: Hi. Thank you for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it’s nice to connect with you again.
Madeline Alcott: I remember meeting you at that VegNews party, and you’re making me hungry just thinking back to it. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: [chuckles] Yeah. There were a lot of great things. I spoke to Jay Astafa last week on this program actually. He was the chef who created all of those great little bites, the little burgers, and the little grilled cheese and tomato soup. Really fun things.
Madeline Alcott: So good. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Now we’re not really going to be talking specifically about food. Maybe there’s some candies –we’ll find out– related to your beauty box. I’m not really sure. But something I like to tell all of my listeners, especially when it comes to personal health care products, I prefer to use products on my body that I would eat. [chuckles]
Madeline Alcott: I agree.
Caryn Hartglass: Because there are so many synthetic materials in personal care products today. Our skin is our largest organ; it takes everything in.
Madeline Alcott: Absolutely. Yeah. It is very important to sift through all the ingredients. There are many benefits to shopping vegan and non-toxic. It’s not only better for the animals and the environment, but also for our health.
Caryn Hartglass: Now let’s talk about the name of your company. How do you pronounce it?
Madeline Alcott: We say “Petty Vore”.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. An American version. And it just sounds like Petit Four.
Madeline Alcott: Very American version. [chuckles] Yeah. Most of our subscribers are American so, you know. I came up with the name… really, it all happened within a twenty-four hour span where we came up with this idea for the business. The name, the logo, everything just sort of fell into place. At the time, I was working at this adorable little children’s toyshop in Baltimore. I was always fiddling around with this Petit Vour toy.
Caryn Hartglass: Hmm.
Madeline Alcott: So as I’m working at this shop, my mind is elsewhere. Dreaming about having my own vegan business. The idea just popped into my head because it made a lot of sense to me. I wanted to have this little box of treats. Our treats are not really edible; they’re beauty products. But I thought Petit Vour really described the pretty box of samples that would offer just a taste. The crème de la cruelty-free. So we threw in a v for vegan as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Crème de la cruelty-free. That’s sweet. [chuckles]
Madeline Alcott: [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Well, what is exciting about this is that you couldn’t have launched a business like this certainly not twenty years ago, ten years ago, maybe not even five years ago. And this just shows all of the new vegan businesses that are popping up to fill all of our desires, all of our needs.
Madeline Alcott: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. You can start your own business nowadays. We have all the tools online, and all you need is an idea. Something unique that really fills a need in the market. And preferably a really wonderful team as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, but there weren’t many vegan products available until very, very recently. I used to run a major vegan festival in Manhattan.
Madeline Alcott: Oh wow.
Caryn Hartglass: From 2002 to 2006. I did one a year and we had five to ten thousand attendees. It’s a great event. But it was really a struggle to get exhibitors because there just weren’t that many.
Madeline Alcott: No.
Caryn Hartglass: And now there are so many.
Madeline Alcott: Oh yeah. There’s a new standard nowadays. Back when I was in college, we had very few options if you wanted green beauty. And now you can actually have makeup that’s good for you, and it’s beautiful and luxurious, and it performs just as well or better than its conventional competitors. So I’ve been so impressed with the discoveries that we’ve made.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. So tell me about this little box and how do you decide what goes in it?
Madeline Alcott: So each month we have a box that features new brands, new products. Every subscriber will fill out a beauty profile when they sign up, so their boxes are curated to meet their needs and preferences. But every single subscriber receives about the same mix. So you could expect one skin care item, one hair care, one makeup item, one perfume or body care item. Always just a nice, well-balanced mix that has about $35-$40 total value. Typically that’s four products ranging from sample to full size. It’s nifty and fun to dive in.
Once you really get a good feel for the products, you can go onto our site, review them, shop with Petit Vour and you’ll always get 20% back in store credit. It’s a really affordable way to explore luxury vegan beauty.
Caryn Hartglass: Hmm. And in addition to the subscription, do you sell some of these products?
Madeline Alcott: Yes, we sell all of them. So you can hop onto our site. We have every single product we feature plus more. Like this month in our November box, we’re featuring a product by One Love Organics. But if you go onto our site we have all of the vegan products by One Love Organics. So you can buy the full size of the product you tried in your box. You can explore more as well.
Caryn Hartglass: So do you have any idea how many vegan makeup companies there are right now?
Madeline Alcott: Oh, total? [chuckles] It’s a lot more than you would think. A lot of them are under the radar, for sure. I actually had this grand list of cruelty-free brands, and it was creeping up past a thousand.
Caryn Hartglass: Whoa!
Madeline Alcott: Yeah, there are tons. And then I would have a new list of those brands, which are vegan friendly, and I would sort of shrink it down a little more. And then of those brands which are non-toxic; shrink it down a little more. Now, we’re able to be very picky and really look at performance as well as product aesthetics.
Though there are tons available, we’ve try to sift through all the clutter and make it really effortless for anyone to explore vegan, non-toxic beauty. We really wanted to cater to a broader audience than just the vegan community. In order to do that, we knew that aesthetics and performance had to have a pretty significant role.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. So people can just come to your site and say, “Oh, I want one of these little boxes”, and they may not even know or care that it’s all made from plants.
Madeline Alcott: Right. Absolutely. Yeah, and we’re fine with that. It’s actually really exciting. People will email and they will be like, “I’m not vegan, but I saw your pink box and I was really curious. So I subscribed. And now I’m just totally hooked on your vegan mascara.” And we’re like, “Great.”
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm…
Madeline Alcott: That’s amazing! It’s wonderful to hear that people are switching from Dior to Lilly Lolo.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Is that the brand of the mascara?
Madeline Alcott: Yes. The Lilly Lolo vegan mascara. It is absolutely one of our top sellers.
Caryn Hartglass: And what’s wonderful about it? I’ve never tried it, and I just may have to pick that up right after this program. [laughs]
Madeline Alcott: Oh gosh, it’s awesome. It’s made with clean ingredients of course, and it doesn’t flake. It stays put. I use it pretty much every day, and it volumizes and lengthens the lashes. Not in a pho lash sort of way but just the perfect amount of drama for every day. So I really love it, and my eyes are very finicky because I have contacts. And that mascara is wonderful for me. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, that’s good to know because I wear contacts too. I wear the gas permeable kind and they’re really sensitive to stuff. I get the “contact attack” from time to time.
Madeline Alcott: Oh yeah. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Well, I just learned something. I learned where I’m getting my next mascara. That’s right. Now, does this focus mostly on women? Are there men’s care products too?
Madeline Alcott: Well, a lot of our skin care and body care can be used by men and women. It’s more of an aesthetic preference. So I think a lot of our skin and body care can go both ways easily. Like my boyfriend uses all of the products and he loves them. And I love getting his perspective as well. Really, I think most things in the shop can be for anyone. It’s just a matter of personal preference. We haven’t specifically made a men’s box, but it’s certainly something we’d like to do in the future.
Caryn Hartglass: Great, okay. Do you have something special for the holidays?
Madeline Alcott: Yes, we do. We have a luxury edition holiday box coming out very, very soon. We’re planning to launch sometime in the first week of December, maybe around the 7th or 8th. But it is extraordinary. We’ll be featuring just top-notch brands. I guess I could give you a little hint and say one of those brands will be Josh Rosebrook. And we are really thrilled to bring his line into the shop.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, and what does Josh Rosebrook make?
Madeline Alcott: Josh Rosebrook is based out of Palm Springs, and I actually had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times. He makes hair care and skin care. A very, very pure product that just smells wonderful. I feel like they’re almost like therapeutic. They smell so good and earthy. They smell earthy but not in a crunchy way. I think a lot of folks will be excited to discover this line and find out that they’re totally green. And that they use responsibly sourced ingredients.
The hair care especially is wonderful because it can be tricky convincing shoppers to go from their drugstore go-to brand to a non-toxic hair care brand. Because hair is such a big deal to everyone. But Josh Rosebrook does have some really wonderful hair care that smells good and will make straw feel like silk. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: [chuckles] Okay. I’m looking at your website right now, and you really have a lot of different brands here. Now are all the brands vegan brands? Or some of them have vegan products but other products are, well…
Madeline Alcott: Actually, a number of brands are cruelty-free and vegan friendly. Like for instance Lilly Lolo is one of our favorite brands and 100% pure. They are certainly mostly vegan, but they still have a couple non-vegan products we don’t feature. But they’re so vegan friendly, and it’s really awesome to feature their vegan products because it can make shopping vegan really effortless as opposed to going to each individual site and figuring out which ones are vegan and which ones aren’t. So we do enjoy our vegan friendly partnership a lot.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. I just discovered the 100% pure lipstick, which they don’t call lipstick because it’s more like a glossy thing. But I was very happy when I discovered them and they’re really great. As the weather gets colder, the lips get chapped and this is the kind of lipstick that I like to have to give me a little color and keep me from getting chapped.
Madeline Alcott: It’s an essential.
Caryn Hartglass: And lipstick especially. You’re eating it! [chuckle] You don’t even realize it. But you put it on your lips, you’re eating it.
Madeline Alcott: Oh yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it’s important that it’s clean. I’ve heard of some disastrous ingredients in lipstick.
Madeline Alcott: Yeah, I think I was reading the book No More Dirty Looks and they had a really good tip that I kept in the back of my head. Whenever somebody is trying to switch to green beauty, it might feel really overwhelming.
So a good idea is to just start with the products that you use all the time. For a lot of us, that’s chapstick and deodorant and body soap. Just start with the basics that you put all over your body that really get into your skin –especially lip products because you eat them. Start with those and try to swap them out early and then products that you might use on rare occasions. You don’t necessarily need to throw them out. Just when you need to replace, go for the green upgrade.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Well, this is great because I’ve been vegan since 1988. It’s been a long time.
Madeline Alcott: Wow.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Believe me, makeup was one of the hardest things. I never had a hard time eating because there are fruits and vegetables. That’s the easy part for me. But when it came to makeup –and I’m a performer and I needed to have different kinds of makeup– it was a big challenge for a long time. And I’m still kind of confused because I never really found a mascara that I really, really liked. So I’m sincere when I say next mascara I’m going to check out Lilly Lolo. [chuckles]
Madeline Alcott: Yeah. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, are there more things… I see handbags on your site.
Madeline Alcott: Yeah. We just actually launched our lifestyle section and right now we have a very small selection of Matt & Nat vegan handbags. But come spring that section will grow significantly. And we’ll be bringing in more products by Matt & Nat as well as their new –I don’t know if they’ve announced it on their social media, but they’re going to be launching a shoe line and we’ll be bringing in their shoes as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Great. I’m also looking… you have candles.
Madeline Alcott: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: And I don’t know if everyone knows this, but not all wax is plant-based.
Madeline Alcott: No, and a lot of it is petroleum based plastic when you light it. These are not just vegan: they burn clean. And that was really important to me because I love lighting candles, and it can be hard trying to find brands that are transparent enough for my liking. We just added Woodlot and LITE+CYCLE; a little while back we added By Rosie Jane. All of these candles I have made sure are very, very clean. There are no synthetics in these candles. No synthetic fragrance. So no headache.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. It’s hard. Like I just said, the lipstick some of us may use, we eat it. And the candles that we burn we breathe. It’s just some basic stuff that we take for granted and never even consider. And these are some simple things; especially for people that have health issues and can’t pinpoint what it is that’s causing inflammation and aggravation. You really have to get down to basics. What am I putting in my body? What am I putting on my body? What am I breathing in?
Madeline Alcott: Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: It could be a candle. Okay, the thing that I have been frequently challenged with is fragrances and perfumes. Do you have some of those on your site?
Madeline Alcott: Oh yeah, we do. I just hopped on my site too. [chuckles] Yes, we do, and we’ll soon be adding another line called Strange Invisible, which makes luxury non-toxic perfumes. But right now we carry My Daughter Fragrances and Vert Mont Perfumery. And a couple of our lines just launched new perfumes like Kahina Giving Beauty and Lina Hanson. So our perfume line is small but wonderful ’cause it’s growing.
Right now our top-selling non-toxic perfume is Joyful by My Daughter Fragrances. And a lot of people are just blown away that it’s made by safe ingredients because it smells as yummy as something you’d find at Sephora but it’s not. [chuckles] It’s made in Canada and by a really wonderful company that we trust. It smells delightful.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, it has sandalwood in it. Anything that has sandalwood I love.
Madeline Alcott: Mm.
Caryn Hartglass: Do you have samples of fragrances like this?
Madeline Alcott: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Because it’s expensive. $85 I’m looking at here on the site, and it would be good to get a sniff of it before I went for the bottle.
Madeline Alcott: Oh yeah, absolutely. We have samples of all of the perfumes and pretty soon we’ll also have samples of all of our luxury skin care as well. It’s definitely something that I want to have readily available for anyone that might be curious to try one of our products. Because it is quite an investment. You don’t really want to spend $85 and then feel kind of iffy about it.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Madeline Alcott: You want to feel confident with your purchase so…
Caryn Hartglass: Now what’s in conventional perfumes that we should be concerned about?
Madeline Alcott: The scary thing is with perfumes they don’t have to tell us what is in their perfume. They can just say “fragrance” or “perfume”, and that can stand for a hundred toxic ingredients. That’s what makes it so unsettling. We just don’t know, and they don’t have to tell us anything. Phthalates are very common in conventional perfumes. I think they’re just a number of the dirty dozen ingredients that you can find in perfumes. A lot of folks are very sensitive to synthetic fragrance. It’s something we try to avoid.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m just blown away that they don’t have to label some things. Are some of these cancer causing or they’re suspicious as? ‘Cause they couldn’t use them if they’ve known…
Madeline Alcott: We usually use the Environmental Working Group as our guide. So whatever ingredients are visible to us, we search every single ingredient on EWG to make sure it’s non-toxic. A lot of ingredients in conventional perfumes are cancer causing.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, crazy.
Madeline Alcott: So it would have a 9 or an 8 or a 10 on EWG which is very bad. The red zone. We always try to play it safe. Synthetic fragrance is always something that we’re super wary of.
Caryn Hartglass: I wonder how they find out what’s in these things. Other than testing to see what’s in them.
Madeline Alcott: Oh, EWG?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Madeline Alcott: I believe that it’s up to the company to submit the information. Like skin care ingredients will be visible and the EWG has access. But I don’t believe perfumes are on the EWG unless they happen to have the ingredients listed.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, you’re going to need to- I was going to say we need some sort of petition or campaign to get fragrance people to divulge their ingredients, but the easiest thing to do at this point is to support the green vegan varieties that are upfront about what’s going on.
Madeline Alcott: Exactly. For any brand that might sort have be on the sense of being green or not really green enough– one thing that excites me and hopefully we can do more of in the future is work with those brands to have cleaner products. And really like as an incentive, we would feature them to our audience and sell them in our shop. But we want to have standards and we want to stick to them. But it would be great to be able to work with brands to really clean up their products.
Caryn Hartglass: Mm. Other than being green, do you know what some of the ingredients that are animal sourced are that we might find in fragrances?
Madeline Alcott: Muck, animal muck. Sometimes leather is used in perfumes.
Caryn Hartglass: Leather!?
Madeline Alcott: Yeah. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. [chuckles]
Madeline Alcott: Distilled leather. Aside from muck, I’m not really sure. I usually go for the perfume oils that use plant extracts and floral essences. I look for ingredients that I recognize and can find in nature that are good signs. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well, this has been fascinating for me. I know holidays come along. It’s very tempting when we’re in stores, there are all these promotional gifts and special items and perfumes; and personal care products are very popular gift items. But I recommend thinking twice about grabbing any of those for yourself or as for gift items.
Madeline Alcott: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: If you really care for the people that you’re giving them to.
Madeline Alcott: Yeah. And now there are many more lovely options that you can feel good about.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. So what are you doing for Thanksgiving?
Madeline Alcott: My partner and I are going to be driving to Arkansas tomorrow. We’ll be out a little outside of Little Rock, but that’s where I have some relatives with this country house. And we try to all connect there every Thanksgiving. Like all my cousins, aunts and uncles. It’ll be a really big gathering. We’ll be playing outside a whole lot, hiking, and I’ll be bringing my vegan dishes.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. So it’ll be a mixed meal for herbivores and omnivores.
Madeline Alcott: Yes, and we the vegans always bring tons of food to share because the vegan curious will want a couple bite for sure.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely, and that’s the best way to win people over: with delicious, beautiful food.
Madeline Alcott: Oh, absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Man, it was a pleasure talking to you. I’m definitely going to spend more time on your site. I hope you have a fabulous Thanksgiving-
Madeline Alcott: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: -and maybe I will see you at the next Comfort Food Shindig somewhere. [chuckles]
Madeline Alcott: Oh, definitely. Count me in. [chuckles]
Caryn Hartglass: [chuckles] Okay, take care. Thanks for joining me. Bye-bye.
Madeline Alcott: You too. Bye. Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re welcome. That was Madeline Alcott with Petit Vour, and you can find more about Petit Vour at petitvour.com. That’s p like Peter, e, t like Tom, i, t like Tom, v like Victor, o-u-r dot com. Lots of fun, great gift ideas there. All right, let’s take a very quick break and then we’re going to get back and talk about some very important issues. Stay with us.
Transcribed by HT, 5/26/2016