What is the definition of beauty? Sonya wants us to define it for ourselves.
Sonya Denton is the founder and CEO of weDstll™, a transparent and collaborative platform matching people and natural wellness brands together based on shared values and lifestyle choices. With her background as a media professional (Sonya reported and anchored with two major Canadian broadcasters over a period of 10 years), she brings her expertise in transparency and information sharing to the beauty industry - transforming the definition of beauty for the betterment of health.
In our discussion, Sonya talks about how to define our own beauty and how to discover the values in brands that are a priority to us. She is clear in her mission - we don’t live in absolutes and it's time we set our own standards in the beauty and wellness industries. Watch or read her full interview below!
Jessa Gibboney (Nollapelli): You have a deep background in journalism, and I can see why you lean toward transparency and matching people with information with weDstll™. I really want to hear your take on why specifically the beauty industry.
Sonya Denton: I think that for me, it was always about giving people the right information they need in order to make informed choices. And I think that it's so important, especially in the beauty industry, so much rides on how we feel about ourselves really. And, that plays a lot into the decisions we make. Beauty is also extremely personal to me in the journalism industry. I always felt that I had to try and fit in and worked really hard to do that. And even at the expense of paying attention to myself and what I actually needed that actually led to discovering much later that I have ADHD. And if you have ADHD, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about here. Gaps in memories, sometimes missing words and sometimes trying to pick up mid sentence and not really telling everybody that I was going through a lot of those challenges because I felt a dire need to always want to fit in, and maybe a fear that people wouldn't understand what I was going through.
It wasn't until I was doing my MBA, that I was having some of the same challenges and I got tested and found out that I have ADHD. And, it's interesting Jessa, because for me, it was such an emotional experience for me because I felt for so long, I thought there was something wrong with me, you know?
Jessa: Right. Not having it as an early diagnosis, I'm sure you might've felt robbed.
Sonya: I did. But I also realized that I had the courage to tell people what I was going through instead of trying to look outside of myself, do what everybody else is doing, how everybody else looks, how everybody else is performing. I would have talked to other people about my challenges and probably would have arrived at a much earlier diagnosis and saved myself a whole lot of pain. I believe that beauty for me is personal. It's about how you feel inside. And you can't really live the best version of who you want to be, if you're not surrounded by the people that you trust, who are going to help you get there. And that's what weDstll™ is about. And that's why I decided that for me, that is what beauty is about feeling like you can conquer the world. It's about defining who you are on your own in terms. And if the people in front of you are gonna align with who you are. That's what I'm trying to achieve with our new platform.
Jessa: Can you give us the functionality of the platform weDstll™ because it is going to be soft launching here in the new year? Explain to us a little bit about what the foundations of the platform is and what really you aim to achieve.
Sonya: Basically you go onto the platform, you create a values-based profile and that's around a shared values and lifestyle after that profile is created, then you are matched with brands and people that align with that profile. If you choose to work with those brands, then those brands become an aggregator of content services and products. We're really focused on hyper-personalization. You're streamlining the choices that you get, reducing the fatigue of having to go through so many products that you really just don't care about. You want something that's going to work, that's going to match with your lifestyle. That's going to achieve your goals.
Jessa: You're helping with the paradox of choice for sure. And when you talk about values-based profiles, kind of broaden a little bit about what you mean by values-based, because it's not just where the product is coming from.
Sonya: It's around sustainability if you're focused on sustainability, if you're focused on giving your money to brands that are owned by women, give back to the community, donate to charity women brands that want to empower consumers, things like that. When a consumer is putting their money behind a product, or if a person's putting their money behind a product that they know it's a product that they can trust because the reality is that people want brands they can trust.
Jessa: What I love about weDstll™ is that there's no right or wrong answer when it comes to what you value. It is all personal. That forays into my next question - there's this constant tension around what the definition of beauty is. We tend to talk about one thing and then brands, media, they tend to instill something else. I want to get your personal outlook on beauty definitions and how you see beauty defined.
Sonya: Beauty is defined by you. We shouldn't be allowing people to define what beauty is to us. If we do, then we get into the issues of depression. Nothing's ever good enough because we're trying to live up to a standard that does not exist. Everyone has a standard in different parts of the world, right? I think it's a recipe for disaster. So for me, it's about defining beauty on your terms, and it's not allowing anyone to define that for you and you try to wiggle yourself into the mold. That's what we're trying to do, but we really want people on this platform to define their unique sense of beauty. We will surround that person with the products and the people that aligned with that, with that definition.
Beauty is defined by you. We shouldn't be allowing people to define what beauty is to us.
Jessa: And as you said, you are soft launching in January, but people can sign up now?
Sonya: Yes. We don't want to guarantee anything. Right?
Jessa: But people can go up and go online to weDstll.com and sign up for an email. So they can be the first ones to know when you are ready to launch?
Sonya: Yes, absolutely. Yes. By then we'll be in our beta or soft beta. So the likelihood is that they will be able to gain early access.
Jessa: I want to pivot because we are a sleep company and we love sleep. We believe sleep is a part of the beauty industry, even though it's not always presented that way. How do you see sleep fitting into your platform? Sleep and beauty, what their marriage is for you?
Sonya: We know sleep is extremely important. I believe sleep is a part of wellness and that is where we will be moving into, that's the goal. So it is very much aligned. I know that for myself, if I don't get a certain number of hours of sleep per night, you can see it, you see it in my skin. I can’t think properly, I eat any and everything that you can get your hands on. To me sleep isn't a very important part of just being able to function - you look better, you feel better. You want to actually put yourself out there into the world. It's extremely important.
Jessa: Why do you think the beauty industry hasn't fully embraced sleep yet? I think sleep is becoming a little bit more on people's radar, but when we think of beauty, I don't think we necessarily think of sleep.
Sonya: We've been so fixated on the appearance, you can't see sleep. It doesn't make people money in the way that selling thousands of tubes of lipstick might. Right. Right. I think that may be one of the reasons you don’t see a shift.
Jessa: We [Nollapelli] see it, but we're also very privy to it because we're a sleep textile company. Do you see beauty starting to embrace sleep as a part of one’s beauty routine?
Sonya: Yes, I do. There was an article that I read not too long ago and in glossy.co about sleep and bedding mattresses moving into the beauty category. Being well rested plays a lot into how you look and how you feel. Is your skin glowing? Is it clear? I know that when I don't get a certain number of hours of sleep, I start to break out the more. You can oversleep too. If I can get a good seven hours of sleep per night, some people might not need that. I certainly do. Then my skin looks better, feels better. Right? So that plays in even, you know, how people perceive you when they look at you, and even how you perceive yourself, because it reflects in your skin and many other things, really.
Jessa: What is one thing you do for your sleep every day?
Sonya: For my sleep every day? The one thing I do, I try to bed as early as I can. I really do. When I go to bed later, even though I may get the same number of hours, I'm not as rested. Earlier I go to bed, the more rested I feel, and I enjoy getting up in the morning and I enjoy when it's so quiet and you can make yourself a cup of coffee or a cup of tea and read in the morning before the sunlight comes out.
Jessa: I want to end on weDstll™ because I do think this platform is really exciting and I know how much work you've been putting into it.
Sonya: Other people as well.
Jessa: Right. You have a whole advisory board. People can go onto your website and read all about it, which is wonderful. It seems like you have a very shared vision. I am going to be optimistic and say the soft launch will happen in January. How do you see it affecting the beauty industry?
Sonya: Because we're really focused on hyper-personalization, it's really about giving people exactly what they need and they want, it's not bombarding people with all of these products that they're not going to buy and also to reduce the [shopping] fatigue. It would be wonderful if you could just get exactly what you want or a number of products that you want, and then really spend that time just looking at those products and enjoying that experience. That would be pretty awesome.
Our goal is to really focus on streamlining that experience for the person. So it becomes more about discovery and not frantically researching and trying to find something that you may not, you may never find.
Jessa: I know this word is highly overused right now, but the access that is what you are giving the beauty industry. Beauty is overwhelming for a lot of people, myself included, and being able to trust product recommendations. It sounds like heaven to me.
Sonya: Yeah. You get a lot of information, but a lot of information that you really don't want and the information that you do want, you can't find.
Jessa: I'm signed up for weDstll™. I'm ready to see what's out there when you guys are ready to launch it.
Sonya: Thank you. We can't wait! We're excited ourselves.