Innovation Destination Hartford spoke with Tainted Inc. Founder Andrea Cortez in February 2016. At that time, the startup was participating in the reSET Impact Accelerator to get some formal business experience, structure, and support (read the interview: Hartford Startup Tainted Inc. Is Committed to Empowering Women).
Since then, Tainted has continued its mission to empower women and added a new product line, Scry Collection. IDH Website Curator Nan Price stopped by the beauty bar to catch up with Andrea and Co-Founder Alyssa Haley and find out more about their startup journey.
NAN PRICE: When we met in 2016, you were participating in the reSET Accelerator. What did you gain from the experience?
ANDREA CORTEZ: I love their mission. reSET enabled us to grow our network and gain access to mentorship in different areas of business. Through the experience, we learned how to do market research—really take time to ask questions and find out what people want.
NAN: Have you tapped into any other Connecticut startup resources?
ANDREA: Yes, I’ve been able to work with Milena Erwin, Program Manager of the Women’s Business Center at the University of Hartford Entrepreneurial Center. She’s always been very gracious about including us. In fact, everyone we’re worked with at the Entrepreneurial Center is about connecting, working to create a model to help small businesses get off the ground, and offering classes help you meet other entrepreneurs on the same journey.
NAN: Tainted was founded in January 2015. Tell us about the evolution since.
ANDREA: When you own your own business, you’re talking about it all the time. But it wasn’t enough to talk about and provide makeup services. We recognized that women want more.
We’ve expanded. We recently acquired a 2,200 square foot space in the Arbor Arts Center, where we are located. Now we’re offering classes and workshops building on the idea of creating a source for feminine totality. We’re really looking to pioneer that movement—create a place for women to come and experience their authentic femininity and provide a body positive environment for women and the youth.
NAN: Are the workshops geared toward women only?
ALYSSA HALEY: Not definitively. And that’s a challenge with defining what we do. So, we use the word “feminine.” As Andrea said, this is a safe space for “feminine totality.”
NAN: What makes Tainted different from a spa or fitness facility?
ANDREA: Tainted’s mission is to bring totality to women. Spas and fitness centers have their purpose, but we feel women need more—we need the radical expression, the emotional and spiritual support! Not to mention, a sense of community.
Acknowledging that not one brand can have it all, we pride ourselves in partnering with leading experts in the arenas of mind, body, and spirit. We’re launching an exploratory membership in summer 2018.
Our members will have access to workshops and classes that incorporate meditative dance and movement. Members will also receive special perks at our Beauty Studio, which focuses on all wellness and beauty needs. Tainted offers everything from aromatherapy facials, to makeup and hair lessons, to our signature service beauty concierge. We’ll also offer Body Tour, a specific membership designed to provide access to multiple fitness and wellness boutiques and gyms in Connecticut. The mindset is, if we don’t provide it, we want to connect you local people who are doing it best.
NAN: Let’s talk about your collaboration with other Hartford-area artisans and organizations. Tainted has been involved with many.
ANDREA: Yes! We’ve collaborated with 300 local artists and 57 nonprofit and for-profit businesses. Not only are we creating a space for women, we’re building a community.
And that’s another piece of the membership—inviting in other local small business. Really saying: Now that you’ve helped us get here, let us help you. So, we’re forming true collaborations with local gyms, boutique fitness centers, healing centers, and individual artisans who we can bring in to offer a variety of workshops and classes.
Partnering with and inviting in other local small businesses is what makes our membership concept so unique and exciting! What we can bring to our audience is endless.
NAN: It seems like you’ve been doing well with funding and building clientele since you launched.
ANDREA: We’ve been fortunate. We started the company with $125! After three months, the business started to pay for itself. Because of our involvement with the community, we’ve grown naturally and organically, so we have never needed investors.
NAN: Tell us about the new product line.
ANDREA: We launched Scry (pronounced skr-i) November 2017. It’s a tangible piece of Tainted you can take with you. Prior to the product line, we were always service.
ALYSSA: With the authentic approach to beauty Tainted has created, a relationship with mirrors was organic. Tainted consults with clients to create customized pieces of jewelry. We formed a partnership with Sarah Naid Design, who does all the metalsmithing and Tainted does the concept.
NAN: What do you enjoy most about having your business in Hartford?
ANDREA: What’s great about Hartford is that everyone is doing the best they can. It’s truly a magical place. We’ve seen so much support and love for this city—people really want it to grow and build. It’s real. That’s why we don’t want to leave. The businesses, artisans, and community are always here for each other.
ALYSSA: And people really recognize the individuals behind the businesses. People ask us: What are you doing next? How can we get involved? How can we collaborate?
ANDREA: In the next five years, I strongly feel that Parkville will become The Art and Fashion District of Hartford. It just needs that call of action, and that’s why I'm here. I plan on shouting that from the rooftop of the Arbor Art Center Building!
In the last year alone, we have had more than eight small business and artists move into our building. And in Parkville artisans include Hartford Denim Company, Hog River Brewing Company, and Idle Wilde Printing. They’re also at 1429 Park Street and initiatives like The Dirt Salon, the Know Good Market, Parkville Sounds, reSET, and Hands on Hartford. Our heartbeat is pumping, and it's just getting stronger.
Find out more about Tainted Inc.
READ: Hartford Startup Tainted Inc. Is Committed to Empowering Women
FOLLOW: Facebook and Instagram taintedinc