The dog Charlie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, runs curiously to the door and sniffs cautiously.
“We’re just about to eat lunch,” Andrea stands up from the kitchen’s rustic wooden table and warmly shouts, “Come join!” The menu is a rather classic one for them: fresh rye bread with Prima Donna cheese, Parma ham, and the good mustard from Irma, Denmark’s high-brow grocery store.
“We wanted to try something new, so there’s also shrimp salad today,” she puts in with a smile. The office is hidden behind a small but cozy backyard in Frederiksberg. The ethereal setting houses an all-woman team, each emitting the same honesty Andrea’s beauty line offers. A line that would never have come to be without a hard apprehension – a test that, to say it mildly, turned Andrea’s life upside down. When she was pregnant with her daughter Isolde back in 2006, she participated in a national chemical campaign conducted by Greenpeace.
“I’m well aware that they’re radical, but it’s important that there are some people in the world who can drag the rest of us in a new direction,” Andrea starts out easily. The organization studied her blood and compared it to that of other high profile personalities. This was meant to be a general study of the situation in Denmark to see what was really going on with everybody’s blood.
“I’m very competitive, so I really believed that I would come out with the best result because of the way I grew up. It was important to learn,” she says, looks away for a moment, and then continues: “At first, I thought that they had made a mistake. I was sure they had messed up the blood samples.” In spite of her young age, she had twice as many chemicals in her blood as her older opponents, and for Andrea it could simply not be. After all, they had been exposed to the harmful chemicals for a longer period of time. Something had to be wrong.
“It turned out that the others had breastfed their children and, thus, passed the chemistry on to them. I hadn’t done that yet, so it made a difference,” she states, appalled.
“Therefore, I was very unsure whether or not I wanted to do it myself. It was shocking that it was really the only way to get rid of the dangerous chemicals.” She felt a need to talk to someone more objectively – someone who could see things from a different perspective, so she visited the Danish National Hospital, and after lots of discussions back and forth, she actually ended up breastfeeding, because there’s an enormous amount of good things in breast milk.
“But it was with mixed feelings putting her to my breast.”
A BORING DIET
To Andrea’s surprise, many of the unsafe chemicals that were hiding in her blood came from beauty products, so above all, she had to look inward and find the many, many culprits. As a former competitive swimmer, Andrea spent most of her youth in chlorinated water, which resulted in dry and cracked skin (insert 90’s crocodile commercial), and for that she used a lot of moisturizing products.
“In fact, you don’t need much else to take care of your skin other than lotion. It’s of course fun to go crazy sometimes with makeup and such, but if the canvas isn’t great, it’s hard to make a beautiful painting,”Andrea explains, waving with her arms to emphasize her point, and paints a bit further:
“My legs were completely like fish scales, so they needed a lot of lotion.”
Hence, over time she has jumped on one trend after the other, and there isn’t a French or American brand that she hasn’t tried, but what do you do when you become wiser after obtaining a frightening new knowledge? What do you do when you want something luxurious but at the same time know about the beauty industry’s many added chemicals?
“I had gotten this new knowledge that I somehow felt a responsibility to communicate. I was shocked that we, in 2006, were so little informed about how dangerous many of the things that we felt quite natural with actually were,” she says honestly and opens a chocolate bar with Rudolph Care’s familiar logo on. The problem with the harmful chemistry is that it takes hundreds of years to disappear and degrade – both in man and nature. And it exists not only in beauty products, although, those were also Andrea’s criminals. No, one does not need to look far for risky chemicals in textiles, in clothing, in electronics, in the air that we breathe every day, in our homes, in our walls, in packages – in everything.
“It becomes a daunting task to avoid it completely, and I don’t believe in being fanatical, but I’m a young woman living in a modern century, and I want to choose for myself what I surround myself with – what I expose myself to, and I can’t control it when I go for a walk, but I can try to lead by example. When you have a voice like I do, you also have to spread the word,” she explains and continues:
“It’s hard to understand that paint from my walls, which I’m by no means licking with my tongue, ends up in my blood, and when it’s so abstract, it’s obviously easiest to close one’s eyes. But actually, there’s a lot you can do without having a master in research.” It might be “easy enough” to do something when there’s an alternative, but on the beauty front Andrea was really challenged. She emptied her shelves and drawers of everything she had. And it wasn’t even hard for her to throw out all her stuff, because, even though, she was happy with it, it was impossible to go on like that. “So, I made a choice, as the risks were too big. They involve infertility, birth defects, hormone disruptions, and cancer, and that’s four really uncool things that I wouldn’t expose on my worst enemy. I would like to have more children, I want my children to have children, and I, for God’s sake, would like to avoid cancer,” Andrea points out but mentions stubbornly that her life isn’t fit for a diet.
“I don’t want it brown, bombastic, or boring. I want bling. I want luxury. I want my life to be filled with all things great, so it was quite a challenge.”
As with all other women, Andrea wanted beauty care that was sensuous to use. Surely, products needed to have an effect, but at the same time they also had to spread joy and decorate the bathroom, because, as she puts it, there certainly is a great difference in what we store in the closet and what we display on the shelf. The products that we use namely radiate our identity, and she wouldn’t be reduced to a dull lotion.
“When I could no longer get something nice – something delicious, I went into a really bad mood.” Thus, Andrea had to do it herself. She had to create an alternative to the one organic body lotion, deodorant, and shampoo that she at that time could only buy in the supermarket. But how the heck do you do that? She did what Andrea does best: Creating a concept.
“I had a background in the entertainment business, and I’ve worked many years with research, so it came natural to me to create a concept and explore the various certifications. I worked the same as I did in entertainment: I put a team of experts around me. To make each other better, there must be the right constellation of people,” she clarifies. As the first company in the world, Rudolph Care followed an entire life cycle being marked both with Ecocert and The Nordic Eco-label, so the customer was, in other words, in good hands. In Andrea’s carefully planned concept, she selected only the best ingredients from the world of both chemistry and nature, “for none of us can master nature,” as she says it. Which leaves her avoiding the 26 allergenic perfume substances that the EU advices not to use. Still, Andrea would never call Rudolph Care healthier than other brands:
“There are many religions in the beauty world, and I’ve got mine. I don’t try to impose it on others, but I want to tell my story. And it angers me when others ride on that same storyline, but don’t walk the talk.”
FUCK THE MONEY
It’s expensive to develop products in Denmark. Andrea learned that quickly, yet she wouldn’t compromise and move the production to China. She wanted all the best whatever the cost. And let’s just say that ‘whatever the cost’ was actually quite pricey. For almost three years, the company developed and cooked without having any products to sell. This was all to achieve the very high demands that Andrea had once set for herself and her team. It was a great economic challenge, and it wasn’t the only one.
“I can’t even put a number to it, because then I’m not sure I would’ve done all of this had I known better. I’m afraid that I wouldn’t have had the courage, because it’s been some really difficult years,” she says rather frankly, adding that it took a long time before there was as much as a penny in the piggy, and this fact had tangible consequences:
“I had to sell my apartment along the way to get money for the development and to pay my people. I got separated from my daughter’s father, and since then, I’ve moved eight times – eight times in five years, she repeats to emphasize the inner turmoil. Andrea continues:
“It was also a matter of pride, because people knew me well, and suddenly I threw out a successful career that hadn’t even peaked yet, but I simply had to help change the world in this connection. It’s somewhat the same as when I quit the radio station that I worked for live on the International Women’s Day, because they didn’t have a maternity leave agreement, and I was pregnant.” She has exuded an impressive amount of perseverance throughout this whole process, and others might’ve been tempted to throw in the towel, but not Andrea. She has a great drive and probably also a bit more energy than most. Of course she was afraid of being laughed at, marked a fool, and losing too much money, but she knew that she was right, that she was in the right.
“But when I sold my apartment and couldn’t find an investor, I was under pressure.” It was in 2008, and they weren’t finished with the development yet. The financial crisis scratched annoyingly, and the bank had declared the piggy closed. Andrea and her company could survive for some time on the money that her apartment had given her, but at some point they would run out, and she couldn’t find a proper investor.
“I couldn’t manage to find a match, so when my mother stepped in, because she liked the idea, I was granted peace. I refused to compromise, and she understood that. She’s otherwise not a mother that pats her daughter’s back,” she says firmly. Her mother is a business woman with an eye for numbers, so Andrea was of course determined to make a good investment out of her mother’s money, and there… there she was burdened for the first time:
“I lay awake and thought ‘shit, shit, shit.’ It was a lot of money, and one thing was that it was mine, as I could just earn it again, but how could I find enough money for my mother as well? I couldn’t have that in my head.” The way forward equalled hard work, which she could only perform if finding peace, but how do you do that when you’re in the eye of the storm?
“One night I simply had to tell myself “you know what, Andrea, you’ve got to sleep; if you’re going to make it, you need energy and focus,” she declares and continues shortly:
“Finally, I had to think ‘fuck the money, it’s only money. I’ve got my parents, great siblings, good friends, and a lovely daughter, and none of us are sick.’”
Fortunately, Rudolph Care was received very well by the Danish beauty press not to mention the customers. In fact, since its launch, the company has garnered seven awards in Denmark and Norway, and just last year it was appointed with Børsen’s Gazelle price as a symbol of growth and prosperity. So, everything is after all good. Andrea particularly remembers how it felt like to be nominated for a Danish Beauty Award back in 2010 – and actually win it.
“My heart was beating so hard. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. And all of a sudden people rose and applauded me. I completely broke down. It was a milestone,” she states enthusiastically. Yet, she makes no secret of the fact that there are more important things than winning a prize.There’s recognition much greater.
“I get the most heart-warming letters from people who’ve had skin problems their entire life saying that it has disappeared and that my products have made a huge difference in their life. You can’t get praises better than that,” she says and injects quickly with a smile: “You must keep in mind that it’s much easier for people to sit down and write a complaint.”
In retrospect, Andrea could perhaps have made things a little easier for herself, but then she wouldn’t have ended up with such sustainable products: “You can easily piss your pants, earn some quick money, and get a short career, but I’m interested in making classics – and I’m looking forward to the next step.” Let that be the end of it, for Andrea is rather busy. She needs to pick up her son Alfred and make innovative plans for her future business.
Photo credit: Asger Mortensen for Rudolph Care