Small Business Profile: Lorin Van Zandt, Founder of MISSIO Hair - Wilmington, NC
Hi Lorin! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Life is FULL! Currently I am a mom, wife and business owner passionate about every role I hold. I am an encourager at heart and believe that there is no greater calling than living a life of serving and helping others using the gifts one has been given.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
Originally I was an elementary school teacher, but always had an incredible passion for doing hair. I knew that I wanted to go to cosmetology school because I was drawn to the ways in which beauty could be used to encourage women, so I went back to school at night to get my cosmetology license.
What led you to start MISSIO? What inspired a hair care company that fights against human trafficking?
As a hair stylist I realized there was a huge potential to make an impact in the lives of others- from the stylist’s chair to BEYOND the chair. Years ago I began volunteering my services and giving haircuts, manicures, pedicures and facials to women in need/transition. These were homeless shelters, drug rehab centers and recovery homes. I eventually began working with victims of human trafficking and as I heard their stories it inspired me to do something about this issue. I realized there was a role the beauty industry could play in making a difference and I became very passionate about the idea of a purpose-driven hair product. Then after much time, prayer, creative brainstorming and advice from mentors MISSIO was born!
What have you learned from working with women who have been involved in human trafficking?
I have learned that human trafficking is a widespread issue, not just overseas. This is something that is happening in all 50 states and in our very own cities. As I have heard women’s stories and how they were coerced, manipulated, or forced into their situation, I realized that we ALL have a role to play in order to help identify potential victims and get them linked with help. I also realized the role our relationships play in supporting and loving others. Something as simple as a friendship or checking in with someone you know might be going through a hard time could actually help minimize the risk of someone being vulnerable to the advances of a potential trafficker. The stories of women include instances of them meeting someone at the mall, a roommate situation that took an unexpected turn, homelessness leaving them no other option, or even accepting a job opportunity that seemed too good to be true. Real stories have allowed the issue to become real to me and increased my ability to help make this real to others through our times training.
Could you tell us more about your three tiers of initiatives?
Our hope as a double-bottom-line company has always been to create amazing products that support effective initiatives. In addition to generating funds to give to our partner non-profits, we want to be a “take action” company, being a vehicle to use beauty to restore hope and make an impact in the fight against human trafficking.
First, we educate salons and communities to identify potential victims. Stylists have a unique potential to quickly build trusted relationships with their clients. One of the best ways to fight human trafficking is to prevent it, and we learned that community vigilance is key to this…and stylists can be some of the most vigilant people in the community because of how much clients open up to them. I learned this first-hand as a stylist. Having worked with survivors of human trafficking, I was equipped with recognizing the red flags for women in exploitative situations. This became very real when I was working in a salon, and a woman would periodically come in with almost every red flag in the book. We were able to identify these signs and get her the help she needed, guiding her out of a potentially awful situation. These experiences led us to work with experts in creating a curriculum to equip stylists in identifying the warning signs of human trafficking. Since product education is already such a large part of the industry, our education fits right in. As we have trained stylists over the past two years, we constantly hear “I wish I had known all of this sooner!” Our training even helped a stylist in one of our partners salons avoid an abduction. Education has already been hugely effective!
Second, we serve women who are at-risk or in recovery from exploitation. I have years of experience using beauty to restore hope where it’s been lost, and these types of initiatives led to the creation of MISSIO. I have so many stories of women who have been encouraged and given hope because of something as simple as a haircut, manicure, or pedicure. MISSIO has become an inspiration and a platform for other stylists to serve in their own communities, and we love hearing stories of hope an healing...it truly is powerful! In addition to educating, we put resources into mobilizing stylists for these beauty initiatives and hope to see them happening all over the country (and world!)
Finally, we give to our non-profit partners worldwide. We love seeing amazing organizations doing great work in the fight against human trafficking, and we want to help generate funds for them through the sale of our products. Having spent many years working in the non-profit sector, we fully understand how difficult it can be to raise the funds needed for the work to be done. As we are growing as a company, we are excited that our giving can grow as well.
What went into the development of your products?
As a stylist I had the experience of working with many different brands of luxury products so I knew how I wanted them to perform on people’s hair. After finding the right manufacturers to work with we began the long process of product development. This begins with a concept that I would share with cosmetic chemists for my dream product. I had the opportunity to select fragrances, packaging and unique ingredients like coconut and avocado oils, fruit extract blends and nourishing proteins. I spent months receiving samples, testing and tweaking them and distributing them to other stylists and my clients in order to receive honest feedback. Once a product made it past the finish line for approval, we would then send it to production and receive our beautiful little product babies to launch in the world!
How do you connect with your community? How can the community help support your purpose?
We believe in the unique potential of salons and stylists to make a difference, so much of what we do is connect with other stylists. We believe that they can make a difference both behind the chair and beyond the chair, so one of our main goals is to inspire and equip the salon community around the country.
We also believe that communities all over have the opportunity to make an impact. We’ve had amazing community volunteers help us with our beauty initiatives, serving at-risk women by giving manicures and pedicures, or simply just being there to encourage. Every time we host one of our beauty initiatives, we all leave so impacted and changed...it is amazing!
We provide a free training to anybody who wants to take the time to go through it so that they can become more aware of human trafficking, what it’s different forms are, what the warning signs are, and what they can do if they become concerned. The more people become aware and vigilant, the higher the risk becomes for the perpetrators.
MISSIO is so much bigger than us. Maybe we’re the figureheads, but so much of the story is being written in communities all over. We love hearing stories of people who’ve been inspired by our work and are taking action. We are so grateful for people who are spreading the word and sharing about MISSIO. Whether somebody is purchasing our product, telling their friends about what we’re doing, or getting involved with some of our community initiatives, they are all a part of this movement!
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
There is no greater way of making a difference than working with others and utilizing multiple gifts, talents and platforms! Collaboration, support and encouraging others (especially on an entrepreneurial journey) is KEY to finding success and growth! By taking the focus off myself or just my “project” and allowing the focus to shift toward supporting others in creative ways always leads to greater attention and growth for everyone.
I also believe in encouraging and empowering women to understand their true value and worth. A core belief that MISSIO holds is that everyone is created on purpose and with purpose. Therefore if another women, especially in my own community, is struggling to believe that because of her experience, and I have a gift that can help her to believe in herself again, then that is my absolute duty to use it! This can be something as simple as a haircut and an hour to make a new friend. I love empowering others through telling my story and inspiring them to action as well. The truth is: We will ALL go through things in life and we ALL will need someone at some point to encourage us and give us that spark to continue on or be reminded of our worth. Sometimes it’s my time to give and sometimes its my time to receive, but we all have something to give!
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I am trying to learn how to balance all the things my life entails right now. In a growth season I am quickly realizing that I can’t do it all and growing a business with a mission takes a lot of time and energy. Luckily I am married to the most amazing husband and co-founder who helps to make everything happen, and our team is incredible. We are driven by a purpose that is greater than our own and when you feel called to your work, it makes all of the sacrifice worth it.
What are some of your favorite places in Wilmington?
The beach! The ocean always brings an element of refreshment, perspective and FUN. Our favorite fresh Mexican restaurants for a taco night, welcomed ANY day of the week. And my daughter’s dance studio where I sit one afternoon every week to pause and watch her blossom as a budding ballerina.