There was a time when junior Victoria Jasmine Rodriguez didn’t know if she would survive the next 24 hours. Now, the dance science major, minoring in entrepreneurship, owns her own skincare company, Better Than Nude. As an involved college student, Rodriguez balances the ups and downs of owning her own business with the struggles of living with an autoimmune disease.
Not many students choose to start a business while still in school because, as Rodriguez admits, comes with a lot of responsibility.
“If I’m being completely honest,” Rodriguez said, “there are a lot of mental breakdowns.”
As a dance science major, Rodriguez knows the importance of clear skin because a large part of the dance industry is based on physical appearance. Rodriguez has maintained the appearance of her skin by making and using her own line of organic skincare products — even before she turned this passion into a business.
After giving her face scrubs and masks free of charge to her friends for years, one of them suggested that she turn her hobby into a business. In February of last year, that’s exactly what she did.
Rodriguez grew up surrounded by entrepreneurial influence. Her father ran his own business that helped people achieve financial freedom which influenced Rodriguez to start her own business, and know she would be able to achieve a level of financial independence.
Everything sold by Better Than Nude is handmade by Rodriguez, 100 percent organic, edible and nontoxic. She is working on getting organic certifications for her line to further benefit the company. Though she is not a chemistry major, Rodriguez learned how to conduct research and create unique formulas for her products throughout her time at Elon.
Aside from the four products currently available on her site, Rodriguez is very flexible in the things that she’s willing to create. She recently created a papaya face mask as a gift for a wedding. She knew the bride wanted something “citrusy,” so Rodriguez created a special edition papaya face mask.
To make this mask, she started by walking into Harris Teeter and purchasing organic papayas. Rodriguez either sources her products from an online wholesale website or shops at local stores and vendors.
“The beauty of natural things is that they often benefit us in many ways,” Rodriguez said.
Her products each aim to achieve a specific skincare goal, but through the use of organic ingredients, they work together to create many desirable outcomes.
She says her own skincare routine has even shortened since she began exclusively using her own products. She soon began to notice the beneficial results of eliminating chemicals and started removing chemicals from other aspects of her life as well.
“Yes I have beautiful, clear skin,” Rodriguez said. “But I didn’t get this overnight.”
Her friends have also noted a difference in their skin’s tone and texture. “I have really acne-prone skin, but it dries out with harsh chemicals,” said Elon sophomore Paola Kalb, long-time friend and customer. “I found that Better Than Nude’s products really helped to soothe, hydrate and soften my skin.”
Rodriguez was inspired to start the business by her friends successful makeup company, but was discouraged when her business did not blow up as quickly as her friend’s.
“It’s a lot easier to sell makeup than it is to sell skincare,” Rodriguez said. “Because selling skincare, you’re selling more of a lifestyle change.”
Though it took some time to get the ball rolling, she has now expanded her business to include a public relations and product testing team spread throughout the entire country.
It is important that Rodriguez surrounds herself with a capable and supportive staff because sometimes it takes all she has just to get through the day.
“I suffer from a chronic illness that made me really sick, and it has defined a lot of my college experience. Sometimes going to all of my classes is not an option, and I hate feeling that way,” Rodriguez said. “I tend to be a very ambitious go-getter and getting that diagnosis right before coming to school did a lot to my psyche.”
Rodriguez was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes ulcers to form in the colon.
She arrived to Elon three days after being discharged from a stay at the hospital because of her ulcerative colitis; she still had staples in her from surgery.
“Getting my diagnosis right before college kind of changed everything, but also put things into perspective for me because I literally almost died.” Rodriguez said. “When you go through an experience like that you realize that life is so short. Good health is so undervalued. Success, prosperity, truly enjoying yourself and doing the things you want to do is so important. I’m going to do all the things I want to do — and if I can’t I’ll find a way.”
That’s why Better than Nude is so important to the young business owner.
“I’m not here to play … you don’t go through [stuff] like that for nothing.”
Though not affiliated with any clubs at Elon, Rodriguez was contacted by “The Art of Makeup” club, and has agreed to sponsor some events with them. She also looks forward to hosting spa nights with different groups on campus, doing some events with sororities and possibly organizing a showcase for the whole school and community where anyone who wants to come can come, test and buy products.
Better Than Nude skincare products can be purchased on Rodriguez’s website, betterthannudellc.bigcartel.com, and Elon students can email her directly concerning purchases.
“The word is getting out there, and the word is getting out there that the products work,” she said. “I like helping people become healthier and happier.”