Meet Deborah Agustoni.
Tell us who you are and what you do.
I’m Deborah Agustoni and I’m the Founder & CEO of SAATHËA. We’re a socially conscious, science-based wellness + beauty brand with a focus on beauty inside out using the Butterfly Pea Flower. Our effective products support radiant skin + elevate mind, body & soul. Prior to SAATHËA, I have worked in counter trafficking programs and donor relations at a few United Nations agencies. It was shortly after this experience, that I travelled to Cambodia and interviewed survivors of human trafficking to understand how to better support them. By a stroke of serendipity, I came across a powerful super antioxidant botanical called Butterfly Pea Flower. The more I researched and learned about its incredible properties the more passionate I became to utilize it. So, I thought to myself why not create transformative beauty and wellness products out of this botanical to bring positive skin + health benefits to as many people as possible. Few months later, Saathëa was born with a clear mission in mind: to fight human trafficking through the power of the finest, cleanest beauty and wellness products that deliver remarkable results. Proving wellness can be used as a force for good, Saathëa impact sources its key ingredient - the Butterfly Pea Flower - from marginalized women in Cambodia and provide them the means to break the cycle of poverty that fuels human trafficking. In this way, they are free to define their own future by becoming financially independent.
What does SAATHËA mean?
Saathëa is a Khmer mashup word I created. Together, the Cambodian words Sathea, which means compassion, Sa’at, beautiful, and Chea to be healthy and well - form the foundation as a reminder of all the work we do.
Proudest moment in your career?
Without a doubt, my proudest career moment so far was creating and launching SAATHËA. It has been the most challenging professional endeavors I have ever undertaken in my career, but by far the most rewarding and transformative one! There have been so many ups and downs, but the personal and professional growth has never stopped combined with a deep sense of found purpose.
What has been your biggest challenge(s) as an entrepreneur?
There are so many! An early challenge I had was being confronted with a general lack of awareness about the social enterprise model. Initially, many people/stakeholders struggled to understand and fully embrace the idea that a business like SAATHËA could deliver both high-quality products and tackle a human rights issue. Thankfully, over the past few years, there has been a shift in mindset in the wellness and beauty sectors with regards to sustainability, especially around ethical sourcing. Mostly driven by consumer demand, social impact is now part of the conversation as more and more consumers demand radical transparency from brands. Unfortunately though, there is a lot of greenwashing going on so consumers still need to do a lot of their own research to ensure brands they are purchasing from are actually walking the talk. Overall, this increased consumers’ awareness around social good 3 has made it a little easier for brands like SAATHËA to be seen as an example of a brand that walks the talk and creates positive social impact. When you do something new that challenges the status quo, you will almost always face scrutiny, skepticism, criticism, and even resistance at first... That’s difficult to deal with at the beginning, especially for a first time entrepreneur with limited resources. There is a lot of education that goes with launching a social business and offering socially conscious, specialty products. But I figured out that the key is to keep forging the path forward and staying true to my why.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?
Persistence is a key quality to embody as an entrepreneur. Equally important is to be focused and flexible. Stay focused on your mission, but be flexible in how you go about achieving it. Setbacks are inevitable, but seeing them as lessons rather than failures is fundamental to success.
What does the future look like for SAATHËA? What are some things you are working towards?
So many! First, we are very excited to be launching a new product in 2022! Second, we are gearing up to launch on Amazon very soon. Third, we are working on a few key partnerships that will really help SAATHËA scale and deepen our social impact in Cambodia. I am really excited for all the great things that are on the horizon for SAATHËA!!