Green Queen: Ashleigh Frager, 31, Founder of Back to Basics, a lifestyle brand that educates on living a toxin-free, greener, and healthier journey. Ashleigh originally moved to LA to pursue acting but became extremely ill due to her exposure to environmental toxins where she was hospitalized and in a wheelchair for several months. Her path to detoxing and studying homeopathy led to the recovery of her ailments and her mission is to now help clients eliminate harmful substances from their bodies and lives. Here she speaks to V+T on her personal journey into startup mode, her experience in building a subscription-in-a-box-model, and her discoveries on some of the most dangerous items that are in our homes! #PeaceOutToxins
You moved out to LA to pursue acting and then ended up in a wheelchair! Tell us about that time in your life.
It was as shocking as it sounds! I had just graduated from college and was beginning my new life in LA when my health began to decline very rapidly. Within a week I went from being a seemingly healthy 21 year-old to being homebound and needing a wheelchair to get around. I had such a wide range of symptoms that it was difficult for the doctors and specialists that I was seeing to pinpoint the cause or to find an effective treatment plan. I began exploring other options which, fortunately, lead me to find homeopathy. I was able to make a full recovery and learn of the capabilities of this system of medicine.
That led you to pursue your Doctorate in Homeopathy where you subsequently open your own practice helping clients detox from extremely harmful and sometimes lethal environments. What are some examples you came across?
I was so inspired by my own experience with homeopathy that I knew I needed to share it with others. Over the past 8 years, I have seen a great number of clients, each with their own unique and interesting health experiences. As I worked on case after case, addressing diseases like cancer and ADHD and symptoms ranging from insomnia to infertility, I realized that the most common causative factor was exposure to environmental toxins — with the exposure coming from the products they are putting near, on, and in their bodies.
How did you make the leap into entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is really in my blood. My mom, dad, and my grandparents on both sides are all successful business owners. I guess you could say I knew no other way! As for opening my own practice, it was very obvious to me when it was time to make that leap. I had a wait list of potential clients before I opened that showed me the demand was there.
Scalability was a big reason you launched Back to Basics- a monthly subscription-box company. What was the concept and thought behind that?
All of the details of the business model really fell into place once I honed in on why Back to Basics needed to exist. I knew that I needed to share the important learnings from my practice and make the information accessible to a much broader audience. I also knew that the information needed to be shared in a way that made it simple for people to adopt the new changes in every area of their life. Shipping expertly curated healthy alternatives to everyday body & home products right to our customers’ doorsteps along with an education resource on why their health will improve with these changes, seemed like the perfect model to achieve this mission.
What selection criteria do you use for the products in your boxes?
We begin by checking the potential product’s ingredient list with our very extensive list of blacklisted ingredients. We use that as a jumping off point. If a product passes that step, we then conduct research into the brand that makes it. We want to know about their manufacturing process, how they source their ingredients, their reasoning behind their formulations, etc. We want to uncover all of the information that consumers do not have access to. The last and most important step to us is to conduct our own testing. We use bioenergetic testing on a sample population to determine if a particular product will have a beneficial or detrimental effect on someone.
What were some of the challenges you faced as a startup?
Very early on, it was difficult to get qualified brands on board. We knew our standards for premium, toxin-free, high performing products but no one else did. It took time for us to prove ourselves by curating a collection of products that is unparalleled. We will always be so grateful to our first brand partners for taking a chance on us!
What were the biggest lessons you learned as an entrepreneur?
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned (and am still learning!) is that I cannot do it all. I can try but I will become a bottleneck to our company’s progress. As Founder, it is so important to know your areas of strength and focus on those while relying on other experts in the areas where you are weak.
There is a saying that it “takes a village.” Who have been the biggest supporters in your network during your startup phase?
I am so very fortunate to have an enormous village supporting me! My husband has been wonderfully encouraging and generous with his talents to help move the company forward. I also have my parents and extended family that jump on any opportunity to help — from fulfilling orders to hosting pop-up shop events to being loyal subscribers and customers, they do it all!
What motivates you?
It’s pretty simple: the promise of a healthier world where our environments and products aren’t making us sick.
Who are your biggest mentors?
My parents have been constant examples of how to run a business with integrity, passion, and grit. They have seen so much throughout their years of being entrepreneurs and have served as the best sounding boards.
As you began to formerly launch, how did you market yourself and the brand you were building?
I focused on social media marketing to spread the word on Back to Basics. We got our biggest foothold with Instagram and continue to use that channel as a way to shape our brand and get authentic feedback from our target market.
In being apart of a startup, what did you spend the most money on? (Would you do it again if you had the chance?)
We spent the most on inventory. It was a necessity as we had to build a fully stocked store from nothing.
In your years of curating products, what are some of the best products that you can’t live without?
One of my favorites and a Back to Basics best seller is Davids Premium Natural Toothpaste. So many “natural” toothpastes contain chemicals that are just as toxic as their conventional counterparts. Davids holds their product to a higher standard and uses truly safe ingredients to give you that minty-fresh clean mouth. Also, I can’t live without Au Naturale cosmetics. We just partnered with this clean beauty makeup line and I’m in love! They have such an extensive range of colors and every product is made with safe ingredients that are actually good for your skin.
Can you provide 5 household items that most of us have in our homes but don’t realize just how toxic they are?
- Laundry detergent: The most impactful thing you could do for your health right now is to throw out your toxic laundry detergent! Most detergents are packed full of nasty toxins like synthetic fragrance, sodium lauryl/laureth sulphate (SLS/SLES), optical brighteners, and dioxins. I’ve seen countless cases of skin irritation (rashes, redness, eruptions), allergy-like symptoms (runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing), and insomnia from exposure to toxic laundry detergent.
- Deodorizers/candles: Room sprays, fragrance plug-ins, scent diffusers, candles, bathroom deodorizers… They come in many forms but they all have the same root issue: they contain synthetic fragrance that has been linked to cancer, birth defects, allergies, and hormonal imbalance. Whether the effects are apparent or not, exposure to these types of products has a profoundly detrimental impact on your health.
- Deodorant: Most people apply this multiple times a day and most deodorants contain dangerous ingredients like aluminum. Exposure to aluminum should be avoided as it has been linked to Alzheimer’s and breast cancer. Also, some of the antimicrobial chemicals in deodorant disrupt the bacterial balance in your underarms causing the odor producing bacteria to multiply. In other words, the deodorant you’re using could make you smell more!
- Bleach: Using chlorine bleach on cotton or paper products can create unwanted byproducts, dioxins. The EPA has stated that there is no safe level of dioxin exposure. Even if you aren’t using it on cotton or paper, bleach contains ammonia hydroxide which releases toxic ammonia gas. All the way around, this should not be considered a product that is safe to have in your house.
- Perfume/cologne: All of the concerns that were listed for deodorizers and candles are valid here but now instead of just breathing the toxins in, you are applying them directly to your body. They are easily and readily absorbed through your skin into your bloodstream without any filtration until they make it to your organs.