Skin Cancer Survivor And Her Teenage Daughter Created A Skincare Line To Empower Young Girls

"I didn’t want my daughter or other girls to repeat my story."



When Christy Prunier was in high school, she had no skincare routine. But she did spend plenty of time in the sun, believing that a tan would make her look healthy. She also treated her acne with the harshest topicals she could get her hands on, believing that they would treat her skin best. 

"I was so wrong," Prunier told A Plus. "At 29 years old, I was diagnosed with skin cancer under my eye and had MOHS surgery to remove it." 

Many teenage girls are unaware of best practices when it comes to taking care of their skin. Just like Prunier, they may mistakenly use harsh, unsafe products or ignore sunscreen. So when Prunier's daughter, Willa Doss, started to take an interest in caring for her skin, she searched beauty retailers and health food stores for safe products. Unfortunately, she couldn't find any safe options that her daughter also loved. Doss found the options for her age group to be too cutesy, too heavy, and too intensely perfumed. Her mom had a hard time finding products with ingredients she could trust. 

This experience made Prunier think about her own struggles with skincare. "I didn't want my daughter or other girls to repeat my story," Prunier said. 

So, with the help of her teenage daughter, she decided to do something about it. The pair started willa beauty, a line of healthy skincare and beauty products made with girls and teens in mind. 

"We want girls to love taking care of their skin. It isn't enough for girls to know they should cleanse, hydrate and protect their skin with SPF. Knowledge isn't enough," Prunier said. "They need to love the way the products make them look and feel. So, at willa, girls embrace the habit of a smarter skincare routine because they love it."

All of willa beauty products are free of parabens, sulfate, DEA, and phthalate. They're also made in the United States, cruelty-free, and, much to many teens' delight, Instagram-worthy. 

Prunier and Doss also saw willa as an opportunity to help empower other young girls, just like Doss. Girls as young as 11 can partner with a parent and sign up to become a direct to consumer sales representative for the company. Depending on how much they sell, the young reps can earn between 25 and 30 percent commission. 

"By partnering with a parent or guardian, girls as young as 11 can build their own entrepreneurial business sharing smarter skincare," Prunier said. "These young women gain important life skills including public speaking, financial responsibility as well as time management managing their own business. But most importantly, they learn about the importance of starting young protecting their skin." 

Just like her young reps, Doss has learned a lot through creating and growing willa beauty. The experience of starting a company as a teenager has given her a newfound respect for entrepreneurs and helped her learn both time management and organizational skills. 

"Most importantly I've learned to advocate for myself and find my voice," she said. "At first, working in an adult environment can be intimidating. I was not confident to contribute and reluctant to make decisions. But over time, I've realized my opinions have value. I have been fortunate to travel across the country speaking to other girls and moms, sharing our story. It's now been one of my most important goals to show young people that they are so capable right now; they don't need to wait until their older to make a difference in their lives or the lives of others." 

Her mom admits to learning a lot just from watching her daughter work. "She handles the challenges we encounter incredibly well. I'm in awe. She has taught me to slow down and take a beat when confronted with a setback," Prunier said. "I don't know what I would do without her by my side. Our children are so wise and we can learn and grow tremendously through them."

Both Christy and Willa agree that growing this business together has helped to bring them closer and strengthen their mother-daughter connection.

"While there is a lot of time devoted to focusing on the business, those conversations naturally lead to other topics," Christy said. "Willa's door is always open and I'll come in and lie on her bed with a question about a product or marketing, social media and eventually once we solve that issue we'll be talking about her school day or something she read or she'll share a new song she loves. I love my time with her and I'm not looking forward to 18 months from now when she'll be heading off to college."

"I love working with my mom," Willa said. "We share a passion for empowering young women with smarter skincare and that makes our collaboration particularly meaningful. Working on willa together has definitely changed our relationship dynamic. We are partners but she is still very much my mom."

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