As a long-time vegan, Ericka Rodriguez wasn’t pleased with her makeup options, especially when it came to lipstick. “There was no brand out there that represented what I wanted,” she says. “Nothing that was vegan was also hip or luxe and every time I put on a vegan, organic lipstick I didn’t get the result I wanted.”

Ericka began making her own lipstick in 2012, researching how to make lip balm and then adding color. “It became an obsession pretty quickly,” she says. “I was working at a juice bar in New York City and making lipstick before work and after work.”

She landed on a winning formula—and ultimately launched Axiology, a luxury vegan, organic lipstick company based here in Bend. The growing brand is now found in 90 boutiques, including Free People shops, around the country.

Ericka Rodriguez, founder of Axiology.

But first, Bali

After two years of mixing lipstick in her home kitchen in New York, Ericka moved to Bali to continue studying ingredients and put together a plan to launch her business. “I always knew that I would work for myself,” she says.

There she landed on the main formula that comprises Axiology lipsticks: nine main ingredients, all organic and plant-based, including avocado and coconut oil. The makeup contains no chemicals or toxins, as well as no ingredients that have been tested on animals.

A devoted animal lover, Ericka volunteers at the Brightside Animal Center in Redmond every Sunday, and also fosters kittens and rabbits. The young entrepreneur has layered her ethics into every aspect of her company. For example, the packaging of the lipstick is sustainably sourced, using paper from a woman-owned recycled paper boutique in Bali.

“The gift inherent in these boxes is that their production helps trash reduction on the island, a growing concern as its population and popularity continue to rise,” according to Axiology’s website. Axiology also donates a portion of its profits to conservation and animal rights organizations including PETA and local humane societies.

Coming to Bend

Ericka and her partner, Eric Dubs, another local entrepreneur, left Bali and went back to New York. But the city no longer felt like a fit. “We wanted to be in nature,” she says. Eric is a fan of mountain biking, and the pair moved to Bend sight unseen in 2014. Axiology has grown steadily since, posting 150% growth over the past year.

The startup is selling its lipsticks via its own website, as well as in dozens of boutiques across the country. Her customers are devoted—and not afraid to share their love of the company’s products. “Our inbox is filled with people saying thank you,” Ericka says.

Just past its second birthday, Axiology has two employees and continues to make the products by hand. But Ericka has growth on her mind. She’s looking into contract manufacturing and possibly fundraising to expand Axiology to reach even more mainstream makeup fans.

“We have a great following of people in the natural beauty sphere; we also want like to be in the hands of people in the mainstream market—just through the quality of our product,” Ericka says. “We have an amazing lipstick in itself and the ethical standpoint is a bonus.”

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley