“I WAS AFRAID FOR THE FUTURE”

Joanne Starkman worried she wouldn’t always be able to care for her daughter, but launching an ethical business gave her a new perspective

Joanne and Greg Starkman’s daughter Morgan was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Williams syndrome when she was two. While the diagnosis initially rocked the couple’s world, they found the drive and vision to start Innersense Organic Beauty, a haircare line that champions natural ingredients, and ‘green and clean’ formulations. Here, Joanne explains how they coped with the challenges of a child with special needs while building an international business that has doubled in size over the past year alone.

Our business is a love story. I started out ‘behind the chair’ as a hairdressing stylist and so did Greg. Back then, I also worked training and educating people about different techniques. One time I was on stage at a hair show doing just that. My parents had come to support me that day and this guy, who turned out to be Greg – I hadn’t even dated him yet – went up to them and said, “I’m going to marry her one day.” It was quite a shock for them as well as me, but here we are, many years later, still together.

Our daughter, Morgan, was diagnosed with a genetic disorder called Williams syndrome. This was in 1997, two years after she was born, and she’d started missing her developmental milestones. I remember there was a real fear for the future. I was agonising over how I would be able to care for her – I knew she wouldn’t be able to care for herself in years to come. I had a lot of guilt and sorrow.

Around the same time, I began thinking about health and the environment. I started with what I was eating first and then began looking at the labels of haircare products. I discovered there are a lot of synthetic fragrances, silicones and plastics used in many of these things.

My husband became a man on a mission. He used all his resources and contacts to find out about the ingredients that were used. He saw an opportunity to create something different: plant-based, organic products that were caring, not just for consumers, but for health and beauty professionals.

I realised I didn’t have to be worried about being a carer – I’d been one behind the chair my whole life. So, in 2001, we began a journey that became Innersense. It took us a long time to develop and by then we were looking after two small kids – Max was born two years after Morgan – but we started creating our products in 2006 and gradually grew our brand based on its integrity.

There’s now a huge uptick of people coming to us and discovering our products. It’s been so satisfying to see the exponential growth of the business – we took on our 16th employee recently. Naturally, we support inclusion and diversity – and it’s something I want us to be a role model for.

Expanding throughout Europe into places like Milan, Munich and Rome is exciting. Morgan particularly loves different languages and foods and experiencing new cultures. It’s a new chapter and it could be bigger than we imagine.

Morgan is a joy. She has a zest for life and loves like no other. The gift that she gives me is that every milestone is something that I can shift my perspective on. It’s childraising with a twist. She has taught me so, so much. It’s like having your own development coach.

This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit: http://www.ink-live.com/emagazines/easyjet-inflight