Whether it is hiking, kayaking, scuba diving, paddle boarding, skiing or snowshoeing, Laurie O’Hara loves playing outside and connecting with nature. And when she launched her sun care business, OLITA, she was able to marry her love of the outdoors with her desire to influence the industry to cleaner, more eco-friendly standards.
Laurie describes herself as “tenacious,” and that’s what it took to first get her business off the ground and build its success. She spent many years working in marketing and acquisitions with big financial institutions in New York City, but after she took some time off to raise her kids, she found herself underemployed and uncertain where to go next. But as she says, “I keep my eyes on the prize knowing and willing myself to be successful and always seek to educate myself in what I don't know.”
After a move to the Bay Area, she joined the staff of Working Solutions, a non-profit microlender that works with entrepreneurs, especially on start-up and early-stage financing. She worked with hundreds of small business owners to help them launch and grow their companies, and realized that this was something she really wanted to pursue.
Laurie developed her business idea while still working full-time and raising her family as a single mom. She started small, with one product inspired by time playing at the beach with her children. They would emerge from water all sandy and sticky, so she set out to create a powder (Beach Be Gone in bubble gum scent!) that would wick moisture away from the skin to help clean up. She didn’t have previous experience in the skincare sector, so she had to learn everything along the way, but an MBA and her vast professional experience certainly helped on the business side of things.
OLITA really took off when she made the leap and left her job to work on the business full-time in 2018. She added products and grew the brand methodically and sustainably, while at the same time focusing on her mission to produce products that are chemical-free and don’t harm the environment. The last part is very important to her, and OLITA donates ten percent of all sales to the Coral Reef Alliance.
Laurie’s success with Olita shows that hard work, perseverance and doing what you love can pay off with huge dividends. “I want OLITA to be the gold standard of clean sun care,” she says. And she backs it up with every product she makes as a leader in the sun care industry.