The Founders Series: Shannon Davenport

Shannon Davenport Esker

A trend forecaster-turned-beauty entrepreneur, Shannon Davenport launched Esker in 2018 with a trio of body oils. Today, she’s targeting both devoted bath-takers and the “bath-curious” with her line of clean, elevated body care products. What drove you to start your own brand? The beauty industry has long treated body care as an afterthought, which never made sense to me: We spend so much time and money on our faces, but 90 percent of our skin is from the neck down! I wanted to create beautiful, thoughtful and unique products and also to help people create rituals that they can turn to whenever they need to practice self-care. I’ve always made time for baths, even in my busy, travel-heavy previous career—they’re an easy source of escape and relaxation. Everyone deserves to relax and take care of themselves with natural, organic products they can trust!
“I wanted to create beautiful, thoughtful and unique products and also to help people create rituals that they can turn to whenever they need to practice self-care.”

What’s your favorite product in the line? The Body Plane is hands-down my favorite product in our lineup. It was inspired by a tool, called a “strigil,” that the ancient Greeks and Romans used to cleanse and exfoliate before the invention of soap! I thought the idea was amazing and wanted to find a way to reinvent it for the modern day. After months of research and design, we created this incredible exfoliator. It’s made from teak wood and (naturally antibacterial) sterling silver-plated stainless steel, and it gently lifts off dirt and dead skin cells without irritation or damage to your skin’s moisture barrier. It’s particularly good for thicker skin, like that on your arms or legs, and it’s great for things like KP [keratosis pilaris] or ingrown hairs.

What are your morning and evening routines? I’ve never been a morning person, so my typical AM routine consists of waking up and getting my kids ready for the day, followed immediately by lots of coffee. If I have a quiet moment, I love to clear my mind by listening to NPR or a podcast. It helps me create some mental space from my overflowing inbox.
Once my girls go to bed in the evening, I’ll often take a bath to wind down, using bath salts and candles. For me, bathing has always been a source of calm. Even when my schedule is at its most stressful, I know that taking a warm tub is the most soothing, self-preserving thing I can do.
Afterwards, my husband and I usually watch a few episodes of whatever our latest show is, and then I do my skincare routine. No matter what, I always wash my face, moisturize and floss my teeth. I like to wrap up any additional mental loose ends by jotting to-dos or notes in my bullet journal. It helps me know I’m not forgetting anything important and can face the next day ready to go.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I don’t take myself too seriously and have a self-deprecating sense of humor. The world is heavy and complicated, so it’s important to make sure you can laugh at yourself and put things into perspective. Finding the humor in stressful moments helps me process things and stay grounded. What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their own business? Start it as a side project if you can. In the beginning, I worked lots of nights and weekends, but it didn’t feel like work because I was so proud and excited about what I was doing. Once you have some initial traction, you can move to full-time. Leaving the security of a regular paycheck, with benefits and paid vacation, was scary, but I planned carefully before I took that leap. I’m incredibly grateful to have been able to grow the brand.
Shannon Davenport of Esker

Conscious Decision

There are so many conflicting ideas about what constitutes “clean beauty” these days. How do you define it? “Clean” isn’t a regulated term like “organic,” so I always take these claims with a grain of salt. To me clean beauty isn’t necessarily about the absence of all man-made ingredients, but a genuine effort to substitute plant-based ingredients for synthetics wherever possible. Additionally, I see clean and sustainable as being linked. I’d like to see more clean brands not only offer thoughtful formulas but also revisit packaging and supply chain considerations. Respecting our own health and the health of our planet go hand-in-hand. What made you decide to launch a line that specifically fell under the Conscious Beauty umbrella? We love natural materials both for the way they feel and for the sustainability element. We try to avoid plastic as much as possible; recently we became Plastic Neutral + Certified. For every pound of plastic we create, we are working with local groups in Kerala, India to remove two pounds of ocean-bound plastic before it becomes unretrievable. This creates an incentive for non-recyclable plastic collection and supports micro-economies in developing countries. With enough creativity, you can make beautiful products without harming the earth. What do you say to people who are clean-curious, but worried about tradeoffs they’ll have to make when they switch from conventional products? I don’t really think there are many tradeoffs! Nature provides so many incredible resources for ingredients, packaging and materials. At this point (with a few exceptions), I think we can all understand that clean and natural beauty is fully up to par with our expectations and deserves a place on our top shelf!
The Founders Series
Learn how some of the beauty industry’s most dynamic entrepreneurs find inspiration and develop must-have products as they share their advice for aspiring business moguls and much more