Liberata Life: Meet Lily Tse, CEO and Founder of Think Dirty App
At Vita Liberata we’re passionate about women who are making things happen. Liberata Life is a series where we meet some of these women to hear more about their lives, careers and how they’ve got to where they are today.
First up, Lily Tse, CEO and Founder of beauty comparison app, Think Dirty.
Lily has developed a rating system that gives a simple overview of the health impacts associated with products and their ingredients on a scale from 0 – 10, 0 being the best (cleanest) and 10 being the worst (dirtiest). The app launched in 2013 with more than 68,000 products in its database. Today, there are almost 300,000 products available to search and the app has received more than 2 million unique scans.
Why did you decide to start Think Dirty?
Think Dirty was a project born out of a personal passion to find out the truth in the beauty industry. I was compelled to think about it as a result of severe allergic reactions to some beauty products. It wasn’t until I stumbled across Annie Leonard’s, “Story of Cosmetics,” which examined the wide-spread use of toxic chemicals in the beauty industry, that I discovered the causes—phthalates, common in synthetic fragrances, which were likely triggering my reactions, and making them worse the longer I used products from the line. Appalled by the thought of using serious chemicals on my skin, I began doing my own research.
My mom was also diagnosed twice with breast cancer, so I wanted to learn more about products and their contents. I learned that serious chemicals were incredibly common in mainstream beauty products. Even worse, these chemicals were showing up in products labeled “natural” and “organic.” I created Think Dirty, an app that quickly scans a product’s barcode and determines how safe it is to use based on a “dirty” meter – 0 being the safest products, 10 the most questionable.
The app has seen huge success so far. How have you got it to where it is today?
I thought it would be awesome to have something on your mobile phone that you could take with you shopping, so you weren’t reliant on the beauty advisor at the store. I took my app idea to a hackathon in New York, hosted by GOOD Magazine. I didn’t win anything, but the idea stuck in my head. A few months later, I came across another hackathon in Toronto and I made a bet with myself: If I win, it’s a signal that other people are interested in this and I’ll pursue it full-time. I won and I started doing it full-time.
What is your ultimate ambition for Think Dirty?
The ultimate ambition for Think Dirty is that on everyone’s home screen you will see our app. The Think Dirty Rating will be an added factor for consumers to know before buying cosmetic and personal care products. Some day I can see us being on Oprah to let the world know about our mission!
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
There is no such thing as a typical day as the CEO of Think Dirty. My daily duties range from checking emails, dealing with development or database issues, focusing on business development—including work through an incubator program, speaking with mentors and advisors—participating in marketing opportunities like trade shows, being interviewed for press, and posting on social media. I’m kind of the chief advertorial role – people contribute, but I still have to review and make sure they align with our brand tone and personality. It’s a lot of different things.
Like you, we’re passionate about supporting women. Do you have any advice for female entrepreneurs?
I think most women are harder on themselves, at the same time they are also more worried about how they will be perceived by others. The combination of self-doubt and self-consciousness comes from society’s expectation of women being nurturing relationship builders. These sometimes can be a burden and prevent us from being assertive and ambitious about what we really want. My advice is let go of the thought of pleasing others just to be likeable. If you are a team leader, in 99% of the times, being decisive, clear and direct is more important than being likeable.
Focusing on your goals and results doesn’t mean being an asshole, it just means as a leader earning your team’s respect and believing your vision is way more important than being popular for sake of the big picture.
If you could give a piece of advice to your teenage self, what would it be?
You know yourself better than anyone. Listen closer to your heart and follow your own voice. Don’t let others’ opinions cloud what you already knew.
And get a puppy now.
At Vita Liberata we’re passionate about freedom – to live life and to feel good about yourself. When do you feel most free?
Due to the nature of my work, I think freedom to me now is to be completely disconnected from the online world, when I am not bringing any of my digital devices (ironically). The best experience I had was when I was in a small town called Calistoga, California. I walked in a book store, picked up a book and finished it in one seating in a cute cafe. It was most liberating to be present and absorbed in a lovely story. Any time I could give my mind a brain snack in between putting my thinking cap on, I feel most free.
Vita Liberata products have been rated ‘clean’ by Think Dirty with zero chemicals of concern. All tans tested were rated between 0-2 which makes them super clean! Find out more.