More Than Skin Deep

Entrepreneur Sarah Kelly ’10MBA wants to help women rediscover their saltiness, naturally.

At 32 weeks pregnant with her daughter Anna, the unthinkable happened to Sarah Kelly ’10MBA: She was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.

“I always thought cancer happened to other people, not myself, not at 36 years old,” she says. Kelly has been cancer-free since surgery three years ago.

At the time of her diagnosis in 2015, Kelly, of Kennebunk, Maine, was doing marketing work for a cybersecurity firm. The illness gave her life its new locus. With her oncology nurse sister, Kelly launched SaltyGirl Beauty, an online cosmetic firm designed to help women—including those who have battled life-threatening illnesses—rediscover their “groove, confidence and saltiness.”

“I’m not a big makeup person, so it’s funny that I own a cosmetic company.” —SaltyGirl Beauty co-founder Sarah Kelly ’10MBA

“I’m not a big makeup person, so it’s funny that I own a cosmetic company,” Kelly says. “Going through treatment, I really was drawn to lipstick because I’m a redhead and I lost my hair. Then you lose your eyelashes and your eyebrows, and you look like that sick person who you’re seeing in the chemo room. That’s what got me through looking like a sick person.”

While Kelly isn’t sure what caused her cancer, she makes her products—including a lineup of lipsticks, mascara, and foundation—with organic materials that are healthy for the skin. Many of the products are described with a woman’s first name, “bad-ass women who have inspired us in our own lives,” Kelly says.

One of them is named after Anna, now three and healthy after being induced so her mother could continue her cancer treatment. (“Anna is a big part of my business,” Kelly says. “She saved me and inspired me. I had her on Monday, and then I had my third round of chemo that Friday. I call that my week of being a bad-ass fighter.”)

Kelly says she developed her business acumen at Simmons, which, when she was a student, launched the sustainability in business program.

“The business model of doing good for good, building a business that also gives back to your community, was instilled in me at Simmons,” she says.

Kelly is doing just that. She donates 10 percent of her business’ proceeds to a nonprofit that she formed called Foundation4Love, which funds spa days, a private chef or tickets to a sporting event for adults with cancer.

SaltyGirl, meanwhile, targets its products to women in their 30s, 40s and 50s—working moms and baby boomers.

“We don’t have the Kim Kardashian philosophy of putting on a ton of makeup,” Kelly says. “It’s really about finding that one product that makes you feel beautiful.”