As a model, Josie Maran had appeared on the cover of Glamour, in GUESS advertisements, music videos, as well as appearing in three consecutive Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues (2000, 2001 and 2002). Throughout her career she worked with some of the best photographers, stylists and makeup artists in the world.
She was even the “face” of a major American cosmetics company—but often unhappy with the quality and efficacy of the skin care products that were on the market. Many products, even premium brands, were loaded with chemical preservatives, parabens and phthalates—ingredients that were being recognized by doctors and scientists as harmful. It took a chance meeting to provide both a solution and a direction.
“I was introduced to argan oil by a woman I met while I was in the south of France on a modeling assignment,” Josie recalls. “She had the most beautiful skin! She was 70 but looked 40. I asked her what her secret was, and she told me about argan oil. I tried it, and I have been a believer ever since. When I saw what it did for my skin and hair, I knew I had found the liquid gold that could help me realize my dream: cosmetics that embody luxury and consciousness, cosmetics that were sexy and fun, high-quality and effective, and good for Mother Earth.”
Josie’s background and upbringing explain her passion for mindful entrepreneurship. The daughter of an artist mother and a father who specialized in green building, she was raised in the socially conscious bohemia of Northern California—specifically Menlo Park, just outside Palo Alto.
“I have always lived a green lifestyle,” Josie explains. “My grandmother was a human rights activist and a professor at Berkeley. We were always into a socially conscious way of living in my house.”
Argan oil became an insiders’ secret—something models and movie stars knew about and used, but it was not widely available commercially in the U.S. Josie changed that in 2007 when she launched her company, Josie Maran Cosmetics, with products infused with the exotic Moroccan oil.
“As weird as it might sound, being pregnant with my first child, Rumi Joon, made me realize that it was the perfect time to start my business,” says Josie. “When I became pregnant with my daughter, I began thinking about how I wanted her to see me, what impact we as a society were having on future generations and, more directly, how what I was putting on my body and skin during pregnancy was affecting her. I wanted to create something that would be natural and not affect the body in a negative way.”
Josie Maran Cosmetics has grown in just eight years to include more than 40 products, including skin care treatments, makeup and sun products for face, hair and body—all infused with 100% organic argan oil.
The argan tree plays a vital role in the economy and culture of Morocco. It provides much-needed shade in which pasture grass for grazing livestock can thrive, and the tree’s deep roots stabilize the soil and deter encroaching desertization.
The rich oil is edible, much like olive oil, and is used extensively in Moroccan cooking. It has nutrients and antioxidant properties that may prevent obesity and various cancers and lower the risk of heart disease.
With the increased awareness of the potential benefits of argan oil and the increased global demand for it, the trees are now a protected part of the Moroccan landscape. Josie works with a cooperative of Moroccan women who harvest the kernels and process the oil.
“They have perfected a method for getting the job done,” she says. “Our oil is cold-pressed to preserve its full nutrients. It’s 100% pure and organic.”
The argan oil trade in Morocco has had a positive socio-economic impact as well as an ecological one. It helps women in southwest Morocco make a substantial living, one that allows them to contribute to their families’ care, or to educate themselves or their children. It provides them with a new autonomy and status in their traditionally male-dominated culture. The success of the argan oil co-ops has inspired other farmers to emulate the profitable business model.
Josie’s company has flourished too, becoming a multi-million-dollar enterprise. Her products are sold at the prestigious Sephora stores, on Amazon and at select specialty stores. Josie’s personal appearances on the QVC shopping network are always popular; the stunning model-turned-mogul remains a convincing spokesperson for her luxury skincare.
“Argan oil is loaded with vitamin E and essential fatty acids,” she explains. “It has amazing healing, conditioning and repairing properties … benefiting your skin, hair, nails, feet, even your baby’s bottom. Every day, no matter what, I use it from head to toe: on my face, on my hair, on my cuticles, dry heels and elbows, even split ends—you name it.”
This summer, Josie Maran Cosmetics launched a new product: Sugar Scrub, an exfoliating home spa treatment infused with argan oil. They also feature updates of an established favorite: her popular Body Butter now comes in new fragrances such as lavender, cucumber aloe, jasmine, apple crisp, red rooibos, ginger, tropical orchid and honeysuckle vanilla.
Josie is married to photographer Ali Alborzi. Their second daughter, Indie Joon, was born in 2012. The family divides their time between a home in Los Angeles and a farm in Pennsylvania, near the QVC headquarters, where they spend their summers. But Josie remains eternally a California girl at heart.
“I am always outside and exploring, playing with my girls, chasing them around, hiking the Hollywood Hills above our house,” she says. “I love going to the beach too. My oldest daughter absolutely loves the beach and always wants to go.”
The varied landscapes of California and the beautiful weather make it easy to cultivate awareness of the natural world … to interact with it, to marvel at it. Josie wants everyone, no matter where they live, to share her appreciation of the outdoors and the benefits—both physical and psychological—of living in harmony with the natural world.
“California is wonderful, with so many people being outside and being so close to nature,” she says. “I would say it’s a little more difficult [for people living in other places]—but not impossible! Smalls things, like recycling, can lead to something bigger. My advice to everyone would be to step outside and enjoy nature.”
Josie’s passion for healthy luxury goes beyond her devotion to organic skin care and beauty products. It is the underlying principle of her lifestyle as well as her lucrative business.
“A healthy, organic lifestyle is incredibly important,” she emphasizes. “I just try to eat healthy and live a balanced lifestyle. I am not one of those people who cleanses all the time. I feel it is always important to eat well. Our garden in Pennsylvania provides fresh vegetables that I love to use to cook dinner for my family.”
The future is wide open for Josie and her eco-conscious company. New products can be developed, as well as new ways to connect and communicate with her clientele and the world at large. Josie is anxious to both observe and guide its evolution.
“I would love for my daughters to take over the company,” she says, “but I want them to do what their heart says. If they want to go into something else, they can! No pressure there. Some advice I would give to aspiring entrepreneurs? Love yourself and be yourself, and don’t let anyone hold you back from your dream.”
Josie’s dream is to see the company she has built and the family she has made with Ali thrive. They are inextricably linked; one propels the other.
“My family, most of all, is my highest priority,” says the young CEO. “I’m extremely passionate and excited about running Josie Maran Cosmetics, and in turn that fuels and supports my love of being a mom. Becoming a mother has changed my life. It makes me work harder for a better world and a better future for my kids. They are my inspiration for everything I do.”
Written by Lynn Morgan