Olive + M Founder Mariska Nicholson imparts what she’s learned as part of an elite group of entrepreneurs participating in the Target Takeoff Program and shares her ambitious plans for the future.

By Mariska Nicholson, Headshot by Ashlyn Allison, Product photo courtesy of Olive + M

Mariska Nicholson - Olive + M

I come from a family of trailblazers and I’m a Texas girl. I moved to Austin when I was 4, and after high school, I left, first to New York City and then to Los Angeles. But even after 16 years, I found myself returning to Austin to put down roots and start my own family. I chose this city as my home base because it embodies growth and innovation while spurring creativity and positivity. Austin is a city that celebrates trailblazers, and that is what I am. 

Olive + M being selected as one of 10 brands to participate in the Target Takeoff Program has definitely been one highlight of 2019. Target’s retail-accelerator program has allowed me to connect with the Target beauty team one on one and learn about the ins and outs of mass retail. Target Takeoff was a tremendous opportunity and learning experience that
exposed me to other small, independent brands and provided me with a resource to connect with other growing indie beauty brands that are planning for the future. From an operational perspective, the program helped me to understand the operational necessities for scaling Olive + M and setting the brand up for success in a large-scale retailer. Another takeaway was determining how to ensure that our product and packaging speak to the consumer in the absence of a salesperson. 

Like any business, Olive + M has overcome its fair share of challenges since we launched in 2015. Thankfully, I like a challenge and live by the saying, “Growth happens when you have the courage to walk through things, not around them.” Overcoming challenges is essential for learning and growth. When I started my journey, the face-oil category was growing, however, not at an accessible price point. I saw a need in the marketplace for a unique, effective formula at a price affordable to everyone. Fast-forward to after I launched the brand. During this stage, I watched as face oils became increasingly prominent in the market. However, I wasn’t discouraged because my olive-oil- based formula continued to fill a white space in the industry. 

The main ingredient in all our products is olive oil. While all the plant-based oils we use in our formulas are high in antioxidants, olive oil contains hydroxytyrosol. This phenolic compound is one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants discovered to date. Even better, olive oil is also easily absorbed into the skin because of its similarities to skin’s natural oil, allowing it to nourish the skin at a deeper level. 

Along with educating others about oil-based skin care and its benefits, it’s always our goal to protect and respect the bounty that Mother Nature has provided for us. We’re always looking for ways to lessen our impact on the environment and make smart choices regarding who, what and where we source from. When building my team, it’s important to surround myself with like-minded individuals who possess strengths that I don’t. I’ve learned to prepare for the unexpected, roll with the punches and, most importantly, maintain the power of being flexible. 

What started as a product line to meet my needs developed into one that meets the needs of many. I see this not only as an opportunity, but a responsibility. And so, we want to infiltrate the household. Olive + M’s future includes expanding into additional categories as a result of listening to our customers’ needs and filling a white space that we’ve identified in the market. I want Olive + M to be in every single bathroom and on every countertop. And it will! 


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