By Aida Toro
“Here’s the thing, I love two things: creating and expressing myself. On the internet, essentially.”
Many know Doe Deere as the Unicorn Queen who founded Lime Crime, the notorious vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics brand. What many don’t know is that Deere’s past life molded her into the successful and inspiring entrepreneur she is nowadays. Deere was born as Xenia Vorotova in Izhevsk, Russia. She migrated to Manhattan in 1998 at the age of 17 with her mother and younger sister in search of a better life.
“I became an adult in New York,” said Deere. “My friend, Voltaire, once told me that a seven-year-old New Yorker is a 13-year-old everywhere else because we are just exposed to so much more. All the way from diversity, to the good things and the bad things. New York is New York.”
Deere quickly discovered that a strong work ethic and her mother’s life savings weren’t enough to keep her, her sister and mother afloat. Although her mother was an accomplished accountant in Russia, no company would hire her due to the fact that her education records were delayed in transferring over to the U.S.
“To make ends meet, she started cleaning other people's apartments, and I walked dogs and watched neighbors’ cats to help with the bills,” said Deere. “This shocking new reality was hard on the three of us psychologically and there were moments when we felt defeated and thought we were going to have to go back home.”
Despite the family’s outstanding efforts and with only $7.56 left to their name, they were forced to check into a homeless shelter on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. The following six months was a time of great uncertainty for Deere and her family.
“We huddled in a tiny room with a single bed and no kitchen and we stood in line every Thursday at the local church for free meals and pantry,” she said. “ I temporarily escaped the reality by daydreaming about being a fashion designer and even began putting my ideas to paper.”
The family continued to work hard and to save every little bit of money they had while they wondered if they would ever be able to get back on their feet again. In 1999, great things started happening to Deere and her family as a social worker introduced them to Sanctuary for Families, a non-profit legal organization that assisted women who’ve experienced unfortunate situations when they’ve immigrated to the U.S.
“Their leader was Dorchen Leidholdt, a lawyer, feminist, and all-around inspiring woman,” said Deere about Sanctuary for Families. “Leidholdt recognized our potential and knew that with some help, we would be back on our feet in no time.”
Leidholdt was instrumental in helping Deere’s mother acquire her first job as an accountant in addition to assisting Deere in applying and getting accepted into the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) as well as her younger sister into Columbia
University, where she graduated with honors on a full scholarship.
“I went to FIT and studied fashion design & illustration,” she said. “I never graduated, however, I felt it was time to pursue my dreams - now or never - so I formed a band and launched a DIY fashion line.”
Deere’s band was called “Sky Salt” and it was a fairytale rock band she formed with her now husband, Mark Dumbelton. She began her relationship with Dumbleton in the Summer of 1999 through AOL Instant Messenger and didn’t meet in person till the Spring of 2000.
“We wrote our own songs and promoted the band using 'gorilla-style' marketing on the internet and the streets of New York,” she said. “I sang, played piano and guitar and Mark played the guitar too.
The duo had their band from 2000 to 2006. In the midst of having been a member of the band, Deere also launched a DIY Fashion line in 2004 which inspired the name Lime Crime.
“I would sell clothes on eBay that I made myself and eventually I started to do my own makeup to match the colorful clothes that I had and I slowly began to realized that the colors that I wanted didn’t exist,” she said, “It kind of came out of necessity but also an inspiration. For me, when I want something so desperately and it’s just not out there...there’s no other option, I just have to create it and find a way to make it.”
Deere noticed she had fans that were inspired by her makeup skills. With this being stated, she decided to launch Lime Crime in 2008, not to mention that she adopted the moniker, ‘Doe Deere’, during this time as well. The company employed 35 people in Los Angeles and still inspires women all over the world to express themselves unapologetically.
“Lime Crime was the result of my desire for bright, quality makeup which wasn't readily available on the market,” she said. “Lime Crime's first product was eyeshadow; soon followed by a range of Unicorn Lipstick. Our breakthrough products were the Velvetines, Venus Palettes and Unicorn Hair (semi-permanent hair color).”
Her process for the products’ formula development involved being hands-on in the lab and working alongside a chemist. Deere said she tested everything on herself and refused to release a product unless it was 100% perfect by my estimate. Although the company was doing extremely well, Lime Crime faced a website security breach controversy where the company experienced an unfortunate security breach in 2014. The company’s website was hacked by cyber-thieves which resulted in some customer information being stolen.
“As the CEO and face of the brand, I was always the focus of controversy,” said Deere. “Many of the company's mishaps - or even just bad luck - got laid out at my feet. While it didn’t seem fair, I've learned to accept the responsibility of being a leader, learn from it, and come back a better businesswoman as a result.”
It's not about how many times you fall down, but whether you get back up, expressed Deere.
In 2011, Deere and Dumbleton said their goodbye’s to the Big Apple and flew across the country to reside in Los Angeles, California. Everything affiliated with Lime Crime was based out of Los Angeles, which was indeed more convenient for Deere to reside in due to the fact that she would be closer to her business. In late 2017, Lime Crime partnered up with Tengram Capital Partners. After nine years of giving their lives to the brand, Deere and Dumbleton were ready to take a break, start a family, and launch a new business.
“I'd been nurturing an idea for a jewelry brand for a while,” she said. “Today, Lime Crime is run by a fully professional team of Executives, including a new CEO, Stacy Panagakis.
Deere and Dumbleton remain on the Board of Directors as Founders and trust the team with creative direction. The jewelry brand Deere recently launched is called Poppy Angleoff, a brand for 'Victorian girls living in the modern world’, as she says. Poppy Angleoff was launched on October 2018, which is precisely ten years after Lime Crime’s fruition.
“I invented a name that has that vibe,” said Deere. “I like the symbolism of that and had the idea - and the name - for quite some time.”
The company launched with seven designs, however, it is expanding rather quickly. Deere is passionate about colorful gemstone and enamel rings as Poppy Angleoff’s signature ring is called The Pansy.
“I design and oversee production on every piece and,” she said. “I like being able to touch everything, I even sign every order!”
Jewelry is just the beginning for Poppy Angeloff, mentioned Deere since she envisions Poppy Angeloff as a lifestyle brand which she has major plans for in 2019. Aside from being an entrepreneur, Deere is the proud mother to her baby girl, Lorelei.
“Becoming a mother had an unforeseen effect on me: while definitely exhausting, it's also re-energized me and made me even more resilient and determined to succeed,” she said. “I used to do it for myself and my own ambition; now I do it for my daughter. I want to build a company Lorelei would be proud to inherit one day!”
Deere advises all the 'momtrepreneurs' out there to go hard as a motherfucker (HAM) on their vision, however, to go easy on themselves.
“There will be days when you won't be able to accomplish much and it's ok - use those mental 'rest days' to re-group, so you can come back and attack the tasks with new vigor,” said Deere. “Also, don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.”