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SWAKE founder Vanessa Sachs on how she launched a sweat-proof makeup line.

Brookhaven resident Vanessa Sachs didn’t plan to be a makeup entrepreneur. But after coming up with the idea for an innovative sweat-proof foundation while completing her master’s in consumer analytics at the University of Georgia, she launched SWAKE Cosmetics in 2022. Since then, she’s received endorsements from the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders, UGA athletes and a crowd of loyal fans she calls “lifeletes,” people who want to look great while leading an active lifestyle. The cruelty-free and vegan line now includes the original foundation in 12 shades, concealer, brow gel and mascara— all designed to weather an intense workout or athletic event.

How did you come up with the idea for SWAKE?

In December 2021, I visited my parents in Florida for Christmas. At the time, I was doing intern work at the Delta Innovation Hub at the University of Georgia. I was surrounded by entrepreneurs all the time, but I didn’t ever think about starting a business. One day, I was going from the gym to my parents’ house to then go to brunch, and my dad was rushing me. And I was like, “Dad, you gotta calm down, I’m swaking my makeup off.” It was kind of a lightbulb moment because it was a slip of the tongue. I meant to say that I was “sweating my makeup off.” I thought, “Why isn’t there makeup for women who go to the gym?” I started doing market research and realized there wasn’t really sweatproof makeup. I thought, “If I don’t do it, someone else will.”

Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, what was your career plan?

I was already interviewing for some jobs, including a company called Qualtrics. I thought that was my dream job because it was in Utah, and it was a software that I’d been using in college. They offered me a job with low starting pay, and I thought, “Wow. This must be how you start.” But when I founded SWAKE, everything changed.

Did you play sports?

I stopped competitively swimming when I finished high school, but I was part of the Hoop Girls [basketball promotional] team at UGA. I also tutored student athletes. They’re so driven, and the motivation was always there. I identified with that same mindset of just having a passion and really wanting to improve.

What was the process of developing the formula like?

I was very naive. I thought, “I’m just going to build this makeup in my kitchen and send it to a lab, and they’re going to produce it.” That didn’t happen. I went on Upwork, a freelancing website where you can hire consultants, and put up an ad for a cosmetic chemist. One gentleman who used to work for L’Oréal applied. I told him I was looking for something between a deodorant and a foundation because I wanted it to last on my skin. But I also don’t want to be worried about it clogging any pores or blocking sweat from happening.

What does the SWAKE foundation feel like when you’re wearing it?

It has a satin feel. Everyone’s surprised when I do a swatch on their hands. They’ll say, “Oh, it doesn’t even feel like I’m wearing anything, and it looks really good.” It has buildable coverage, and it’s super-breathable, almost like a moisturizer.


PHOTO: Erik Meadows

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