When Irene Barksy developed an unexpected allergy, her entire career path shifted. Now, she’s the driving force behind TAHNYC — skin identical peptide driven, filler-free skin care line created with replenishing ingredients that exist in the skin naturally. (And, it will look beautiful on your bathroom counter to boot. Anyone else a sucker for great packaging?) We were intrigued by her career path, what inspires her, and the advice she wishes she had 5 years ago. She explains all in our #5MinutesWith questionnaire: 

MY LIGHTBULB MOMENT:
For me, it all really started about 4 years ago, just after I found out I developed a contact allergy to parabens and the entire botanical Sunflower family, also known as the Asteraceae family, which includes over 30,000 species of common botanicals such as chamomile, calendula and, of course sunflowers. It was easy enough to remove products I was allergic to, but, the reactions that covered my face in painful blisters that would crack for days left my skin sensitized and unable to tolerate fillers, slip agents and texture makers that are commonly found in skin care. I finally knew what was wrong, but I wasn’t prepared for a reaction to fillers which left me with only one option, water.

I remember the moment TAHNYC began clearly. I was standing in Whole Foods looking for a dish sponge. I picked up the Twist Naked Sponge and that’s when you might say I lost it. ‘Wait, I can pick up a filler free sponge, I can get a filler free toothpaste, but I can’t find filler free skin care!?!’

We have the choice to remove fillers from our food. Shouldn’t we have the choice to remove fillers from our skin care? I saw a real negative space; our skin is the largest organ of our body, we desperately needed a choice! That was the exact moment that TAHNYC was born.

I CAN’T START MY DAY UNTIL:
I start my day with one simple thing. I spend 1 hour every morning having coffee with my husband. We turn all the tech off; there’s no rush or distractions, we sit and just talk over coffee. We talk about anything – how we slept, our goals for the day and the things we want to do over the weekend. We take this time to connect and just be in the moment. It’s the one hour I never miss and the hour that starts my everyday.

SUCCESS IS:
There are so many ways people tend to measure success; accomplishments, recognition, revenue, etc. To me, success is recognizing and knowing that on your journey there is always something more you can learn from others. I believe learning is always in fashion. Once you’ve recognized that, you can truly listen to feedback and that leads you on the road to success.

YOU’LL NEVER SEE ME WITHOUT:
TAHNYC is founded on a deep passion to help others truly love their skin. As silly as it sounds, I always carry extra bottles of Pure or Complex B in my bag, which I am known to give out. Sometimes help is hard to find. People don’t know where to turn or who to share their struggle with, so they silently suffer. I think we can all do more.

MY DREAM COLLABORATION:
I believe it’s time for a change and we are redefining beauty. For me, the ideal collaboration is with a partner who shares our vision, understands the problem we’re looking to solve and sees the negative space we’re addressing.

THE ONLY PLACE BETTER THAN CHICAGO:
I have to say California. I love sunshine and really hate being cold. You can always find me wearing a sweater even during summer in Chicago.

WHEN I FEEL UNINSPIRED:
When I’m stuck on a problem or just uninspired, as odd as it sounds, I’ll read the Thesaurus. It’s a great exercise in looking at a problem from many different perspectives. I’ll select a word that helps me focus on a solution and explore all synonyms. That usually gets me thinking outside the box. From there, I’ll create an idea or a mood board.

ADVICE I WISH I HAD 5 YEARS AGO:
Five years ago, I was a cofounder of another fast-growing company. As founders, we tend and need to give all our time and energy to nurture and grow the brands we build. My best advice is leave a little time to focus on yourself, don’t forget to spend time with the people you love, because they might not be there tomorrow.

IN 5 YEARS FIND ME:
I truly believe that sometimes to make big changes, it only takes a few passionate people. I’m looking to build a different kind of company, one that can bring change and create a new standard in beauty care.

ABOVE ALL ELSE:
In the end, when all is said and done and your journey comes to conclusion, remember that the only thing left are the people who love and care about you. Be sure you cherish them and make them the most important thing in your world.

SHOP THE STORY: 1. PREVENTATIVE CARE, Complete Care Routine // 2. COMPLEX B, Concentrated Vitamin B5 Serum // 3. NUDE PEARL LUSTER, Highlighting Pearl Powder // 4. RENEW, Antiaging Collagen Complex // 5. PURE, Restoring Molecular Moisturizer