20 Under 40 Teens to Watch: Sophia Stener

Age: 18
Business: Mali Mali
High School: The Episcopal School of Dallas
College: Columbia University (Fall)
Community Involvement: I volunteer at the Dallas Arboretum Children’s Garden and help guide visitors through the educational exhibits. I absolutely love being able to work with guests and show them around the beautiful gardens.

Sophia Stener suffered from sensitive skin growing up, often resulting in hives whenever she would try on clothes or walk through a supermarket. Although there were solutions out there, many of them had adverse side effects. After finding no answers to the problem, Stener decided to do her research by studying substances used for medicinal purposes by cultural groups – while still in high school – and developed the brand Mali Mali. Her company makes plant-based skin cream and lip oil suitable for all skin types. Not stopping there, Stener partnered with Cool Earth, an organization dedicated to preventing global warming, to help fight the destruction of rainforests across the globe.

What is the best advice you received when beginning your career? I would probably have to say “be firm, respectful, and relentless.” My dad told me that in order to make it on my own I would have to learn how to better stand up for myself and my convictions. I will say the advice has been used many times over and I still keep it in mind when visiting potential retailers or at exhibitions.

What is your business philosophy? Companies should go beyond helping their customers and should work towards bettering their larger community as a whole. I personally believe that businesses have the ability to better society through philanthropic work and initiatives. One way Mali Mali® does so is by partnering with Cool Earth™ and donating a portion of every sale to help end rainforest destruction across the globe.

What inspires you? I am inspired by my goal of creating a brand that uses its network and resources to work towards sustainability. Companies like United By Blue and Tory Burch (Foundation), who have found ways to use their resources to better their communities, have had a tremendous influence on me. Their work reminds me that (1) you have to start somewhere and (2) the importance of not losing sight of one’s goals.

If you could tell 16-year-old you anything, what would you say? Well, that was just two years ago…but I would probably suggest being more open to vulnerability. At first, I would shy away from embracing my fears and actually going out on my own and selling. I definitely have learned in these past few years just how important and valuable it is to put a face behind a brand to drive sales and pique interest.

What is your proudest career accomplishment? I guess relative to most people here my career has not been very long. However, I would say having customer feedback from people who have gotten off of Cortisone Cream and steroid treatment for eczema and psoriasis makes my work worthwhile. I started Mali Mali® because I know just how difficult it can be to find relief and if I can help someone find that then I am accomplishing what I set out to do.

What did you learn from your best boss or mentor? Failure is a misconception: when something doesn’t work out it is feedback for the next time.

What was your first summer job? Mali Mali®

What do you love about your community? I love the people and continued support. This community is extremely uplifting and helpful and has been since Mali Mali® launched.

Where is the best place for a business power lunch in Park Cities or Preston Hollow? Royal Blue Grocery! Far and away, Royal Blue is the best place to grab lunch or coffee for work. The atmosphere and vibe is incredible and fun.

What is your fondest Park Cities or Preston Hollow memory? I would probably have to say riding my bike around Lakeside Park in the summer. It’s so pretty and a great place to relax and disconnect even if just for an afternoon.

Where will we find you enjoying your hard-earned time off? The beach

What do you want your last meal to be? Surprise me!

What is your favorite color? Baby Blue

What fictional world or place would you like to visit? Westeros

If you could be on a reality TV show, which one would you choose? Shark Tank. I like a challenge, and I am obsessed with the show.

What would your superpower be? Probably teleportation to save time.

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Bianca R. Montes

Bianca Montes is an award-winning journalist and former Managing Editor of Park Cities People. She currently serves as a Senior Editor with D Magazine's D CEO publication. You can reach her by email at Bianca.Montes@Dmagazine or follow her on Instagram @Bianca_TBD. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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