May 19, 2014

SMU alumna Gavanne Davis has big hair, a big attitude and a big dream. The 5-foot-1 force of nature has created a successful career that combines her chemistry expertise and love of the beauty industry.

Gavanne Davis '12

Gavanne Davis ’12

“SMU gave me confidence to follow my dreams,” says Davis, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2012. “At SMU I learned to network, take advantage of opportunities, research and be independent.”

The New Orleans native now makes her home in Placentia, California, a city she identifies as “the capital of cosmetology.” A promotion, a passion for the cosmetics scene and, “of course, the weather” led her to Orange County-based Coast Southwest. The chemical distribution company supplies manufacturers in the personal care and household products industries. She describes Coast Southwest as “a huge grocery store” that sells ingredients to make items ranging from facial creams to automotive lubricants.

Davis calls herself a “cosmetic chemist” but her official title is technical sales representative. When she started with the company, she was strictly in the lab. Now she has transitioned to building relationships with clients.

“I deal with increasing and maintaining sales, document control and product development,” she explains.

But, Davis is not stopping there. She is laying the foundation for her own beauty line, Vann Cosmetics. While working on product development, she also is building a following through a website – – and a social media network that includes Twitter and Instagram. In addition to offering tips and product reviews, she uses her chemistry background to explain the science behind some ingredients commonly found in cosmetics.

According to the entrepreneur, her mission with Vann Cosmetics is to change the way people view female beauty, particularly in regard to minority women, along lines similar to Dove’s successful “Real Beauty” campaign.

“I want my brand to represent individualism,” she says.

Her focus on hair care started as she gained interest in her own natural hair. In a posting on her website, she encourages women to be proud of natural assets such as curly hair. “Being different is a beautiful thing!” she writes. “When we place ourselves in this box of how we should look, or act, or dress, we are critically diluting the uniqueness we possess that causes us to shine so brightly,” she writes.

Davis knew early on that she wanted to make a big impact with her career and has found a way through cosmetic science. The most rewarding part of her venture so far has been in helping women build confidence, she says. When she faces challenges, Davis remembers she “is doing this for so many other women.”

And that big attitude for that big dream pushes her to keep going.

– Leah Johnson ’15