What was your inspiration for Primal Life Organics?
It was really out of necessity. When I was 40 years old, I graduated from anesthesia school and my husband and I got married in Fiji. Being forty, we decided we wanted to start a family right away. I got pregnant while in Fiji, but miscarried at week seven.
At that point in our lives, we were very healthy and we weren't necessarily worried about genetics. As a nurse, I knew that some of my household products could include toxins that hurt me and my baby. We immediately changed our cleaning products and our laundry detergent. When I got pregnant again I remember getting ready for work and for some reason I decided to read the “natural” and “organic" ingredients that went into my moisturizer. I recognized some of the ingredients as toxins and immediately went on a mission to make my own products.
Why paleo skincare?
I was actually one of the first people to use the term “paleo skincare.” This was back in 2012, when I launched a company called Olives Organic Botanicals. While I was reading the book The Secret, I realized that my skincare was not just natural and organic, but actually paleo! I did some additional research on the paleo diet and saw that there weren't many skincare alternatives for people living a paleo lifestyle. This helped me realize even more that there was an entire community I could market to. Pretty soon after we rebranded the company, I got a call from the editor of Paleo Magazine asking me to advertise, which turned into an article about paleo skincare and Primal Life Organics. This is when we really took off.
You have been in the medical field for 30+ years. How does your past experience impact your current business?
I was originally in education until a friend of mine started nursing school. She told me that nurses could work 12-hour shifts three days a week and have the other four days a week off. I was sold. I worked in the ICU, burn care and anesthesia, but I was really drawn to the combination of being able to teach and care for patients.
I believe the company is now my way to be both an educator and a nurse; I can educate everyone on which ingredients to watch out for and what products to use, and I can apply my medical knowledge to every product I make. For instance, I created a deodorant that people can use to massage and drain their lymphatic nodes, which will ultimately keep them healthier, not just smelling fresh.
I still do a lot of education on Facebook and through blog articles, where I mostly teach people about skincare and toxins. I also provide dental help and tips on how to keep your mouth healthy. Your mouth really is your gateway.
Skincare has received more public attention the last couple of years. Has this changed your approach to Primal Life Organics?
Honestly, it hasn't really changed my approach. My first job as a nurse was in a burn care center. I saw how damage to the skin can devastate the body. When skin is damaged, you can go into shock, your brain can suffer, your heart can suffer—every system can suffer.
I also know that for skincare to pass through the skin you need lipids, so I ditch the water and make all of my products oil-based. My goal is to keep people looking their healthiest and their youngest. I'm 52 years old and most people who meet me think I'm in my early- to mid-30s. I love telling people my age because I always get a shocked reaction when they look at me!
You’re an author! What inspired your book?
My husband actually brought the idea to me. He said that I should write a blog or book to let people know the secrets that the beauty industry didn’t want you to know. I initially resisted, as I was a full-time nurse working 44 hours a week and I had three little babies at home.
About six months later I went to a conference, and people were talking about how writing can help build credibility and get your message across. I came home and told my husband, “You know what? I think I need to write a book." He just looked at me and said, “I told you that months ago.” This is when I wrote Beauty's Dirty Secret: Three Steps to Superpower Your Skin.
How do you handle risk and competition?
As the founder of paleo skincare, I created my own competition, which I honestly feel is a good thing. The world is big enough for more than one brand, and my products aren’t for everyone. Competition is healthy: it keeps me honest, on my toes and constantly challenged.
I don't really look at other brands and what they're doing—I look and see how they're growing. If they're growing, I'm growing, and that means that we're doing the world a good service by offering good products and making people healthier.
That being said, unlike others in the industry, I focus a lot of time and energy on education. I've done talks, conferences, a ton of Facebook Live interviews and webinars. As a nurse, I actually know how the body functions, especially at the cellular level, and I can explain to people what is going on inside their body and why it's so important.
What’s been the #1 (or two) top challenges you’ve faced while launching your company?
Honestly, it was really fun to launch my company, mostly because I didn't need to. I didn't hate my job and I didn't need the money, so the pressure was off if the company didn't succeed. To me, launching the company was more of a personal mission because I know I created something that could change lives.
That being said, the main challenge was that it took off so fast. I had to balance my time with family and work—and then this new work as well. As the company grew, time became more of a challenge and I ultimately left nursing full time.
Have you learned anything new or surprising about yourself through this process?
Holy cow, I'm a completely different person! I've learned about how to manage people, how to motivate people to work, and how to run a business successfully. Making products was also new for me, but luckily it came pretty easily. I simply research what I want a product to do, track down the natural ingredients, do some testing, and then launch. In fact, many of the first products I make have ended up being the final version.
You’ve been on TV numerous times. What was that like?
Every time I go on there's a little bit of nervousness. Mostly, it’s around what they’re going to ask me if they don't have a prescript. I've learned and done enough of this now that if I don't know, I don't know! I'm very honest if I don't have the information, but I always give an alternative.
Why did you decide to raise from the crowd?
I love what Republic stands for! I really think that by joining forces with Republic, I can reach more people and change lives. That's really what my mission is: changing the lives of people today and future generations.
In particular, I really want moms and dads to understand what they want their kids to use when they grow up. In fact, when my boys were just two years old, they happened to find my body butter and they were scooping it out and eating it like it was butter. I wasn't concerned at all because I knew the ingredients were food-grade and safe to eat. I felt really good about that because I know how dads and moms don't realize how much kids put in their mouths.
What’s your team culture like?
I have a no-drama policy for my company. I always tell people, “Leave your ego at the door. This is your safe place; this is where you come to work.”
We have a really good group of people working for us. Every morning the team does a huddle or a hug. We have great communication and we focus on keeping a health-focused culture. In fact, during the summer, a lot of times we'll actually go outside and do jumping jacks or do a walk or a run. Every first Friday of the month we do a pizza party or some sort of food party to get together and have fun.
What is your superpower?
I can formulate products like you wouldn't believe. I also have a great power to educate people in a way they understand. I attribute that to the fact that I was a nurse. As part of my job, I would always wait until after the doctor left and check with the family or the patient to make sure they understood everything and to see if they needed clarification.
What’s your kryptonite?
I don't tolerate it when people don't take ownership of a mistake and they don't want to figure out how it happened or how to fix it. That's what sets me off; when I have to stop what I'm doing to try and figure out what happened and how to resolve it. Really, that's it! I don't get bothered by a lot. I think everyone does a good job or tries to do a good job. I innately believe in humans.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
I listen to music on my way to work. I only live about 7 to 10 minutes away from the office, but I love listening to 80's music. It triggers something in my brain to be able to have the energy and focus I need for the day ahead. I love Bon Jovi, Led Zeppelin, Ozzy—all of it!
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
I love working out and doing hot yoga. I don't watch TV, and in fact, I don't even know how to turn the TV on in our house! I also love to read and paint. Right now we are redecorating the house, and I have been painting a couple of the rooms. I love to do things like that—anything that's going to keep me active or keep me moving.
Are there any apps or gadgets that you can’t live without?
I've always taught myself “don't get too attached to anything.” But the one thing I can't live without are my boots. I have a collection of old Frye boots. I have gringo boots, cowboy boots, black boots, tall boots, short boots, military boots—all boots. You can take just about anything away from me, but don't take my boot collection. Otherwise, I might have to come and find you.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice 5 years ago, what would it be?
Don't stress the small stuff and handle situations as they come. Today, I can pass many of these stresses off to my team, but when I couldn't, I constantly felt pressure to solve things. As soon as you can build a team, pass the small things off.
You have a lot on your plate as CEO. Delegate and raise up a team that can support you so that when issues arise, you no longer have to take the lead—you can just guide the forces.
What’s your experience been like as a female founder?
I've learned that if you follow your heart, your heart will never lead you wrong. Sometimes it's hard to separate your heart from your head, but that's where the work ethic really comes from. That's what I've always done when hard decisions come up: I stop thinking with my head, I follow my heart and I always look to the future.
Do you have a(ny) mentor(s)? If so, what have they taught you?
My husband is probably my biggest mentor. Without him and his business knowledge, this business never would have taken off. Friends were using my products and they loved them, and I said to him, “I should probably just make and sell this. I'm thinking of a little store on Etsy.” He turned around, looked at me, and said, “Figure out what you want to be called. I'll get someone to do your logo and we'll get a website up and going.”
Within one year (in fact, it was on our daughter's first birthday), we launched Primal Life Organics. Without him, this company never would have existed. It was never my vision to build a big company. I wanted to have a family, work as a nurse, and then have this project on the side. Little did I know what it would lead to. I have tons of mentors, but the biggest mentor in my life is my husband.