Q & A :
Welcome to our Spotlight, Brenda! We're so happy to have you join us. I'd love to know how your passion for all-natural beauty started. Would you please give us some background about where you grew up, and where your interest started?
I am from a farming family in central Texas and grew up deeply steeped in the herbal traditions and kitchen culture of my grandmother and old Aunts ... It was so exciting to me and so exotic that these elegant creatures in their cotton dresses surrounded by fresh flowers and herbal iced teas had endured such hardships in the depression and even before... and with such pluck! All the stories passed down to me around the farm kitchen table profoundly effected me from the time I was a very small child. Most of my cousins could not get away from the old ways of the farm fast enough and move toward all things modern...but me? I wanted to know the old ways, how they did it, who taught them....it seemed so secret and so important.
Your business began in such a wonderful way, please share with us how it came to be, and where your business is at today.
I have always had a passion for growing herbs and flowers and a desire to really understand them and their properties and for making herbal concoctions with them. Even as a child, I grew herbs and made "potions" . I even grew herbs on the fire escape when I lived in NYC, and made salves, potions and lotions in my tiny little kitchen ...But when people ask me when I decided to start a business, I tell them the truth, I never did! I was well into a business before it even dawned on me. The business grew out of a demand and a successful summer of selling my "Farmaesthetics" skincare products at my friends organic farm in RI. We wanted our little girls to know where things came from and how they were made and brought to market....so we opened the stand selling things derived from ingredients grown on the organic farm....... A woman from Manhattan bought my goodies and took them back to the city, introduced my products to a well known spa owner on Madison Avenue who asked me to travel to NY and show her my "line". I did and she purchased everything and a business was born. Today we are growing fast as people more and more call for the real thing. We are sold and used in professional care in over 150 of the best spas and specialty retailers in the world and in fact, were just named to Conde Nasts 2005 list of the Best Organic Beauty Brands.
I was struck by the completely pure ingredients that you use in every single product that you offer. Please give us some insight on where your inspiration comes from when you formulate your products, and what guidelines you follow.
I am inspired by rural herbal traditions for caring for health and beauty and for living in accord with the environment, ever aware of the seasons of the year and the seasons of life. I honor these traditions as my Grandmother did ....and by the way, I never saw a bottle of phalate, or sodium laurel sulfate in her kitchen cabinet.
You are truly an exceptional formulator. I understand that you were inducted into the prestigious Society of Cosmetic Chemists & Union of Concerned Scientists. Please tell us more about this group, and how you came to be inducted.
I always say you could make Farmaesthetics yourself , but you probably won't , so I will. I formulate very simply and draw from my knowledge of traditional American herbal approaches to health and beauty. I have been told by an old accomplished herbalist that I have the gift of "combinations" ..I love that! I read incessantly and research old texts and pharmacopoeias for "clues"....I am a sleuth and a kitchen chemists, as opposed to a PhD working within the sophisticated science of many modern cosmetic manufacturing.
As for how I got into such company as those in the SCC, after months of effort, I was successful in achieving stable products with an extended shelf life within the cosmetic manufacturing industry while using only natural ingredients. I worked to bring my recipes from 5 x7 index cards to formulas for large scale manufacturing....I was interfacing with top chemists of the cosmetic industry and some of them were very excited by my work and my results and sponsored me to join their professional organization. I learn so much from this elite professional group who are the PhDs and SCIENTISTS of our industry...In short, I am a kitchen chemist, not a scholar and to be working within this pool of knowledge, has had an impact on me. I support The Union of Concerned Scientists as an environmentalist and proponent of clean manufacturing.
I also understand that you are a woman of many talents, and had the interesting experience of being in a soap opera! Please tell us more.
I was hired to play an 1880s farm woman on the soap opera, One Life to Live, when one of the main characters was having a flash back to the past story line. I played May McGillis, a frontier pioneer farm woman. This segment of the show was being filmed on location in AZ, and the actress needed to know how to ride a horse. So I got the job, and the next thing I know is I am in AZ, dressed in a corset and a bonnet and riding horses in the hot sun, on my remote "farm"....My first lines were "I am not afraid to work, I will scratch out a living on the land like my Momma before me" (something like that) What an amazing thing that was for me. And this was a decade before I ever even thought about a business making herbal skincare from herbs and flowers grown on an organic farm!
What advice would you give to those that are just starting an all-natural beauty business?
First, be prepared to never have time to work in your own garden ever again! :) Stay true to your natural formulations. Do not waiver. And if you can't make it "clean"...don't make it. And be clear with your consumer and your marketing material so they have a chance to really embrace what natural means. That is how we can build confidence and legitimacy in all skincare channels.... natural does not mean there is a flower on the label. It means it is free of any synthetic ingredients.
What advice would you give to a beauty business that is not completely all-natural in their ingredients, but is thinking about going the all-natural way?
Do it. You do the natural category and our environment great disservice, by fudging and burying ingredients and massaging marketing messages. If all natural is not all natural, then what is it? If you don't want to make all natural products or you can't, fine, just don't call it that. There is a huge market for products that are not all natural...go there.
What do you see for the future of the all-natural beauty industry?
The industry is looking to attract a new kind of consumer that is aware of the effectiveness of all natural and the need for natural choices. I see a massive clean up coming...as we educate our consumers to read labels, they will....and then the imposters will move out and the natural product category can grow and clean manufacturing can become common practice... and this is key to a beautiful world and a healthy environment which in turns yields us a well worn trusted path to health and beauty.
Please visit Brenda's web site:
Farmaesthetics is a company that is clearly leading the way in social responsibility:
Farmaesthetics’ Commitment to Ethical Business Practices, Humanitarian Causes and Ecologically Conscious Manufacturing
Farmaesthetics was founded on the principles of sustainable agriculture learned from the rural lifestyle of the founder’s own farming family heritage. Committed to using organic herbs and flowers, Farmaesthetics supports small U.S. family farms and organic growers and pre-pays crops locally in Rhode Island.
The products are chemical free and retain shelf life and stability in mass production. They have undergone rigorous dermatological testing and are certified hypoallergenic and nonirritating.
The company uses recyclable, minimal packaging, recycled boxes for shipping and cornstarch packing materials only.
Products are donated to hospitals for use in women’s oncology programs because of its chemical-free formulations that help ease and relieve difficult skin conditions associated with chemotherapy and radiation.
Donations of product are made yearly to the Save the Rainforest fundraiser (hosted by Sting) and to Breast Cancer fundraisers across the country, as well as centers for domestic violence (Peace Promotion Programs).
Farmaesthetics also uses partial solar heating and natural lighting in their warehouse and office facility.