Today we have an interview with the founder of one of my favorite personal care brands — EO Products. Recently I’ve come to love their baby bath products. Susan is truly an inspiring woman — who started a successful brand from the ground up while balancing motherhood.
Tell us about EO Products and how you started the brand:
When I started EO with Brad, we were actively looking for a way to have our family life and work life integrated. At that time, my son, Marc, was about five. Before that, I had been working in fashion and my travel schedule was relentless. I felt conflicted about being away from my son and was tired of holding up to the illusion of “having it all” or delusion of “work/life balance.” The simple fact was that I wanted to do good work and be available to my family. We wanted to create a company that we would want to work for and that supported family life.
We started with just four products, all essential oil blends, that we created and bottled in a little warehouse in San Francisco. We were bootstrapping and under quite a bit of pressure financially to make it all work. The saving grace is that we could do it our way, had the freedom to be innovative and learn and that there was no longer wishing I could be two places at once. There was financial sacrifice and risk and there was peace and focus. We had a vision. We wanted to make beautiful essential oil based products that were healthy and safe for ourselves, our family, and like minded people who wanted clean products. We were part of the earlier days of the natural products industry and community. It was a natural fit, it’s how we ate, shopped and reflected our values.
EO was successful and we loved learning about and making products across categories, growing our product offering as we discovered all the things we could create. In 2011, when my son came home with his band, I walked into the bathroom and saw a whole lot of mainstream, nasty products. When I called an impromptu focus group, (have I taught you nothing???!), their response was “Mama, we can’t afford EO, we need more for less.” We also discovered that there were few good options for inexpensive and healthy body care. So, in 2011, we launched Everyone for every body: 3-in-1 soaps and lotions. Everyone continues to thrive and so does our company.
Were you a mother before or after you launched your company?
I had Marc before we started EO, and Lucy was born a year after we’d started the company. She both grew up in my arms while I was blending essential oils, on the phone with buyers, and stressing over finances. It was hectic and beautiful. It turned out well for us and a lot of other people. We have built a company with heart and meaning.
What’s the most challenging part of motherhood and owning your own business? And the most rewarding?
The most challenging thing about motherhood, owning a business, or simply living, is to stay present with what is happening. When you’re raising kids or growing a business, it’s really easy to get lost or stressed in planning for the future. There’s this kind of mindset that suggests that it’s about your exit strategy not about your daily life. Brad and I always said that we wanted to live our lives like we were retired; to not wait for later to enjoy ourselves or think about what kind of world we were leaving behind. We’ve devoted ourselves to practices that support that mindset, and it’s been a critical part of our success.
The most rewarding thing about raising my family and growing my business together has been the wholehearted experience of it all. When you’re living your whole life at once, there is no artificial separation between business and personal. Granted, there are appropriate boundaries. In my Buddhist practice, I work with the idea of beginner’s mind – how can I come to every person and situation with a fresh and open heart and mind. That really affected how we did business, how we talked to our kids, and how we interacted with each other. I always have shared and lived by the Gibran quote that work is love made visible, that’s what we’re doing here – sharing our love.
Was there a defining moment for you when you realized EO Products had ‘made it’?
Yes. When we didn’t have to sweat payroll and we paid our bills on time. We say that we’ve been really good at not going out of business.
How do you stay organized with your work and family life?
I find that I naturally spend a few moments in a mini-meditation throughout the day. I make sure that I focus on the person/people that I’m with and put aside my phone or laptop. When the kids were small, I tried not to over commit. Learning how to say no and be more discerning with my time is an ongoing lesson. Getting clear about my priorities and then aligning my time to the people and events that are most important is a continuous check in and exercise. I think that there is no such thing as work/life balance – it just is another thing that sets women up for self doubt. There’s more ease in figuring out what self care looks like for you and being able to find the support needed to take care of yourself so you can best take care of the most important people in your life.
Tell us about your morning beauty routine and favorite products.
My morning ritual starts with a hot essential oil shower. My current favorites are Lemon & Eucalyptus, a few drops on the shower floor just wakes me up so nicely. I use body oil as an all over moisturizer – it keeps my skin fragrant and smooth. Transformative Night Serum is my go-to for everything; it goes on my face, hair, and cuticles. I’ve been wearing my own rose and sandalwood perfumed oil for years.
If you could offer one tip of advice to a new working mama, what would it be?
Take time to get with yourself so you know who you are and what you need and want. It sounds impossible, but it’s key to you, your work, and your kids all thriving. Just five or ten minutes can make all the difference. Ask for it when you need it, and use it wisely. Breathe, scream in your car, or take a quick walk. Do something to be kind to yourself, and that kindness will radiate out into your whole life.
What’s next for EO?
So many things! This year our EO brand is launching a line of essential oil perfumes called Love & Flowers. I’m so excited about them, the scents are so beautiful I can’t wait to share them.
Our Everyone brand is also adding new things this year, we’re making some new hand soap scents and we have a line of styling products coming out next month.