I recently had *the pleasure of interviewing Emilie Hoyt, founder and CEO of LATHER. Emilie had a hunch that her lifelong migraines were triggered by synthetic fragrance — made largely by toxic chemicals and frequently found in beauty products. *
Little did she know, her explorer’s heart, natural curiosity, and deep love for nature and essential oils would become the first steps on a journey towards creating LATHER, a pioneering, head-to-toe personal care brand. One loved by loyal customers all over the world. LATHER’s mission is to deliver daily natural skincare and wellness experiences that help people feel real.
Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Having suffered from migraines that specialists were unable to remedy, I made the decision at a young age to take my health into my own hands. On a hunch that my skincare was to blame, I began exploring the world, gathering natural ingredients to make my own products — all with zero synthetic fragrance. With positive results and a heartfelt appreciation for natural ingredients, I launched LATHER in 1999.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take always’ you learned from that?
When I first started LATHER, I didn’t have a great grasp on business terminology. There would be conversations during which I would be questioned on things like my margin on soap. Initially I would consider, “Is this person asking me how much remainder exists after I cut the soap?” Also, when asked about EBITDA, I remember thinking, “What the heck is that?” There was a huge learning curve, and I had to grow into the idea that there are no stupid questions. If ever confused, I now just simply ask.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead has put me more in touch with my instincts. Her words and lessons have helped me fortify courage to take risks.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
I started LATHER as a solution to a problem. When non-toxic skincare and wellness products significantly improved the quality of my life, I felt moved to not only provide a natural, alternative solution to other people suffering with similar sensitivities, but also to educate my community on the harmful toxins that are permitted to be used in most personal care products. For example, I discovered that not only is synthetic fragrance made of toxic, petroleum-based chemicals, but also, that they are used in 95% of beauty products. Facts like these alarmed me and drive me to date.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Always take the high road. Both experience and intuition have taught me to never indulge in short cuts. This includes everything from the quality of ingredients we use to the deep-seated values that remain the cornerstones of LATHER. Simply put, there is no overnight success that lasts, and slow and steady will almost always win the race.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Like is the situation with many people, COVID-19 drove my work out of the office and into the home space. While wonderful to be at home with my family, there have been a new set of challenges to navigate. Mainly, it’s been difficult to be so physically close to my kids but not have the time to really connect with them. This has perhaps been even more exacerbated in this uncertain health climate. What really helps me is focusing on how lucky we are as a family. We are healthy, fed and safe.
I have also chosen to address the pandemic quite pointedly with my kids, rather than brush past it. I told them early in this that they may see me upset, frustrated and irritable — that they may even see me cry. I told them they may feel these things too, and that it may get uncomfortable to be under one roof with many distinct emotions circulating. I have explained and repeat daily that this is a hard situation. I tell them that while I don’t know when this will end, when they will see their friends or if this situation will change our lives moving forward, I do know that we are strong as individuals, and even stronger as a unit, and that we will show resilience to anything that happens.
Can you share a few of the biggest work-related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
As a business owner, it’s been an incredibly stressful time. I had to furlough many of my wonderful staff and also had to apply for loans. These are things I have never before done. Truthfully, it was a humbling experience to see my business drop so suddenly. It was as emotional as it was trying, as I have spent over 20 years working to build this truly special business. There were definitely moments in which I considered the harsh reality that my company could dwindle overnight. However, like I requested of my kids, my team and I showed resilience, and today, we’re still selling natural skincare and wellness products that help people feel real.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
In times of uncertainty, keeping a routine definitely helps instill some sense of normalcy into our day-to-day lives. My family and I also regularly use aromatherapy to help cement different times of the day. For example, an invigorating essential oil blend on our wrists and temples helps wake us up and set the tone for the day and later in the evenings, we use a gentle, soothing essential oil to promote relaxation.
Obviously, we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
Moving forward, I think products that both help and incentivize people to take precautions and stay healthy will find heightened value. Companies that care deeply about their customers, and have used this time to instate good will, provide helpful resources and maintain an open line of communication with their community, will ultimately thrive.
How do you think the Covid pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
On a large scale, I think we as a society have woken up to the fact that without health, we have nothing. I hope to not only see our health care system improve, so that it works for everyone, but I also hope to see people take their own health more seriously, especially in regard to what they put in and on their bodies.
On a more day-to-day level, I do think humans will move around with a lot more caution. While difficult, as we are truly social creatures that thrive on connection, I do think this pandemic has conditioned us to slow down. I am noticing a tonal shift in myself and in those in my community. From the activities we choose to partake in, the things we choose to purchase and how we choose to spend our time, purpose and intention seem to be a much greater driving force than ever before.
Though the “hustle” to which we as humankind have become so accustomed will likely never completely go away, I do feel that this unique time has restored some sort of balance. Moving forward, I am hopeful that we will lean into our mind and body health in a much more meaningful way.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the post-Covid Economy?
As a company that has always strayed from sales and gimmicks and leaned more heavily into consistent products of integrity and approachable costs, we plan to stay our course. We will continue to offer non-toxic, natural products in an honest way. That being said, when this global pandemic hit, the importance of readily available protective products became clear. To help keep our community safe and healthy, we dipped into the resources we had available to us. We were able to quickly launch our Hand Sanitizer with Moisturizing Aloe, not only to keep germs away but also to help with the drying effects of the product’s alcohol (as well as chapping from excessive hand washing).
We’ve also partnered with companies like Jaanuu to make face masks more readily available to people as they prepare to re-enter the world. And to promote hygiene moving forward, we are in the process of releasing a Face Mask Applicator — to help keep hands and products clean.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?Stay your course. Don’t take advantage of people’s vulnerability. Should businesses choose to adjust their foundational platforms, it should only be to help their consumers — not for the purpose of profit. This goodwill is what has helped build LATHER’s customer loyalty through good times and bad, and I would advise no differently to a fellow business owner.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote?” Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Less of a quote, and more of a mantra, I always tell myself, nothing is ever as good or bad as it seems. Keep taking small steps. It’s ultimately these minute forward movements — which we often overlook — that defines progress.
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