Margot Elena is the creator, founder, and designer of beloved global indie beauty brands Lollia, TokyoMilk, Love & Toast, Library of Flowers, and The Cottage Greenhouse. I'm sure you've seen her beautifully packaged goods in retail shops nationwide...I've been a big fan for awhile now.
It was a pleasure teaming up with Margot for a giveaway (see my Instagram post) and interviewing her to learn more about how she's sustained and scaled a growing indie beauty company on her own terms, in her own way.
How long have you been in business?
My mother is a fine artist and teacher, and I have always admired how she answers the question how long did it take you to paint that painting? She answers, “About 40 hours and 50 years.” So, I can now confidently say, “Over 20 years plus another 20…I started making and selling in third grade and never stopped!"
What was the original inspiration for creating your own company?
I actually recently found one of my ORIGINAL hand drawn catalogs and this is what I wrote those many years ago, “A very new, very natural, very grassroots company. We are a company of women of all kinds in mind. Our woman is charmed by the mysticism of the every day natural world. Our products are about a lifestyle. We are about enjoying life and stopping to notice all of the beautiful things along the way. Body & Soul.” And wow, hey, young me, I STILL really mean that today. So that’s pretty remarkable!
How have you done things differently in your industry? How have you been able to listen to your intuition and ignore the naysayers?
When I started there were very, very few independent bath and beauty makers. It is weird to say today, but true, that I am one of the original Mama’s to this whole independent bath and beauty industry. When I started our customers didn’t even know what a shower gel was. I helped to push the boundaries in micro beauty to include perfumes—I truly was one of the first indie houses to bring perfumes out of the mall and into independent stores.
I suppose that, another great saying from my father, is that I always “kept puttin’ one foot ‘fore the other.” I just had a vision and I realized I could learn nothing if I didn’t at least try. Often what I try works, but equally important are the times when things don’t work—this is where you really get to listen and learn. Those moments inform you how to move forward—they are only obstacles, and obstacles can be surmounted. And as for the naysayers, I just simply didn’t have time to listen because I was already on the path!
How does your dad continue to inspire you?
What was so incredible about my father, among many things, was his ability to paint a colorful picture in words. He was extremely smart, in fact he tested as genius, but he used words to paint a picture rather than to sound pretentious. They were short, clear and concise. Sometimes humorous, and always made you stop and think. He would repeat these words of wisdom and sayings over and over as we grew up so that they are so ingrained that they have almost become reflexive in uncertain situations where you just wish you had your Dad to talk to…but because he left me with these words of wisdom to lean on, its like he’s still always here. When you’re in the company, there probably isn’t a day that goes by that you won’t hear one of my dad’s expressions that will fit the situation perfectly.
What are your thoughts on failure?
Funny—I’m afraid of a lot of things, but not failure. My father always told me to “just do something,” so overcame the word failure even being in my vocabulary from a very young age. There is no failure, only lessons we can learn from.
And stay tuned for more features of fearless females in my monthly Wonder Women series.