Q&A with Aromaleigh – Our Beauty Talk Indie Spotlight

Aromaleigh is the May Indie Spotlight over on the Our Beauty Talk forums. Our Beauty Talk is a relatively new beauty community, that was started a few months ago by a group of former MakeupTalk moderators.

For the spotlight, the mods requested a beautiful color pink rouge color, with a strong green shift. They originally wanted to call it Kali, but after we discussed the shade and the Goddess, we ended up changing it to Shakti, which is very fitting for May, Spring and the goals of the OBT forums! You can check that product out here- it’s been a May top seller!

I did a Q&A for them and wanted to share it, as it’s probably been a good 5-6 years since I’ve been asked to do an interview or Q&A and I was very flattered that the ladies over on OBT wanted to include my company as one of their monthly spotlights!

You can join in on the spotlight HERE. You do have to register to view the forums, and I know many people may not wish to do that. So I am sharing my Q&A here also! My story and how I started my business is probably a little different than most these days- there was no indie community when I started Aromaleigh back in the mid 90’s. Online shopping was a really new thing, and people were really scared to order online!

Was starting your own business a hard decision to make?

It’s hard to remember, as I started on the path to opening my business close to twenty years ago. I always knew I wanted to do my own thing, though- because I come from a family of generations of small business owners and self employed people.

I guess my “ unrest” started around 1995, when I was unhappily working in Rochester, NY, as an Art Director, and surrounded by male domination of the industry, wage inequality, and confusing office politics. I also had a really hard time concentrating in an environment with a lot of people, and preferred to work on my own in a quiet and isolated area- that was a challenge! So I vowed to leave advertising and start doing my own thing.

My first foray into business was when I started an online company called Divine Dog Company in 1996. I have past training as an aromatherapist through Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy, and am the author of “Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals” (Findhorn Press/2002). My first order was for a single bottle of dog shampoo. It very slowly grew from there, as there was no indie community, and getting word out was very difficult. Most people didn’t even know what online shopping was, or were hesitant to order online. I was crafting all natural, holistic aromatherapy products for dogs. I’m a dog person all the way!

It sounds funny to describe it now, but my customers started asking me to make products for their own personal use, as I had many people who had decided to wash their hair with their dog shampoo. So it began with custom requests for shampoos, conditioners, bath salts, bath oils or perfumes, and progressed from there. In September 1998, it became clear that I needed to reposition my company to include human clients, and that’s when Aromaleigh was officially born. Aromaleigh wasn’t my first choice for a company name, it was just one that was easily trademarked. All my other names kept coming up with conflicts with the USPTO attorney, so I was advised to use my name. My middle name is the Leigh in the company name. So Aromaleigh is was. Aromaleigh is pronounced “Aroma-lee”.

By 2000/2001, I started offering lip balms, lip tints, loose face powder and loose powder eyeshadows. My business started to really get off the ground in 2002, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time- I was single, pregnant and on bed rest, just one month away from my Son being born two months premature. Those were some crazy times, but it all worked out- and my small indie business enabled me to be an independent single Mother and to provide for my Son, which was a dream come true. In late 2002, I relocated 1500 miles, to South Carolina, to be closer to family.

Becoming a single Mother was (and still is) the impetus that makes me as dedicated and passionate about Aromaleigh as I am. I’m very serious about my work, and am a perfectionist. Aromaleigh has been full time and my sole source of income since 2000, and I feel incredibly blessed to be doing work that I love, while having the freedom to live in a peaceful, rural area- and homeschool my Son. I work a lot, and it can get stressful and intense, but I’ve been slowly learning to unplug and take care of myself.

If you could give a new start up a piece of advice that you wished someone would have given, what would it be?

If I could give my younger self (or any young and aspiring business owner) one piece of advice, it would be to always make sure you make time for yourself and maintain a personal life. I didn’t do this, and worked myself past the breaking point. You can’t work 80-90 hour weeks, barely sleep, take no personal time and expect to stay healthy and happy. That’s what I did, for a long time. I was addicted to working, and high stress levels combined with some major life events affected my wellbeing in a serious way, resulting in health problems.

Always take time to smell the roses. Time is precious, because it’s the only thing in life you can never get back.

How do you come up with the ideas for products/shades/collections?

Everything I come up with is inspired by what I’m passionate about in my day to day life. A lot of my first collections reflected my love of Botany, in that they were named after flowers, orchids, herbs and plants. One early collection was named after all famous women of various stories and histories (this early collection’s influence can be seen in today’s “Ignis Antiquita” collection of eyeshadows inspired by history’s forgotten women).

Lately, I’ve been most inspired by mythology and history, and I spend a lot of time reading and researching these topics. I also love art, so you’ll also see that as a source of inspiration for my colors. I’m Autistic (diagnosed in 2011), so I most definitely have a long list of very focused special interest areas from which I draw inspiration.

I’ll do an occasional fandom-inspired collection, but I’ve been moving away from these more and more. My rule with fandom collections is that it has to be something I have a deep interest in, and I like to do themes that haven’t been done a lot. So sometimes that means for example- that when tons of customers requested Game of Thrones, I’ll go off on a tangent and we’ll end up with a collection of colors inspired by Dragon myths from all around the world (Serpens). Things like that.

Are there any past products/shades you wished you hadn’t discontinued or would like to bring back (if, say, the magical Component Fairy could bring back that missing component, the Labor Fairy made something easier to make, etc.)?

I miss creating fragrances. I’ve got a background in Aromatherapy and traditional perfumery, so it’s something that I really enjoy, and I’ve got boxes and boxes packed with essential oils, absolutes, CO2 extracts and other fragrance materials. I’ve been satisfying my itch regarding that by sampling a lot of indie fragrance companies- my favorite of which is Alchimia Apothecary. Erin’s fragrances are some of my absolute favorites, and she made a custom scent for me that smells exactly like hiking through the Appalachian cove forest in the Spring, when the trillium is blooming.

What is your favorite product/shade and why?

Oh, that’s a super tough question. I’ve formulated possibly over a thousand eyeshadows and I love so many of them, so I’ll answer in terms of recent shades! My most recent beloved shade is Juno, from the Feast of Lupercal LE collection (currently on hiatus until next year). It’s really unique in that I’ve never seen another shade like it. It’s like an oil slick of purples and greens. I love it! I also really love a shade I just formulated for the May subscription box, but I can’t tell you about that- just that it is the June hint sample!

My favorite collection right now, is Galactic. It’s full of beautiful duo chromes inspired by nebulas.

What is your favorite kind of shadow (duochrome, satin, matte, metallic, sparkly, etc.) or product (eyeshadow, highlighter, blush, face powder) to create

I love making super sparkly shades, and duo chromes the best.

Do you have any happy accidents (shades that were intended to be one thing and ended up being something completely different, but you liked the result better than the original idea)?

Happy accidents are the best. I love happenstance and while most of the time, I actually have my colors already formulated in my mind before I go in to working directly with my materials, even after such a long time of working with the pigments I still get surprises. I work with a lot of color traveling pigments that have varied reflection and absorption properties and sometimes you just don’t know exactly what you’re going to get until you try it. I still find myself going “oooooh” and “aaaaaah” like a little girl with a new box of glitter pens, so I guess you could say that I’m still very much in love with my work.

If you could add one new product type to your line, what would it be?

I would bring back my lip products, because so many customers have requested it. But unfortunately, I’m not able to handle making them on my own in-house. I’ve got too much else going on between Aromaleigh and life.

Q&A with Aromaleigh – Our Beauty Talk Indie Spotlight