Who Am I?
Well, I grew up in a small leafy town where everybody knew everybody and, naturally, all I ever wanted to do was go somewhere new where no one knew me. I dreamt of a quiet cottage life on the British coast working in a simple job that I’d love, walking my dog along the beach, sipping warm tea in cozy tearooms…
The Complete Opposite Happened
However, the complete opposite happened and I found myself in London living a hugely fast-paced life, spending all my money on rent, food and clothes, working in many jobs that I hated. But, looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. The atmosphere in London is incredibly infectious, and London quickly became my playground.
I threw myself into everything I cared about. While I was completing my Event Management degree, I also achieved a diploma in Nutritional Therapy and a diploma in Interior Design. I was working crazy hours at five-star hotels and restaurants in central London while also volunteering with charities like the RSPCA, the NSPCC, and Greenpeace. On top of that, I started my own wedding planning business and helped two couples plan their big days in north London. I was exhausted and broke but exhilarated.
A Successful Career In Marketing
After graduating from university, I focused on developing a successful career in marketing. I always refused to settle and made sure I was always learning. I negotiated my way into some very well paid jobs actually doing what I loved – creative writing – and later decided to move out of London to buy myself a home nearer my family again, who I’d missed a lot.
Now, I’m based near Marlow and work full-time as a Content Manager for an amazing local company and run my business, Lavana Botanicals, as well. It may not be the coast, but I have my dog (Labrador puppy), tea and jobs that I love.
WOT: Tell us something about Lavana Botanicals!
MASKELL: Did you know that ‘Lavana’ is Sanskrit for ‘salt’ and closely associated with the word ‘bath’ in Latin? I wanted to give my business a name that was natural and earthy but also made perfect sense for my business.
After years of living in London, breathing toxic air, eating toxic food and having toxic relationships I wanted to reconnect with nature. A few years ago I began meditating, exercising regularly, eating healthy and consciously and reading a lot of books on spirituality. I revisited a lot of what I learned in my nutritional therapy course and made lotions, candles, meals, and herbal teas for friends and myself. I fell in love with nature and the unbelievable power it has on our bodies.
When I started Lavana Botanicals, I wanted the products to be natural and harness the power of nature to help mind, body and soul. I use essential oils for most of my cosmetics and don’t pack up my bath bombs with fillers or chemicals like a lot of bigger (and sometimes smaller) companies do to make more money for an average product. If you read a Lavana Botanical ingredients label, I bet you’d recognise every ingredient.
WOT: How did you come up with Lavana Botanicals? What inspired you to start?
MASKELL: Studying nutritional therapy completely opened my eyes to the power our diet has over our bodies and our lives. I love cooking and making home remedies for my friends, including a particular tea that lowers my friend’s blood sugars better than his actual insulin does (he has type 2 diabetes). Understanding effective blends and harnessing them for good felt incredible and, from there, I explored aromatherapy
So many people hear ‘natural’ and think ‘weak’ – I challenge that. To make just one teaspoon of rose essential oil, 242,000 rose petals need to be distilled. Direct contact to the skin without carrier oil can cause a burn. Does that sound weak to you? Similarly, many recovering heroin addicts bathe in clary sage essential oil because it’s a powerful sedative, anti-inflammatory and has been proven to change mentality toward a positive way of approaching life. Big high street shops might make their bath bombs or cosmetics look good, well packaged or exciting, but if they have artificial ingredients then what’s the point?
So really, nature inspired me to start Lavana Botanicals.
WOT: Turning that into a business, have you always been entrepreneurial?
MASKELL: Absolutely. I started my own wedding planning business at 21 years old and even tried to start my own childminding business when I was 14 years old! It seems ridiculous now, but I remember designing my own flyers, creating a logo and setting up my own website… There’s something incredibly freeing being able to do your own thing.
WOT: We believe starting a business in cosmetics is not easy, when you started what are the legal issues involved? How were these problems solved?
MASKELL: For a short while, I didn’t realise that I needed to get my products cosmetic safety tested. I did tonnes of research on what I need to do when starting my business – I purchased product liability insurance, public liability insurance, I ensured everything was labelled properly… But, nowhere along the line – even when I registered my shop on Etsy – was there ever a notice like “hey, have you had your cosmetic products tested? It’s the law!”.
I joined support groups and talked with other small cosmetic businesses and it was surprising how many of them were just like me – totally unaware of this law! After more research, including safety for candles, it became apparent that lots of small businesses were unaware of the laws and don’t feel like they’re communicated well.
Anyway, the very same day I found out about this law I put my bath bombs in for cosmetic safety testing and closed my Etsy shop. It wasn’t cheap – I was surprised there wasn’t a discount for small businesses – but it’s absolutely worth it to continue doing what I love and make sure that every product I sell is 100% safe.
It’s given me a new appreciation when buying from other small businesses as well because they have to invest a lot of money and jump through a lot of hoops to either do what they love or to pay the bills. Supporting small and local businesses is so important and that’s why I always try to when I can.
WOT: What makes Lavana Botanicals different from other cosmetic brands that also sell bath bombs?
MASKELL: Our bath bombs are handmade and use natural ingredients designed for health and wellbeing. A lot of companies that make bath bombs want to be like the big high street stores and sell big, colourful, exploding bath bombs that unfortunately are often packed with fillers, chemicals and artificial ingredients that can cause skin irritation, especially in kids. My mission is very different. My bath bombs are primarily about scent, which is why I mostly use essential oils for natural and powerful aromatherapy. I use colours and paints to make my bath bombs beautiful and sophisticated, which are also natural, and there are absolutely no fillers in my bath bombs. What you see on the label is what you get – skin-softening, hydrating and moisturising goodness! Our products are also safety tested, which a lot of smaller businesses may or may not be.
WOT: How do you want to improve yourself in the next year?
MASKELL: I’ll definitely be teaching myself to be more patient. Ever since I started Lavana, I’ve been rushing around like crazy building and growing while also working my day job, looking after my family and seeing friends. When I get an idea, I’m one of those people that has to run with it straight away! I get so excited that I can’t sit down until I’m finished. Even though I love it, it can throw me off balance sometimes and so I’m going to try and give myself a bit more of a break and give more of my time to my family.
WOT: What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear in general?
MASKELL: I’ve spent most of my life suffering with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and anyone who has suffered with this knows it has the ability to completely take over your life and drain you of all motivation and energy. You end up fearing everything and anything. It took me a long time to learn how to manage my anxiety and live a happy life, but the fear of it coming back is always in the back of mind – it’s not something that ever truly goes away, you can only learn to manage it.
To manage my fears, I practice mindfulness, kindness and empathy and try to think more about others than I do myself. I find that acting out of love, achieving balance and supporting others gives me the confidence to face my fears, whatever they may be.
Starting my business has also helped dramatically to settle my fears as I get to be creative and focus on all the projects I have planned – it’s given me so much confidence and I really don’t have time to be afraid anymore!
WOT: What popular entrepreneurial advice do you agree/ disagree with? Why?
MASKELL: “Anything is possible if you’ve got enough nerve” – JK Rowling.
I love this quote from JK Rowling; a truly inspiring woman and role model of mine. What I really like about this as advice for entrepreneurs is the recognition that it takes courage to firstly recognise your talents and passions, believe in them, and yourself, wholeheartedly and then share it with the world. When you start a business – whether it’s a blog, handmade crafts or business strategies – you’re exposing yourself to strangers in the hope that they will accept you. That takes nerve and demands huge respect.
WOT: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful business owner?
1. Passion. Make sure you’re passionate about what you do! Being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 job and if you’re not passionate about your products then you’re going to be absolutely miserable.
2. Resilience. Everyone’s going to have opinions and advice about your business; you may even come up against jealousy. Have faith in what you’re doing, take advice when you think it’s good but realise you don’t have to listen to everything everyone says and be aware of their motives.
3. Knowledge. Having a product or service that you offer is one thing, but you have to know it inside out if you’re going to sell it. Understanding your market and also how to communicate with your target audience through ways like SEO, PPC and social media is imperative. It might not be so necessary when you’re the owner of a large business, because you can hire others to do the dirty work for you, but when you want to be a successful entrepreneur then you really have to get stuck in every aspect of the business.
WOT: What do you do on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur?
MASKELL: I check in with my network every day on Instagram – we discuss products, ideas, and our dreams. It’s so inspiring and I love the community feel about it. My network in particular is so supportive and I love feeding that back to them, learning new things in support groups, and developing my ideas for new products. The key is really to never stop learning and asking for help when you need it. Social media is a great tool to facilitate that.
WOT: If you had one piece of advice to our readers to those just starting out a business in cosmetics, what would it be?
MASKELL: Research as much as you can before you start selling your products. Join support groups on Facebook and reach out to similar people on Instagram or Twitter. You really should try to learn as much as you possibly can before you start selling your product. And, don’t lose your passion and creativity.
I loved being creative and coming up with new ideas for bath bombs, bath salts, face sprays etc. But when I discovered that every product I was making needed to go through cosmetic safety testing (which is expensive, by the way) and that I had to write down the recipe and stuck to it religiously, I felt extremely held back creatively. If I want to make a new product, I test, test, test and then only once I’m happy with the recipe and feel there’s nothing I would change at all do I submit it for testing – because once you submit it, that’s it (unless you want to pay an additional fee, which can get expensive!) Take it step by step and make sure you’re always loving what you do. The reward is fantastic.
Also, give back to your community. I’m encouraging young women to go for their cervical screening tests by offering them a free bath bomb. I don’t know any women that enjoy getting their smear tests, but if you know you have a luxurious bath waiting for you afterwards that can help you relax and forget the horrible experience, then hopefully more women might go and get checked. Giving back to your community and using your business to support causes you really believe in is another way to stand out and be proud of what you do. Good luck to all entrepreneurs reading!