I think a serious dose of self-love would go a long way to solving most of the problems in the world. It’s the main thing we are all lacking, and it’s why narcissism is so prominent. People feel insecure and that results in all kinds of destructive behaviors. Self-love is the core issue from which all our other decisions flow outward.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Longyear, herbal chemist, formulator and founder of Blissoma. www.blissoma.com
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Iam what has been called a multi-passionate entrepreneur. Choosing a path was really challenging for me because there are just so many creative avenues I enjoy, but it was the universe that really kind of shoved me down the path of holistic health. At age 19 I started getting debilitating migraines, and that radically changed my life path. I was getting migraines about 20 days each month, so that wiped out my options to maintain regular employment at most jobs. No one wanted to have someone on staff that was constantly claiming they didn’t feel well. That was what led me to start working for myself so that I could work around my headaches. It also pushed me into considering holistic treatments after many of the medicines the neurologist tried on me just flat out failed to control my headaches at all and left me with unwanted side effects. My interest in herbalism and alternative therapies came a lot from wanting to just have a normal, pain-free life for myself. While my friends were carefree and enjoying themselves in their 20s and I was getting a crash course in how my body worked and how I could care for it. It also drastically impacted my sense of gratitude for the good days, and my determination and coping on the bad ones. My business has been a lot about sharing the things I have learned about how to work holistically with the body to get better results with fewer side effects. I have seen the benefits of this way of thinking in my own life and am very passionate about helping people see the value of gentleness with their bodies, and to help them foster balance.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
I guess I would just touch on the idea that you have to work with the people that want to work with you. Don’t go chasing after people that are clearly not interested whether that is contests, investors, retail partners, customers, or employees. I have applied for at least 5 or 6 different business accelerator “awards” programs in my years and gotten turned down from each of them. I made a Facebook post about getting turned down from one of them, but still being determined to find my financing, and it was from that post that a friend of a friend reached out to me to offer to discuss lending me the money I needed. When I needed to find a bank to handle my SBA 504 loan I first tried to get about 3 banks competing for the project. Some never answered my phone calls; one had an agent come out to meet with me and then dropped off completely. One banker that I had not even planned to talk to came down to personally meet me and ask for my business and ended up being the one that financed our mortgage. Look for the people that are eager and excited about your idea and who are showing up for you. It’s a lot like dating in that regard. If you get the feeling that “they’re just not that into you” then it doesn’t matter how sexy the opportunity looks. Make sure to reward the people that are into you with your attention and efforts.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The biggest mistake we made was not doing enough market research and understanding how the wholesale consumer products business worked. The first time I was ever asked about distributor pricing I had no idea what to say. I didn’t know that stores would ask for free shipping or discounts. I was totally unprepared for all those crucial structural aspects to getting sales and I should have spent more time asking questions and figuring it out. I naively figured I’d put a price on things and sell them. I just didn’t understand all the factors that can give a brand an advantage in the market, or all the needs of my business clients. I also didn’t know how important packaging was. I was an herbalist and a creative nerd who wanted to make quality products for people, but how I understood quality and how other people understood quality was not matching up. Other people interpret quality through packaging, so when we debuted with very basic packaging it just wasn’t appealing to people. We have had a few rounds of revamping our look over the years as we have refined our message and branding to better reach our ideal client. You have to meet people where they are, and they don’t understand chemistry so they need to understand the work you’ve put into your product in a visual, artistic way.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My dad was really the first person to take my business really seriously, and honestly, if he hadn’t helped with some of the crucial structural parts of starting a business I might not have been able to do it all. I came from an art background and so “business” has been a new set of skills for me to gain over the years. He had a master’s in business, so he added a lot of the skills I lacked. He helped handle establishing the initial trademarks and market research, and also created cost projection spreadsheets and taught me the math to estimate costs and how I should price things to make the levels of income we’d need. I just recently showed my cost calculation spreadsheets to my bookkeeper and she was blown away and said most accountants probably wouldn’t even have known how to do that. My dad eventually parted ways with the business but he still jumps in to help with repairs and advice and even helped with some major parts of the initial renovation of our current manufacturing space. Because of his support I was able to take this project from being something I just sold at craft events to a serious, global brand. I’m extremely lucky that he believed in me.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
A lot of my work involves teaching people to be more loving and gentle with their bodies. A lot of the current “beauty” industry is based around self-punishment and harming the body. Even the conventional idea behind most esthetics is to create “controlled trauma” with the idea being that the body will rush healing and renewal to that area. I fundamentally feel that is a mistaken way to work and a misuse of the body’s healing energies. We try to espouse a no pain, all gain philosophy where we simply support the renewal work that your body wants to do anyway. The body is always trying to heal and be as vibrant as possible and we just have to slot in the right nutrients and assistance to make it possible. It’s like the difference between having a boss that yells at you to try and motivate you and a boss that compliments your work, provides education and encourages you. I think we’d all probably prefer the second scenario, so that’s how we work. I think people have gotten very divorced from and unfamiliar with their own bodies. We all have a body but many people treat their body like a stranger and ignore how it may be crying out for help because they don’t know what it’s saying. Skin is one of the places that imbalances show up first so it’s a great avenue to beginning to tune in and begin to provide help instead of working at odds with the body’s needs. I make skincare but we really do work holistically and try to address every aspect of a person’s wellbeing. It’s just much more complete than people are used to and it’s a delight helping people discover this richer path.
Can you share your top five“lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
1. Drink less coffee and more herbal tea (better for your adrenal glands and digestion)
2. Indulge in alcoholic drinks only occasionally (for your liver health and sleep)
3. Protect your gut health (gut health governs all kinds of things from immunity to your mood to nutrient absorption)
4. Get serious about your sleep habits (sleep is when your body repairs and encodes memory and learning)
5. Be willing to slow down (many processes just cannot be rushed, which is hard for people to understand in an age of instant gratification)
People have a tendency to push themselves too hard including ignoring pain, numbing out, over-stimulating the body, and not investing time in restoration. I’ve made those same mistakes and had to spend time correcting them. Any system in your body that you stress too heavily for too long will eventually stop functioning well. Your liver, immune system, gut, and adrenals (stress levels and fight/flight) are all affected by the habits I’ve listed and these are crucial systems that need to be in good working order for you to have the healthiest life possible. Instead of asking ourselves why we have pain in the first place we just take an NSAID and keep going, and thereby worsen things and also damage our gut. We don’t deal with the things that are causing stress and so people drink too much at night, which causes stress on the liver, poor sleep, and dehydration, all of which show up in other aspects of your body’s wellness. Every system affects the others. I managed to give myself leaky gut at one point when I was working on some construction work at my house and using NSAIDS to push past the muscle soreness. That resulted in a host of other problems that it took me months to fully unravel. If I had just been willing to go a little slower I could have actually saved myself time and money in the end.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I think a serious dose of self-love would go a long way to solving most of the problems in the world. It’s the main thing we are all lacking, and it’s why narcissism is so prominent. People feel insecure and that results in all kinds of destructive behaviors. Self-love is the core issue from which all our other decisions flow outward. If we can correct that it would change everything from how much stuff we buy to the kind of things we buy to how we act about our impact on the planet and other creatures. I would love for more people to simply understand their own self-worth. I try to express that through my work.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
I’m laughing right now because honestly I could simply refer back to the 5-lifestyle tweaks I shared above since I messed up on every one of those issues myself. I tend to learn the hard way, and I pushed my body literally to the brink a lot of times. Sometimes it wasn’t my fault because an employee would quit, or it was a result of having to go through 2 custody cases in family court, or there would be an emergency at work like a pipe bursting and who else is going to deal with all that? But sometimes it was my fault, and I had to learn my limits through all the times I caused myself problems. Being an entrepreneur is exhausting but I’ve gotten a lot better at maintaining my self-care routines over the years because I know if I don’t then none of this can happen.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
I’m most concerned about climate change and maintaining our natural environment right now. We’re only 5–10 years from incredibly serious problems that will really challenge human life on this planet and I’m extremely concerned about how that is already affecting everything around us. Many species are going extinct or suffering badly because of our decisions, and we have really failed to understand that our own health is directly linked to the health of the planet. If we poison the earth we poison ourselves because this is the water we drink and the land where our food is grown, so taking care of the planet is literally self-care. I believe we need to not just be sustainable but to actively heal the earth the same as we must actively heal our own bodies. We have some cleanup and regeneration to do and I’m very much hoping we are up to it before things get worse.
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Thank you for these fantastic insights!