…do it for yourself first. It’s beautiful to see positive change unfolding right in front of you and feel joy because you know you’re doing your part to make the world a better place. This pandemic has shown us that we are all increasingly interconnected. So, share your experience and be proud of yourself.
As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic I had the pleasure of interviewing Eha Urbsalu, founder of certified organic Nordic beauty brand Viking Beauty Secrets.
From an international modeling career to founding a beauty business, Eha Urbsalu is bringing time-tested Nordic skincare rituals and ingredients to homes around the world. Viking Beauty Secrets is a Greenlife Ecocert COSMOS certified organic brand, using the cleanest ingredients from Northern Europe. The main ingredients are three Nordic super antioxidant berries: cloudberries, rowanberries and sea Buckthorn. The latest product — a certified organic Face Scrub, uses Icelandic Volcanic Sand to draw out the impurities the natural way. Eha and Viking Beauty Secrets are proud to offer sustainable skincare and support climate efforts by cleaning up beaches from microplastics and inspiring their community with tangible actions.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I grew up in Estonia which, at the time, was part of the Soviet Union. I was educated at a specialized music school and for many years music kept me busy. However, I always dreamed of becoming someone who would inspire others. Growing up I thought it meant becoming an actress, so that’s what I was striving for at first. This coincided with the breakup of the Soviet Union, so at 17 I became one of the Miss Estonia winners, and later won the Supermodel of the Soviet Union title. At 18, I came to the United States to compete at the Ford Supermodel of the World competition, where I placed 4th and started to travel and model around the world.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I cannot say that there is one particular book that has changed my life. Rather, I can say that I have changed my life despite the books that I was being brainwashed with when growing up in Soviet Union. Early on in my life I believed the Soviet propaganda to the extent that in second grade I bought a book of Lenin as a gift to my older sister for her birthday. It was the ultimate treasure for me at the time.
However, instead of focusing on the politics and lies and made up history that these books were full of, I focused on the lessons Lenin taught about the strength of the mind and the inspiration that he was to the people who followed him at the time. With that he was a visionary, and the inspiration that he gave to many is powerful. In fact, I still aspire to his saying “Be the best you can be”, at anything I do, just with a more modern, free and empowered approach.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
When things get difficult, I always remember my grandmother Liisa.
She lived on the Estonian island of Hiiumaa, near Sweden, in the middle of the Baltic Sea. Liisa was a young woman during WWII, with 3 young daughters and a sick husband. One day her house was bombed and burned down, and her youngest daughter and husband were killed. My mother, who was the middle child, told me that as they were watching the house and everything they owned hopelessly burn in the fire, my grandmother took her and her older sister’s hand and said “At least we have our health and each other”.
Eventually, she rebuilt her house toward the end of the war and lived in it during the Soviet time until she died at age 94. When I think of her, I know that I can get through anything.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?
We need to maintain our mental health and believe we can get through this together. Many are anxious and afraid. Millions have lost their jobs and feel completely hopeless. I’m inspired by the strong Nordic and Viking mentality, I feel that one of my duties as a wellness founder is to share hope through the actions our brand takes and create a thought-provoking community online. We want to inspire people to believe in themselves, to know this too shall pass, to not give up and to use this time to prepare for the future.
Together with our ambassador and spokesperson, international swim champion Merle Liivand, who is also Estonian, we are communicating with young women who are going through hard times right now. We are also doing a weekly live Instagram series on female empowerment and wellness. And, because I used to be a songwriter, Merle and I wrote a song “Yes I Can” about not giving up and making your dreams come true.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. We just don’t get up and do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
I have always tried to turn my ideas into actions. With our brand I also wanted to provide a high-quality product to women around the world while at the same time helping to protect the environment. However, my “Aha Moment” came when Covid-19 hit us around the world and I realized that especially the nurses became so vulnerable, while being underpaid to begin with. I wanted to do more as a brand and as an individual. I wanted to support the many heroes on the frontline. I started with my home country Estonia. But more than that, we hope to inspire other companies to give as well.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
To honor our Northern roots, Viking Beauty Secrets provided the nurses of hospitals in Estonia with wellness packages which included our organic products and healthy snacks to get through the days. During these unprecedented times our healthcare workers have become our heroes who care for all the sick people who lay in hospital beds, so I felt like that was a sweet thank you for them and a positive action that could bring hope and inspire others.
We are proud that even during these unprecedented months we were able to educate about the fight against microplastics, while supporting people that deserve access to safe and clean skincare. Many forget the stress and trauma our nurses experience during a stressful day. To be able to practice self-care after work nurtures mental health and physical wellbeing.
Are there three things that the community can do to help you in your great work?
To join our community (online and offline) by showing interest in wellbeing practices and self-care to help create a less burned-out society and to bring awareness to mental health.
To continue to educate themselves and others about the long-term damage microplastics will cause. The fight against microbeads and harmful chemicals in skincare reaches beyond one person, it affects us all and generations to come.
To fight against the proliferation of microbeads and use of harmful chemicals. We’re hurting our environment and ourselves by using outdated products. It affects the oceans, our precious marine life and all the connected ecosystems that come with it, including humans.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Be Patient. Patience is something that the 20 something me didn’t understand, but with time I learned that rushing a decision or anaction tends to be a mistake.
- Believe in Yourself. When you are truly committed to an action and can express that commitment with confidence, then you can inspire others.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. There are many people who have vast knowledge and experience. Find someone who can inspire and guide you on your journey. I try to provide the same to young entrepreneurs.
- Don’t second guess your decisions. Once you have decided on a course of action, stick to it, and don’t dwell on what “should have, could have, or would have been”.
- Be yourself. This is your journey, do it your way.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious during this tumultuous time? Can you explain?
Breathe. Go with the flow. Be attentive and try to feel the world around you. Don’t try to swim against the current, but feel it and find a way to work with it.
Exercise. Take care of yourself and be a good example for others while staying safe. Schedule workout zoom calls with your family and friends; keep it fun by taking turns leading the routines. This will help with your mental health just as much as your physical health.
Stay connected. We are all in this together. When you’re on the phone, ask the other person how they are feeling. How are they dealing with their anxiety? Empathize with them and show them you care by listening and asking more questions.
Share. Think about how you can help and what you can do. If you have the means, donate to causes that support the people in great need who, through no fault of their own, may struggle to feed their families during Covid-19. If you have an elderly acquaintance who may need extra attention call them often and help them through this by sharing your time and resources.
Love. Love yourself and show your love for others. Positive energy leads to more positive energy.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
You should do it for yourself first. It’s beautiful to see positive change unfolding right in front of you and feel joy because you know you’re doing your part to make the world a better place. This pandemic has shown us that we are all increasingly interconnected. So, share your experience and be proud of yourself.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
It would be to strengthen our minds.
We have so much more power than we let ourselves have. We limit ourselves by second guessing our choices, by negative thoughts, or being afraid to fail. If you really believe in something, then go for it! Develop your ability to feel your own gut and positive energy! You will become stronger and inspire others as well!
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Bill Gates. I have always admired his intellect and philanthropic work, but I am especially impressed by his leadership and prescience regarding Covid-19.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!