Lauren Lutchna attended Le Cordon Bleu to study French pastry, but now, she’s using her baking knowledge to transform natural ingredients into powerful personal care products. After struggling with their own skin conditions for several years, Lauren and her husband teamed up to make effective, plant-based personal care products they could share with the world. They launched Farmstead Apothecary in 2016, and now, with products available on Amazon, they’re helping others soothe and nourish their skin. I had the pleasure of speaking with Lauren about her journey changing careers and how this has helped her find meaning and purpose in her work.
Food and beauty are two very different entities (at least on the surface) — was it scary to make such a drastic leap?
Not at all. Since it started more as a hobby for our own personal use, there was never any pressure to have to produce for anyone other than ourselves. Also, chemistry is chemistry. You just have to know what you want to accomplish with a final product and understand basic ingredient interactions to get the desired outcome. Using 100% plant-based ingredients for skin care can be more tricky than synthetic ingredients, due to nature being variable and not 100% consistent from batch to batch, but it’s also very fun to account for those variables and be able to solve the puzzle of problems that may arise.
Working with plants and making skincare feels like alchemy. Baking does too, but you’re taking edible ingredients and transforming them into an edible product. With skincare, you’re taking edible ingredients, and transforming them into a purposeful and skin-nourishing product that actually has to do a job after it’s made and be effective. That definitely adds an extra layer of complexity, which is actually really fun and rewarding.
What were the biggest challenges you faced during this career change and how did you overcome them?
I actually had a career in between. I went from being a pastry chef to a sonographer. I left the pastry world because I had a need to help people and wanted to shift gears into medicine, which was a rewarding change of pace for me.
When we decided to officially open Farmstead Apothecary, I realized how many more people we could help by providing truly non-toxic, plant-based, organic, vegan, and cruelty-free products. I knew there were a lot of people out there like my husband and I who have skin conditions that we could help, and I also knew there were others who also cared about the ethical dilemma of finding effective, affordable, and natural skin care without harming animals, and the environment.
The biggest challenge was juggling a full-time job while starting and growing a business for the first couple of years. We would put in 90 plus hours a week each, between our jobs and our business, hardly sleeping and pulling late nights and early mornings, while working through our weekends at farmers’ markets and festivals. This was exhausting but we got through it and at the time we felt excited. We now look back and don’t know how we did it, yet we’re even busier now, so maybe one day we’ll look back on our life now and feel the same thing.
How did this career change help you find meaning and purpose in your work?
I realized I can help 10-35 patients a day at my job as a sonographer, but the amount of people I can help with our products is limitless. This drives us every day to work as hard as we can so we can reach as many people as possible. Our goal is to be a household name so no one will have to wonder what products to try if they have a skin condition, or just want to be healthy and rid their skincare regimen of any toxic and synthetic chemicals. We’ve been there and want to prevent as many people as possible from going through all that trial and error, and money wasted.
What advice would you offer to others who are hoping to make a transition in their careers?
My advice would be to just do it. The timing will never be right, and there will always be a million reasons not to do it. Start now so you can look back a few years from now and be glad you started. Otherwise, a few years will flash by and you’ll look back wishing you started when you first thought about it, way back when. It’s always daunting to transition or make a change, but there is a hump you get over, and you’ll start to see the fruits of your labor. The feeling when you have that moment of realization is something I would wish for everyone to experience.