Take time to center yourself each morning. Whether it is a few minutes of deep breathing, stretching, mindful tea or coffee drinking, grounding myself first thing in the morning sets a beautiful tone for the day.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Levin.
Julie Levin is a Medical Herbalist and Founder of Leaf People, a Carbondale, Colorado based line of plant-based skincare for modern life. The extensive line is encompassed by daily facial and body products, a clinical collection for those 35 and older, and a men’s line formulated with certified organic, ethically wild harvested, certified herbicide/pesticide free, gluten free, and vegan ingredients. All products are packaged in a mix of recyclable and compostable materials printed with vegetable and water-based inks.
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?
My name is Julie Levin. I’m a Medical Herbalist and the founder of Leaf People, a line of botanically focused skincare products. I grew up in rural Alaska, where I spent my youth learning about wilderness survival, which fueled a lifelong passion for plants and their healing properties. I took my curiosity across the globe, traveling from the Amazon to Australia for most of my 20’s, gaining an education in herbal cultural traditions everywhere I went. In my medical herbalism training, I studied the science behind plants, their chemical properties, and various healing modalities, including indigenous plant utilization and harvesting techniques. I have been a formal student of Buddhism for 20 years, and even spent a year in silent meditation. My journey eventually led me to Colorado, where I founded Leaf People, in 2003, well before conscious beauty was a trend. Leaf People is plant-based skincare for modern life, marrying botanical science with western medical herbalism. Our ingredients are certified organic, ethically wild harvested, certified herbicide/pesticide free, gluten free, and vegan. We donate 5% of all sales to charity.
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?
My career has been full of interesting stories from the start. One in particular that has shaped my life, and Leaf People, is my experience living and learning from Don Miguel Kavlin, master student and protégé to the famous healer of Beautiful Painted Arrow and South American legend Don Agustin Rivas Vasquez. Under their guidance, I was immersed in nature’s sacred spaces and followed a plant-based diet. Most days I would consume just one or two plants at a time in order to fully receive the plant’s messages, this practice is called Plant Spirit Medicine. This spiritual awakening opened my eyes in a completely new way and helped me recognize my interconnectedness with the Earth. As a child in Alaska, I often talked to trees, but I never thought to listen back and there in the Amazon, I finally heard them speak.
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?
When I was first starting out, I made the mistake of listening to people outside of my core mentor group. When you start a business, everyone wants to share opinions and advice. It takes great strength and focus to commit to your own vision without letting the ideas of others become more important than your own. Early on, I was convinced (against my better judgement) that I needed to invest in advertising. I placed their knowledge and expertise above my own and in the end, I lost both money and time without any positive results.
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 husband joined Leaf People about six years after I started my business and brought a tremendous amount of calm to the frustrations of owning and running my business, helping me to expand my long-term vision for the company. He had successfully started and operated several businesses before we met and journeyed firsthand through the entire process that I was going through multiple times. His wisdom and guidance aided me enormously as the company continued to grow from year to year.
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?
The goal of Leaf People is to create a deeper connection between the physical body and the environment. The skin is our largest organ, an incredible sense organ, and a key player in immunity and protection. We formulate each product with powerful medicinal botanicals that help each person steep themselves in the benefits of the natural world.
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. Take time to center yourself each morning. Whether it is a few minutes of deep breathing, stretching, mindful tea or coffee drinking, grounding myself first thing in the morning sets a beautiful tone for the day.
2. Make little decisions every day that push you towards better health. Choosing water over juice, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, stretching or mindful breathing while waiting in line, picking a whole food snack instead of a processed snack — all of these little check-in moments and small decisions add up over the day.
3. Take the time to make your food. As a vegan/vegetarian for over 35 years, I had to make all of my own food because there weren’t many options available. This laid the groundwork for my lifestyle. I bake bread for my family each week and make all of our food from scratch so that we can avoid the hidden, unwanted ingredients that come in pre-packaged or pre-made food. It is a great opportunity to practice gratitude for the time and energy that goes into growing and preparing food, along with gratitude for the growers and the food itself.
4. Exercise regularly. Regardless of how busy I am, an hour of exercise at least four days per week is a must. Not only for the short-term endorphin release, but after working intense hours for decades, it has physically trained me to deal with the long hours and an unforgiving schedule.
5. Sleep! You must sleep enough. I read a study once in college about how you can never really make up for lost sleep and that terrified me. Proper sleep is so critical for healthy aging, stress management, and a clear mind. Now that I am 25 years into this business (and not always getting enough sleep), I can say that proper sleep practices will help you through the toughest times.
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 would encourage everyone to grow their own herbal medicine garden. There are a plethora of benefits that come from growing and caring for plants.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Don’t underestimate your target market. When I first started out, I thought the Leaf People target market was a very specific, niche market. After about a year of business, I realized that our target market was a broader and more expansive group. This taught me to keep an open mind so I could shift our focus to address our ever-growing variety of customers.
2. Embrace social media. When I started Leaf People, social media was very new and I was not very excited about it — I still prefer letter writing over emailing. Once I eventually gave into the shift towards social media, I learned the payoff from developing active channels, a healthy following, and using those platforms as an avenue to grow our business.
3. Embrace a marketing team early on. Leaf People is a self-made, self-grown, community-based company. Though we have had steady growth each year by word of mouth, I think we would have eased some of our early growing pains had we hired a few key marketing experts.
4. Balance being introversion and extroversion. I have always greatly loved my time alone and my private life. When I started Leaf People, I envisioned that I could stay behind the scenes. However, as it turns out, people love meeting the maker, knowing all about you, where your ideas come from, and learning about your brand. I have since learned to open up in a way that allows me to share my story. It’s certainly an ongoing process that I am continually learning to embrace more deeply each day.
5. See the value of delegation and asking for help. I was raised in a remote area of Alaska in a small family where we provided for ourselves. Being fiercely independent was a way of life. With Leaf People, I had to retrain myself to learn how to trust and rely on others because it was not part of my origin experience. We wouldn’t be where we are now without our wonderful collaborative team.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Veganism is the dearest to me. I have been an ardent animal activist and vegetarian/vegan most of my life, and I’ve learned that veganism encompasses all of the other issues listed. From decreasing deforestation used for animal farms and minimizing chemicals in the water from raising animals or fish farming to respecting animals as an extension of respecting ourselves, veganism is kinder to the Earth. The practice of non-violence is not discriminatory — it applies to everything. Veganism, plant-based diets, and vegetarianism are generally beneficial for your health thus helping you feel better mentally and emotionally. Obviously mental health issues and treatment are much more complex than diet alone, but diet can play a critical part. I have yet to meet a fellow vegan who disregarded the environment — often those committed to a vegan lifestyle are also interested in sustainable and renewable living practices.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights!