Start small. A huge lifestyle overhaul can be daunting and can set you up to fail. Whether you’d like to eat healthier, exercise more, or rid your home of synthetic and toxic chemicals, our favorite tweak is to not overwhelm yourself. Focus on one small segment you’d like to revamp each week and build from there. If you’d like to use more natural skin and body care, start with staples.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Lutchna, Co-Founder of Farmstead Apothecary.
Lauren Lutchna attended school at Le Cordon Blue in London for French Pastry, where she learned to understand each ingredient on a molecular level, how it interacts with other ingredients, and to build recipes from scratch. Because most of the ingredients in her products are edible, making skin care came naturally to her. Out of concern for her family’s health, and a growing frustration with synthetic ingredients and expensive natural products, Lauren used her education to formulate her own products to rid her home of anything with questionable ingredients. She formulated products that are 100% plant based, organic, easy to use, residue free, and effective. Lauren and her husband Randy realized they had something special and decided to sell their products so everyone could provide their families with pure, safe, and effective skin care. Together they work day and night, mixing, formulating, bottling, labeling, you name it. They handcraft every single bottle with love so you can rest assured that you’re using wholesome products from genuine people who are looking for the same things as you.Farmstead Apothecary is available on Amazon.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?
Our story started with Randy and I having skin conditions. I have eczema and he has psoriasis, and we’ve been living a very natural plant based lifestyle. We were already eating plant based clean foods, but we were constantly on the hunt for 100% natural and gentle body care. After time and money was wasted on trying expensive products that still had 1 or 2 synthetic ingredients, or were way too harsh on our skin, I decided to put my knowledge of chemistry from baking to good use and started using food grade ingredients to make our own skin care. I kept tweaking my formulas until they were identical, or an even better version, of the products we were used to using, just without all the skin irritating synthetic chemicals. Eventually, we had a small line of products that we were giving out to family and friends for fun. Once requests for refills started to overwhelm us, we realized we had something special to offer and decided to start a formal business to make our plant based skin and body care accessible to everyone.
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?
One of the most interesting things happened early on in our journey. When we decided to officially start Farmstead Apothecary, we set some pretty big landmarks that we’d like to hit. One of the earliest dreams we had was getting our products into Whole Foods Market. We kept our dreams in check by giving ourselves a 5 year span to reach this goal, but by the fifth month of operating our products were already in a few Whole Foods stores. Getting set up as a vendor with Whole Foods is a big process, let alone as a five month old company, so we had to set up a lot of infrastructure fast in order to make this account work. We weren’t about to give up on our dream and were worried that if we screwed this opportunity up that we wouldn’t necessarily have that chance again. The big lesson we learned was that when we really wanted to make something work, even if seemingly impossible, that we’re incredibly resourceful and can do whatever we set our minds and hearts to.
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?
We had taken an opportunity to put our products in a local grocery store chain that wasn’t geared towards our target customers. We put a lot of energy and time into this account, in just our third month of opening our business, and it felt like we were trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. At this point in time Randy and I were both working full time and running our new business, so our time and resources were very limited. We learned that there really are no mistakes, just great learning experiences. We really did learn a lot about our demographic and customers through this process, as well as how to optimize our time and resources most efficiently, including when to let an account go and refocus our energy.
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?
Randy’s brother Dwayne is an experienced graphic designer and he helped us with branding by designing our logo and labels. His designs elevated Farmstead from the start and helped us create a cohesive product line. Without his help we don’t feel we’d be where we are today and we’re eternally grateful for his talent and generosity of time.
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?
We built a brand while living by our own personal ethics. We live a natural, organic, vegan, and cruelty-free lifestyle and wanted to make sure that the thoughtfulness we take in our daily personal lives is taken by our company at all stages. We strive to keep our carbon footprint low by using minimal packing, which decreases shipping, pollution, and waste, and by only using recycled packaging materials that can be recycled again. We don’t do any animal testing, nor do we use any ingredients that have ever been tested on animals. Our ingredients are plant based and minimal, also to minimize shipping of raw components, which minimizes pollution. On top of the steps we take to keep our environmental impact low, we focus on creating safe, gentle, and effective skin care for all skin types, so the whole family can use our products, even those with the most sensitive skin.
We realized the amount of people we can help with our products is limitless. This drives us everyday 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 skin care 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.
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.
Start small. A huge lifestyle overhaul can be daunting and can set you up to fail. Whether you’d like to eat healthier, exercise more, or rid your home of synthetic and toxic chemicals, our favorite tweak is to not overwhelm yourself. Focus on one small segment you’d like to revamp each week and build from there. If you’d like to use more natural skin and body care, start with staples. For example, do your body wash and hand soap one week, and then find your moisturizers next week, and so on. Small steps taken separately can add up to a big lifestyle change over time.
Keep it simple. Generally the more complicated something gets, the faster we run away from it. If your routine has gotten complicated, then it may be time to simplify. You don’t need an eye serum, face cream, and neck cream. If you use one high quality face cream that’s nutrient dense and vitamin rich then you may start to actually see the desired results you’re after. Some products are watered down with 20+ ingredients that don’t have enough potency to do anything significant in the micro quantities that are used. We suggest aiming for simple and minimal ingredients. This isn’t just for skin care, but can be applied to most things. Food is another great example of where simple and minimal ingredients from whole food sources is better than processed foods that contain dozens of ingredients. Simplification is key.
Read ingredient labels on food, skin care, and household cleaning products. The ingredients you’ll start to see are these big chemical names, and some will be plant derived and safe, and others will not. It seems overwhelming at first, but if you start looking up what each of these chemicals are, you’ll learn a lot real fast. Most of these chemicals are repeat offenders and there’s not as many out there as you may think. After a few weeks of doing this you’ll start to learn which chemicals are which, you’ll be able to easily identify the bad ones to avoid. So when you’re in a rush in the store you can quickly skim the ingredients panel on that new product you’d like to buy to see if it’s something you’d rather leave off or out of your body. This becomes second nature, I promise.
Take your “me” time. You may be juggling a million things right now and may not always, if ever, have time for an hour or two of self care. That’s ok, 5 minutes will do! Try to find just 5 minutes a day, and if you have more time then take it… and don’t feel guilty! Do what makes you happy, whether that’s sipping a warm cup of tea in peace, reading a few pages of a good book, daydreaming by escaping to your mental happy place, or anything that brings a smile to your face.
Surround yourself with people, or make new friends, who are on a similar path or have similar interests as you. If you have that one friend who’s super into clean eating and exercising, and that’s your mission, then strike up a conversation and lean on them for advice, and to get back on track when you fall off the wagon. An accountability buddy helps relieve a lot of the stress of taking on a new hobby or endeavor, and most friends, old and new, are super willing to help because it’s a two way street and helps them too. Having a buddy reminds us that we’re only human and can make mistakes at all stages. Don’t be scared to make them, be scared of never getting the chance to make and learn from them.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Even though it’s already a movement, we always advocate for veganism. Being vegan by eating plant based foods is much healthier for your body and is better for the environment. It decreases demand for factory farming and animal agriculture, which causes pollution and has a significant impact on climate change, adding to a healthier lifestyle for everyone. After adopting a vegan diet, many people inevitably try to reduce their overall impact by transitioning to products that don’t test on animals and don’t use ingredients that have been. This weeds out a lot of synthetic chemicals and leads people to use more natural and plant based skin, personal, and household products, which is a much healthier alternative. Overall, veganism has a full circle impact that affects people, their health, and the environment in a positive way.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
I wish someone told us that its ok start small. In the very beginning we felt like little fish in a big sea where we didn’t belong. It’s not only ok to start small, but its ok to be small. We’re a family business and that’s our strength. It’s not a weakness, and allows us to connect deeper with our customers. We love where we’ve been, we love where we are, and we can’t wait for wherever we’re headed.
To trust ourselves. A lot of times we found ourselves in unchartered waters and thought we didn’t know enough to navigate them. Yet we always figured out a way through the obstacles and came out stronger. It took a while to trust ourselves completely and believe that we can get through anything with a little perseverance and resourcefulness.
Know when to say yes and when to say no. We live in a “yes” culture, especially when operating a business. There’s pressure that if you say no to something, that you’ll definitely miss an opportunity, and this isn’t always true. It’s ok to know your customer so well that you focus on what’s tried and true instead of something you feel won’t necessarily work. Risks are great to take and you need to go out of your comfort zone sometimes to learn and expand you business, but when resources and time is tight, it’s also ok to make sure you spend your time wisely.
You’re going to change fundamentally as a person. This isn’t a bad thing at all and is a byproduct to look forward to. We’ve changed for the better in so many ways. We find ourselves being extremely purposeful with how we spend our time, not only for business, but also maximizing family time and living to the fullest with the people we love. Out of necessity, we live life very thoughtfully, and because of this we’ve become more aware of the control we have over our lives, and when to just let go and enjoy the ride.
Enjoy the journey and stop focusing on the destination. This will be part of your fundamental change as a person but is very important to hear on it’s own. As a business owner, when we started out we had all these grand ideas of where we wanted to see our company in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, and so on. We focused on those goals too much in the beginning. It’s great to have dreams and goals but keep them on the shelf somewhere in your mind, or write them down in a book and forget about it for a while. Enjoy all the new skills you learn everyday and all the obstacles you overcome. Life as entrepreneurs is face paced and you’ll be doing lots of things you never thought you could in order to survive as a small company. We didn’t realize how much potential we had until we started this business, and when I slow down for a moment to process the journey, I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done, and I’d take the leap to start our business a million times over.
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 would say veganism is dearest to us because it overlaps with a lot of other issues that we care deeply about. It helps the environment, it’s more sustainable, and taking care of our bodies, the environment, and having a positive impact on the world can have also have a positive impact on our own mental health. Being part of the solution is huge, and even if you’re not 100% perfect all the time with being vegan, every animal saved matters and every hamburger not eaten is better for your body.
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