Business of Beauty
Episode 1: Yolanda Russell at Aava's Divine Wellness
Learn how she got started and what makes her products special!
Hosted by: David Lee
This is the very first episode of Business of Beauty Webcast presented by Skincare Websites that comes out on New Year 2020. Welcome today’s guest speaker, Yolanda Russell of Aava's Divine Wellness as she talks about how she stepped out then came up with the idea of making soaps and how it helped it her skin condition. She will also tell us a little glimpse of her process and tips if you are thinking of starting your own beauty business.
So welcome and thank you for being on the show
Yolanda: Thank you, David and that’s Aava’s (Aa‧vas)
David: Oh, Aava’s (Aa‧vas)? Sorry
Yolanda: Aava’s the daughter
David: Ah! Gotchu Gotchu! So Aava’s Divine Wellness. So welcome! Uhm so Yolanda. Let’s start off with tell us about your business
Yolanda: Well, the business is a natural product, well Uhm, natural skincare products, well and, natural body products with infused oils so we use either tea or uh herbs, you know we infused it into oils and put it in into our products.
David: Hm so you got oils and herbs, smashed it together and you have your magical products. Right?
Yolanda: Something like that.
David: [laughs] well, I’m not an expert in this but I’m curious how did you promote this?
Yolanda: Whoo! Long story. Uhm, long story short though not really short some years ago I was diagnosed with acute dermatitis on my hands which is an incurable condition and doctor told me I was gonna use these steroids on my hands for the rest of my life and during that same time I was studying herbalism and to be a holistic health practitioner and I lift a hand when I said, “Do I have to see you again?” and he said, “Well, no. Not unless it’s worse or you need a refill.” and I said “I would never see you again” and I have never seen him again. I’ve been in and out of remissions. [Shows her hands] Do you see my hands?
Yolanda: and I started making products from there. That’s probably like 2011?
David: Wow.. now, the journey to that point, I mean I’m guessing like close your eyes and randomly pick one. I mean you have to do a lot of research and was there as a lot of trial and error. What was that like?
Yolanda: Ohh, well. I did a lot of research but what happened is I journal. I’ve been journaling since I was a kid. I had a diary and I’ve found an old journal of mine that said I had a desire to make soap and I had forgotten about it and that desire came back and that desire came back, it came back really strong and I’m like, “Huh? Am I supposed to make soap?!”, “Is that what I’m supposed to do?” so I was afraid to make soaps because you have to play with lye. Lye burns you, right? So I started with the business. I actually started with scrubs and body oils and it evolved into soaps.
David: And was that before or after you were diagnosed?
Yolanda: It was after.
David: So, you had this like light bulb moment, like “Hey, I gotta find the cure” and then you went through your old journals and you realized, “I really like making soaps”, “I wanna try making soap” and then when did the herbs come to play? Was it after the research?
Yolanda: Well, I was already studying with the herbalism when I came down with dermatitis. So I was already in the midst of that and to really go way back 2008, this all started for me because of my love for tea and I had a young lady named, Joy, that was at my job and she just kept comin’ and saying “I wanna try your tea!” and I’m like “I don’t sell tea!” and she said “I wanna try your tea in at least twice a week” and I promise you if she ever sees this, she will crack up because she is the reason why I started selling tea all those years ago and just leave off and people keep getting sick and I keep seeing this medication that people were going on and I’m like “There’s natural remedy”, “There has to be other ways because this medication is tearing up our bodies from the inside, so I guess I can save them off.
David: So when people say natural remedies, you know the proofs that you put in, right? Through your own experience, through your own body but what would you tell others when they say “It’s natural”, “I don’t know”, “How do I know if this works?” What would you tell them?
Yolanda: Well, when you use something herbal or something natural it’s not like getting a prescription. So when you give a prescription, you know like “The doctor put me on steroids yesterday because of Bronchitis” Well, I know that within 24hours that’s gonna kick in. Whereas, a natural remedy, it takes a little longer. It’s from the earth so that’s what makes it natural. So I would just explain that to them that it may take a little bit longer but it does work.
David: Okay, so from your experience how long did it take you to cure your hands, your skin?
Yolanda: Well, there’s no cure but I learned or discovered tea tree oil and in the form of “Melaleuca” - the scientific name of tea tree oil and that’s actually what really helped me. It took months but I began to see the changes and I was just determined that I was not gonna use, by the time my doctor told me that I was gonna have to use the cream on my hands for the rest of my life, I was already in a healed state, a healing state. But at one point, David I had no skin on this finger, I had to wear gloves to work and rubber gloves on top of that because it was constantly leaking. The back of my hands were black and If I bent it, they would just crack. It was terrible. I had like zits on my palms and you’ve seen me in person but I would want to hold my hand’s ups and just see [shows hands on the screen] no one would ever know. So it takes determination and you get to a point where you’re like “I’m tired of all this”, This stuff that I don’t even know what it’s made from going into my body or being put on my body. Oh! I did say one thing to the doctor, I said “Hey, is it true that this cream that she wants me to use, these steroids thin darker pigmented skin quicker than it does than lighter pigmented skin?” and he says “Yes, but you don’t have to worry about that” but my skin was already thin. Because at one point I had none and I worked in a hardware store at that time! C’mon now! One doctor told me to quit my job! I asked him, was he hiring, well “Are you hiring?” and he said “No?” and I’m like “What am I gonna do?!”
David: Yeah, you gotta do something, right?
David: So at that point, you’re working. You’re coming up with these different types of soaps you’re infusing with herbs and you’re trying on your skin, right? So I guessed it took you a few months until you figured it out like “Okay, yes! This is the correct combination and the correct routine to kind of seeing results, right?
Yolanda: Right. The tea tree oil was number one for me at that time because tea tree oil is antibacterial and then inflammation, I used chamomile oil. Essential oils, so that then I paired well with lavender being soothing and It’s awesome I turned up inflammatory and those three essential oils are where what I used and what helped me.
David: Okay, so at that point, the soap wasn’t created yet. You’re focusing on the oils on your skin. So then, what happened, how you transition into now soaps?
Yolanda: Now soaps? Woohoo~ So I started with melted poured soaps actually and I wanted to. Because that desire from reading my journal was still there and I’m still “Whoa, I wanna make soap” so I went to the store and bought melted poured soaps and melted poured soaps are something you just gonna take, you buy it, cut it up and you put in the microwave-safe container and have it in a microwave, melt it down, fragrance it and sit color it, pour it in a mold. Couple of hours later, you have a bar of soap! So that was easy and that was safe and then I had another co-worker friend who said “Hey, I made some soaps” and I said “Ohh! I really wanna do it!” then she said, “Just do it!” So I stepped out and I did, actually this morning. I would’ve thought about it. I would’ve brought it up. I found a few of my first pieces for the first bars that I made this morning. So I just stepped out there and I just started looking and researching. I’m a huge researcher.
David: Yeah, which you would say the absolute requirement, right? Anyone getting into the beauty business. It’s not like overnight you come up with a product right?
David: So a lot of research and I guess when was this? Was this like a year ago? Three years ago? We are now in 2020
Yolanda: So probably, 2012? 2013? Is when I made my first bar of soap and I’ve been making ever since.
David: Nice! So when you had those first bars of soap, how did you get the word out there? Like “ Hey, I sell soap now”, “I have this soap to offer”
Yolanda: Well, actually I was using it, I was giving it to family and friends to try it. I didn’t really start right off the bat and probably takes six months to a year where I actually started selling nor was have the nerve to step out there
David: Because others that are experiencing the same thing like they are afraid of starting that first business. They are afraid of getting it out there what was going through your mind?
Yolanda: I’m like “Ohh, people aren’t gonna like it” “But I like it” You know, “People aren’t gonna wanna pay for it” but wait a minute, I mean I put my love and my passion, my everything goes into my products. It’s not just something I do. It is a part of me. So I poured me into that. I just had to just trust, trust God that this is what he wants me to do and I stepped out there and the rest is history I guess.
David: Yeah! So I guessed when you stepped out, what type of feedback are you getting?
Yolanda: I got feedback like “Oh! I really love the soap” When I first started I wast just making soap to be making soap because I learned about the ingredients that you really can’t read when you buy a bar of soap and you’ll look into the ingredients and you really don’t know what that is because that’s not normally you are buying soaps, you are buying a detergent bar.
David: Cause you’re putting in a lot of chemicals, right? in your body.
Yolanda: Yeah, you put a lot of chemicals on your body. We are already eating bad food so that’s going in one way or the other and it became like an education piece just telling people about the different oils that are in there, the different herbs that are with it and at that time when I first started I was still selling tea as well.
David: The two happened to be combined just yet back in 2012, right?
Yolanda: They have become separate then they were together now and now they’re separated and I’m trying to bring the teas back again. One of the ways I had stopped infusing the bars or infusing the oils and I just kept saying “Okay, what is my niche? What is my niche?” and all I kept hearing is go back where you started and well “I started with teas” and that’s all I can keep hearing is “Okay go back to where you started” So now, the infusion.
David: Yeah, so let’s talk a little more about the infusion part then. Typically when you have a bar of soap, you buy a big brand name bar there’s chemicals and detergents that I can’t read then there are to more natural bars where it’s mostly oil-based, right? But then now, your infusing herbs to it, what does that do to the bar of soap?
Yolanda: Just like drinking a cup of tea
David: You know, I have my green tea right here! Haha
Yolanda: But I made mine! So all the good things that are in the cup of tea, the vitamins, the nutrients, the caffeine and in some cases if it’s a black tea or if it’s from a Camellia sinensis plant, you gonna get a level of caffeine all those things are now gonna go on the skin. It will absorb into the skin. So you may find that you may have a little Cellulose and now you’re washing with this soap cause I do have a coffee soap.
Yolanda: I know right. But see it’s working on those fatty tissues in the body and then the green tea that works with anti-aging, the anti-inflammatory so everything that you put in, you need to put on and that’s the philosophy of it.
David: Have you seen positive results from using yourself or others? What has been some of the feedback?
Yolanda: For me, I am 50. I have not a wrinkle and what I get is “What kind of soap do you use?!” and I say “I only put on my skin what I make” and that’s one of the ways I introduce my business people and they say “Oh my god! Your skin is awesome.” Your skin is almost flawless” and I don’t wear a lot of make-up, you know that and I had people like my son had severe acne and nothing we did work so he used the African Black Soap.
David: Oh? wow!
Yolanda: My niece, swear, she just wrote a review just yesterday on she wasn’t using anything on her face but the African Black Soap, I’ve had many people come back, people waiting right like “Hey! I’m out of soap! I’m out of soap!”, “My skin doesn’t itch anymore cause I’ve been using your soap”, “I don’t feel like I have to put on a whole lot of lotion” I don’t use lotion anyways cause it’s water-based but that’s another story.
David: So you are literally a walking testimonial
Yolanda: I am
David: But also others, other family members that have used your products have given wonderful reviews
David: Now, you mentioned others are asking you “Okay, I need my next batch”, So let’s talk about how are you producing this, then I guess volume-wise that’s one of your challenges, the struggles producing the product or do you have a third-party vendor that you work with like “Hey, this is the formula” “This is the recipe. I need you to make this”
Yolanda: No, it’s all me
David: Oh wow?! Okay.
Yolanda: All me, I generally make it all in small batches about three pounds or three to ten pounds at a time. I actually just reformulated yesterday. So everything that’s gonna be made today is gonna be one of the three new formulas. Just to improve upon the oils and the nourishment for the skin. That’s what I wanted to do and I also kinda wanna streamlines a whole lot of different carrier oils and things like that. It may have a different infusion in it but the basic ingredients will be the same or similar
David: Okay. Is there a reason why you’re creating smaller batches mainly because of the limitations of your manufacturing process or do you have concerns about the expiration of herbs or oils? There’s a shelf life to this too, right?
Yolanda: Absolutely. Once it goes to the Saponification process. It increases the shelf-life. I don’t wanna keep oils laying around either so the smaller batches are still I can have control with, maintain control. I write out each and every one. Every time I make a batch, I write it down it’s dated. It’s just so that if something happens you journal-dated the bars too when I label them. So that if something does go wrong with that bar, I can keep going back to my files and say “Okay, this day this was the weather, this was going on” and I can kinda go back and troubleshoot so that I can correct the problem.
David: Wow! This is really good information. Thank you for sharing because like others, they don’t realize all those little detail new ones’ that are required to run a beauty or soap business. Now I guess what is your next step, like today, January 1st, 2020, right? Where do you see your business going?
Yolanda: Well, I’m gonna step out and do more shows. I actually looking to start booking
David: Okay, so you’re gonna get shows. Cause others might say “What? You’re doing a show?”
Yolanda: Craft Shows
David: Ohh okay. Craft Shows. So for the people who don’t know what a craft show is like. Can you tell us a little bit more about that too?
Yolanda: Okay, so a Craft Shows is something that you go too and there are various vendors. One of the ones that I do most of the time is called The Ultimate Ladies’ Night run which is only run by a girl friend of mine and she has actually wanted me coming up but I won’t be vending. So you can have various vendors selling all kinds of things from purses to make-up to maybe you may have someone there giving massage, chair massages. It just varies from event to event. Self-makers that are a natural body product makers out there, jewelry, tons and tons and tons and tons of jewelry-makers out there then you go and you sell your wears or you go and you buy different unique items that you can just readily can’t find anywhere
David: Do they happen on a monthly, quarterly basis or how often do the shows come-up?
David: Oh, weekly? Wow! So are you out there weekly? At different shows?
Yolanda: I am not. I don’t have that much time being that I work a full-time job as well. So I’m not out there as often but I do plan this year to already get out there and also I’m looking to get the website up and really get that going around too.
David: So with the website would you hope to see on the website and what will be the website doing for you?
Yolanda: Growth. I’m looking to see tons of growth. I wanna outgrow my basement
David: Yeah! Now, are you selling products online?
Yolanda: I will be, I have it most of my products have been really word of mouth or have a shell.
David: So right now, you go to a show, they see your product and they buy right on the spot or they have your business card and they email you or calling you for the next batch is that how it works?
Yolanda: Yeah, they either call me or text me or they contact me on Facebook. Facebook has been really good to me as far as people have been able to find me and I’m also on Instagram, I have a pretty large amount of following on Pinterest as well. They call me, they tell me what they want, we kinda cash it out, shoot me the money or they pay me when we meet-up. Sometimes I mail it so it just depends on what works for the customer.
David: Wow! This is like a hustle
Yolanda: It is and you know for me I think customer service is a lost art and it is truly an art. Just being there and being like personal with my customers is so important to me.
David: So you’re saying you have to talk to people to be in business?
Yolanda: Yeah. I kinda like it though. Okay.. a lot! I checked on them even after. Like “Hey! How’s it going?” “Need anything else?”, “I’ll be at this location” Things like that or even just to see how they are doing. Not necessarily about the business. I want to build that rapport
David: With your personal customers right?
David: And now, also they’re giving you feedback too, right? On your products and you tweaked it based on that.
Yolanda: Sometimes. We had a woman a few months ago, back of the summer of last year that would not buy anything that did not have lavender on it. My daughter is in the next room and she’s like “Oh My God!” She said I’ll buy anything that has lavender!”
David: She loves lavender!
Yolanda: They were like here’s some bath bombs and she did not buy them but she just kept saying “Anything Lavender” so I have a soap that has lavender and chamomile in it but she wanted just lavender. I made two lavender soap and let’s see how it does.
David: Nice, so you do get feedback. You might come up with new products base on demand. So that’s good! So anything else that you’re doing to promote your business aside from going to trade shows? I guess you’re getting a lot of referrals business now, word of mouth. Anything else that you’re looking to promote like you’re looking at building your website, bring your products on there. Have you looked at any other online options?
Yolanda: Well, I have tried Etsy. I did not do very well on Etsy.
David: This is good to know! Why? Why is that?
Yolanda: I’m not exactly sure. To me and maybe for me, Etsy’s flooded?
David: Okay, so the market’s too saturated right? You’re eating a lot with all these other companies and brands on Etsy, okay.
Yolanda: Yeah, so I kind of pull it off of there and no, I haven’t thought of anywhere else because I was kind of convinced by a really nice person that I just do my own site.
David: Okay, yes. So the website and social media have been really helpful as you mentioned you have a lot of followers on is it Instagram? Pinterest?
Yolanda: Mostly on Pinterest. You all might want to look up too. My Pinterest is out there!
David: Really? But you have a lot of followers. So, when I think of Pinterest, I just think of cool photos, when I’m thinking of inspiration. I go on Pinterest. So how would you tell your products on Pinterest?
Yolanda: Well, Pinterest allows you to sell on if you have a business account and also look it on how well you’re doing. How many hits you are getting. If you do it as a Business Account, I think they’ll will also allow you to sell right there. I do not pin a lot of my things as of last year. But beginning this year I will be pinning more products on Pinterest as well.
David: Good to hear! That’s very interesting because not every day I do hear like “Yeah, we promote our business, we have a big following on Pinterest. So this is a unique area. So I guess any tips. Any final tips on someone that’s thinking about starting their own beauty business? What would you tell them?
Yolanda: I would say a few things, the first thing I would say is to have no fear, we’ve all been there. The other thing I will say is latch on to someone that you feel you can trust, that will show you the way. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I mean there are some caddy people out there but then there are people that want to see you succeed just as much as you want to succeed and that would be my advice. I’m here to help anybody, I’, not gonna give you my formulas but...
David: That’s top secret!
Yolanda: But I’ll help you do whatever
David: And that’s really the same thing on how the show started was get out there and help other beauty entrepreneurs too. So thank you again for being the show If anyone wants to reach you right? What would be some of the best ways to reach you?
Yolanda: I would still say Facebook. Facebook would be the best.
David: Can you spell out? Facebook.com/?
David: We will put it up on our page too. If you go to the link, you can click on that, too.
Yolanda: Great! That’ll be awesome. They can email me: firstname.lastname@example.org, Instagram/AavasDivineWellness or just @AavasDivineWellness on Instagram. Pinterest is a whole following thing and is kinda tricky so those three would be great.
David: Okay, okay! Sounds good and again we’ll have this information down the resource area on our blog article post so that anyone that wants to find that information would also be there.
David: Thank you again and I hope you have a wonderful day!
Yolanda: Thank you, David!
David: Thank you! Bye-Bye!