We asked Priya Narasimhan a few questions about her life as the owner of Priya Means Love, a skincare, haircare, bodycare, apothecary goods company in Baltimore. Get to know her below!
Tell us about your business!
Priya: Priya Means Love offers completely natural, organic products for daily self care: skincare, haircare, bodycare, apothecary goods, and natural perfume and cologne. I'm a one-woman bodycare factory! I develop, formulate, create, and package a wide array of products — everything from face cream to body butter, clay-based shampoo to deodorant, smoky cologne to charcoal soap — in my home workshop, starting from scratch, including tincturing and infusing plants, some of which I grow or wildharvest.
I started making bodycare over nine years ago as a means of addressing my own chronic health problems and chemical sensitivities (I have fibromyalgia), and I found this craft drew on so many of my passions: environmental sustainability, plants and herbal medicine, cooking, technical problem-solving, self care, and immersion in the senses. I've always worked solo, and I'm proud to have built a business around my own health and what my body can handle. My hustle is now well over full-time, and I sell online, in person alongside other artisans, and in small, independent shops around the country (plus a couple overseas!). In Baltimore, you can shop my whole line at B.Willow.
With each product I make, I have a few goals in mind: clean formulation, effectiveness, and sensory pleasure. I'm an absolute purist about materials! Every single ingredient must to be completely natural, and most are organic; I believe beautiful products come from beautiful ingredients, and I approach formulating as a process of revealing the personalities and healing potential of the botanicals I work with, and of matching these ingredients with the skin and bodies that need them most. I love creating products that bring pleasure — soft and swoony botanical smells, lush textures, and deep plant medicine — to the everyday rituals of self care.
What accomplishment are you celebrating right now?
Priya: Last year brought the blossoming of a collaboration with a local organic lavender farm, Star Bright Farm, on a line of goods I make using their herbs fresh from the field. It's been a joy for me to get out of solo mode and work with Star Bright on a shared vision, and I've loved translating their plants so directly into soap, body scrub, and cream, an elemental process that lines up with my longstanding interests. We're all really proud of the fruits of our labor!
What keeps you motivated?
Priya: Mostly, I just get excited by my craft! The puzzles around formulation, the botanicals themselves, the process of getting inspired by things I smell and taste out in the world and translating them into my medium. I love working with the senses, with scent in particular — it feels like getting right into the guts of something primal and below the radar, deeply connected to emotion and to memory, and yet there's something analytical about it too. I also enjoy the practice of making a product over and over, the iterative sensory experience, the magic of watching a product come together, unconsciously learning something new each time.
And I love creating clean products that replace potentially harmful chemical products with pleasurable plant medicine that (ideally) helps people feel better in their bodies. My heart swells whenever I hear that something I made has helped ease a body problem. (Because of my own body problems, caring for and living better in the body is always on my mind!) I am so grateful to have a job where I can work from home, accommodating my own physical needs, and I love that my work connects me to so many inspiring, creative people.
What's one tip you want to share with other entrepreneurs?
Priya: In the world of small business (especially very small business), success and legitimacy are hard to define. Is it a matter of revenue? Is it about having a strong brand? Is it about structuring your time so it feels like you have a normal, legit job? Something else? I spent a lot of wasted energy feeling like my tiny one-woman business was too weird and cobbled-together for me to hold my head high among other small business owners I knew and admired. I still kind of feel that way! But now that feeling comes paired with knowing that the small business world is incredibly diverse, and that behind the curtain, many small businesses are strange and messy in their own unique ways, and each person finds and defines success in her own way. I know my business is peculiar, but I no longer fret so much about that. So, if you have anxiety over the question, "Is my business normal?" The answer is YES, it is! If your business isn't as successful as you'd like it to be, it may not be because it doesn't fit the mold. You have to pick and choose from the experiences of others to try to figure out techniques that will help you meet your own goals, and whatever works for you is success, however different from what you might have imagined.
What's your favorite app or resource of the moment?
Priya: I like Planoly (which I learned about at a previous Wellstruck Lady Boss!). And I recently started using the Audm app, which offers audio versions of long form magazine articles. I'm always on my feet and using my hands in my workshop, so I love the explosion of thought-provoking audio content out there right now. Gives me lots to think about while I'm doing mechanical stuff!
What are you listening to lately?
Priya: A ton of podcasts, most of which are about the state of the world, politics… you know, nice, light, cheerful stuff! My favorites are Rational Security, On The Media, Slow Burn (about Nixon, and so, so good!), The Daily, The Good Fight, the Ezra Klein Show, and Philosophy Bites.
What are you crushing on?
Priya: Brooke Gladstone, host of On The Media — I just love her smarts, her thoughtfulness, and her wry sense of humor. I also have a couple of local crushes that I don't want to out! :)
What inspirational words resonate with you recently?
Priya: Be wise, be kind, be brave.