(#41) LAURA SERINO i ISLAND APOTHECARY
"If you put it out in the universe, chances are the universe will accept it."
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the southwestern part of Connecticut, an hour train ride from New York City.
Describe that place and its people…
I was born in a lower-middle class, diverse city for the first half of my childhood where we played a lot of hopscotch on the sidewalk. The area unfortunately became a bit unsafe so my parents worked hard to move us out of the city and into the next town over, a really lovely middle class suburb. We finally had our own backyard which was a big deal to an eight year old! I think living in both places is why I have such a strong love for wide open spaces, but also for the bustle of city life.
What were you like as a child? What did you want to do when you grew up?
A voracious reader. I was a little gangly and awkward as a kid. I really didn’t come into my own until high school. I was always very driven and knew I wanted to be a writer (which is what I still consider my “other” job).
How did you end up in Maine? Is there something about it that is especially inspiring to you?
The very first time I came to Maine I was 24 years old. My friend invited me to spend a weekend with her while she was visiting her boyfriend at the time on an island off the coast. I remember seeing my husband through a window for the very first time and I had one of those “oh boy” gut moments that meeting him would change my life. Funnily enough, I had emailed a bunch of friends before the trip and told them that I was going to Maine “to meet a lobsterman with an anchorman tattoo” and that’s exactly what happened. We fell in love pretty quickly and after less than a year together, I moved to Maine to be with him. Best decision of my life so far!
How did Island Apothecary come to be? Was there a particular moment when you knew it was what you wanted to pursue?
I’ve been interested in the organic beauty movement for over a decade. I interviewed Deirdre Imus ten years ago for an article I was writing and she was a big mover and shaker in the green cleaning product movement. She’s really the one that opened up my eyes to a holistic and natural approach to the products you put on your body and in your home. I used to suffer from headaches quite a lot and when I stopped using toxic-laden household cleaners, they completely went away.
I personally struggled with bad skin throughout my life and when I was finally fed up with drugstore alternatives and dermatologist prescriptions, I set out to solve it on my own. Switching over to an oil-based approach literally changed my complexion almost overnight. I knew it was something I wanted to shout from the rooftops so it started off small as I began mixing my own products for myself. Eventually I’d give it out as gifts. My good friend Claire let me sell in her shop for one summer and once I started to get positive feedback from customers, I knew I was on to something.
What are your favorite plants/herbs/oils... to work with? and why?
I have a soft spot for Argan oil since it was the first oil I really fell in love with. I’m constantly falling in love with essentials oils, though our rose extract is my all-time favorite scent. Also love mixing vetiver and ylang-ylang together - a super intoxicating scent that inspired our cleanser. If you’ve got a skin condition that needs solving, there is an oil out there for it!
What inspires your work? What motivates to you to do what you do?
I’m inspired by so many things. My environment, my friends, other indie beauty brands. Travel too. When we were in Greece a few winters ago I spent way too much time reading about how women in Ancient Greek would create their own oils and makeup. Women have also cared about their skin!
My motivation is to be able to help stimulate the economy where I live. The ultimate goal is to have other female, full-time employees. Where I live is primarily a lobstering community and it’s hard to find work out here in the winter. I’ve been lucky to have a background as a writer so I have the ability to make a living from home, but if I can offer some other women full-time employment one day, I’ll know I’ve really made it.
I also just want women to be able to have access to affordable, organic skincare. Our Rose Serum is only $30 and is made from the finest ingredients around. I’d say it’s just as good as the $100 serums out there but of course I’m biased!
What prompted you to take the leap to start your own business?
I’ve been entrepreneurial in small ways my whole life. I have worked as a freelance writer for much of my career so hitting the pavement and working hard to make a living has always been something I’ve had in me. The small business community in Maine is beyond supportive, so I think living here is the main reason why I took the leap. A large percentage of small businesses out here are owned and operated by women, which is pretty awesome.
What is the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting out?
Don’t expect overnight success. I know a lot of successful entrepreneurs who have been invaluable to me throughout the process in giving me advice on how to start a brand. It’s hard work but with patience, your audience and customers grow. And if you can supply an amazing product, they’ll come back to you. Every time I see a customer place their second or third or tenth order, it really makes my heart swell.
What lessons have you learned?
Don’t ever be afraid to fail. The worst thing that can happen is that it doesn’t work out. I’ve launched a failed venture or two but at least I gave it a go.
What are the things that you want to fill your days with? What are the things that are most important to you?
I want my days to be filled with good words, lots of love, good friends and companions, great food, and the occasional indulgence like a great glass of red wine. Family, friends, my health and their health are of utmost importance to me.
Words you live by?
My friends know I like to quote Oprah a lot, but I can’t help it. The woman is a sage. When you know better, you do better is certainly a motto for me. And I also believe that when people show you who they really are, you should believe them. I also believe that kindness and openness towards all races, religions and beliefs are crucial, especially in today’s landscape.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start their own business? Or for anyone who wants to live a more creative life?
Well first of all, if there are any women out there that need advice, you can give them my personal email. Ha! It’s important to know that not everything in your life has to line up perfectly in order for you to start a business. There won’t ever be the perfect time, so just go for it. Start small! Open up an online shop or approach a local store to sell your wares. If you put it out in the universe, chances are the universe will accept it.
What is something about you that might surprise others?
I’m a little afraid of boats, which is extra ironic since my husband’s lobster boat is named after me. And it’s not convenient when you live on an island!
What does the word authentic mean to you? How does your work allow you to live authentically?
If I’m living an authentic life it means I go to bed satisfied. If I can go down my checklist and say, “Did I take care of myself today? Did I care for others? Was I kind?” then I’ve done my best.
How do you find balance? Escape? Or maybe a daily ritual/practice that keeps you grounded...
I use books as a form of escape. I am someone that really needs solitude. I go on walks by myself or with our dog. As much as I love being among friends and family I have to check in with myself when I’m having a rough day.
Any badass women you love?
Too many to count. My Mother and my Mother-in-law. Nora Ephron. Lena Dunham. Beyonce. And my girlfriends especially. My female friendships are very important to me so watching my friends grow into strong women and mothers and partners is something that leaves me in awe all of the time.
And lastly, on your site you encourage people to contact you for where to get the best lobster roll in Maine - where?!
Greet’s Eats. It’s a lobster roll truck on Vinalhaven Island. If you can’t get out there, the second best roll is at another food truck called Bite Into Maine in Cape Elizabeth. But honestly, my husband makes the best ones. Sadly not everyone gets to try one though!