Everyday Icon: The Soapmaker

Clementine Daily sits down with a doctor turned skincare entrepreneur who really knows her mission in life.
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Amanda Carter Gomes
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Clementine Daily sits down with a doctor turned skincare entrepreneur who really knows her mission in life.
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Image Credit: Osmia Organics

We love a good career pivot here at Clementine and if we had to identify a theme with our Everyday Icons series, this would definitely be it. Sarah Villafranco's story falls perfectly into this category : an ER doctor who after a series of life changing events reconsidered her path and purpose. Sarah decided to leave medicine to start Osmia Organics , a natural soap, skincare and perfume company based in the mountains of Colorado. Today she shares her thoughts on leaving a stable job for entrepreneurship, the importance of our physical surroundings and her favorite products (+ lifestyle secrets) for beautiful skin!

You were an emergency physician and made a 180 in your career trajectory into the world of organic skincare products. These are not two paths most people would consider complementary. What was the impetus for that change and how it has impacted your life?

I had a series of life events that made me stop and consider my life’s trajectory and whether I was happy with it. The birth of a daughter, the death of a mother, and a class making natural soap came together like a little Venn Diagram - the section where they all overlapped became Osmia. I loved the ER, but it was draining me more than it should, which would have made it a bad choice for me and my family in the long term. Now that I have Osmia, I work harder than I ever did in medicine (as most entrepreneurs will attest) but the work nourishes me in a way that makes me want to share my passion with others. I’m tired at the end of my days, but I’m tired from a focused outpouring of energy toward positive change, rather than just utterly depleted.

 There are many women (and people) who may feel that leaving a stable, respected profession mid-career to become an entrepreneur is very risky (for the record: we think it amazing, exciting and inspiring!), but there are those people who want to follow in similar footsteps and are paralyzed with fear - what do you say to those individuals?

First of all, I can’t tell you how many doctors look at me with puzzled envy when I say I have stopped practicing in the ER – medicine is getting harder and harder to practice in a sustainable, satisfying way.

But, let’s be clear: I am not unequivocally saying that you should quit your hard-earned, stable job and follow your bliss. That’s a nice idea, but not always practical. I was in a situation where I loved my work, but was missing something. When I became unexpectedly obsessed with the idea of starting Osmia, my husband and I sat down and made a joint decision – risky, yes, but with calculated risks that were acceptable to us.

Then again, I’m also not saying you need a wonderfully supportive partner (lucky me) to make a decision like this. If you want it badly enough, work hard enough, and believe deeply enough in what you’re doing, you will make it happen.

 You were living in DC and relocated to live in the mountains of CO - how much do you think location influences your creativity, your company and the ability to live the life you want to lead?

It influences everything. The lone, majestic mountain visible from my house and from Osmia HQ reminds me daily why I started Osmia – to live a healthy, happy life, and inspire the same in others. The smells I experience in nature while hiking or biking have inspired most of the scent combinations in our line. And, living near these huge mountains and powerful rivers and ancient trees is a constant ego-check, as well as an ever-present call to protect them.

Osmia takes great pride in creating natural (and organic when possible) soaps, skincare and perfumes - why is this important to you? What are some surprising benefits of choosing a natural skincare products versus a more clinical based line?

Using natural ingredients is important to me for so many reasons. I truly believe that many of the ingredients in the mainstream personal care industry are harmful to us and to the plant and animal species with whom we share this burdened little planet. I have two young daughters, and watched my mom die too young, so I want to do everything I can to live a healthy life and help heal the environment.

On top of these reasons, I am very sensitive to the synthetic scents used in mainstream lines – they make my nose crinkle up and leave me with a headache. I find that by using only products scented with essential oils (all derived naturally from plants), I am able to indulge in the joys of aroma again, with only positive results. Bonus!

Will you walk us through your daily skincare regime?

I wash my face once or twice a day with our Black Clay Facial Soap – it’s a staple for me, as I struggle with perioral dermatitis and a few other skin reactivity issues. I follow with a version of our Purely Simple Face Cream (I have a special one for myself scented with only organic rose oil – perks of being the formulator!) and I use our Spot Treatment for the rare blemish that appears. I always have some form of Osmia lip balm nearby – currently an everyday lip conditioner that we have not yet released. For my body, I wash with one of our moisturizing body soaps, and follow with the body oil that best matches my mood – right now, I am using our new GEM series body oils – those will be launched later this year. I don’t wear foundation, and I try to put sunscreen on only if I’m headed out for a run or a ride – it’s not ideal, but most sunscreen makes my skin mad, so I try to use it only when I need it. Oh, and I consider my regular exercise and healthy dietary habits to be essential elements my daily skincare regimen, too!

As you know, Clementine Daily’s mission is to live an intentional and authentic lifestyle while celebrating the simpler pleasures in life. How do you relate to this mission in your everyday life?

Your mission is pretty much my mission, too. My connections with people, animals, and nature fuel me, and noticing the uniqueness of those connections makes it so I am never bored with my life. Ten years in the ER and the death of my mom have left me acutely aware of the preciousness of this short life. I want to be present, whether I am comforting my kid or listening to a friend or stroking the soft tips of my dog’s ears. That said, those who love me know that I may interrupt a conversation to drop down on all fours and smell a rock after a summer rainstorm. And, hopefully, they’ll roll their eyes and then get down there to sniff it with me.

What are 5 everyday items you cannot live without?

1) My family, including border collies, and my friends. (In truth, these are the only “everyday items” without which I can’t live. But, I’ll add 4 more that come close!)

2) My juicer (Omega NC800)

3) An herbal supplement called Oona – it helps even out some, um, rough edges when hormones start to fire…

4) My running shoes

5) My Vitamix (basically in the “family” category)

p.s. Has this skincare story left you feeling inspired? Try this easy DIY steam to break up the daily routine.