Margo Marrone - The Organic Pharmacy
Margo Marrone is the founder of the skincare line, The Organic Pharmacy. These products are wonderful, and it's reassuring that you're not putting anything toxic on your skin. Learn about her background and company below:
Walk me through your career path. My first job was in my local pharmacy at 15. I watched the pharmacist mix and blend herbs and tinctures to create cough mixtures, lotions and potions. It inspired me to study pharmacy and specialize in herbal medicine (fancy name pharmacognosy). As a qualified pharmacist, I was a bit disillusioned to find that the potions and blending of natural extracts was disappearing, and instead, it was counting pills that became the norm. I read Dr Bach (of the flower essences) which opened my mind to a different way of thinking. He was also a homeopathic doctor, and that inspired me to look into homeopathy. I fell in love with homeopathy and decided to study it and become a homeopath. In my second year of studying, I became pregnant with my daughter, and also became aware of organic. At first, it was organic food. I hadn’t realized all the chemicals that went into what we eat. Shortly afterwards, it was cosmetics. I remember being shocked at the ingredients in cosmetics. Not only did I not want to put it on myself, but being pregnant I didn’t want to consume or apply anything toxic.
What is homeopathy? Homeopathy is a natural form of FDA approved medicine that is used by over 200 million people worldwide. It treats the whole person (i.e. physical & emotional) and relies on the body's own power of self-regulation and self-healing. The symptoms of an illness are the body’s attempt to heal itself. A homeopathic remedy will make the body believe the disease has become stronger and the body will fight harder. Therefore, a homeopathic remedy should mimic these symptoms as closely as possible. The main principle is based on the fact that something that causes symptoms in a healthy person will cure a sick person with those same symptoms when taken in minute doses. It does need a skilled homeopath to help you choose what remedy you need.
Did you always want to start your own company? Yes, I always wanted to start my own company ever since I was 15, but I had no idea what or how.
What does your day-to-day look like? I do a variety of things, which I love. I meet with clients, work on new products or treatments, visit our partner spas or give speeches. I have a finger in most pies. The biggest thing I do is problem solve.
How did your experiences growing up in Iran translate to your company? Most Iranians tend to go for natural remedies for everyday ailments saving the heavy stuff for the big illnesses. The local apothecary in the bazaar that I visited with my mum, had jars and jars of herbs. He had local knowledge, and would ‘prescribe’ various concoctions for the ailments. I grew up in that environment. Rose played a huge part in my growth. Rose to Iranians is like Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It is known for it's anti-wrinkle, cooling and calming powers. It is rich in natural anti-inflammatories and anti-histamines. My passion for rose translates through the entire range of our product line. I’m so pleased that I have reintroduced real rose, not the synthetic version most rose products have.
How did you choose the name, design the logo, packaging and website? We thought about the name a lot and played with a few options, but kept coming back to the same one - simple and honest. It describes us perfectly.
The logo design came from my husband who spent days and months creating the perfect cross. I wanted a flower inside it, and that became a quest to create the perfect flower. He developed the font, so it is completely unique to us. He also does the packaging and the web design.
He wanted to create a site that was clean, modern, pharmaceutical and glamorous. Something that is taken for granted now, but 20 years ago was a real novelty. Especially since most people didn’t know what organic meant. Our premise always was that we are the genuine article, so we don’t need to put green, trees or anything over the top to let people know. Instead, we focused on education and information.
What was important to you about starting a skincare line that is organic? Our skin is our largest organ, and we absorb up to 60% of what is applied to it. Just like food, the better the quality of the ingredients (and the fewer bad ingredients) the healthier we become. It was important for me to have a line that was free from toxins, was organic, but also was effective. I am sure that if people knew their skincare interfered with their hormonal balance they would care.
How do you choose which products you want to create? At first, it was my clients asking me to create things for them. Then, it became a question of need. In effect, I am my own customer, so I generally create for myself. Fortunately, what I need is also what my clients need. I get a lot of emails and requests from the stores and try to keep an open mind.
Walk me through the process of concept-to-shelf. At first, it's the idea of a product, and I make a list of what I want it to do. I then search journals and studies to see what is the latest information available on the ingredients. I usually mix pharmaceutical grade herbal extracts, vitamins, cosmeceuticals, plant oils, essential oils and a whole active complex. Then, I start to formulate and look into what will work well together and what dosage. This then gets passed to our in-house lab where the first sample is made. It usually takes 5-6 samples before I am happy. I then test it on myself. If I am happy with it, it gets tested on 10 other people. Once I get the feedback, it goes for external testing. The final stage of testing is stability, preservative challenge testing and compatibility. Once all the tests are complete, we work on pricing, packaging and production. We have our own factory in London, so it's quite complex.
How do you choose scents for the products? The scents come from the active ingredients. Some examples are below:
- Antioxidant: lemon, orange and grapefruit
- Detox oil: juniper, rosemary and fennel
- Carrot Butter Cleanser: chamomile, rosemary and lavender
What challenges did you face in the beginning? In the beginning, we faced several challenges. Namely, we were new and no one understood our concept. It was a challenge getting our first store and bank loan. No one wanted to supply us because our quantities were so small, surviving the first year - its endless….
How did you learn to start & grow a company? To be honest, I learned as I went along. This wasn't the best or fastest way, but all I really wanted was to create a beautiful brand that helped improve people's lives, and I still want that today. Through the products and treatments I create, I hope that I could change the health of those who come to me. I've made mistakes along the way, but it left me open to all opportunities.
What advice would you give to someone interested in starting their own company? You have to be a bull, ready and willing to work the hours and be self-motivating. You will have up and down days, but running your own business means hard work. You can't take no for an answer, have to be ready to solve problems daily and take risks others are not willing to. Communicate well with everyone and make sure you treat all those around you with kindness and respect is imperative as well.
Where is Organic Pharmacy today, and where do you see it headed in the future? Today, our channels are still wholesale, a store in NY, LA, the UK and Japan. We have spas globally from exotic Seychelles to the Caribbean to Thailand. All together, we are sold in 33 countries, which is amazing. I hope to grow and expand in the same way spreading the love one person at a time.