Beauty industry pioneer Megan Larsen has never been one to shy away from a challenge. Back in 1999, from her kitchen table in Perth, the entrepreneurial Larsen dreamed up and delivered natural, chemical-free skincare formulas based on ancient philosophies and the healing power of plants and herbs.
Fastforward almost two decades and her brand, Sodashi, has achieved international acclaim. It boasts 100 products, while its cult treatments are available in the world’s top spas, from the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris to the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. The line is now considered the purest spa range in the world. Larsen has just released a book, Startups & Self-care, packed with advice for would-be business owners and busy women seeking balance.
INSTYLE: What’s the best thing about starting your own business?
MEGAN LARSEN: I get to do what I love every day with passion and purpose. There is a freedom in owning your own business, and I have been able to set goals based on my integrity, ethics and values.
And the hardest part?
Making tough decisions, because I’m soft and it doesn’t come naturally. Also, as the business changes and evolves, knowing what to let go of and what to stay focused on as a founder.
What do you wish you had known before you started Sodashi?
How hard the first five years were going to be, trying to educate about natural skincare and having to invest so heavily in the audience. And how much money the company was going to need.
Were you ever scared of failure?
There was one time when I thought, “Oh my God, I’m going to lose everything.” I overcame it because my partner at the time said, “Megan, what’s different today than yesterday?”, which is one of the quotes I put in my book and is something I tell myself quite regularly now. Things don’t just turn up on one day—there’s been patterns of it occurring.
You must need resilience to deal with that…
It’s an interesting thing, the way you learn resilience—it can require some tough self-talk... Sometimes you’ve got to get over yourself, too. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the little problems you might have. One of the ways I’ve built [resilience] over the years is to remind myself how fortunate I am
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
Not to judge an opportunity too quickly; I’ve learned it’s important not to discriminate right away. I now take the time to think [things] through and do my research. You just never know what a new opportunity can mean for your future.
Any other pearls of wisdom you’ve picked up?
To accept my faults, which is quite hard for a perfectionist! I’ve learned to acknowledge and accept them and do my best around them, [which]...is one of the toughest things to do. You get that terrible self-talk at times and you’ve got to stop over-thinking.
What oils do you use to quiet your mind?
I use cedarwood, rosewood, bergamot and some [other] citrus oils, sometimes cardamom. I put them in a diffuser or a vaporiser, or no more than six drops in a bath, mixed with a little milk as a solubiliser.
You mentioned meditation—is this something you use at work?
My focus has always been to maintain a culture of wellness to create a dynamic and engaged team. My very first office employee came in one day and said, “I want what you have—it doesn’t matter how frenetic everything is, there is a calm in you. Can I learn to meditate?” So we started to offer it. And I’ve always had Bowen therapy and kinesiology available to the team.
Tell us about a proud moment.
Launching Sodashi luxury agedefying range Samadara to international media at the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris, arguably one of the finest hotels in the world. Bruce Willis’ agent wanted to book him into the suite they had assigned to us and they said [they] were very sorry, but it was reserved for a private event. I always laugh that I stood up Bruce Willis!
And what has been a career highlight?
Knowing I’ve supported 75 Sodashi employees to learn Transcendental Meditation over the years, a tool that removes stress from the physiology and gives real clarity of mind, deep rest—something we all need more and more these days. And bringing safe skincare that really works to the world.
Who is your personal role model?
My mother has been a huge role model because she was faced with a lot of adversity and had to overcome a lot—she raised my brother and me as a single mum while making a living out of pottery in the earthquake-prone town of Napier [New Zealand]. She was a tough cookie but did it in a nurturing way. She gave me incredible words of advice that however old I was, I could assimilate.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My mother always said, “You can achieve anything you really put your mind to,” and I still believe it in every aspect—in business or in life.
What defines success for you?
Balance in life.
You’ve just written a book. Why did you decide to do that?
I wanted to share my story and the ups and downs of establishing a start-up, the challenges of transitioning into an established business and explain how supporting my wellbeing and that of the Sodashi team has been so key to our success.
Who is it for?
I think it speaks to those dreaming of setting up a business to encourage them to take the first steps; as well as those with a burgeoning business and those maybe suffering from some burnout who are looking to achieve more balance in their lives; as well as people simply wanting to boost their own wellbeing.
What are some of your personal self-care rituals?
Transcendental Meditation; [the] Five Tibetan Rites—five simple exercises that work your whole body; I also do some yoga stretches every morning. I’m good with routine, but [mine] has to be portable [so] I can travel with it. I can’t commit to a class every week because it will not happen!
What is your best piece of advice for women who wish to start their own business?
Make your wellbeing a priority. That gives you the health and resilience to go on the start-up journey with its highs and lows. And get a mentor.
Did you have a mentor?
I still use a mentor who’s in New York. I like her because she is kick-ass. You want to work with someone who [will] question and challenge you. They may not have all the answers, but they will ask the right questions to get you to find your wisdom within.
Finally, any words to live by?
People will forget what you say, but they’ll never forget the way you made them feel.