Small Business Profile: Laura Lemon, Owner of Lemon Laine
Hi Laura! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. My husband and I recently moved to Nashville from San Francisco where we spent most of our 20s. I love grocery shopping and have a bucket list of farmer’s markets I want to visit. I eat a frozen banana almost every morning. My guilty pleasures are Zara, Lily’s Chocolate and Southern Charm TV show. I have a goldendoodle who thinks he’s a human named Willis. Oh and I geek out over anything about our microbiome and digestive system.
What led you to begin Lemon Laine?
My whole life I’ve thought about starting my own beauty company. From making lip balms for my friends in middle school to being a self-taught makeup artist that landed my first job at Saks Fifth avenue. I fell in love with the magic of makeup and the confidence it can give women.
Fast forward 15 years in various beauty roles and I’m opening Lemon Laine. Plain and simple --- I felt like there wasn’t an authentic beauty shopping experience out there. I thought women deserved better. A place that women could trust. That was approachable, personalized and honest. Cue, Lemon Laine.
Tell us more about the origins of the brand’s name.
Lemon is my last name and my grandmother's name is Helaine Lemon. I called her Momma Laine growing up. She introduced me to department stores, Clinique free gifts, how to use peach lipstick for everything and the importance of self-care Sunday’s.
Your shop just recently opened and people are already raving about it! What has been the most exciting part of this new venture?
The moment right before I opened. After spending months planning, working and hoping--- I looked around the store and realized everything came together better than I could have ever imagined. I had a beautiful space, all my favorite products and a new team that had my back. We had over 100 customers on opening day!
How do you source the items you have in the store?
I'm a product junkie at heart so I'm constantly testing new brands. It's truly both an art and science. I first and foremost make sure the product is clean. Clean means a lot of different things these days so I consult EWG Skin Deep as well as a natural product chemist. From there, I make sure it works by testing it along with my team of over 20 years of beauty experience. As part of our testing process, we always ask the questions -- does it live up to its chemical counterpart? And last but not least, is it beautiful? Not just the outer packaging but the brand's story too. Who’s behind the product? What do they stand for? Ultimately, what's my gut feeling about this product?
What do you wish more people knew about natural beauty products?
They work. Plants are functional and powerful tools that allow our bodies to heal and thrive.
Could you walk us through the process of your oil bar?
I get this question a lot since it’s such a new concept. “So, what exactly is an Oil Bar?” The Lemon Laine Oil Bar is similar to a traditional wine bar environment but stocked with a vast assortment of seed, nut and plant oils. Emphasizing powerful ingredients, each oil will be made to meet the specific needs of your skin and will be blended on the spot just for you. But don't worry there will be wine too, we offer a complimentary glass of wine with each Oil Bar appointment.
Here's what you can expect when you book an appointment at the Lemon Laine Oil Bar:
1) We kick things off by taking time to understand your skin care needs--what's your skin like in the morning, what about at night, what do you love about your skin, what do you want to get better?
2) Next we walk you through our menu of proprietary base oil blends, each blended to nourish your skin in different ways -- calming for irritated skin, hydrating for skin on the drier side, clearing for acne and oily prone skin, and rejuvenating for fine lines.
3) After you select your base oil, we further customize with our selection of essential oils, each having lasting benefits to the skin. We'll share some of our favorite combinations (ylang ylang + sandalwood is a house favorite!) but this is meant to be fun--you get the final say!
4) Last but not least, we pour your customized facial oil in an 1oz Lemon Laine bottle. Now, it's yours to keep. When you're down to the last drop, bring your bottle back for a refill and receive 20% off.
Do you have a team? What steps did you take to build it?
I do and it’s growing every day. I’ve been blown away by the level of talent that’s reaching out to me about positions with Lemon Laine. These women passionately care about learning, teaching and continuing our mission of getting more natural products to the people. We also have a Beauty Board that consists of a naturopath, product development expert, herbalist and a chemist. This team combined has over 75+ years of beauty and wellness experience. I’m continuing to develop and grow the team as time goes on.
How do you connect with your customers and community?
I moved to Nashville in November knowing one person, so this was something I was really worried about when starting Lemon Laine. I didn’t have a customer-base or network in Nashville. So I got involved with the local community in various ways. I partnered with a women-based crowdfunding campaign called iFundWomen. I reached out to a local natural skincare company called Clary Collection. I grabbed endless cups of coffee or quick phone calls. I joined a group on Facebook for women that just moved to Nashville and were in the same boat I was.
Nashville has opened their arms to me and I couldn’t be more grateful.
What are some brands that you are excited about that we should know of?
I tell everyone about Mother Dirt. It has a silly name but it’s one serious product. They have one of the best cleansers I have ever tried. It was developed by MIT scientists which is a rarity in the natural world. The days of hemp and patchouli based products are long gone! I also love Leahlani products. They’re a small-batch, women-owned skincare company out of Kauai. Everything they do has such a sweet, genuine feel to it. Their bless balm is out of this world. It smells like you just landed yourself on a beach in Hawaii. Keeko products out of Australia is one of my favorite discoveries. They make oil pulling so easy. They put together one-use packs that have drops of essential oil. It’s so much better than digging your hand into the coconut jar. I look forward to it each morning and have seen a huge difference in the health of my teeth.
Why do you think it’s important to shop small and support local makers?
We live in a world where people crave authentic experiences. You can’t find that in a big box retailer or online. People still want to touch, see, and smell things. Supporting small makers and local shops help make sure this experience is carried forward.
What is your favorite thing about your workspace?
The Oil Bar. I’ve had the richest conversations with our customers when they pull up a seat. I’ve learned more from them than they have from me. Life lessons abound.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
Getting more natural products to more people. I hope to shine a light on how even small purchasing decisions have a huge impact on your own health and community. Knowledge is power.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you faced when starting Lemon Laine?
Self-belief. So many times, I would get in my own way. I have an incredible support network of friends and family but I quickly realized that the most important support I needed was from myself. It’s something that can still creep up but I’ve learned that it’s all part of the process. Now, I try to use it as a motivational tool. I’ll attack it instead of letting it get the best of me. It’s almost a game for me now, trying to prove myself wrong.
Being in a new place with no network was also very challenging. Wearing so many hats and learning different sides of business that I hadn’t had much experience with---accounting, taxes, IT systems, staff management has been a humbling experience.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
It’s one of the most powerful and long-lasting impacts we can make as a society. It allows each generation after us to build bridges that we weren’t able to.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
Megan Gonzalez of Mae Mae & Co. I worked with her on our first Lemon Laine photo shoot. Her ability to be endlessly creative while being the most professional, bad-ass business woman is so inspiring. She became one of my biggest supporters and encouraged me to not take a back seat in forming my brand. Instead, she said that I should just put it all out there. I credit her alone with getting me to actually start my Instagram stories. I was so intimidated to make myself the face of Lemon Laine before meeting her. But she made it seem so effortless and fun. Check out her IG @maemae_co
Was there any particular person who helped shape your career in formative way?
My first boss out of college, Shannon Curtin. She was the head beauty buyer at Walmart at the time. I couldn’t have asked for a better boss. She gave me the opportunity to lead a project that ultimately changed the direction of my career—launching natural beauty products at Walmart. She was equal parts challenging and supportive. She taught me that people are everything in business. It’s not just about numbers (although that’s SUPER important) but also relationships. I think about her almost daily and ask myself, “What would Shannon do?”.
What have you learned from starting your shop that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
I had a friend send me a quote a few months before I opened when I was feeling a bit overwhelmed... “At the beginning of each day you may not know how, but at the close of each day you will have learned.” I have found this to be so true! If you trust the learning process, then it makes it all so much more enjoyable.
What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
I’m so excited to launch our events at Lemon Laine. I want Lemon Laine to be more than just a beautiful place to buy amazing products. By hosting classes and expert speakers, we hope to support each customer’s discovery process by fostering an open and honest conversation about beauty and wellness.
What tools or resources have been most helpful for you in creating your business?
There are some amazing online tools that I found to be super useful. LivePlan guided me on how to write my first business plan. Planoly allows me to plan out my Instagram posts. It’s been invaluable when trying to make use of what little time I have. Mailchimp makes writing newsletters not feel so overwhelming. Canva is one of my most recent discoveries. It gives you the tools to be your own graphic designer. And podcasts just get me so amped up. My favorites are How I Built This, HBR Ideacast, Fat Mascara and Girlboss Radio.
How do you manage a work/life balance?
I’m still trying to figure this one out. Honestly, turning off my notifications for email and Instagram have been a HUGE help. I just don’t check my phone as much and it allows me to be more present.
What are some of your favorite places in Nashville?
Ok, I realllly get into this sort of stuff. In my second life, I’d love to be a travel planner. There’s something to do for everyone in Nashville and there are new places are opening all the time. But, here are some of my favs so far… donuts at Five Daughters, coffee at Barista Parlour, brunch at The Post East, oysters and bubbly at Henrietta Red, pizza at Slim & Husky’s, BBQ at Butchertown Hall, tea time at High Garden, ramen at Two Ten Jack, avocado toast at Urban Cowboy, fresh lime margaritas at Bar Taco, tapas at Barcelona, upscale southern food at March House, drinks at Old Glory, rooftop at L.A. Jackson. As for non-food things, my favorites are yoga at Inner Light and Hot Yoga East, shopping at White’s Mercantile and Two Son, spin at Verticity, fresh flowers at FLWR Shop, oil bar at Lemon Laine, hiking at Percy Warner, live music at Robert’s Western World, dancing at The Back Corner, comedy at Zanie’s.
Three skincare items/products that you can't live without?
Mother Dirt Cleanser. It takes off my eye makeup like no other product I’ve used before! Honest & Hazel Eye Masks. They’re made from cactus collagen, how cool is that? Pai Rosehip Oil. It’s like a natural version of retinol. Hurraw Moon Balm. Hands down the best lip balm I have ever used. Our rejuvenating blend from the Lemon Laine Oil Bar. I customized it with neroli, sandalwood and jasmine. I love it so much that I’ll dab a bit on my wrists as my signature fragrance.