Founder Profile: Aishwarya Iyer, Founder of Brightland - Los Angeles
Hi Aishwarya! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Aishwarya Iyer; I am the founder and CEO of Brightland. I am Indian American, grew up in Texas, lived in New York City for nearly 10 years and worked primarily in tech/startups, and I moved to LA three years ago.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I have always broken barriers. I grew up in an immigrant household where safety and security in our futures was paramount, so my family hoped I would have picked out my major, college choice, career path by the time I was 5. Instead, I took a more exploratory route; I went to college in Texas before transferring to NYU because I wanted to be bold; At NYU, I studied at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where you create your concentration/major from scratch. No two majors are the same (mine was media + globalization with an emphasis on South Asian gender studies), and you are empowered to shape your time at the school as you see fit. I ended up working in technology/startups for many years after, and when I decided to launch Brightland, I felt that same feeling of breaking through something: there are not many women, let alone South Asian Americans who are in the olive oil world, yet I knew this was my purpose and path.
What led you to start Brightland? Where did your interest in olive oil begin and what drew you to create a business around it?
After learning that most of the olive oil that Americans consume is rotten/rancid/adulterated, I wanted to do something about it - I wasn’t sure what that looked like. After moving to California I wanted to champion American-made, beautiful extra virgin olive oil that is also elevated - and that’s where the journey began.
Olive oil is a foundation of wellness; a cornerstone of nourishment for thousands of years and a historic source of wellbeing and ceremony. Athena’s gift of the olive - useful for light, heat, food, medicine or perfume, was one of the most useful and beloved gifts of the gods. I truly believe in honoring the beauty of the land - the California sun and soil and respecting the nourishment it provides.
We love that you're created a fresh, local, and personal way to bring people something that they may often buy without even looking at a label. What should people know about Brightland Olive Oil? What's the difference between Alive and Awake?
The majority of the olive oil that Americans consume is completely rotten, rancid or been adulterated. So gross and zero health benefits! Brightland extra virgin olive oil is sourced from a family farm in California, crafted fresh and with thought and care, and has all of the health benefits. Pristinely packaged in UV-protected opaque glass bottles to maintain integrity, Brightland’s line includes “Awake” and “Alive” custom blends — each meticulously crafted with an intention and mood in mind. “Awake” is ideal for pasta, roast chicken and drizzling over crusty bread on “slow days and cozy nights,” while “Alive” evokes a verve and vibrancy that’s ideal for vinaigrettes, raw vegetables and dark chocolate.
What does your sourcing and creation process look like?
Our farm partner is a family run olive farm in the Central Coast of California, with a certified organic mill on-site. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. We work closely with them to craft the custom blends that become Brightland.
With creating a beautiful food product, you talk about it being a way to share with family and friends while living more presently. What's your favorite way to gather people around food and what elements come into play to make that happen?
I believe in the beautiful mess that is life, so I love to have people over for big bowls of pasta, or roasted veggies - not much fuss, lots of good wine, and perhaps some Peter Bradley Adams or aussie folk music playing in the background. Candles are also a nice addition to everything.
Do you have a favorite thing to use your olive oil for - recipe, skin care, health benefit, etc?
My favorite Brightland recipe right now is this fabulous leek loaf recipe created by Brightland customer/inimitable food writer Charlotte Druckman.
How do you interact with your customers and community?
We are so grateful to have an engaged, enthusiastic customer base and following! We engage with them via social, email, and at events and pop ups - we solicit feedback and iterate all sides of the business based on our customers’ insight and feedback.
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? How have women supported you?
We are all in this together! Before launching Brightland I asked so many women (and men) questions and they were so generous with their time to help me figure things out.
What women bring you inspiration?
Women like Laura Choi, founder of Par en Par, Shannon Davenport of Esker Beauty, Chelsea Nicholson from Ceremony, Daina Trout of Healthade Kombucha, and so many more who I am humbled to call friends/mentors.
What have you learned from creating your own business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
Be comfortable with discomfort. There will always be unanswered questions, many, many problems that need to be solved and more that pop up everyday. And remembering all you need to do is take one step forward - that will get you through any day.
Do you have any resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
Shutting off my ‘inner critic’ has been an enormous challenge every step of my career, and one that I still tackle. Everyone has an inner critic based on experiences and feedback from earlier years that governs how they view themselves, affects decision making, and sometimes, sabotages them from their natural power. In the past few years, I have done quite a bit of work, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, to create space from my inner critic, and I’ve been able to unleash powerful qualities because of it. To anyone who resonates with this, I highly recommend reading Embracing Your Inner Critic, by Hal & Sidra Stone. It changed my life.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I am trying to learn to document/write down more things: key moments, goals, milestones. I don’t want to look back on this part of the journey and have it all be a blur.
What are some of your favorite places in LA?
Highly Likely, my neighborhood cafe in West Adams: delicious, inviting
Larchmont Farmers Market
Winston Pies: A lovely pie shop in Brentwood...with a very special olive oil pie coming in March :)
Individual Medley: Fabulous store for gifts and goodies (and Brightland!)
What's coming up next for you?
We are so excited about collaborating with artists, designers and brands who embody the Brightland ethos, and we are thrilled to continue inspiring people to celebrate simple, everyday moments of gathering and nourishment.