In Conversation with Gilly Stollwerk Garrett of Gilly’s Organics
Describe your business in a few words?
I have a luxurious, healing line of clean beauty for the face, body and hair.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I was always into natural oils and mixing and concocting things, but that wasn’t my career path. I created this healing oil blend that softened and hydrated my hair and skin. I decided to make a sugar scrub out of it, and that’s how it all began!
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I was first in cable brand marketing and then I left the corporate world and wrote for Esteé Lauder as a consultant for all their licensed fragrances and products.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I think I always had hustle and knew I would be successful, but it wasn’t a childhood dream or anything like that to own a company. Once I got a taste of it as a consultant for Lauder, I really liked making my own hours and being my own boss. That’s when I caught the entrepreneur bug 🙂
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
My marketing plan back then was to spread the word locally, donate to local charities, attend local fairs and use email and social media marketing. It was simple. I still do all of those things. It took a long time, but now I have a beautiful, engaged, growing community!
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
Girls, I’ve had many! I do try to look at them as lessons and that the mistake or challenge happened as a means to grow me as a person and as a business (I try). I have had times over the years when I took on stressful freelance jobs to help keep my business alive. At the time, it may have seemed extremely tedious, but it worked AND I gained new skills in business. That “side hustle” fueled my main hustle and ultimately made me value success even more. So, that challenge was a blessing in disguise!
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Repackaging my line! I had always wanted to upgrade the packaging to meet the level of quality that’s inside the jars and tubes. When I was able to do that on a large scale, I was extremely proud.
I am also very proud to have been asked to host two really fun shows for two amazing magazines! Rockstars of Bergen for Be Local Bergen and Wellness Warriors for Natural Awakenings. Both suit me so well and fulfill something that I love to do which is get to know people and talk about their businesses and lives. I guess not that different from you rockstars!!
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
I learned this from my mentor, Shelley who says to “hire for passion” and the skills and job tasks can be learned. It was outstanding advice! If someone wants to work with you, and you have a connection, an alignment, you can teach them what needs to be done, because they want to succeed and want to work with you. It’s not about one question or the resume to me, it’s a KNOWING. Of course, I care about their skill-set, but they may grow into a different role entirely in the company than when they first came on board. That’s happened with G.O. and I believe it is healthy and that people evolve and grow. But, that passion and connection are of the utmost importance!
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
I am grateful to say that due to the nature of my products (being healthy, for cleansing, their affordability etc), I was able to stay afloat and serve my existing customers well. There was definitely a lull in sales, both online and in stores. Many people are using grocery delivery service, and most people that are actually going into supermarkets aren’t lollygagging or trying out new face creams. They are in the store for their basic food necessities. Plus, there are currently no in store demos anymore. So, while the pandemic impacted my business, we are still going strong and gaining new customers, thankfully.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
The 5 year plan is to offer more luxurious, healing products and sets that are affordable, grow the online community and business, get into more Whole Foods regions (hopefully, national), hire more diverse and passionate employees, give more charity/send more girls to school!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
That I spread myself too thin! I was getting better at boundaries with every year I am blessed to be alive, but I still say “yes” to a lot. 2020 (the Covid part) made me realize that I like not having such a booked calendar and I can and will do something about it. I was also reminded about how life is precious and often cut short. So many senseless deaths of everyday people and important change-makers occurred this year. I learned that even when it seems really, really dark, there are always amazing, love-filled people who are like-minded and shed light. I learned a lot about my family and spent significant, memorable time I would never have been able to if it weren’t for the state of the world.
We are also renovating our home, so our quarantine situation was tighter than usual, plus we had to move a few times. It was challenging for sure, but in the end we got closer, and we will be very grateful for our new space!
Since the year isn’t over, I hope to learn more (good) lessons and teach more lessons to my kids. Praying they learn that the GOOD people in life win in the end!
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
I wish I knew so many things! Hmmm. I wish I hired a fulfillment team so much sooner! I spent a lot of time at UPS! They saw me everyday. I thought I couldn’t afford it, but I found the right partner and it’s been amazing.
I would have opened more doors at Whole Foods when I first got in. There was momentum with the first few stores, but then I listened to one buyer who said to take it real slow, and wait a year and see how I do in those stores. I did that and then it got harder to open doors. Then Amazon bought Whole Foods and there was a long, dead halt on opening up new stores. In other words, I would have trusted my gut.
If I could go back, I would listen to my own inner compass more, and ask less opinions of others. Everyone has one! You simply need to do/create/live/conduct business the way YOU want to!
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Yoga, running, best friend calls, therapy!
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I believe that YOU decide what is the “balance” of work/life, but the idea of it stresses most of us out. I think because we are often hard on ourselves (at least I can be). For example, some days we will fall short at work because of our busy family obligations, and some days our lives will fall short due to work obligations.
My best tip would be to look at each day as its own, decide what is of the highest priority to YOU, then make no apologies and do it. I also recommend planning out short and long term goals for your personal life and your work life. We can’t fit 901 things into one day, but we can schedule things in advance and take the pressure off of doing everything NOW. I also try to find balance in doing things in my personal life that also benefit my work life. What I mean is, I get to choose who I work with, what charities my business supports, what networking events I go to. Those “work functions” are enjoyable to me and offer me balance and fulfillment in my personal life.
With 3 active kids, I try to be as available to them in the afternoons as possible, but there are many days I cannot. Those times I try to carve time on the weekends with each one individually. I also 100% MUST carve an hour for myself every day. That is usually yoga. The long and short of this answer is to trust and know yourself! Be honest with what you want to and NEED to do each day.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
My “hour of power,” my time to workout (yoga, run, bootcamp), meditate 5-10 minutes to clear my mind and envision my day, and try to do the less exciting and more tedious or pressing tasks early in the day.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
It makes me smile to read this question. Here’s a little secret…I ALWAYS wanted to be one! I have been following you both for 5 years, read your book, listen to your interviews, and deep down always wanted to be an Entreprenista! I think the cool answer is that I always was one, but it took some time for me to realize it. Then one day you ask me, and I was like, yup, makes sense that you ask me now. I think being an Entreprenista means you forge your own path, no matter how hard some days are, you work at something that you want badly, you do it with strength, class, humility, hustle, self confidence and love! It’s an honor, and I thank you!