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I recently had the pleasure of chatting live on Instagram with Thulisa Naturals founder Anusha Moodley about her entrepreneurial journey, from new mom seeking a bit of peace to owner of a thriving business (which just began selling in Anthropologie!) that aims to share peace and love with others. By keeping what matters to her most at the forefront, it's no wonder that this warmhearted, hard-working entrepreneur has achieved such success.
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I wanted to start by asking you about the name, “Thulisa” -- tell us about it.
I’m South African. “Thulisa” is actually a Zulu name for a girl and it means “bringer of peace.” The meaning behind it is so beautiful. I was like, how can I incorporate my South African upbringing into this company? So that’s why I chose the name. Especially back when my kids were really little, any bit of peace that I could get, or relaxation, that’s what it was all about at that time.
Is that how you started the company -- looking for a bit peace as you became a new mom?
It was tough for me because I did not have family support. It’s just me here [in the U.S.]. I felt a lot of stress at the time. I even felt down. And so, after having a long discussion with my husband, I said, I am beyond overwhelmed. And he was like, we’ve got to figure out a way for you to calm down and take it easy.
I’m an occupational therapist. So I was like, I teach my patients to take care of themselves and to manage their time and their lifestyle and to physically care for themselves. I need to be applying what I know to myself.
At the time, I was like, the deal is I’m gonna take more baths. And my husband knew about it so I had coverage. I was like, this is my time, you know? And I wanted to make the most of it. I wanted to feel like I was walking out of a spa, because I didn’t have three hours in the day to go to a spa. I said, how can I make this feel like a spa without adding more to-dos to my day?
So I started researching essential oils. I took a course in essential oils and natural product-making. I started out with making bath bombs, which are fantastic. I started sharing them with my friends and doing pop-ups. At the pop-ups, people said, “I don’t take baths. I like showers.” And I’m like, okay, I have all these bath bombs on my table! I thought, so this is what my people are saying to me -- how can I serve them?
I started looking into shower steamers and, honestly, tested 30 to 40 batches. People in markets were just buying them. And they were like, “This is awesome! This is easy, this is convenient, this fits into my day.” It was a no-brainer. So that’s how that product came about.
For somebody who’s never tried a shower steamer before, how would you describe it?
A shower steamer is like a bath bomb for your shower. To use it, you warm up your shower (get a little bit of steam because steam is actually a key component in helping diffuse the essential oils in your shower), take a shower steamer, and place it on either a ledge or if you have a shower nook you can put it there. You just want a little bit of water to touch it. And that’s it. As soon as you see it start to fizz, that’s it. You just let it sit there and let the steam do its work and the essential oils will just be like [fizzing sound] into your shower! Then just breathe it in and feel like you are in a spa.
I have to say, the fragrances that you’ve chosen are incredible. I was curious to know how you go about choosing your combinations because you’ve got some really interesting combinations.
It’s a lot of testing. It’s a lot of blending. My kids smell them too and they give me a lot of feedback. I also have employees that I ask. So I’m getting input to make sure that what I’m putting out there is what most people are going to like.
What has been the most unexpected result from starting and growing your business?
I did not know that it would catch on so quickly. This was just a business that was there to serve, but at the same time, by listening to my customers, and applying what they’re telling me, my business has just exploded. I’m still in awe and I’m still in shock. I had no expectations. I went in with the goal to help others and listen to people, and I expected it to grow really slowly.
I know you have young kids, how is it to balance this growth with managing a family?
It’s not easy, to be honest with you. When the business started picking up I kind of was busy all the time and my husband would just take over. But, funny enough, over the last year I’ve said, you know, I want other people to relax -- I’m sharing this message that I want them to take a break -- I really need to walk the walk. It’s not honest of me if I’m not walking the walk, telling you to do something if I’m not doing it.
So I literally block off time on the weekends. I used to work late on weekends when it was a bit busy. Now it’s to the point where I block my weekends off for my family. Dinner time during the week is for my family. I volunteer at my kids’ school book club -- I’m a host, I do that once a month. That time is blocked off. Any requests that my kids have of me, like, “Mom, can you be a chaperone?” I’ll block off that day and I will say no to everything else to be with them. So that’s how I’ve developed a way of protecting my family time and making sure I’m investing in them and investing in me.
What do you do to relax and recharge?
I use my own products! I’m not being funny, I use shower steamers. The not-so-perfect ones, I take home. I still do take my baths, because that’s one of my favorite things to do, and to just help relax.
You’re gonna think this is a bit crazy, but the way I relax is by spending time with my kids. Because I’m realizing that they’ve started elementary school, and they are growing up so quickly. They’ll be out of my house in no time. And I would have missed it. Even if they give me a hard time, that’s still my relaxation time. That’s my love time. I know when I’m eighty-something I’ll be glad I spent that time with them.
What’s coming up this year for Thulisa Naturals?
I’m working on an amazing new collection with some really wonderful scents. You’ll hear about them. We’re still working on the design. I usually work with a designer but I set the vision and say, “This is what I’m looking for” and it’s a wonderful collaborative effort. It’s really awesome to be a part of that process. After lots of iterations -- right now I think we’re on number three for the new scents -- we’re still working on it. So it does take a little while. I know a lot of my stockists are like, “When are you coming out with something new?” And I’m like, “We’re getting there. We’re almost there!”
I do want people to feel that “wow” sensation. When they look at the box, they think, “This is so special.” And then they smell it, and they’re like, “This is amazing.” So, for example, if it’s in your subscription box and somebody opens it and they’re like “Oh wow, what a thoughtful gift. Look at how beautiful it is.” You know? Because, for us, there’s also an aesthetic thing about our products. You want a cute-looking gift or a pretty gift, you know?
At the end of the day it’s about the person on the other side. I want someone to feel appreciated and loved and just experience joy out of something unique.