Meet Shrankhla Holecek, founder of UMA December 12, 2016 02:04

We've recently launched UMA, a skin care and wellness line we have admired for a long time.  We are absolutely thrilled to be working with this amazing company and are honored to share with you this rich and inspiring interview with the line's incredible founder!
Shrankhla Holecek
When/how did you realize that you wanted to share your family's skin care creations with the world and turn UMA into a business?

I think a part of UMA was born when I was – in that my family has farmed and distilled some of the world’s finest essential oils, literally for centuries – so as a child, I spent long summers at our organic rose farms, learning about our sustainable farming or extraction processes. And yet – another part of me wanted to get as far away from the family business I could – so I studied engineering and moved to the States, got an MBA and worked with management consulting firm McKinsey for five years.

So I’d be lying if I said there was one precipitating moment – it was the sum of my education, experiences and heritage that led me to found UMA. I have long known that my family produces some of the world’s finest organic oils, and that our potent family formulas are very illustrious – but it wasn’t an emotional decision to move into this category. It was the fact that consumers were finally (and very rightly) questioning the ingredients and the formulation of their products that gave me the confidence to believe that our story and our absolute dedication to ingredient purity will resonate with customers.

If you could only use ONE UMA product for an entire year, which would it be, and why?

Ah that’s a tough one even for a minimalist like me (e.g., I can’t remember the last time I used a store bought face wash!). I suppose it’ll have to be our Ultimate Brightening Face Oil. I travel a lot and work mad hours, so my skin most notably takes a beating in terms of dullness and generally looking “tired”. This super-absorbent, luxe, triple-action blend is packed with high-performance, instantly brightening ingredients like Rose, Sandalwood, and Ylang Ylang.  I use it on its own or under a light foundation in the day for noticeably more luminous, even and hydrated skin.

What is in store for UMA over the coming year? Are there any products that you are hoping to launch?

I can’t spill a lot because we’re giving this as an exclusive to a very notable magazine BUT it’ll have lots and lots of rose, and it’s a completely transformational Ayurvedic beauty ritual. Unlike anything in our current portfolio, or on market. Stay tuned!

What is your favorite Ayurvedic practice?

If I had to pick, it’d be the detox rituals. Ayurveda has some really cool and highly efficacious detox tricks and I love that they’re simple, bite-sized and something you can work into your day rather easily. My favorites are: tongue cleansing (many don’t realize but a lot of toxins build up on your tongue and simply scraping the tongue – use your tooth brush if a scraper is not available – morning an evening can really help!), oil pulling (I do this whenever I can), a cup of warm lemon water first thing in the AM and dry brushing (amazing for limbic system detox and cellulite reduction).

What does your self care practice look like?

I realize that this is uninspiring to say but it’s the truth so I’m going to say it – with a zillion conflicting priorities, I have difficulty prioritizing self-care. That said, I have tried to zero in on how I use the little time I have to myself most effectively. I try to get a little bit of exercise almost every day (this is not a full out sweat session at the gym, sometimes it’s 15 minutes on a rowing machine in front of the telly – in my work pants!). I try to use very high quality products (not necessarily expensive, high quality) in my (very simplified) beauty rituals. For better or worse, that is reflected in how many of the UMA products and rituals are created and who they’re most tailored towards. They are few in number, solid products, highly efficacious and get the job done very rapidly. (A serum and moisturizer in one – yes, please!). My one little indulgence of time is in how I use the UMA products – I’ll always sneak in a little extra face massage when using the oil, ice my face after the masks and spend a good 3-4 minutes on a wellness oil before bedtime.

What is your favorite skin care ingredient?

Sandalwood – in every format! Powdered into face masks, distilled into essential oils for skin care and poured into indulgent baths! It deeply calms skin, helps the body’s limbic detox and as an aroma can be very therapeutically grounding and confidence boosting.

What is a skin care ingredient that deserves more attention in the green beauty community?

I’m tempted to say saffron or sandalwood – but realize that they’re rare and hard to get one’s hands on - so I will go with the friendly neighborhood tomato! Tomato extract contains lycopene, which attacks free radicals to prevent sun damage for a youthful, glowing complexion. Maintaining your skin’s hydration levels, tomato extract also has anti-inflammatory benefits, making it especially effective in treating acne, removing blackheads and tightening pores. Aside from giving you smooth, soft skin, its high vitamin C content helps to even out and brighten skin tone.

What has been the most difficult UMA product to formulate/develop/produce, and why?

Given that all our formulas are hundreds of years old, and that the development of the product (i.e., putting those formulas into a product) is supported by an awesome team of PhDs and doctors who’ve been with our family for decades – I’d say formulation and development have not been hard. In terms of ingredients, rose oil might be the one that takes the most labor of love, if you will. Roses take a lot of TLC to flourish, and it takes a LOT of roses to get a very little amount of rose oil. Start to finish, it’s the most raw material and labor intensive oil to extract. But the (incredible smelling and functioning) end justifies the means, right?!

What defines UMA and makes it different from other skin care companies?

If I think about the core values behind the brand, they are inspired by my aunt Uma, whose memory the brand was named after. Our brand celebrates the Uma in each of us – our ability to find peace amidst chaos, to balance our complex ambitions with our most fundamental emotions, and to find contentment in the knowledge that everything we need is already within us. My aunt taught me that true beauty is found in simplicity, integrity and equilibrium – and our brand strives to honor her by ensuring every drop of our oil consists of the same. 

The key differentiation between our oils - and many (all?) natural beauty brands in general - is that we are completely vertically integrated. The entire process, from the organic growing, to the harvesting, to the extraction and blending process is managed by one estate (ours). This means we can entirely control the quality of our essential oils from start to finish. Most of our competitors purchase oils from external sources where the quality cannot be verified. This means their consumers are often using products with diluted essential oils and are none the wiser. Not only can we ensure the integrity of our ingredients; we also can stand behind our workers who all have expertise and degrees in Ayurvedic science.  This combination allows us to create truly effective products that bring Ayurvedic remedies to modern day.

Also, I think our products are unique because they leverage centuries of expertise – and time-honored formulas – to address skin and wellness issues that sometimes feel inherently modern. We pride ourselves on consistently innovating to bring our customers the most effective formulas we can, but we trust in our history, too. There is real power in simplicity, and by going back to basics – in the form of pure and unadulterated botanicals – we’re bringing these powerful solutions directly to our customers.

In addition, UMA Oils is a company that truly respects the community and environment our products come from. Our farming practices are pesticide-free and we repurpose and recycle our waste to minimize our environmental footprint. In addition, we foster a number of gender equality initiatives, as well as programs to help our staff and community with basic needs.

Shop UMA products here.

Special thank you to Lacy Benoit for assisting us with this interview.