Uma Oils’ Shrankhla Holecek: ‘It took convincing to launch our wellness products’

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If you’re starting your day with lemon water or a turmeric latte, or practicing meditative breathing, you’re practicing Ayurveda.

Although the concept of Ayurveda is thousands of years old, with historical roots in India and commonly practiced in the Indian subcontinent, it remains new to Americans. And now, it’s being packaged as part of the larger wellness movement. Uma Oils hopes to capitalize on these entry points, using them to introduce consumers to the larger world of Ayurveda and its practices.

“When someone asks me about my interpretation of Ayurveda being adopted in the West, I tell them that it’s pretty much all good, because it’s a gateway, ” said Shrankhla Holecek, the founder and CEO of Uma Oils. “Your exploration can go deeper, or if you’re just getting more turmeric, and that’s all you’re doing, good for you.”

Uma Oils has been around for less than three years, but in that time, it has successfully launched retail partnerships that are integrated into experiences, such as in Equinox classes and through spa treatments at Four Seasons hotels, and launched in several new product categories.

On this week’s episode of The Glossy Beauty Podcast, Glossy beauty editor Priya Rao sits down with Holecek to discuss how she carefully designed the retail strategy for Uma Oils, why she’s not interested in influencers and why she’s making the move toward more nuanced products like naval oils. Edited highlights below.

Carefully curating retail partnerships
“For me, getting the tentacles of Uma out in as many places as possible is both powerful and necessary. Sure, if it was a product built on marketing and one-time purchases, maybe I would focus more on blowing marketing and DTC out of the water, but I want more people to experience Uma, and that makes these retail partnerships critical.

Thinking about what a consumer goes to do in a certain location is how we drive our retail strategy. Very often, customers do linger and talk in an environment like Equinox. Every Equinox yoga class has five minutes where the instructor gives a blurb about their life and what they’re connecting with, so it’s not just about exercising, it’s broader. Those are the interaction points we really zero in on. We make sure every person who is going to be talking about Uma has three to five key points that are highly differentiated from any other line. That’s how we select our retailers, too. We pick places where there is a dialogue, and it’s not just a functional purchase like what you would do at a a drugstore.”

Saying no to influencer marketing
“The way the industry is structured right now would need to change for Uma to tap into the traditional influencer market. I believe in the power of slow content, and sometimes the influencer world feels like the opposite of that. It can feel somewhat personal that I’m here representing 800 years of history, but then we become one snapshot, followed by another with a brand that talks about completely different values in an influencer’s feed. That happens because it’s a business, but it just doesn’t seem authentic to the brand’s spirit.

Secondly, we feel we have a coaching and education responsibility. I think we have a responsibility to coach our consumer to consume content that is good for her, even in terms of the things that we don’t make. I constantly say this, and it bewilders people, but only 10 percent of looking great is products, and the other 90 percent is a plethora of other things. For a product company, that is very strange. Instagram and influencers don’t allow for us in the format they currently use to do that educating, because it feels a bit like a flash in the pan.”

Customers are ready for more unusual products
“What has been very exciting, even in our baby history of two-and-a-half years, is the consumer’s acceptance of more core Auyervedic products. We launched with skin care and wellness, and two-and-a-half years ago, people were asking, ‘What are wellness oils? Why do I want them?’ In fact, Space NK — being the first retailer we launched with in 2017, in about 22 doors — was saying, ‘Love your line, but no, no wellness. We don’t want it.’ It took about a year-and-a-half of convincing, but we just launched wellness in 2019 with Space NK, even though Neiman Marcus and others took it at the time of launch, and we have been selling it in all 22 stores.

We’re going to launch more and more nuanced products, like the naval oils we are launching this summer. We’re finally feeling confident to go forth with some of these crazy-sounding products, because we feel that, finally, the customer is ready to learn about why they work and give it a shot.”

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