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Meet Michelle Alvarado of Valley Girl Apothecary in San Fernando Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Alvarado.

Michelle, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My parents immigrated to the United States in the late 80’s and landed in Los Angeles, CA. I am a San Fernando Valley native at heart but I was born in Los Angeles at the Queen of Angels hospital which no longer stands. I moved to the valley with my family when I was about two years old and moved to North Hollywood. We then moved to Van Nuys where I went to Sylvan Park Elementary and Mulholland Middle School for the 6th grade. We finally ended up in Granada Hills where I went to Porter Middle School and Kennedy High. We bounced around a lot because we were renters but never left the valley once we got here. I currently live in Granada Hills and work in Encino. I earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from CSUN and a master’s degree in Criminology from FSU. I currently work in entertainment insurance and although it isn’t related to my degrees, I enjoy it.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Starting a business is not for the weak. Financially, it is very straining. The money I used to spend on clothes is now going straight into my business. Don’t get me wrong, it is way more rewarding to invest that $100 into the business than going out to an expensive dinner but it does take a lot of self-control. My weekends are spent working on the business instead of going out with my girlfriends or boyfriend. There are a lot of things that have had to be put on the back burner while I work on building the company up.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Valley Girl Apothecary – what should we know?
I had been wanting to start a business for a while but it took me feeling unmotivated and unsatisfied to give me the push to finally do it. I wanted to do something for my community and represent the 1.77 million people that live in the San Fernando Valley. I started my business in 2019 after attending a “Lunch & Learn” at work where someone demonstrated using essential oil blends for everyday ailments. I have lived with anxiety for some time now so I was intrigued by the potential of finding natural relief. I decided to attempt making candles fragranced by essential oils; what better way to absorb the essential oils than by scent, I thought. I quickly learned that essential oils can be a part of the fragrance but candles are made by using concentrated fragrance oils blended with essential oils. I wanted to create clean-burning candles with scents that are curated to bring out vivid memories. Paraffin wax produces toxic emissions and carcinogens when it is burned so I knew the candles would be made out of soy because soy wax is sustainable. Soy wax it is a byproduct of soy production. I decided to use cotton wicks and the highest quality fragrance oils I could find.

I started making candles in my mom’s kitchen; melting wax and fragrances using her cookware. I have now moved out of her kitchen and moved the operation into the “Barn.” The barn is a 10 x 10 foot shed in our backyard that I have turned into my little workshop. Wax melter, racks of candles, countless bottles of fragrance and essential oils, boxes of Soy wax…etc. I am quickly running out of space! My inspiration comes from my surroundings and my pride of being a Valley Girl. For example, No. 01 Northridge, is inspired by my time at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). I had the BEST time at this hometown university that many people think is just an extension of the local high school! The campus has an orange grove on it that’s super fragrant and served as my inspiration. No. 04 Ventura Blvd. is inspired by my day job! I work in Entertainment insurance and the office I work from is located on Ventura Blvd. in Encino. When school is out and the holidays come around, I can get to work in about 14 minutes but as soon as people’s regular schedules start back up, I’m sitting in 50 minutes of traffic to travel 8 miles. Thousands of people work on Ventura Blvd. which is described as the Miracle Mile of the valley and there are countless coffee shops and office buildings. The scent for this candle is simple, coffee. Inspired by the endless amounts of coffee that are consumed in this highly-trafficked and hectic area.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My family, my boyfriend, his family, my friends and coworkers have all been my biggest supporters, cheerleaders, and advocates. Not only do they cheer on my business and crazy ideas but they root ME on and motivate me to keep going when I feel like giving up.

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Michelle Alvarado

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