Today we’d like to introduce you to Shrankhla Holecek.
Shrankhla, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
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 nearly 6 years.
And even though I wound up doing the work that my family has (somewhat) done for generations (UMA being different in that it’s a consumer brand) – my traditional training at a consulting firm really helped me chart the unfamiliar territory of entrepreneurship with confidence. So to think of it – it really was the sum of my education, experiences and heritage that led me to found UMA. And I shouldn’t undermine the importance of feeling that people were “ready”, for lack of a better word? 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.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I’ve had some incredible, completely altruistic help and some very fortunate breaks – but if it was too easy, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?
I think finding the right team – and ensuring it grows as your company does – is critical, and can be been hard to always get right. Having grown up at boarding school, I think I became almost overly self-reliant, not realizing that my own time (lack thereof, really) could become a stumbling block for growth. The most successful businesses are not built on the best ideas, they’re built on the most committed people. It’s something I’m reminded of every day.
Also – accepting the fact that you cannot go after every awesome opportunity available to your company right here, right now takes some getting used to – and I suppose is as much a lesson in life, as it is in business. Not to mention that the prudence of patience can sometimes reveal blind spots in seemingly perfect opportunities – so I’m teaching myself to not beat ourselves up about not being in a gazillion homes right away!
Please tell us about UMA OILS.
At the surface, UMA’s an organic, luxury brand featuring exquisite beauty and wellness products based in Ayurveda, but truly – I’ve come to realize that it’s so much more; personally, and for the community, we’ve had the privilege to share it with. It’s the exploration of centuries old, scientific wellness principles, it’s the creation of personal and communal beauty rituals, it’s the acceptance of a culturally different way of solving daily stressors.
There’s so much that I’m grateful for in this journey. People I’ve long admired truly loving the product. Friends calling to say they’ve seen a recent feature in a major magazine. I guess if it had to be one – I’d say it’s the fact that UMA has been able to emerge as a force and a leader in the “beauty is wellbeing is beauty” dialogue; because our products and commercial aspects of running a business aside, there’s a richness to Ayurveda and its heritage that I feel so honored to be able to share with the world – and to find an interested audience for it!
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My mother had to be away finishing up her Ph. D. during my fifth grade summer and sick of my whining about boredom at home, my poor Dad started taking me along on his daily field trips – that included travels through dirt roads and streams (where you’d sometimes just encounter a bear casually crossing over – really!), getting into deep conversations with farmers – in local dialect – about the rain and the plants, and playing deputy crop inspector/ quality controller.
I fully realize now how silly my air of righteousness as a nine-year-old must have seemed to all, but it was a really cool, formative summer and I’m so glad I had an opportunity to do that young. I think it really set the stage for a unique sense of confidence – and potentially, gender parity (I saw myself as a “mini” leader, as it were, and the thought that as a girl I couldn’t do anything she wished to, hasn’t entered my head since!).
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