This article tells the story of how Brenda Rea, a mother of five, discovered the benefits of olive oil for sensitive skin and began making her own natural skin care products. Her experimentation led to the creation of a kitchen production center in her home, where her three daughters would help after school. Positive feedback from family and friends, and a growing demand from customers, led to the establishment of the Olivespa studio at the Queen Creek Olive Mill.
Brenda’s daughter Joey, who has a background in Western Herbalism and other holistic practices, joined the Olivespa team and brought a wealth of information and experience to the mission of helping people to live a natural, clean, beautiful life. The article explores how their location on a working olive farm at the Queen Creek Olive Mill impacts the freshness and quality of the ingredients used in their products, and how they stay informed about the latest developments in the natural skin care industry.
Can you tell us about your background and how you became interested in creating natural skin care products?
My husband and I moved to Arizona with our young family with the idea of growing olives and producing extra virgin olive oil. Once we planted our trees and started our business, I found out that olive oil wasn’t just for eating but has been used for centuries in skin care. This gave me the idea to make some simple skin care products using our olive oil, and I started to experiment in my kitchen and would give samples to friends and family. These products were so well received, that I decided I wanted to make this simple, natural alternative (to the not so natural, commercially sold products at the time) available to the general public. I set up a table at our small market in Queen Creek and sold my homemade products there. That was back in the early 2000s. We now have our Olivespa production studio and retail shop located inside the Queen Creek Olive Mill and our product line has expanded to include a men’s line, a baby line and luxurious face oils, and continues to grow.
How did your experience as a mother of five children influence the development of your product line?
One specific incident that I recall was with my son Angelo in preschool. The children were constantly washing their hands and his hands were becoming rough and dry, and sore. I looked for something that would help him and ended up buying castile soap to put in his classroom and asked his teacher to make sure he used this soap. Angelo’s hands cleared up almost immediately. Castile soap is typically made from olive oil, it’s all natural and does not have additives such as detergents or synthetic fragrance making it gentle on the skin and an effective soap. Our olive oil soap is constantly a top seller for us and we offer it in a range of scents created using all natural essential oils.
Can you tell us about the process of creating your product line and any challenges you faced along the way?
The products that we make at Olivespa all start off very organically. Things I like to use myself, become things I want to make and sell, so that others may have benefit of such products. For instance, I became a grandmother 3 years ago and thought it was important to make the cleanest products for my daughter Estelle to use on this brand-new baby, thus the baby line was born. We now make baby oil, baby bum butter, baby wash, talc-free baby powder, bar soap, laundry soap and lotion sticks. These are all very gentle using herb-infused extra virgin olive oil as the base. You won’t find cleaner ingredients in baby products anywhere because I formulated these for my own grandchildren. I now am the grandmother of 2 and another on the way!
How does your daughter Joey’s background in Western Herbalism and other holistic practices inform the mission and approach of Olivespa?
My daughter Joey started working with me back in middle school when she and her sisters would help me to label lips balms and other products at our kitchen table after school. Joey went on to graduate from University of Arizona with a degree in French Studies and minors in Business Administration and Business Management. She spent a year in the Paris suburb of Massy after college and was inspired by the holistic living and natural lifestyle she encountered there. This led her to study Western Herbalism at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts in Tempe when she came back to Arizona. This was a perfect segway to join me fulltime at Olivespa as my approach to life has always been to look at things from a natural perspective. Together we bring this perspective to each and every product we develop, always looking for the finest natural ingredients we can work with to combine with our own organically grown extra virgin olive oil. We both believe in the healing power of plants and try to incorporate this into our daily lives.
How does the location of your studio on a working olive farm at the Queen Creek Olive Mill impact the freshness and quality of the ingredients in your products?
We are incredibly lucky to be creating our products right onsite at the Queen Creek Olive Mill. We have access to the freshest oil available and we are picky about the oil we use. We choose an early harvest olive oil which contains a higher level of polyphenols. Polyphenols are a class of antioxidants found in extra virgin olive oil, that are widely touted for their anti-aging and anti-inflammatory benefits. This oil is the base of all our skin care products.
How do you stay informed and stay current with the latest developments and changes in the natural skin care industry?
We manage to stay on top of developments in the industry by membership in relevant associations. Olivespa is a member of the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild as well as the Independent Beauty Association. Joey and I also attend relevant conferences and expos to keep ourselves up to date with the industry.
How do you maintain a balance between running a business and the other responsibilities of your life?
At this point in my life I finally have more time to focus on our business. I started making natural skin care products out of my home while I was an at-home mom of 5 children – all very active in extra curricular activities. The growth in the beginning was very slow as my family always came first, and I considered the business as more of a hobby – just trying to make these amazing natural products available to people who were interested in moving towards natural. Sometimes, the stock on the table was pretty low but that took a backseat to my family responsibilities.
The biggest change for me came when I moved my kitchen operation to my studio at the Olive Mill and hired my first employee. I was no longer responsible for making all the product myself. This certainly allowed me to grow my business while maintaining a good balance between business and family. As we continue to grow Olivespa, we’ve discovered that a strong team of likeminded individuals is crucial to keeping this balance and continuing the evolution of the business.
Can you tell us about any future plans or upcoming projects for Olivespa that you are particularly excited about?
I have been studying natural perfumery and am very excited to announce that we will be introducing the first Olivespa natural perfume this year!
How do you find time for self-care and what are some of your favorite ways to relax and de-stress?
It is certainly hard to find time for self-care but it’s so important to make some time for yourself. I enjoy reading, taking a salt bath, and working out. I also find that creating at home is very satisfying and de-stressing. I like to make candles at home and often have a beautiful aromatherapy candle (lavender is a favorite) burning. Although not made with olive oil, aromatherapy candles have also become a product that we make and sell at Olivespa, purely for their wellness benefits being complimentary to our natural-living goals.