Nadine Artemis, founder of Living Libations and author of Renegade Beauty and Holistic Dental Care, learned early on that corporate life was not for her. She decided to listen to a different calling, stemming from her relationship with nature.
Fast-forward to today, Nadine runs an all-natural beauty company that was born long before the trends we see on social media. Choosing her own path and following her own rhythm, she decided to grow her company organically, prioritizing her customers over everything else. Learn more about her journey below.
Growing up as a young girl, what were you imagining you’d be doing as a career later in life?
I didn’t fully imagine. And that’s what I think a lot of young people need to know today. You don’t need to have a complete vision of what you’re doing as an adult at all. I always focused on what I did like, and I definitely had a big aversion to what I didn’t like. But knowing what I didn’t want really helped me carve out what I did want. Knowing what you don’t want directs you towards what you do want. I think, in hindsight, I can see the breadcrumbs along the trail that brought me to where I am today.
And for you there was always a kind of attraction and interest in nature and what nature had to offer. So how did that translate into you eventually wanting to build a product brand that was going to be really drawing from what nature is here to offer us?
Luckily, my childhood was seeped in nature, so I got to play with all of that. I remember just declaring in grade five I didn’t want to work in a corporation, I didn’t want to work nine to five in an office building. So I had that leading me and then, in my teens, I was concocting and creating, and eventually it got more serious.
And it’s not like you just sit down and be like ’I’m going to make a brand’. It’s like ’I’m going to make a product, and I’m going to make skincare, and it’s going to help people’, and then it evolves. Because there’s nothing else there, and you’re finding that niche. There are many reasons why we come here, but you find that reason why you’re there, why you’re here, and bringing that all together. So again, just keep focusing on what you love, you know?
How did it become clearer for you that this was going to be your purpose? I think a lot of people have an instinct of what they like to do, and it’s what our passions are. But for a lot of people, it’s not clear how that can become a business, or if that can even become a thriving business.
Every passion’s different and will lead to different things. Oprah once said that a brand is really a long-term series of micro-decisions. I was creating this brand before we all were in the era of everybody’s their own brand, which is kind of where we are at today. But it really is a lot of micro-decisions, and you hold the line of the integrity of what you see, and then you revolve your decision-making around that.
I’m sure many brands are created in a marketing think tank and somebody has a great idea for packaging or something, and then they make a brand around that. If you really want to get into it and have something authentic blossom, you want to just take that deep dive into the self and then have that integrity as your guiding light, and you keep making decisions around that.
I was making the skincare that I wanted and wanted to use. And I wanted to feel and smell and adorn. So it was really that creation that led me to the decisions.
It sort of carries you. I knew that there wasn’t really anything like it in North America, where you could have all the authentic, essential oils together. So I created this concept before I left university that I wanted to bring it all together in a store where people could come and have custom blends and perfumes made, and that I could have all my formulas there.
So again, it wasn’t setting out to make a brand, but sort of fulfilling a need and feeling that I could do that.
Let’s talk about the philosophy for how you create this skincare. What made you want to pursue that and, at first, were you creating just for yourself?
Yeah, in my childhood, I always had this inclination to mix things and make mud masks and really none of it made too much sense, but I was really happy to concoct.
Then, in my teens, I was just mixing the stuff I already had, like Crabtree & Evelyn lip balm with my Christian J. White eyeshadow to make a frosted color, and I was mixing the perfumes and all that sort of stuff.
When I was at university, I really started to understand food production and supermarket ingredients, like organic, and not organic, and seeing the synthetics we were raised on. That really translated to beauty because I was doing natural beauty with The Body Shop. I learned how to read labels, and I was like ’Oh my God, it’s just another petroleum-promised land’.
I don’t want to put that stuff on my body, but it was also my excuse to actually concoct with a purpose. I dove fully into that world. So many of the problems in the skin imbalances we have are due to the chemicals and cosmetics that have really been around for the past 60, or 70 years now. But before that we had millennia of using natural substances to care for the skin.
I was just excited. Of course, I did make it for myself at first, but it wasn’t too long before I was sharing with friends and family and I started Artemis Essentials.
Are you someone who tends to follow your intuition? Where does data come in, and how do you reconcile this organic approach that you have with operating in a modern-day world where business decisions need to be made on a daily basis?
True. I do. I think when you’re in that position, you’re probably even not aware, but it’s decisions all day long. But I feel like I am good at that. I think there’s a natural discernment, and you find those choiceless moments where, yes, there’s a decision, but it’s choiceless in that feeling.
It is not like you’re stewing over the decision. There’s like a boom because you’ve got it. It’s hard to explain, but it’s fast, it’s intuitive. But that intuition is really grounded in decades of discernment and understanding your gut, as well as obviously getting whatever data you need.
You want to have that joylessness, so you’re not caught in the schism of things. And if there is a moment, or if there’s a thing where I can’t decide, do I need more information? Is this even the decision that needs to be made? Maybe there’s a whole other thing.
So when there isn’t that fluidity of decision-making, I look at it. Why isn’t it easy to decide right now?
What does success look like for you? Both as a human and as a business owner? Or maybe success is just something, a word that you’re trying not to use in your vocabulary?
I feel like the guiding light is feeling good. So does it feel good? The only reason why we do anything is to feel good. Right? Whether we’re eating, building a business, buying something, we think it’s gonna make us feel good. So I use that as a guide. Is it feeling good? Does the decision feel good?
And that’s just a good guiding way to go. There’s not much that I’m actually looking at with the bottom line. Obviously, it needs to be there, but it’s kind of irrelevant.
You’ve built this amazing community of loyal followers. You’ve mentioned that you opened a store earlier in the process, and this allowed you to have that face-to-face exchange with customers. In today’s world, where a lot of how we transact and acquire products is done online, we’re losing that sense of human exchange. How do you build community, or how do you stay engaged with community today?
I feel like there’s a lot that can help facilitate the community, even though it’s not all face-to-face now. I opened the store in ’92, so I would just interact with women and men and just seeing their health issues come forward, and what do they need. That’s been really good. But I’m actually very involved with our client care. I’m really looking at a lot of the emails, and our team is just very tight with our educators. And they represent me as well. If there’s a question our educators don’t know, I will talk to them personally. And we do free consulting as well. We’ve had whole families, bridal parties or best friends come in for consultation calls.
As a company, we are real to the field and we still have that real engagement. And that’s something that we’ll always continue to do. We’re not outsourcing our client care to a call center in India. Not today and not 20 years from now.
What’s your advice for someone who is thinking of building a business, and might be looking for how to connect it to values and that sense of purpose?
Purpose is obviously important on some level, and it helps us feel good. However, you don’t wanna really lean too much of anything into purpose. You don’t even really wanna have the business be your purpose in life. Because then the ego can get involved, and things can’t go off.
You need to know that breathing and being alive is the purpose. Just to breathe this creativity, to think, is a creative act. I think we need to get balanced a bit with purpose and not make it the be-all end-all of existence.
Whatever you’re going to do, you want it to be able to take you into that brain state where you don’t know that you’ve worked. You don’t really know you’ve worked all day because you’re focused, you’re engaged.
We want to be engaged with life. Let’s say you’re a painter, and then you’re like ’I’m going to sell, and there’ll be a business around my painting’. Well, that whole thing surrounding those breaststrokes is not the breaststrokes themselves.
I wanted to inhale Jasmine and Frankincense all day, but obviously there are other things. There’s insurance and lawyers and spreadsheets and all that kind of stuff. Just know that your passion can get weighed down. You’ve got to bring some levity to that as well, and just understand or understand what you need to outsource or delegate.
But you have to know that the passion will carry you through, but things will nibble away at that. So you have to keep finding the passion, even in the spreadsheets.