Meet Ursa Major, a natural skincare company based in Vermont. Founders Oliver and Emily were inspired to start the company to provide products that are not only highly effective, but also healthy. Both Oliver and Emily are strong advocates for a healthy, active lifestyle. Their products are artfully formulated to combine nature's most effective ingredients, in order to provide toxin-free, super natural skincare that support their efforts in maintaining a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle.
I had the opportunity to try several Ursa Major products, and was thrilled with every single one of them! It's no surprise that publications and blogs such as Into The Gloss, GQ, Forbes, Men's Journal, The Zoe Report, and more have been raving about Ursa Major's products. I'll be posting product reviews on the ones I've tried following this interview feature!
1. Tell us a little about yourselves...
"I'm from South Africa where I spent much of my childhood outdoors, observing wildlife and developing a fascination with the natural world. I’ve always been something of a mad-professor meets entrepreneur; it’s just how I’m wired I guess. Emily’s a New England girl, from Boston, with a love for football, cooking, bulldogs, and down-to-earth people. We met in NYC when we were both working in the skin care or “beauty” business."
2. When was Ursa Major started, and what was the inspiration behind the line?
"We started working on Ursa Major about five years ago, shortly after moving to Vermont from NYC. Like many entrepreneurs, we created UM out of frustration – we were both on a big health kick at the time and were having an impossible time finding truly natural/toxin-free skin and body care products that worked well while also delivering a great experience in terms of aroma, texture, lather, etc. This is the nut we set out to crack with UM. We launched our first product, Stellar Shave Cream, in December of 2010, right before the holidays, after over a year of development in the lab. We’ll never forget the day we opened for business… I think we got three web orders!"
3. If you had to pick three "can't live without" items from your line, what would they be and why?
"That’s a tough question, we love them all! Our face wash is hard to beat – it’s sulfate-free so it doesn’t dry you out or irritate your skin, yet it still gives you a luxurious clean. And it smells incredible. Our face balm would make the cut, for sure - it’s a lightweight, 100% natural hydrating serum with robust soothing and anti-aging properties. It has a subtle but invigorating aroma and it leaves your skin feeling wonderful. And our tonic – the ultimate multi-tasker – it cleans, brightens, moisturizes and heals, all at once. I use it on a cotton round when I’m too lazy to wash my face but people love to spray or splash it on too. It also comes in individually-wrapped bamboo wipes when you’re on the move, away from home."
4. Where do you pull inspiration from when creating products, choosing ingredients, etc.?
"We usually start with a blank slate and ask ourselves: what’s our ideal product for this function, what specific problems are we trying to solve? And how do we want the product to look, smell and feel? Which natural ingredients would work best for what we’re trying to accomplish? We also look at what else is in the market and try to come up with ways to improve on what’s out there. Most of our inspiration comes from healthy food ingredients (Em’s a big cook), from our trips out into the mountains and from books about natural formulation. In general, our love of the outdoors has definitely had a big influence on our products and the way they smell. We always aim for that fresh woods aroma (a blend of fresh hard and softwoods, like birch, sandalwood and black spruce), with a touch of juiciness in there to round things out (usually a blend of florals, citrus, and herbs)."
5. If you could describe your brand and products in three adjectives what would they be?
"OK, here we go…
Robust – Our products work; they do what they say they’re going to do. We achieve this by using high concentrations of fresh, potent active ingredients and minimal use of water or other ‘filler’ ingredients.
Healthy – We try to formulate every product as close to 100% natural as possible and aim to use 70% or more organic content when price/supply permits. We also try to source all our ingredients from sustainable suppliers.
Sublime – We strive to create products that truly delight people on every level (efficacy, experience) and this also means following up with great customer service.
It’s really hard to do all of these things simultaneously, especially while using only natural ingredients, but we want to show that it is possible, and that it can be done without cutting corners. Hence our promise of ‘super natural skin care’ – we do our very best to deliver on that every day."
7. Favorite quote(s) to live by...
"Ah, there are so many to choose from! Here’s one of our favorites:
“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end in life.” - Robert Louis Stevenson.
We love this one because it’s really another way of saying “Live Major”, which is our brand rally cry. Living Major means to live life fully, to blaze your own unique path with honesty and courage. Easier said than done!"