Today we’d like to introduce you to Irena Loloci.
Irena, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
For the past ten years, I have been working with the United Nations in humanitarian crises and living in different countries around the world. Various emergencies have taken me to countries like the Philippines, Egypt, Ukraine, Liberia, Afghanistan, Armenia, Colombia-Venezuela border, etc. Although I saw the desperation in times of crisis, I also encountered much beauty. It was often surreal to come back to the United States in between missions (deployments). I often felt like I was living two different lives in two different planets; I wanted to connect these ‘two worlds’ and wanted to do so in a beautiful way.
I saw the perfect opportunity to do so in 2017 when living in Afghanistan. I was involved in coordinating the humanitarian response that was assisting over one million Afghan returnees and Pakistani refugees along the border areas. In one of the field mission trips, I went to Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, where the ‘heart’ of the emergency response was happening. I realized what people needed most was dignified jobs (and not handouts) and most importantly, an end to the war. When I was there, a colleague invited me to visit a rose oil factory where roses were being distilled for their expensive rose oil. To my amazement, planting roses had become a viable income for many in the area and an alternative to opium-driven livelihoods.
I tried some of the rose oil by adding it to my skincare products and fell in love with its invigorating smell and potent properties. Through my work, I knew that promoting sustainable agriculture and creating dignified jobs could lift people out of poverty. I sourced the rose oil as well as other potent oils, such as immortelle oil from Albania, and worked with exceptional biochemists in Arizona to create vegan, cruelty-free, premium skincare. Other than skincare, I added to the collection aromatherapy (essential oils sourced directly from farms in developing countries) and a unique wildcrafted tea, rich in iron and antioxidants, which is going extinct. We need to collectively act to make the world a better place and this starts by transforming the way we do business.
Rena Roots puts humanity first and connects people through beauty that has value. Rena Roots is not about charity but about maximizing resources and efforts across different sectors and creating products that have value. One can buy Rena Roots skincare knowing that it contributes towards a more equal, transparent and just world in addition to getting the best products for your skin’s health. It’s a new definition of beauty.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I am a humanitarian worker and the beauty industry is new to me. I am constantly learning and have been fortunate to find exceptional biochemists and supportive mentors. One of the biggest challenges has been marketing and driving sales since we are a new brand in a highly competitive industry. I am confident that our products are unique, high quality and effective and it is only a matter of time until more people hear about us. So far, people love the high quality of the products and the mission they carry ‘in a bottle.’ I wasn’t expecting Rena Roots to be a smooth road; one cannot learn to sail in smooth seas. I have never been comfortable being comfortable, so I am looking forward to facing all the bumps and challenges ahead. It’s the only way to grow.
Please tell us about Rena Roots.
Rena Roots has a collection of vegan premium skincare, aromatherapy and wildcrafted iron tea known as ‘caj mali’ (its botanical name known as Sideritis, hand-picked in Albania by our harvesters and packaged in US). What sets us apart is our transparent, sustainable sourcing and our social impact. We believe that high quality starts at the source. We don’t source from suppliers, we source from communities we know. By cutting the middlemen, we have an added advantage to pay fair prices both to the farmers and to the customers – creating a symbiotic partnership along the supply chain.
I also think that in today’s diluted skincare market, we offer something truly unique and potent, bringing beauty secrets from all over the world. In addition, our main biochemist is both a biologist and a chemist and is able to combine the best of nature and science. The skincare serums are infused with actives like sustainably harvested organic sea kelp and hyaluronic acid (in addition to the rose and immortelle oils). Our serums are formulated and produced in small batches in Gilbert, AZ.
What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
Transparency, sustainability and social impact are in the DNA of Rena Roots. I launched Rena Roots out of a strong conviction that solving hunger and poverty starts by tackling problems at the roots. Economic empowerment is a key driver, especially when efforts and resources are combined (both at local and global levels). We need to collectively act to make the world a better place and this starts by transforming the way we do business. I think that the conscious consumer is ready to buy value – meaning a product that is transparent, clean, and effective in addition to having a positive social and environmental footprint, both at home and abroad.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
One of the proudest moments has been being accepted into the 2020 Sephora Accelerate Programme (Europe). It is a highly competitive program for female founders and the fact that they chose to support RENA ROOTS is something I am very proud of. Sephora (Paris HQ) will mentor me in order to grow and scale Rena Roots – it’s an important step for the company.
Another moment I am proud of is being able to launch Rena Roots in December 2019 – when my child was around four months old. It was inspiring to see how many women approached me, saying they felt inspired that I was able to balance having a family and a social enterprise. Women’s careers often ‘suffer’ (or take a detour) when we become mothers; much more needs to be done in our society to support young parents. It is who we are (collectively and individually) and what we value that will shape the world we want to live in.
- Afghan Rose Serum (with hyaluronic acid and sea kelp) – $49
- Albanian Immortelle Serum (with hyaluronic acid and sea kelp) – $47
- Sage Essential oil – $23
- Lavender Essential oil – $18
- Iron tea “Caj Mali” – $15
- Address: 501 W Amoroso Drive, Gilbert, AZ, 85233
- Website: www.renaroots.com
- Phone: 6028421929
- Email: email@example.com
Photographers of Rena Roots: Aranka Hartmann (waha photo; pictures #1-5 and #8); Olga Briginets (picture #7); Fatos Fico (picture #6). Permission to use pictures has been received.