5 Questions With - Eli Muller
This week we are featuring Eli Muller, owner and creator of Mountain Spirit Botanicals. A beautiful, natural skin care line! Eli lived in Miami for many years and was a mainstay at the Upper East Side Farmers Market before moving out to California to be closer to her daughter Lily. Enjoy Eli's wise advice for starting a business and be sure to check out her website for her incredible products, I swear by the Butt Balm for Henry ... thank you for sharing Eli.
When did you make the big decision to start your own business?
Raising my daughter as a single mother was what inspired me to create my own business. I wanted the flexibility of being self-employed versus working a 9 to 5 job that would leave me little time to raise and influence my daughter. As her immediate role model, I wanted to exemplify that she is responsible for her well-being. I understood that the medicinal qualities of plants was a good beginning to self-care, so I began preparing formulas in our kitchen, which we would then take into our evening baths. It was there, in our quiet evening time, that magic occurred and a business began.
What inspired you?
What has always inspired me is nature; as a young child I was awed by my mother's gardens and the crops that grew in our surrounding woodlands. After several years of gardening and observing nature, I’ve learned which flowers and herbs complement each other. For example, some years ago I observed that Sweet Melissa was doing exceptionally well after I planted chamomile next to her in my garden. I researched and learned that chamomile leaches lime from the soil and passes it to adjoining plants. After learning this, I said, “I can make a wonderful facial cream from these two beauties.” And I did. Another inspiration was research from historic books of the Hudson Valley (where I previously lived and planted gardens) and learning that, back in the day, tanners used Comfrey Root to soften leather.”So, I used Comfrey Root in a beautiful facial cream that I created: the best for winter skin.
What scared you?
What scared me, was thinking that I wasn't enough and that I didn't know enough, or that I would get swamped by orders that I couldn't fulfill (I had read that the immediate failure of a company was not being able to fulfill orders). Although I now have confidence in myself and in my work, I'm still waiting to be swamped by orders!
What has surprised you most about this process?
I'm not sure if “surprise” is the right word for me to answer with, but what touches me the most is being able to educate customers on plant-based skin care and seeing how grateful they are for someone taking the time to explain it all.For example, the “beauty industry” can be manipulative and harmful, so I emphasize that we don't need eye cream, neck cream, night cream, day cream, etc. … we only need one or two products (that don't cost your arm and leg) because less is certainly more. A pure plant-based skin care line (adhering to organic practices) leaves our resources intact; what we, as consumers, procure decides the health of our eco systems.
Any advice for future small business entrepreneurs?
As an alchemist, I know my blessings and I'm thankful for what I create; however, I wish I had a better grasp on the back end of running a business (marketing, accounting, business plans), which are not my strengths. I've always hoped to partner with someone who could compliment my business with those skills.
There are a lot of free services offered by our communities: women's organizations, retired people offering mentoring, online forums, etc. I suggest getting to know your strengths and weaknesses and educating yourself on how best to begin. Start small but, most importantly, do what you love. I've known that when we take that first step, the universe unfolds to meet you.
Where do you go in Miami when you’re looking for inspiration?
I have always gone to the ocean and Fairchild Gardens for quiet inspiration.I also enjoy walks along Biscayne Boulevard and the Wynwood area of Miami to see what other entrepreneurs are creating and how they market themselves.
What modern local group or business do you look up to?
As an artisan, I'm a huge fan of Zak the Baker; I appreciate his integrity and the wonderful products he's created, along with building a thriving and sustainable business that now offers health care (and other perks) to his employees. I'm also a fan of Half Baked Vegan, which I'm continually awed by what Marilyn Costa has created in her vegan pies and desserts. I love Little River Cooperative and what Tiffany & Murial have established in Little Haiti with their incredible produce offered to the community and local chefs. All of these local folks are featured in The Upper East Side Farmer’s Market due to the heart and insight of Art who established this wonderful community market. Art is a huge asset to our community.