We watch the organics space religiously and aim to highlight brands that are delivering the safe, non-toxic beauty we crave without sacrificing performance or cute packaging . Nine Naturals, a minimalist 22-product collection boasting plant-based formulas, lovely fragrances and clean design meets our scrutiny. In fact, the brand has earned our devotion, particularly its Vanilla and Geranium Belly Butter which absorbs instantly but intensely moisturizes. It’s an instant classic in our book.
Founded by chic Tribeca mom Grace Lee with mothers-to-be in mind, the brand offers a comprehensive array of bath and body needs free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, petrochemicals, DEA, synthetic fragrances, or artificial preservatives. We sat down with the busy mom of two to chat about the origins of Nine Naturals, wellness inspirations and where to go for green hair services!
Tell me a bit about the origin of Nine Naturals? What or whom inspired you to start your own business?
I was inspired to start Nine Naturals when my friends and I were looking for safe beauty products to use during pregnancy. Pregnancy is the most critical developmental stage in a human life and environmental toxins can have long lasting effects on a person’s health even beyond the womb. As we searched for safe products to use, we kept running into the same two problems – 1) most products that claimed to be natural still contained harmful ingredients and 2) many natural products simply didn’t perform well; the shampoos didn’t lather well and the body products didn’t do much for their skin. When I developed Nine Naturals, I focused on using natural, pure ingredients safe for pregnancy while maintaining a high standard for beauty and performance. I wanted to create a line that women could be confident using without having to be a scientist to understand the label.
What did you study in college and grad school?
For undergraduate, I studied Economics and Philosophy at Columbia. At the time, I wanted to pursue a career in finance. After spending a couple years at a bulge-bracket and then as an investment analyst at a hedge fund, I realized that rather than researching and investing in companies, I wanted to be part of a company and to create something. I went back to business school at the University of Chicago Booth Business School where I studied Entrepreneurship and Finance. My first day of classes was the day that Lehman Brothers went under. Needless to say, it was good timing to be back in school for a few years and spend time focusing on what career pursuits I was most passionate about. At business school is where I began working on Nine Naturals!
There is a strong wellness community in New York and beyond that is only strengthening. Who within the community do you admire? Can you speak to a few friends or brands that are doing things that inspire you?
There are a number of entrepreneurs who are helping make women’s lives better during pregnancy and beyond including:
Kwany Lui and John Mascari of Bundle Organics– co-founders of the organic juice company created for pregnant women
Rachel Gallatt of Healthy Mama Brand– founder of the company that provides safe over-the-counter products to treat pregnancy-related ailments
Latham Thomas of Mama Glow– the wellness expert/doula every pregnant woman wishes she could have
Katherine Ryder of Maven Clinic– founder of an innovative digital clinic for women
Marjorie Jaffe Goldner of PregPrep– co-founder of a doctor-formuated pre-conception supplements kit
What makeup brands do you use, since Nine Naturals does not offer makeup?
When it comes to makeup, I’m a minimalist and prioritize good skin care. That said, when I do wear makeup, I go for the best natural and organic lines. I love RMS Beauty products, especially its “un”-cover up, living luminizer and lip shine. Another favorite brand is Honeybee Gardens. Out of its entire range of natural cosmetics, I like the mascara most. Nine Naturals sells it in our Covet Shop.
Any great beauty or wellness services you can’t live without?
As I get older, taking care of my skin and my body have become increasingly more important to me. I go for regular facials with Lena Makushina at Maksim Spa and workout weekly with my personal trainer Gino Caccavale. For full mind, body, spirit balancing I see my acupuncturist, Leah Kim.
What is the most difficult aspect of running your own business? What is the most rewarding?
The hardest part about running my own business is knowing when to stop working. I’m a type-A workaholic and I always feel like there’s more I can be doing. Between work and family, it’s hard to know where to draw the line. The most rewarding part is building out my vision for safe, natural beauty and being able to positively impact the lives of women who are looking for better alternatives during pregnancy and beyond. Your most exciting career moment thus far? I recently received an email from a customer. It read, “THANK YOU for all that you do–creating great products and extending that philosophy into superlative service.” Knowing that I am helping women like myself find safer, natural products to use during their pregnancy and treating them well during this special time in their lives is what makes what I do everyday worthwhile.
Take me through a busy work day, describe a bit how it goes down. Do you have a routine or does it vary?
The luxury of running my own business is having a flexible schedule so I can plan around family-time, which with 2 kids now feels like an increasing demand. Typically, I try to spend all day in the office toward the beginning of the week. On Thursday’s and Friday’s I pick up my oldest Charlotte from school for lunch dates and take my youngest daughter Frances to classes. Every day is a little different but I try to keep a loose schedule to stay sane.
If someone was coming to the brand for the first time, what three hero products would you recommend?
If you haven’t tried Nine Naturals yet, I definitely recommend trying the Citrus + Mint Nourishing Shampoo, Vanilla + Geranium Belly Butter, and Natural Deodorant. Nothing wakes me up in the morning like the refreshing natural scent of citrus and peppermint. The belly butter is super nourishing and locks all-day moisture without feeling greasy. I like to use it as an all over body lotion even when I’m not pregnant! The natural deodorant is one that actually works! We use non-nano zinc oxide as as natural antibacterial to fight body odor.
You work in Tribeca, any favorite spots in the neighborhood you care to call out?
I both work and live in Tribeca so almost all my favorite spots are just around the corner. To satisfy my shopping addiction, I’m always at Otte–I’m on a first-name bases with every store clerk. For my regular mani/pedi appointment I’m always at Tenoverten nail salon. I highly recommend this salon because they only use 5-free nail polishes. For hair, I go to Joe Murray at Hale Organic Salon, which is one of the top-rated green, organic hair salons in the city. For the kids, I love Koh’s Kids and Sweet William. They both carry unique pieces from independent designers that are otherwise hard to find.
Piece of advice to your 20 year old self?
Be bold and don’t be afraid to take risks.