Having already reviewed some of Lilly Be products on Curiosity Gap last week, now is the time to introduce its founder, Lissette Benitez Monzon. An educator, a wife, an aromatherapist, a mother of two, a formulator and a brand founder – that’s just a few of Lissette’s daily hats that she puts on each day with grace.
Lissette, what inspired you to brave the world of beauty and start your own skincare brand?
Lissette Benitez Monzon: The desire to stay at home with my children inspired me to take my products out to markets. I would take care of my children during the week while my husband worked, then on the weekends I would take product to local farmer’s markets to bring in supplemental income. I like to say I sort of stumbled onto starting a business through those years. While it was always my dream to have people enjoy my products that I had been making for over a decade, leaving a secure job with salary and benefits was too scary of a choice to make. It was my deep desire to be with my children during those first precious years of life that propelled me be successful in selling at the markets.
How would you describe or define Lilly Be in just three words?
Lissette Benitez Monzon: Holistic, nature-based, authentic
How did you go from being a teacher & curriculum specialist to being an aromatherapist and beauty entrepreneur?
Lissette Benitez Monzon: Aromatherapy was my original calling, but it was not recognized at my University as a field of study. I also enjoyed English Literature and I worked well with others, so teaching was my next choice. While I continued earning diplomas in the field of Education, I couldn’t shake my love for aromatherapy. Between those years teaching, I found an Institute that was accredited to certify me in Aromatherapy. I enrolled and studied for nearly two years to become a Certified Clinical Master Aromatherapist, just for my own knowledge and holistic care.
How did you come up with the name of the brand and was it serendipitious to secure a website name…and then not launch the brand for another ten years?
Lissette Benitez Monzon: My name is Lissette, but my family has called me Lilly since I was young. Be is inspired by the essence of why I wanted to learn and practice aromatherapy: to BE at one with nature. My whole life I have been inspired by herbal remedies, nature as medicine, health and beauty used throughout history. Working with plants, oils, resins connects my physical and spiritual self and I am reminded to simply BE.
Serendipity is a constant in my life. It guides me. I secured my website and did absolutely nothing with it except pay for it to be mine for over 3 years or so. Then, I slowly started building a little page here and there, but nothing serious as I was still teaching. I slowly ordered business cards that I designed, all in hopes that one day I might have my own aromatherapy and skincare business. But, aromatherapy was still seen as this alternative care, that it is not real, or not as effective as mainstream care. So it was not until my children were born, that I was propelled out to markets, where I realized that the world was more than ready for organic holistic skincare and products. I knew I had to bring everything to life that I had been visualizing and implementing through the years.
How difficult was it to combine raising two small children while formulating the products and selling them at farmers markets during the weekends? What got you through and fuelled your determination?
Lissette Benitez Monzon: My husband, parents, family, and friends were an incredible support. I would spend my weekdays taking my children to the museum, zoo, friends, all kinds of fun activities. I just loved it. Then, I would make product in the evenings, and sell them on Saturdays. I didn’t miss a weekend, rain or shine. I was busy no doubt, but it never felt like work or difficulty. My joy in taking care of my children propelled me during the week and my awakening to a community that wanted a product I have known how to make for years propelled me to put up my tent and table and see who I could meet and help every weekend.
Why is synergy of body and mind so important and how can aromatherapy and skincare impact our state of mind?
Lissette Benitez Monzon: When I enrolled to become an aromatherapist, I thought I would mostly learn about the different plants and oils and how to use them in terms of measuring or blending compatibility. However; my training went beyond looking at an oil and using it to simply clear up a breakout or to simply relieve muscle tension. My mentor took a completely holistic approach to creating the perfect aromatherapy blend. It was never about the physical need only. I was trained to target the emotional, mental, and physical elements in order to select the perfect oils and formulate with synergy to target all three needs. Essential oils are multi-faceted, just like we are. Consider the role stress plays on our physical self, or how our thoughts can cause our muscles to tense up or heartrate speed up. Our mind and body work in harmony.
Why does every Lilly Be product name start with “BE”?
Lissette Benitez Monzon: This is representative of the essence of each product. When you use our Be Refreshed Summer Essence, it is not only cooling and refreshing for your skin on a hot summer day, but also your state of mind through the synergy of bergamot, sandalwood, and a dash of spearmint. Best seller Be Youthful uses an organic trifecta of carrier oils and combines patchouli, geranium, palmarosa, and lavender to firm and moisturize skin, as well as calm, balance, and impart a feminine energy on the mind. I rebranded with this concept in mind so my customers could connect with my products beyond the physical, and start enjoying the holistic aspect of beauty.
What inspired you to create the beautifully lush Summer Essence?
Lissette Benitez Monzon: Summer Essence is my newest joy. I am from Miami. I love the beach. But I also have sensitive skin when it comes to sun and heat. I get red and flushed, even if wearing sunscreen. From my days at the farmer’s markets, I knew that many locals experienced the same issues, especially during the summer. So I wanted to create a product that included aloe vera, but also included hero ingredients for after sun healing (this is where I discovered agave and wheatgrass benefits). It had to be soft and silky for a refreshing feeling and have a gentle cooling sensation. I wanted it to multi-task as an amazing facial essence for anytime care. The scent had to be bright, yet grounding, just like you feel when sitting on the bank of Miami Beach.
What makes Lilly Be products uniquely different?
Lissette Benitez Monzon: The medley of aroma and the effect they have on both mind and body. This elevates your beauty ritual or product use if using our Be Dreamy pillow mist for instance and instantly introduces holistic care.
What are you daily non-negotiables when it comes to your own skincare and wellbeing?
Lissette Benitez Monzon: I must keep moisturized! I love carrying summer essence in my purse for quick, ultra-quenching care and Be Youthful in the evenings after I shower. My wellbeing includes sun salutations with my children most mornings to start the day fresh, and a glass of wine at night with my husband as we talk over our day. I usually always sleep well too. I love my sleep.
What are the hardest things of having your own skincare brand and what aspects are the most rewarding?
Lissette Benitez Monzon: Hardest thing is in wearing multiple, multiple hats. At first it was simple: make the product, take it to farmer’s markets, pack up and do it again the next weekend. But this isn’t sustainable for a business really. I then started learning more about marketing, newsletters, accounting, photography, social media, and so much more that helps build brand awareness, customer acquisition, and drive sales.
The most rewarding is hearing customers love for their Lilly Be product. It keeps me going. I feel like if it is my destiny to create products that help people feel beautiful, calm, and healthy.
If you could have invented any of the ‘cult’ beauty products, which one would it be and why?
Hmm.. Not sure about this one.
Why natural and not mainstream skincare?
Lissette Benitez Monzon: Of course I started exploring skincare and make up with mainstream products that were available at local drugstores or malls. I would read magazines that talked about this product or that and why they were so amazing. But, what always triggered my curiosity and interest the most was when I read about an herb or an ancient remedy that was used for health and beauty way before modern medicine. All throughout history herbs, resins, spices, flowers were our original medicines and self-care. This truly fascinates me.
My instincts were naturally drawn toward natural which just so happens to be where so many people are turning again as we realize that many mainstream products are filled with potentially harmful ingredients.
Tell me one interesting fact about yourself that not many people know about you?
Lissette Benitez Monzon: Many people who know me personally do know this, but as I discuss my love for nature and make products that steer clear of toxins, many customers would not ever guess that I actually am a former cigarette smoker. As a child of the 90’s I picked up that terrible habit, and it stuck with me all through my 20’s. I was also a bit of a wild child through my 20’s.
I think this part of my story is the irony and duality in all of us. I loved smoking even though I knew it was bad for me. I was young and invincible. While I may have had a cigarette in one hand, I had an oil remedy in the other. It was actually when I got pregnant that I completely ditched them from one day to the next. We can see here again, how my children inspired me to do better and be better. J
I’m actually working on how to incorporate this part of my life into my brand story. I think it is important to be transparent. I love nature. I haven’t taken over the counter medicine in years. But like everyone in this world, I have had some habits and guilty pleasures.
To learn more about Lilly Be, please click here