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Birds of a Feather

October 6, 2009


Co-ops and collectives are nothing new. Forms of them date back to the both the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions in the 18th and 19th centuries. But, lately, there’s been a bit of resurgence,  and I’m not complaining.

I like the idea of a joint venture of like-minded folks and ideas. Particularly in this economy, the business model has morphed, and if you haven’t changed with it, you just might be folding. My friend, Amy Leavell Bransford of New Moon Skincare so gets that.

Amy is a lot of things (wife, momma of two adorable sons, daughter of the great environmentalist and musician Chuck Leavell … yes, that Chuck Leavell – the Rolling Stones keyboardist and of the Mother Nature Network). But, one of the things I admire most about her is her business sense. She is one the best estheticians in Atlanta and is the only Dr. Hauschka trained and certified person in the state of Georgia. Recently she launched Aviary, her idea of a beauty collective … this little house of creative, organic beauty has some very busy birds…

The Aviary Beauty Collective L-R | Sidney of Salon Vagabond, Danica of The Plum Organic Salon (San Fransisco), Christine of Christine Legnon Massage, Amy of New Moon Skincare

Several members of the Aviary Beauty Collective “flock.” L-R | Sidney of Salon Vagabond, Danica of The Plum Organic Salon (San Francisco), Christine of Christine Legnon Massage, Amy of New Moon Skin Care

dp Most entrepreneurs and business owners that I’ve interviewed seem to have a period where they are fairly unhappy with the job they are doing prior to taking the leap on their own. Was there a sense of struggle before you came up with the concept for New Moon and Aviary?

Aviary I think every step in career world is part of the building process, especially the challenging ones. Sadly, I was my own worst adversary when building my business. I worked for a spa right out of school…I knew it wasn’t for me in the long term but it was a great experience in learning what was important to me and what wasn’t. Building a boutique atmosphere was important … more than the anonymity of being an employee of a strip mall spa. When I made the decision to start my own business, I wasn’t sure if it was going to take off or whether I would just be doing facials on my friends. As I have built a clientele, the most amazing thing has happened – I get to do facials not only on my friends but have also made tons of new ones in the process.

dp How did you decide to go out on your own? What got you interested in skin care?

Aviary It was always in the back of my mind and one day I just knew it was time. I had my son Miles and when he was about a year old I really got the itch for some adult interaction. I also was interested in safe skin care for my son. I started thinking about fusing the two … organic and safe skin care products and an esthetics practice that would appeal to women around my age – and other moms. I know most moms also have a growing awareness of organics and non-toxic products. It was serendipitous timing with the whole move to “go green”!

dp What or whom influences and inspires you?

Aviary It depends on the inspiration … business or personal? As a mom, I love to read Heather Armstrong’s blog, Dooce … she has the perfect marriage of humor and humility and she reminds me that being a working mom is ok … and that feeling overwhelmed and stressed out is human. And speaking of moms … my own mother is a big influence. She owned a clothing boutique my whole life and my sister and I grew up in that environment. Nothing gets in her way. It’s the entrepreneur in me that comes from her. But I also love the opportunity to work with other women entrepreneurs … we all have strengths and I learn SO much just conversing and being in their presence. I’ve worked with Danica Winters of The Plum Salon for a year and a half and I think we both learn a lot from each other … I adore her awareness and warm spirit.

dp I know you have two sons … how do you balance being a wife and mother with your career?

Aviary I think finding balance between being a wife, mom and businesswoman would be absolute nirvana. For me running a business and interacting with adults on a social level is far easier than running a house. Being a full time mom is the hardest job there is and I have such admiration for my friends who do it.  I grew up in a house with a mom who owned a boutique and I think I have followed her footsteps … I don’t know if I would be doing this today if I had not been such a part of her store growing up.  And seeing her manage that as well as be there for Ashley and I. It certainly helps to have the support of an amazing husband.

dp If there’s one thing people should remember to do for their skin, what would that be?

Aviary Wear some kind of sunblock or a hat.

dp How do diet, stress and sleep play a role in the condition of our skin?

Aviary Hugely. You really are what you eat … the skin acts as a barometer for what’s going on inside the body so if you aren’t eating well, it shows up in the skin. If you aren’t sleeping well, skin can appear lifeless and eyes puffy.

dp Are there people or companies within the industry that you admire and would like to emulate?

Aviary My good friend HollyBeth makes her own organic skin care products…she’s such a warm person and just puts a lot of love into what she does. There is a company out of LA that I admire a lot, Vert Los Angeles … she seems to be the queen of the organic beauty scene out there. I’d love to do that for Atlanta!


dp How did you come up with the name and concept for New Moon? Have you strayed from your original plan?

Aviary The name serves as a reminder for how often to get a facial … once a month to maintain healthy skin. Clients ask all the time how soon they should come back. Healthy skin cells normally turn over every 28 days (like the cycle of the moon) but as we age, that slows down to around 45 days. Monthly facials and a great home care routine can help keep you on track.

As for the original plan … I never set out with a “business plan” or anything. In fact, maybe I should have one now (laughing). I’ve just been following my heart and that has led me to some pretty fantastic successes so far.

dp Why do you think organic products are so important in skincare? And what do the terms organic and sustainable mean to you?

Aviary So many people are so careful about what they eat but don’t think about what they are using on their bodies. Our skin absorbs up to 65% of what we put on it, so it should be as pure and natural as our food. The terms organic and sustainable have become synonymous with green and eco and I think people know what it means. When I think organic in skin care, I think it lets people know what’s inside the bottle … but often what is NOT inside the bottle is even more important. My products are free of parabens, fragrance, dyes, sulfates and harsh industrial chemicals.

dp How do you separate your business roles – creative vs. day-to-day tasks like financials, public relations/marketing, and growth opportunities?

Aviary I think part of being a good businesswoman is having some experience in all of it at some point or another. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is good because it lets you know where you can hand off tasks. I know when to hand off responsibilities that are not my strong points. I always write my own checks but I look to a bookkeeper to balance and reconcile the bank statements. I am a former publicist, a skill that I don’t think I will ever lose. I love to be a part of building new things and I am working on building a bigger community for Studioplex, where Aviary is located. I love to be on the marketing end of things…numbers, not so much.

dp Describe to me what Farmaestheics and microdermabrasion are?

Aviary Farmaesthetics is a product line out of Rhode Island. Brenda Brock, the founder of the line, uses recipes and formulations that her grandmother created year ago. She sources sustainable and organically grown herbs from small family farms in the US. I love her philosophy and the products are wonderful!

Microdermabrasion is a form of exfoliation that is mechanical – meaning there is a machine involved. The machine that I use is a diamondtome, and has no particles that are unsafe for humans or the environment. The procedure is painless and non-invasive and the results are immediately noticeable.

dp How do you think your industry is changing from say, 10 years ago?

Aviary That is a hard one because 10 years ago I was in PR for a record label!! I do think people are starting to ask the right questions about what ingredients are in their products and I love that. I (unfortunately) also think that the marketing for injectibles for things like Botox and Juvederm are everywhere and women who are in their early twenties (!!!) are trying them out. That freaks me out. Hopefully we can find some balance.

dp What’s the whole concept behind Aviary and where does New Moon fit in?

Aviary This fall New Moon Skin Care launched Aviary {organic beauty collective}. I got together with a few friends in the beauty and wellness industry and was inspired to start Aviary. I took over the space that inhabited the Plum Salon when Plum’s owner (and good friend Danica Winters) moved to San Francisco. I wasn’t sure what would happen with the space but knew that I wanted to stay there and operate New Moon Skin Care. My friend Christine Legnon, certified massage therapist, needed a place to run her private practice and I had room to build her a space. Along came stylist and colorist, Sidney, who was looking to develop Salon Vagabond. Raney O’Keefe is our makeup artist in residence. Together we work with products that are safe for the environment and for humans … we strive to offer the latest and greatest products available that are non toxic and made with organic ingredients.