Meet Gili Zilca, president and founder of Luisa New York – Handmade Soap and Natural Beauty. Born and raised in Israel, with an impressive background in chemistry and chemical engineering, Gili began her journey into the world of natural skincare with a unique understanding of the chemistry behind cosmetics. Started in 2003, Luisa New York now carries a sizable line of beautiful handmade soap and skincare products, online and in several retail locations. The company name was inspired by Gili’s mother, Luisa, who shares her name with the Mediterranean Lemon balm plant. According to Gili, this plant yields an essential oil with a fabulous scent and great aromatherapy benefits. Gili has graciously agreed to participate in our first featured customer interview.
How did you become interested in handcrafted and natural skin care?
I started Luisa New York in late 2003, after about a year of product experimentation and research. My background in chemistry helped a lot. I attended a chemistry-focused high school and served in the Israeli navy as a lab manager. I earned a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in both chemistry and chemical engineering, and worked for several years in the field. My dream during this time was to utilize my knowledge to develop new cosmetics and beauty products. Luisa New York is the fulfillment of that dream. I did not like working with synthetic materials in the labs, so my product line is natural and chemical free.
Does Luisa New York have a motto or philosophy that you would like to share with us?
I believe that my customers seek only the best of quality. Before any product is released, it has to pass “testing”. It is used by me, my family (including my kids), and my friends. If the entire test chain approves the product it “passes”.
What was the biggest challenge you have faced while seeing your company to where it is today?
The biggest challenge was (and still is) to make the company well known nationwide. The products are of very good quality. Once people use it, they would like to stick to it.
How did you overcome this challenge?
Luisa New York’s products are mainly sold through two channels: online, and in retail stores, gift shops, spas etc. Online, in addition to LuisaNewYork.com, the products are sold on Amazon.com and Shop.com. I’ve had products ordered online from the United Kingdom, Australia, Istanbul, Holland, and Canada.
When selling wholesale to retail stores, I believe in having a personal and friendly relationship with the owners. The key to success is understanding the individual needs of store owners, which vary significantly.
What are Luisa New York’s most popular products?
The most popular products are the olive oil soap bars. In particular, the unscented bar which is 100% natural, free from fragrance, and from scent. This soap is so popular because it is good for sensitive skin, excellent to for facial use, and even works well on gentle skin like baby’s skin. The bath salts are also very popular. They come in different pure essential oil scents: peppermint, orange and lavender. I use a blend of coarse and medium grain sized salts. It works perfectly with the colors, and melts in the water in different rates. As a result the bath is very calming and long lasting.
What are your favorite FromNatureWithLove.com products?
I like the essential oils, fragrance oils, and the grain products. I have 2 new fabulous facial scrubs that include fantastic ingredients on FromNatureWithLove.com. The Rice Bran Powder, Lemon Peel Powder, Sandalwood Powder and the Chickpea Flour do fantastic work on the face. Everyone who ever used my “Lemon Peel Facial Exfoliate” or “Sandalwood Facial Exfoliate” has felt a great change on their face. It has a silky effect, cleans the face from blackheads, and leaves the skin clean and shiny. I love those new products!
Do you have any advice for fellow soap makers, natural skin care enthusiasts or small business owners that are just starting out?
Be passionate about what you are doing. Love it, and “run” to work. First, write a business plan. Understand who your target buyer is and how you are going to market your products. Start with a small line of products and see how it is selling and what sells the best. Also, don’t let the business take over your life. Save a few hours every day and on weekends for yourself and your family.
We’d like to thank Gili for allowing us to interview her, and for sharing Luisa New York with us on the Natural Beauty Workshop. If you would like to view Luisa New York’s products, please visit their website at: www.LuisaNewYork.com. A list of retailers that carry Luisa New York products is also available online.