It’s always interesting to me how people discover certain products or brands. One day a few years back, I was particularly worked up about something so Nick’s mom insisted, “Here, take a whiff of this! It’ll help you de-stress!” What she rubbed onto my wrists was one of L’Occitane’s lavender oils, purchased during her trip to Provence. And while I’ve used and loved a handful of L’Occitane products since then, I never knew too much about the brand beyond the basics: a lovely bath and skincare company based in France.
So when the L’Occitane team invited us to Provence to experience firsthand how their product comes to life, we jumped at the opportunity. Two flights and a long drive later, we were in the beautiful and remote French countryside (with literally no cell service or wifi!). I was excited to explore the region and learn a thing or two about my favorite shower oil. What I didn’t expect, though, was to also gain so much inspiration about entrepreneurship and what it takes to build an enduring brand.
So this will be a bit of a different post—I’m going to share our photo diary, along with some motivating lessons that I took with me.
Our feathered co-host for the evening
Outfit from this blog post
One of the highlights of the trip was having dinner with L’Occitane’s founder, Olivier Baussaun
1. Open yourself up to chance opportunities
For me, the most interesting story about L’Occitane was how the company itself came to be. As Olivier shared it with us, when he was a young lavender distiller, he came across what looked like a shut-down soap factory. The door was cracked open so he decided to peek inside. He ended up having a lengthy chat with the retiring owner who, sensing the young man’s passion through their conversation, decided to gift Olivier his soap-making equipment. And it was with this equipment that Olivier made his first L’Occitane soaps and got his start.
I know the US doesn’t have the same relaxed vibe of Provence circa 1970s, but I couldn’t imagine this story playing out this way with my life! I often feel so focused on getting from task A to task B, it’s hard to deviate from the path that you (or others) have put in front of yourself. And to be honest, I rarely strike up conversations with strangers, and dread networking events a little more than I should. This story reminded me that sometimes you need to open up and do some purposeful wandering—because new opportunities might not be too far from the path you’re on.
Throwback to high school chemistry (except actually paying attention this time : )
2. Do things with commitment, conviction, and passion
What struck me most about the soap factory story was that the owner could sense Olivier’s passion and commitment just from their encounter. And I found that to be true with every one of the individuals we met along our visit. The farmers gushed about the relationship between the bees and lavender. The herbologist (think Harry Potter professor meets costume-designer in the Incredibles) literally danced her way around the gardens, plucking plants here and there for us to feel, smell, and taste. And the lab scientists (even though much of what they said went over my head) talked excitedly about developing each new skincare formula.
Lessons from our plant professor – an inspiring woman in an equally inspiring place
Learning how to extract natural essential oils from flowers, the old school way
Another story Olivier shared with us was about their signature shea butter products, which many of you may be familiar with! At an airport, he struck up conversation with a woman about something she was using – it turned out to be the buttery extract of shea nuts from her native African village. Intrigued, Olivier changed his flight that day to visit her hometown in Burkina Faso, where he eventually gained the trust of local villagers to create a fair trade shea butter relationship. He made that commitment and followed through on it, and today the partnership employs over 17,000 women in Burkina Faso.
Having worked my share of passionless jobs, I’ve realized the importance of finding things you deeply care about and can commit to. It’s become almost too easy to start something, only to jump to the next new thing or idea without following through on the previous one. It was reaffirming to see commitment and passion as key ingredients of success, and it’s applicable either in a career path or with a business you’re building yourself.
A sunrise view worth waking up early for
3. Take inspiration from what’s around you
Ok, I admit, if you live in the south of France it’s probably a tad easier to find inspiration. But there’s still something to be said for taking inspiration from your daily surroundings. It’s easy to do that when traveling, but the real challenge is staying inspired in your day-to-day life.
This can be just another reason to initiate new conversations and wander purposefully (with an eye out for opportunity!). Maybe there’s a problem within your everyday routine waiting to be solved by a simple idea. This blog, for example, was started as a passion project when I was tired of looking like a kid wearing ill-fitting clothes!
L’Occitane has several collections such as lavender or immortelle, each relating to crops that they partner with local farmers on in France (with the exception of shea butter). As someone with dry skin, my personal favorite has been their Almond collection. And if you prefer lighter fragrances over perfumy, this line has a fresh, delicious almond scent that’s not at all overpowering.
Their moisturizing Almond Shower Oil has been a staple in my shower, and I almost always get comments on it by houseguests! I duck out from under the shower water to lather this up and really apply it all over my skin before rinsing, and it works really well as a shaving oil. Just be warned, your boyfriend / husband might never go back to his drugstore body wash after this! For extra moisturizing, I also like to treat my skin to the Almond Supple Skin Oil right after a shower.
Another product that I wanted to share is L’Occitane’s organic 100% shea butter, sourced from Burkina Faso. On this trip, I learned the women there have used this natural product for generations upon generations, applying it daily to their skin and hair to moisturize and protect from the elements. My friends swear by this for preventing pregnancy stretch marks, and if you read through the customer reviews, there’s actually quite a few interesting uses (i.e. cracked heels, dry elbows, eczema patches, burns)!
Fun fact: to protect the bees during lavender harvesting, they had to create a device to “scare” them away
Thank you to L’Occitane for partnering on this post. I hope you enjoyed this photo diary!