When college-aged clients and customers wander into Wild Lavender on the end unit of the Daylight Building in downtown Knoxville, they often ask founder Hannah Easterly if they can speak with the owner about any job openings. It's easy to see why they would want to work in such a space: the relaxing atmosphere, the great location, but mostly the friendly face of the establishment. It's hard for the (only slightly) younger women to believe at first, but Easterly says that their surprised reactions are just one of the perks of owning the business.
The relationship a client has with their esthetician is one that has all the potential to be as awkward as the first time they get their hair cut with someone new. However, with Easterly it doesn't feel that way. On my first visit, we didn't spend too much time talking since I was enjoying a relaxing hour long facial, but when I swung back by to grab a picture of the space for Instagram, we ended up clicking even more.
Other than the charming ownership, there are several other factors that make Wild Lavender a truly different and noteworthy experience. First of all, the products for sale and everything that touches your body for the services are all natural. They are somewhat smaller, independent brands, so the feel-good purchasing of supporting small businesses is twofold.
It makes sense that the store's inventory would be all natural given the outdoorsy tendencies of the owner herself. When I asked her about what it was like balancing the "softer" side of her interests such as beauty products with her adventurous spirit, we related once again. In fact, before she opened Wild Lavender, she was planning on hiking the Appalachian Trail and would bring her skincare products on the shorter training hikes.
"I had a few friends who hiked the AT and when I would send them care packages, I would put in face masks," Easterly said.
Both Easterly and I identify as "outgoing introverts," meaning that although we do enjoy interacting with others and making conversation, we still need to be alone to recharge. In such a face-to-face business, it is so important to have that relaxing demeanor and she has it nailed. Her path actually started in a very similar place to mine: as a freshman at Maryville College. Through various twists and turns that include studying forestry at University of Tennessee as well as becoming a certified yoga instructor, Hannah found her way to the Aveda Institute in Knoxville.
While she definitely felt that the school prepared her to enter the business immediately, it's hard to balance learning the trade with the collective drama that stems from a group learning environment. Easterly also explained that while cosmetologists and estheticians are often viewed as sister occupations, the personality traits differ wildly. People in the front of salon type of positions end up having a lot more opportunity to talk to their clients and as a result are typically more extraverted.
After the one year mark of owning her own business, Easterly doesn't seem jaded whatsoever. In fact, she's inspirational to people like me with entrepreneurial goals of my own. We commiserated over the fact that the numbers and the business side of things is a lot more difficult than the creative, passionate facets, no matter what the business is. She gave some advice for skincare that can't be repeated enough: take your make up off. Moisturize. And ALWAYS wear sunscreen.
Although Easterly expressed that the business has its ups and downs, such as the construction on the store's home street of Union Avenue, it's clear that this is someone with a passion and deep knowledge for what they are doing. Balancing so many aspects of the industry is no easy feat, with everything from retail to foot rubs being done by her own hands; but when the actual owner of the establishment expresses that one of the best parts is introducing people to their new favorite products and helping them gain confidence, it is clear the type of business you are dealing with: a people and kindness-centered slice of heaven right in the heart of downtown.