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Female Disruptors: Liana Blomquist On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Try not to overthink things. I still struggle with this a lot because of my corporate background, but I tend to overthink the small things too much and have missed out on some opportunities because of it. I’m especially guilty of this when it comes to social media where I think too hard about the strategy and less about the execution. The funny thing is, my content tends to do better when I’m not thinking too hard about it and just executing, so it really is a catch 22 in the end.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Liana Blomquist.

Founded by Liana Blomquist, a beauty industry veteran and certified horticulturist, Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals, New York’s first and only rooftop beauty farm, was born in 2019 out of her passion for gardening and beauty while re-evaluating her consumption habits and the way they affect the planet.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Of course, and thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to tell my story. I’ve been a big fan of what Thrive Global has already done and is continuing to do for its community and I’m so honored to be a part of it.

To start off with, I’m half American and half French and I was born in Geneva, Switzerland but grew up between Grasse in the South of France (the perfume capital of the world), London, and New Jersey.

I started my career at Elizabeth Arden, later bought by Revlon, in a local marketing role in London where I was part of the whole celebrity and designer fragrance movement. I launched top-selling celebrity fragrance lines such as Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and Nikki Minaj and designer fragrances such as Juicy Couture, John Varvatos, BCBG, and Halston.

When I moved to New York, I switched to a global marketing and product development role and managed the global marketing and product innovation calendars for the Elizabeth Arden fragrance and skincare brands such as Red Door, Green Tea, White Tea, Prevage, Superstart, and Ceramide. Over the span of my time there, I launched over 30 fragrance and skincare products, winning global awards and nominations from key publications and foundations.

Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals or I sometimes call it BRB, started as an idea back in 2018 when I started getting back into gardening. I already had some basic knowledge, but it quickly became a passion where I spent every minute of my free time tending to my plants. During that same time, I was also becoming more conscious of my beauty consumption habits and how they were affecting the planet, and then it hit me. I realized if I grew potent beauty botanicals, I could merge my passions for beauty and gardening to help make New York City and the beauty industry greener and more beautiful places.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals is New York City’s first rooftop beauty farm that currently spans over three rooftops (2K sq ft) and grows over 50 botanicals to create extracts and beauty products out of. My mission is to show and educate how beauty botanicals can be farmed in an urban environment so we can think more locally, sustainably, and consciously when it comes to our beauty consumption habits.

Gone are the days of global production without consequences, climate change is real and we now have no choice but to reel in the way we consume. The personal care industry is still creating 120 billion units of plastic (of which only 9% will ever be recycled) and contributing to 1/5th of the world’s deforestation per year to produce soybean and palm oil, raw materials that are found in abundance in personal care products and sometimes guised under different names. Reusable, sustainable and local is the only way forward and that’s why I started Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals. I call it my growing beauty to change beauty movement or #growingbeautytochangebeauty.

Another reason why Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals is so disruptive is that I’m transforming wasted rooftops into working beauty botanical farms that help to mitigate climate change’s impact on New York City and bring those raw materials that used to travel the world to get into your product more locally. Furthermore, I’ve developed a truly transparent and vertically integrated production process that shows how raw materials are grown, processed, and added to products to really bring that value back to the end customer.

SOURCES: https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2020/09/18/the-worlds-worst-companies-for-plastic-waste-pollution-infographic/?sh=30abd5be6f10 , ² https://wwd.com/beauty-industry-news/beauty-features/top-100-beauty-brands-2020-beauty-inc-1234805760/ , ³https://ourworldindata.org/what-are-drivers-deforestation , ⁴https://www.unep.org/interactive/beat-plastic-pollution/, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Oh wow, there are so many it’s hard to think of one, so I think the expression, failing to learn is how I thought about each of these mistakes. I jumped into this whole adventure thinking it would be a whole lot easier because of my background. While it did give me a leg up when it came to product formulation, I wasn’t an actual formulator in my previous role, so when I started looking at those “natural” skincare recipes that you find all over Pinterest, I thought it would be a piece of cake. In fact, most of those recipes don’t even work or are safe for the end-user. I was a typical Dunning Kruger profile where my confidence was super high at first because I thought I knew everything there was to know about growing and processing beauty botanicals on a roof and formulating products. It of course quickly shot down after many months of epic fails and I felt super discouraged. It’s not until I really started going deeper into my research, taking classes, and practicing the skills I was acquiring, did I get to where I am today. I think the lesson for me and for anyone looking to start something new is you don’t have to absolutely know everything but do your research and be very clear of what it takes before you go full force.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

All I can say is thank the heavens for Gwen Schantz from Brooklyn Grange. When I was pulling together my business plan, Gwen really helped me put all my ideas down to pull together a realistic and structured plan on how I wanted to get from point A to Z. She never sugar-coated anything when explaining what needed to be done which I really appreciated, and her knowledge of the green roof space is incredible, so I’m truly blessed for her realistic wisdom while also pushing me to work smarter.

My mother-in-law Frederique Picard, CEO of the shoe brand Carel Paris, has also been someone I’ve looked up to during this adventure. She’s one of the coolest and more laid-back people I know, and I really appreciate her candid feedback. Even though she lives in Paris and we don’t get to see each other often, we get on zoom calls to catch up and talk business and get a point of view from “the other side of the pond”. It’s important to talk to your local peers, but if you’re thinking long term, it’s also good to get ideas from other countries you might look to expand to in the future.

Babba Rivera, the founder of Ceremonia and owner of my 2nd rooftop, has been a pure inspiration for me over these last few years. Knowing her personally and seeing how she’s balanced launching a company and having a baby at the same time, really gave me the strength to keep pushing on with my dream. She has this super positive, can-do attitude and relentless energy that she instills in every part of her life. I really look up to her and was so excited to partner with her on her rooftop. It’s been a crazy ride with roof, skylight, and water line replacements, but she is someone I can rely on, and am beyond grateful to call her my friend.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disrupting for positive change, and I mean real change that is going to benefit society and the world and not just be another marketing-driven product or idea, is what I truly believe is positive disruption. Disrupting an industry that further isolates and drives apart our society and continues to pollute our world, is not. In my mind, there is a clear difference between innovation to improve and innovation to sell. We often see simple, everyday products (that nobody really needs) out there that are “reinvented” and then marketed like crazy as a “necessity” or an “Improvement to your life” to make a buck, so I think we all need to do our part in this world to really understand and research what we’re buying so we’re not feeding into the cycle.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  • Have a bigger and long-term picture of what you want to do, and have it absolutely crystal clear in your mind, but be realistic about how you’re going to get there with achievable and measurable goals. I have a real long-term vision of where I want Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals to go, but I was trying to go from 0 to 100 too quickly. After having spoken to some influential entrepreneurs about what I was trying to do, I realized I wasn’t focusing as much on the small things I needed to do now, so I took a step back and started from the basics.
  • Know your strengths and find the people who can fill in your weakness gaps. This piece of advice came from a lot of different entrepreneurs and from my personal experience as well. I consider myself an introvert and I was never great at reaching out for help in my younger years. When it came to starting Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals, I knew I couldn’t do this alone, so I branched out and cold-called everyone in the industry to get any thoughts and tips to help get me to the next level. I know I keep using these common expressions, but it really does take a village to raise a child.
  • Try not to overthink things. I still struggle with this a lot because of my corporate background, but I tend to overthink the small things too much and have missed out on some opportunities because of it. I’m especially guilty of this when it comes to social media where I think too hard about the strategy and less about the execution. The funny thing is, my content tends to do better when I’m not thinking too hard about it and just executing, so it really is a catch 22 in the end.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We’re only at the beginning and there are exciting things coming soon, but I’m looking to expand to a much bigger rooftop over the next few years. My end goal is to make Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals a real community space, both online and in-person, where people can link up with friends and family, old and new, to get inspired with new ideas, to take on a challenge, and take steps to learn how to shop more locally and live more sustainability when it comes to beauty through educational content.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had a lot of support over the last few years from both men and women alike, so I haven’t felt a true difference in the way I’ve been challenged. What I’m trying to do is also very niche, so I haven’t encountered a real counterpart to be able to give a genuine comparison. That doesn’t mean women disruptors don’t experience these differences, and I can write a book, like any other woman who’s made a successful, high-flying career for herself, on the ways we’re treated and challenged differently in various industries. The patriarchy is still very much alive, and we unfortunately must continue to push our ideas and agendas out there until we’re heard and appreciated as equals by those who do not deem us to be.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

The Death of Expertise by Tom Nichols is one of the more recent books I read that had a deep impact on my thinking. I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s been having a difficult time navigating this new age of information where everyone’s thoughts and opinions on a certain topic matter more than facts. It came to a point where I didn’t trust anything that I was reading or hearing anymore and I needed to dig deeper to understand how I was researching, breaking down, and disseminating information. As a content creator and educator with a following and a background in marketing, I know what fear mongering, clickbait, and propaganda marketing can do, so I hold myself responsible for all the information I put out there and list all my sources for anyone to check my work. This of course leaves me out in the open to a world that takes no prisoners, but I do what I do with the understanding I’ll continuously be challenged, so I thank this book for the peace of mind it’s been able to give me.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I truly, honestly believe Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals is and will be a movement. We’re growing beauty to change beauty, and I hope you’re all ready for the ride.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

A life lesson quote I often repeat to myself by C.S. Lewis is, “you can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending”. I’ve always been a nostalgic person, so I often think about the what-ifs. This has plagued me in my life because there was always a part of me that wondered what life would have been like if I had taken a different direction or made a life-changing decision quicker. This quote serves as a reminder that I didn’t know any better back then but I’m much more equipped now, so the decisions and actions I make now to get me where I want to go are what is important.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me at www.brooklynrooftopbotanicals.com where I share educational content on how to grow, formulate and live the BRB way of life. You can also follow me and my content on Instagram @brooklynrooftopbotanicals, TikTok @brbotanicals, and on Youtube @brooklynrooftopbotanicals

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Thank you!

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.

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