Uma Oils


The oils of Indian royalty are moving into Space NK.

Uma Oil, a six-month-old luxury beauty oil and lifestyle operation, is poised for expansion, with the high-end retailer as its next point of distribution.

“The history of the brand goes back 800 years,” said Shrankhla Holecek, founder of Uma. “That’s when my family became the physicians to the royal family in India.”

As part of the gig, Holecek’s family was in charge of mixing up medicine and beauty elixirs from plants, herbs, shoots and other natural materials. The family eventually developed its own land to supervise the growth of the plants that went into the formulations, eventually modernizing its draughts into essential oils.

“Because it’s so complicated — it’s also very labor- and infrastructure-intensive — that’s what makes it so expensive,” Holecek said. “Over the last few decades, we’ve been among the world’s leading suppliers of essential oils to perfume houses — Estée Lauder, Tom Ford — also a lot of food and flavoring.”

Uma was born after Holecek’s work at advisory firm McKinsey and observations of the healthy lifestyle-focus of her fellow Los Angeles dwellers prompted her to translate her family history into a modern-day product line.

“Living in L.A., it wasn’t lost on me how careful and stringent people were becoming with what they were putting into their bodies. Wellness, thoughtfulness is becoming very mainstream, and people are taking a very considered approach to how they live their lives,” Holecek said. “The consumer is so much smarter and demanding and willing to pay for something that they feel is completely clean and high-quality, as well as ethically sourced. And I thought with these incredible formulas that were developed arguably for the most stringent of clients — the royalty was not OK with something that was just OK, it had to be very, very good — tested for hundreds of years across hundreds of thousands of people, as well as sitting on ingredients that were completely pristine, there was an opportunity.”

So she took the existing blends and made them into products that are now sold in places like Shen Beauty, ABC Carpet and Home, Goop and soon, Space NK. About 50 percent of the company’s business comes from its own website, Holecek said. Including potential offshoots of the business, like incense from leftover ingredients in the oil-making process, industry sources estimate Uma could be a $40 million or $50 million business within five years.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in our natural skin-care category and expect Uma will be very well-received by our Space NK clients,” said Heather Connelly, head of merchandising for Space NK. “Additionally, our clients have been responding well to products that allow them to simplify their beauty routines and oils can serve as great multitaskers.”

Key among those retail selection priorities is the ability of the store’s staff to educate customers about the brand, assisting with Holecek’s goal of “demystifying lifestyle sciences like Ayurveda…drawing them from their snake oil reputations and bringing them back to the modern world.”

“The idea of approaching beauty and wellness in isolated fashions is very archaic,” said Holecek. “We are not trying to do Botox or surgical things that are quick fixes, we’re really setting out to change mind-sets, lifestyles and approaches. And it was important we picked retailers based on two or three key lenses.”

The product lineup includes face oils, wellness oils, body oil, hair oil, spot treatments and masks. Prices for full-sized products range from $55 to $180. Uma’s recently launched, travel-sized wellness oils are $49, lowering the brand’s barrier to entry. Next year, the brand plans to launch a cleansing powder, toner-esque product and baby oil, Holecek said.

In the face oils segment, Uma’s Deeply Clarifying Oil, Antiaging Oil and Ultimate Brightening Oil are the bestsellers, while in wellness oils, Pure Calm is leading.

The company’s wellness oils, Pure Calm, Pure Bliss, Pure Energy and Pure Rest are meant to be used as part of a three-minute ritual, in which users massage oils between their toes, on wrists, behind the ears and at the temples and then take five deep breaths — a method specific to Uma.

“The key to surviving today is a balance between what is preventative and what is curative,” she added. “I would never recommend Ayurveda for someone who has been hit by a bus and is bleeding. Busses didn’t exist 5,000 years ago and people didn’t get hit by them, so there’s no solutions within Ayurveda for that.”

“We’re always looking into innovations coming out of regions that are unique and largely untapped in the U.S. market,” Connelly said. “From India, Uma represents a new line of modern farm-to-bottle organic oils for the face, body and hair with powerful formulations rooted in Ayurvedic tradition.”

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