Capturing Nature’s Energy for Peak Personal Performance

(Photos: Courtesy Phia Lab; Illustration: Jessica De Jesus)
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Jan 14, 2016· 2 MIN READ
Bekah Wright is a Los Angeles–based journalist who specializes in travel, entertainment, and lifestyle.

As an Olympic skier, Michelle Roark often would use visualization exercises involving all five senses to prepare herself for her medal-winning performances. She knew firsthand how effective these exercises could be—especially while smelling aromas that focus the mind and increase energy. That’s when inspiration hit: What if she could incorporate energy-boosting scents of different natural ingredients in shampoos, conditioners, and perfumes that could help people get through their day?

“I’ve always been a high-energy person, so I thought, maybe we just need to bottle that energy and see how it goes,” Roark says. With that, Phia Lab was born.

Before launching the company, Roark—who is also a chemical engineer and physicist—took classes on the art of creating perfumes and became a certified perfumer. Using her own money, the Denver-based entrepreneur started creating her first line of personal care products. Roark sourced pure ingredients from around the world, traveling, for example, to Bulgaria for rose oil that contains 600 petals in each ounce. Also, in conjunction with the Colorado School of Mines, Roark researched how and why natural ingredients, in contrast to synthetic chemicals, are beneficial to health, moods, and emotions.

(Photo: Courtesy Phia Lab)

Instead of rushing to release her products and hoping for the best, Roark first wanted to get as much feedback as possible. She opened a spa—Voilà Salon, Spa & Parfumerie—to test her formulas and get in-person reactions from clients. Years later and with a perfected formula, Phia Lab was ready for its official launch in the spring of 2014. Success came immediately. “We were so busy at Christmas, we had to stop taking new orders,” recalls Roark.

High demand resulted in obstacles, though, including having more products on back order than Roark would have liked. “You only get one shot with people, so you don’t want to ruin it,” she says. With a 95 percent reorder rate, Phia Lab struggled to keep pace. Moreover, customers complained that the company’s aluminum bottles were arriving dented. To address these challenges, Phia Lab turned to UPS.

Working closely with Roark, UPS devised a packaging solution that would protect Phia Lab’s bottles not only from denting but also from other damage, such as light exposure. UPS’ flexible pickup policy was key: On days when Roark’s team missed the 6 p.m. pickup, Phia Lab was able to meet its UPS delivery truck farther along its route, hand over packages by 8 p.m., and ensure customers would receive their products on schedule.

(Photo: Courtesy Phia Lab)

Now, with Phia Lab’s operations moving like clockwork, Roark is free to pursue opportunities to expand into other marketplaces. She also has time to reflect on the company’s journey, which she compares to skiing. “You have to be tenacious,” she says. “Don’t let ups and downs get in the way.” Rather, she advises entrepreneurs to be prepared and research as much as they can, visualize their path to success, and know that bumps in the road are learning experiences that they can turn into positives. Whether it’s done on the slopes or with a small business, it’s a winning strategy.