The skincare entrepreneur harnessing heritage
The idea of happiness is often anchored to an image of ourselves playing a certain role in life. The path towards it is a checklist of achievements; each one bringing us closer to who we believe we are meant to be. We spend so much time chasing this mirage of ourselves that we fail to notice the things around us that give our lives value. This realisation came to Icelandic actress, Sóley Elíasdóttir, after seemingly achieving her goals in life.
"Mummy loves you, but she has to go to work"
At the age of 35, Sóley was living her dream. She was a known actress with prominent roles in movies and on the stage, yet happiness eluded her. The unconventional hours of theatre life that at a younger age held so much appeal now took precious time away from her children and was straining her relationships between friends and family. The glamour of appearing centre stage palled and a mixture of sore feet, tiredness and a short temper quickly took over. This led to a life-changing decision. She left the stage to spend more time with her children and tend to the things she had been neglecting in life.
Sóley studied acting in London, UK and while living there became very interested in healthy eating, both her father and brother are chefs and her family ran avant-garde restaurants in Reykjavik, so good food had always been very important in her life.
The whole family had always had a strong connection with nature. Her great-great-grandmother, a famous healer and midwife known as Grasa-Þórunn (Herb-Thorunn), was known for her knowledge and use of Icelandic herbs. This knowledge got passed down to her son, Erlingur (Sóley’s great-grandfather), who in turn became famous for using his skills to save all of his twelve children from the Spanish flu.
At an early age, Sóley's father learned how to make the recipe and used the balm to cure and take care of his tired chef hands.
Sóley became interested in exploring this tradition and started experimenting with her great-great-grandmothers recipes. Her friends had started to get more involved in organic lifestyles and she was fascinated by the thought of pure food and saw the opportunity in bringing together natural ingredients and skincare.
She spent her summers in the countryside picking herbs, an activity her children were happy to engage in and she enjoyed passing down Thorunn’s knowledge and stories with them.
Months were spent perfecting Græðir in her home kitchen in a massive pot, using family and friends for testing and feedback.
In 2007, the first product went to market, Græðir (healer) a healing ointment based on Thorunn’s own recipe.
It became an instant success and Sóley then set out to make the best organic moisturizer possible and the process of Eygló started. However, this was a harder task as the testers loved the product, but the cream kept moulding, which clearly showed how fresh the product was, but this was not exactly ideal for paying customers. It took months to balance the cream and make it ready for the market.
Soon other products followed.
Sóley’s line of organic cosmetics now spans over 30 products and is available in 12 countries. Her family and friends now always get especially excited for summertime knowing they will be enjoying nature even more by picking herbs and learning to apply knowledge passed down by generations. Sóley realised that by not constantly striving towards achieving a set of unrealistic goals gave her the freedom to finally be herself and in doing so found true happiness.