Emma Allen is the founder of Everyday Oil, a game-changing blend of organic cold-pressed, steam-distilled botanicals intended for anyone, anytime, everywhere.
While living in New York and working as a vintage consultant and accessories designer, Emma started creating her own blends of oils for herself and friends, eventually creating something that was cleansing, hydrating, balancing and with a wonderful natural fragrance. In 2016, Everyday Oil was officially born. Continuing what has now emerged as a less is more trajectory, Emma chose to relocate to Black Mountain, North Carolina, in order to retain full independence, allowing for purely organic growth and a workplace with respect and joy at its core.
What were you doing before you created Everyday Oil?
My background is in design. Before I started Everyday Oil, I was working in New York in design and as a vintage buyer and consultant. I managed the vintage department of a large textile recycling company. I was training a factory of about 80 people on how to identify and sort vintage and designer clothing, as well as curating and taking appointments with buyers and designers from vintage stores and brands. It was a beautiful and interesting experience for me, and also challenging. I learned so much about design, textiles, history; it was a long and drawn-out exercise in training my eye. It taught me what things stand the test of time, and it taught me so much about business. While there, I also had an accessories line on the side.
I then worked for a Brooklyn start-up as their vintage buyer and then was one of the founding partners for an accessories company out of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I am no longer involved with it, but is an amazing project that creates jobs and skills and now has over 60 employees. During the initial phases of Everyday Oil, I was a consultant and buyer.
My work history is not a straight line, just me following things that interest me, always working a lot, always juggling multiple projects for myself and others. I’m grateful for all of it. I don’t think I could have created Everyday Oil without all of these different experiences informing me.
How did Everyday Oil come to be?
The product was really born close to ten years ago. I had become really interested in health and wellness, and was eating super clean. I knew I wanted to use oils on my skin, but couldn’t find anything on the market that came close to what I was looking for. I began researching scientific journals on what oils did for the skin and experimenting with making things myself. I would order so many oils and make things at my kitchen table in Brooklyn. At the time, it was a labor of love and a science project that I liked to nerd out on. Eventually, I landed on something close to what Everyday Oil is today and it became a staple in my life. I loved it so much and started giving to my friends and family who loved it, too. From there, I thought about making it a business, and how I would want the product to be if it were a company. It was a category that didn’t exist, so a lot of what I thought about was creating not just the product but the category and concept. Defining what that category was and why it needed to exist felt like defining an ethos as much as a product.
Everyday Oil is independent and by choice. Tell me about that.
Oh yes, the brand is completely independent. When I started out, I supported myself by working on other things simultaneously, but pretty quickly Everyday Oil took over my life. I made it work somehow to get over the initial difficulties of growth, which, to be honest, were sometimes a little intense. I put everything I made into funding the growth. I had some initial interest from investors, but I had been down that road before with another project and I wanted Everyday Oil to flow right through and out of me, without taking feedback from others, especially in the beginning. I knew what it needed to be. That is a large part of why I moved the business from New York to North Carolina – so I could grow it without taking on investment.
What would you say is the secret to the success you have today?
The support and reaction Everyday Oil received from customers was really the key to its success. I think it was something that people wanted and were ready for, even if they didn’t know it yet. By putting it into the world it found a community of people that were as interested in simplicity, function, minimalism and wellness as I was. Everyday Oil feels sort of magic to me in that way.
How did you develop the formula. As you know, I have been using it for 3 years now, and wherever I am, it works. It’s never sticky, it works with different degrees of humidity, it doesn’t solidify in cold temperatures and the fragrance blend is unparalleled.
Thank you! I think it really helped that I worked it over time. I tested different versions of this on my friends and family over the years, so it wasn’t something that got thrown together over six months to start a company. It was something that came with a lot of time, a labor of love for plants, health, functionality, beautiful smells and feelings. There are products coming out now that are somewhat similar, but at the time there was not really anything to compare it to so it just felt like a slow, investigative and instinctive process.
Currently Everyday Oil consists of one product in three sizes and an unscented version. Do you have any plans to expand?
Eventually it will expand, but quietly and thoughtfully. We won’t make anything without a reason to.
What is happening BTS there in Black Mountain? Tell me a bit about your team and the production process.
There are four of us that work in our office everyday, and 2 more people that work part-time, remotely. We make everything in-house. It’s a very efficient process. We have a warehouse down the hall from our office where we turn on music and mix Everyday Oil. The rest of our time is spent bottling, shipping and doing all of the other things it takes to run a business.
Our team is small, close knit and joyful. My intention as an entrepreneur was rooted in a desire to escape the modern American work situation as I believe it truly disregards our humanity. I wanted to create work that was naturally integrated with life and to create a workplace that people didn’t feel stressed to return to on Monday morning. We definitely work hard, but we support and respect each other. We have a shared goal to continuously improve. Kaizen!
So, you were born in South Carolina, grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, then moved to New York for school and then stayed for work. Now you’re based in Black Mountain, North Carolina – so, really close to Asheville – and that’s where Everyday Oil is based. What motivated the move back to the south?
Yes, I was born in South Carolina and my family moved to Asheville, North Carolina, when I was 14. My family is multi-racial, not at all typically southern. So childhood in South Carolina was a little intense. I craved an open, free, progressive environment, and Asheville provided that.
When I was 18 I moved to New York for school, then stayed in that area for about 15 years. I first lived in Brooklyn and then moved to the tip of Long Island to Amagansett and Springs, where I lived with friends for 3 years, going back and forth between there and Brooklyn, until I decided to set up Everyday Oil in North Carolina.
It was definitely a shock to my system to be in North Carolina again. At first, full disclosure, I was pretty sure I had made a huge mistake. But once again, the Asheville community was a welcoming and grounding place for me and setting up Everyday Oil here has consistently felt like a solid decision. I have always admired entrepreneurs who did whatever it took to make their business work, and it has been a trust-building exercise with myself to lean into that and follow my intuition.
Everyday Oil’s growth has been organic, but somewhat fast, and with New York overhead I simply would not have had the cash flow to fund the growth of the business the way I have here.
Now that you’ve been back in North Carolina for a few years, what are your thoughts? What advice do you have to offer people pondering city vs. urban life? What are the pros and cons?
I would say that no place is everything – there is a tradeoff to everything in this life. Wherever you are, appreciate the things that place offers, and if you decide to make a change, don’t dwell on what you are losing; focus on what is good about wherever you are. It would be impossible to compare New York to North Carolina, they are so very different. New York is the most amazing place and it will always be the place that made me feel the most free, but it also asks so very much in return, and simply cannot offer nature, quiet, space. There is a grounded-ness to people in smaller places that is a breath of fresh air. My entire family is here and living near them has given a depth to my sense of community. I also travel a good amount and driving back into these mountains feels good every time.
What are your thoughts on the beauty industry and where does Everyday Oil fit in?
I don’t see Everyday Oil as being connected to that, it is sort of the antidote to what the industry tells us we have to do and be and want. If the beauty industry is about covering up, spending more, doing more to be something we are not then Everyday Oil is about liberating ourselves and our time, spending less and doing less to be our most beautiful selves, as we are.
As I have learned more about this industry, one startling discovery is how cheap most beauty and skincare products are to make, and that the ingredients are such low quality. The margins in traditional beauty are bananas. Lotions are 60% water, with fillers and emollients and a small amount of higher quality, plant-based additives. Fancy sounding things like hyaluronic acid are purchased for pennies as raw ingredients, and synthetic fragrances are a tiny fraction of the cost of botanical oils. The same companies formulate for many of the large brands resulting the same primary products with two price points, one high and one low.
What does your personal beauty or wellness regimen consist of?
I am very low-maintenance, and focus more on inner hydration, exercise and nutrients for beauty than I do on products. The best advice I have for a big night out is to go for a run beforehand. Your skin will glow, and you will feel good.
The only skincare product I use is Everyday Oil, for washing and hydrating my face. I put it on my face when it is wet, massage it in, then just walk away and let it dry. I use it on my body right after a bath or shower when my skin is damp. I put castor oil on my brows and eyelashes to style them and make them grow; wash my hair once or twice a week with Sisters Body Wash, Playa or Giovanni Tea Tree Shampoo; and use aloe vera gel and Everyday Oil on the ends of my wavy hair as a styling product. My eyebrows and eyelashes are naturally really blonde, so I dye them to avoid using mascara. I like multi-purpose products, all in one natural cheek and lip stains, and I own about 10 different kinds of those. I’m still looking for the perfect one so let me know if you find it.
You have an impressive entourage of creative badass women. How did these friendships come to be, how do you maintain them and what does community mean to you these days?
Thanks! I think being a human is impossible without a community, so I just feel like everywhere I go in life I try to seek out good people. I feel like Everyday Oil is a natural extension of myself, and somehow it makes sense that I tend to become friends with women I work with or want to work with women I’m friends with. I love being around people who make things happen, whatever that may be. I was single for the past couple of years, so a lot of my friendships, especially female friendships, took on a more central role in my life, and I have been really, really grateful for that. I don’t know where I’d be without friends, but it wouldn’t be here!
Photos: Sadie Culberson