Founder Spotlight: An Interview with Lena Sokolovska from Uoga Uoga

#Founderspotlight - Uoga Uoga - Lena Sokolovska

 

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#Founderspotlight - Uoga Uoga - Lena Sokolovska

 

 

Uoga Uoga (meaning “Berry Berry” in Lithuanian) is a manufacturer of natural and organic certified cosmetics from the Baltics. All of the products are made by hand in small batches so that they are always fresh. Special local ingredients, such as berry oils and extracts as well as Baltic white amber, are used to enhance the effect of the formulae. Uoga Uoga is always cruelty-free and made responsibly.

What inspired you to start your business?

Having Uoga Uoga is the absolutely happiest time of my working life. Before, I used to work as a financial analyst and while I was getting a high salary and it was a great intellectual stimulus to my brain, I never felt I was doing something meaningful. So, one day I just quit my job with no big plans on what to do next. One night we were discussing with my friend if we could open some cafe or other business. Already then I was interested in organic food, more sustainable way of living and I was creating some cosmetics for my own use. That night we came up with an idea of offering our home-made creations to a wider public. Initial idea was to make fresh face masks with berries, hence the name “Uoga Uoga”, which means “Berry Berry” in Lithuanian. We still use a lot of berries in our products!

What were some roadblocks/issues that you have faced? How have you prevailed?

When we looked more deeply into the project of opening up our business, some serious hindrances occurred. In Lithuania, not like in some other countries, you can’t produce cosmetics in your kitchen and sell it- you need to have proper manufacturing facilities. Then of course recipe safety assessments, laboratories, and other regulations. Well, it helped that we were not afraid of hard work and we coped with all this stuff somehow. Sometimes, I still wonder how we didn’t quit in the beginning. When we set up the proper manufacturing, we started selling directly to our friends, friends of friends and in our online shop. But when we decided to open our first real shop, no shopping mall would take us. “We don’t know you and we don’t believe you can pull it through”- they’d say. Now, in 10 years we have 7 our own shops and some shopping malls call us themselves to ask us in. But that was not the case when we started.

What is one of your favourite products? Can you tell us more about this product?

I daily use around 10-15 Uoga Uoga products, including skin care, hair care and make-up. I change some of the creams from time to time. Same with shampoos. But the product, which I can’t imagine myself without and that I’m definitely sticking with is our Mineral Foundation Powder “Linden Honey” SPF 15. My skin is a little problematic, so this foundation with white amber helps my skin tone to look more even without creating a mask effect. It looks totally natural (and actually is certified 100% natural) and it lets my skin breath thought the day. White amber powder is known for its anti-bacterial effect, so I believe that it helps some of my skin irritations heal faster.

What are your favourite ingredients and why?

When you read some books about herbs, it may seem that every one of them is super healing, but it should be true that some of them are more potent than others. My personal belief is that the best healing berry is sea-buckthorn. I use it in the form of oil mixing it to other oils to help the skin calm down and I believe it helps small wounds heal faster. Best herb for me is calendula- I make my own infused oil and add it to salves or cold creams. Favourite oil for dry skin – unrefined shea butter. Of course, you need to mix it with other liquid oils, like jojoba- another of my favourites, for the ease of use, but it helps combat the dry skin patches and soften the skin.

Share your brand ethos and how you demonstrate credibility as it relates to your formulation and ingredients

Our most important value is that we produce safe natural or organic cosmetics. Most of our products are already certified by Soil Association with Cosmos Organic or Cosmos Natural standards, including our makeup cosmetics, which is quite rare when we talk about decorative products. Not only do we select the best natural ingredients, we also ensure that our packaging is as sustainable as possible. We are switching more and more to glass packaging, when possible. We’ve also launched re-usable shampoo bottles in some of our shops and are now working on the refillable packaging for our mineral powders. Uoga Uoga is always cruelty- free: we don’t test on animals, 99% of our cosmetics is vegan, the only animal derived ingredient used being the beeswax in some of our products, but we try to switch to vegan alternatives in the nearest future. Uoga Uoga is always true- it’s not a business for us, it’s more of a lifestyle. That’s why we never launch products which may be commercial but we don’t believe in (like sheet-masks, which create so much waste). We also try to bring some positive vibe into our products, I’m sure you can feel our team’s character in our playful packaging and product names.

What are some myths in the clean/green beauty sector that should be debunked?

I think telling that natural cosmetics is not as effective as conventional one is a myth of the past. Every year we find new natural active ingredients on the market that are really effective, and those are used in the natural formulae. Natural cosmetics is not just clay and oil anymore. We are out of the cavemen period and we venture with new but still safe innovations, like beta-glucans, hyaluronic acid, phytosterols and other great ingredients- all natural and allowed in organic certified products.

Many natural cosmetics companies don’t venture into make-up area. How do you manage to combine both skin care and decorative cosmetics?

Well, that’s true that natural make-up is totally different area. But we figured that most of the natural girls still want to put some make-up everyday or maybe on some special occasions. There’s no reason why not to try a safe and healthy alternatives to the synthetic make-up. That’s why we try to keep up with fashion and along with mineral powders, we also have some on-trend products, such as highlighters, glowy primer, micellar water and lips& cheeks tints.

Thank you Lena Sokolovska for sharing your powerful story behind Uoga Uoga Your dedication for creating top quality products that are kind to the earth and kind to people is absolutely inspiring!

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