Brandy Monique is a sort of “plant whisperer.” As the founder of Fig + Yarrow, an artisan line of small-batch organic health and vanity products, she spends much of her days transforming plants, minerals and oils into useful, handmade goods. We recently caught up with Brandy to learn more about how she turned her childhood passion for creating “beauty potions” into a lucrative career path.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING 7-10 YEARS AGO BEFORE FIG + YARROW?
BM: I was living in a little cabin on Sugarloaf mountain, studying Contemplative Psychology and working as an independent color consultant (designing color schemes for homes and businesses).
IS FIG + YARROW YOUR DREAM JOB?
BM: It is in the sense that I got and continue to get exactly what I ask for (be careful…!). I think of it more as a project than a job though. I tell my staff pretty regularly that we are a collaborative team working on this project together. I may be directing the theater of FIG+YARROW, but we are all equally valuable in our contributions. As a career choice, I consider it a sort of modality through which I can experience freedom, creativity, self-expression, play and just a general refining of myself as a human being. It challenges me daily and I (usually) enjoy that. If I don’t exactly enjoy it, I at least appreciate it. We all gotta be somewhere doing something and, for me, directing the theater of FIG+YARROW is the most fulfilling project I can imagine for now.
WHEN DID YOU HAVE YOUR “AH HA” MOMENT OF FIG + YARROW?
BM: I meditate daily and have for many years now (thanks Buddhist University for making it a requirement). Prior to meditation one day, I’d asked that Greater Knowing/Higher Wisdom/Universe… for guidance. I wanted to know how I might combine all of my interests, skills and talents for the benefit of others. I also wanted abundant financial remuneration, of course. It was a clear and simple question. I just put it out there, let it go and cleared my mind for meditation. Barely 2 seconds later it all flooded in with great detail: the name, packaging, what other projects would follow… That was the Ah Ha! moment for me. It’s pretty compelling when you get such a clear directive like that. And it was literally “you are going to…” over the sort of fluttering in of what I call butterfly inspiration (when you have your net and you’re sort of catching these nice little ideas). Anyway, I got up from my cushion then and there, registered the domain and got to work!
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THIS BUSINESS CONCEPT AND DID YOU HAVE ANY EXPERIENCE IN IT PRIOR?
BM: It was one of those things where you’re looking for something that’s been right in front of you the whole time. At the time F+Y occurred to me, I had every intention of starting a private therapy practice and writing as my career path. Through a series of events that involved shamanic journeying, more guiding voices in the head during meditation and a transformative Herbalism class where I presented FIG+YARROW as my final thesis… I basically found myself full circle where I was as a kid, communing with plants, collecting gems and minerals and making my beauty potions. I’ve been an entrepreneur since the age of 8 so I’ve always found a way to make whatever I enjoy doing into an income generating opportunity. The first F+Y sales I made, actually, were right after my sales pitch thesis presentation. I came prepared. Why not, right?
HOW DID YOU FUND YOUR START UP?
BM: That first round of thesis presentation products was essentially funded by student loan money. By graduation I was as broke as it gets with nearly $70k in student loans I’d have to start paying very soon after. So I was pretty motivated. There were no small business or friends/family loans available for me nor credit cards (bad idea anyway) so I moved out of my place, put my little apothecary laboratory in storage and started housesitting to save on rent. I did as many color consultations and house painting jobs I could cram into one summer until I’d saved enough to get into a new place and build it out for business.
NAME 3 OF THE SCARIEST MOMENTS YOU HAD WHEN DOING THIS.
BM: In a very humbly begun ground up business like this, started from mostly passion and tenacity and a few bucks, it’s like trapeze act without a net. And that alone can be pretty scary.
It’s funny for such a highly anxious person to say, but I don’t experience much fear over what might happen or that things might not pan out with this business. I feel like I’m the one in charge here. I manifested this vision and I can turn things around or manifest solutions and transmute negative situations into positive. When disaster and extreme challenges strike, as they have many times, I actually get a little excited now because I know it’s providing the ground for an even better situation to emerge from. When things get really tough, I get more clear, focused and present and the way beyond it eventually becomes clear. I know more and more that I can trust in myself and my own power to create solutions out of problems. It’s all about being a skillful transmuter. I learned from Aikido how to use an aggressor’s aggression to immobilize them. You can literally flip someone onto their back with almost no effort by redirecting their own energy. By willingly engaging from a place of love you can transmute any challenging force or situation. I wrote my final psych thesis on Psychospiritual Alchemy which was about the messy and often dramatic art of self transmutation that is the process of emerging as our highest self. We all get ground down, burnt, purified and resurrected over the course of our lives. It’s part of the deal here. When you stand back and can appreciate it all as part of there process, there’s no real reason to fear anything.
All that said… I was in a bit of a panic when I got a very large order from Anthropologie after having just posted my shop on Etsy the month before. And there was that voice again one day saying a specific employee was going to destroy the business. And with a short time she did, but it came back like Lazarus from the dead. It did feel pretty over for a time though and that was a little scary. When I think about it, there have been many times when I could see no light at the end of the tunnel, but that’s when you allow your own light to guide you. It’s the really rough times that force you to call upon your inner Luke Skywalker and find out what kind of ninja magician you really are.
WHAT IS YOUR PIECE OF ADVICE TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO STOP WHAT THEY’RE DOING AND CREATE THEIR “DREAM JOB”?
BM: Well, I’d first advise switching that around and create your dream job then make the change. I’d actually created F+Y in my mind well before that fateful meditation. In the meditation it was all very clear almost tangible in a tidy little package, but a foundation had already existed that was based on so much of my thoughts and feelings going toward the various aspects of what would eventually take form as this business. I worked at a similar business for a short time and thought constantly of how I would improve upon it in nearly every way. That was a lot of mental and emotional groundwork laid which is a huge investment already available to cash in on when you decide to take further action. Going back to those very earliest days in a sense. We’ve all been laying the groundwork for fulfilling careers or other life paths since early so I often tell people when asked where to find business ideas to look to what made them happiest as a kid. Then take steps toward it. Even little steps like I did with registering my domain name first. Then getting business licenses and doing research on herbs, natural preservation, packaging, legal stuff, etc, etc all between research for school papers and working on my color consultation business. I don’t consider myself the most cautious person, but I also don’t try to eat fruit before it’s ripe. If that makes sense. Take your time, commit to cultivating your vision and knowledge about what you’re embarking on and keep fanning get passion then leap when it’s right. I highly recommend savoring the vision and what you imagine it will bring to your life before taking any great leaps because it can get real challenging from there. And it’s the vision that is the step before actual manifestation. I wouldn’t build anything without a very strong foundation of clear vision first.