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"Locally Owned” is a regular column highlighting local business owners — the backbone of our community and economy. The column explores the personal stories of the owners and the businesses they built.
With feet rooted in contrasting cultures, Monica Hall’s life pattern has been to tread different paths and seek to find a balance between them. In her newest endeavor, the Monica Hall Spa Collection of organic skin care products, Monica has found the perfect synthesis.
Born in Canada, and half-Native American Cree, Monica was uprooted from her family in the “scoop” of the 1950s and ‘60s, when Native American children were taken from their homes and placed with non-Native American families to ostensibly improve the children’s impoverished lives. The “Indian Adoption Project,” administered by the Child Welfare League, was eventually renounced because of a multitude of detrimental effects on the children, their families and tribal culture.
Monica was adopted by a family in Alaska who later moved to California, where Monica embraced the California lifestyle. She became enamored with the beauty industry, worked as a makeup artist and skin care expert for Chanel and launched brands for luxury retailers Neiman Marcus and I. Magnin.
She also taught in cosmetology schools, mentoring students about skin care and job search skills.
Monica always had a yearning to connect to her biological family, and at age 22 began an arduous search for them. She located them in Canada and was thrilled to find that she had a huge family.
“It felt like I had known them forever,” says Monica.
With her newfound family, she also discovered her Native American heritage. Her great-auntie Terry came to Monica’s Carmichael home and taught her about Cree healing traditions and herbology. Monica soaked up her auntie’s teachings and expanded her knowledge to include essential oils and the mood-changing properties of aromatherapy.
Simultaneously, Monica was becoming established in a new career path in corporate advertising. She enjoyed success in the industry working for Fortune 500 companies.
Monica took time off from her job to raise her son and daughter. During this time, she realized that both her children had skin allergies and other health issues, but weren’t able to take antibiotics or use commercial skin care products for relief. Monica redoubled her natural healing studies and added homeopathy to her arsenal to help them heal. Monica found the tools very powerful, “like magic.”
With her newly acquired knowledge, Monica started making natural products for Christmas gifts. She experimented in her kitchen, making a lip balm that would give true relief. Her husband designed labels for the balm tubes. In the 1990s she ventured into soaps, including Cassia Clove, an all-natural aromatherapy herbal soap of cinnamon and clove.
As both her expertise and customer interest grew, Monica created her own company Plantlife Inc. to be a pioneer in the natural products industry. She served as its CEO and eventually sold the company in 1999.
In 2007 Monica returned to the personal care industry. Drawing on her lifetime of experience, she began creating a line of anti-aging skin products.
While developing her new products, she consulted the Environmental Working Group reports, which analyze cosmetics ingredients, and learned that many personal care products in the U.S. contain carcinogens and other toxins. To ensure that her products were natural and safe, she sought out a eco-friendly chemist, and together they developed all-natural, plant-based products.
Monica says that her anti-aging products address seven signs of skin aging and do so in a formulation that uses only healthy and safe ingredients. Her products are Certified Vegan, organic and sustainable, aromatherapeutic, 100 percent pure and leave a minimal carbon footprint from their production.
Natural products are gaining in popularity. Kline & Company, a consulting and research firm, reports that the market for natural personal care products experienced global double-digit growth during 2005-2010. Between 2009 and 2010, the U.S. market grew by 12 percent.
Monica notes that many “natural” products contain synthetic and petroleum ingredients that “work against the body’s natural rhythms and can actually accelerate aging.” She designed her line to be all-natural, healthy and highly effective.
She feels strongly about educating the public about product safety, and provides extensive background information about all her products. Her blog contains longevity, wellness, beauty and cosmetic safety information.
Her collection includes toners, cleansers, masque, and moisturizers and a TheraDermic delivery system that reaches the basal cell level. Monica says that her bestselling item is “The Organic Face Lift,” a phyto firming masque. The product description says that the masque tightens and firms facial muscles and minimizes fine lines and wrinkles.
The Monica Hall Spa Collection was launched in 2012 and is already drawing international attention. Monica says that she has been contacted by Ed Begley Jr. of the “Living With Ed” TV show, and by the producers of Lifetime’s “Balancing Act” to discuss showcasing her products.
In addition, a new web shopping platform has just launched, backed by the world’s second largest Internet company Rakuten. The platform, called VAULT, describes itself as “the world’s first boutique marketplace” that eliminates the middleman and allows shoppers to interact directly “with the most exclusive, sought-after designers and brands.”
Monica says that her Monica Hall Spa Collection will participate in VAULT. She notes that she is in the process of creating her HD video and storefront for the site. Monica is excited about the venture because the site will have great exposure and will only feature “unbelievable niche brands and cool products that have a story.”
Monica sees her company as becoming a “pre-eminent provider of luxury personal care, longevity and wellness-related products.” As her brand takes off, she will ramp up production and increase her outreach, including appearances on TV networks and at red carpet events at the Grammys and Emmys. She welcomes inquiries from investors.
The many paths that Monica has taken in her life seem to have led her to this unique place of balance, where her interests and expertise in beauty, natural ways, education, business and advertising all converge into the brand that is Monica herself.
Monica Hall Spa Collection products can be purchased at her website or at select spas. Plantlife Inc. body care products are sold at Whole Foods and the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. In addition, her Facebook page (Monica Hall Spa) contains beauty tips and tricks and information about cosmetic safety.