How often do you thank your feet for all the hard work they do ferrying you from place to place day after day? Probably not very often, if you’re like most people. But Harsha Menon, founder of Ambika Botanicals, is trying to change that with her line of handmade botanical oils.
“You’re taking care of something that supports you all day. It’s grounding and fun. You’re taking care of a neglected part of the body,” Menon said of using her Lavender Good Night Foot Oil.
Menon, who lives on the Cambridge/Somerville line, started Ambika Botanicals in 2007, but her experience with body care and home fragrance products began long before that. As a teenager, she worked at a few companies in the industry, learning the tools of the trade.
“I started making my own as I noticed many were no longer handmade,” Menon said. “I started giving them to friends and family and received good feedback to make our own line. People really started liking them.”
Menon hand blends all of the botanical oils using ingredients from small-scale farms that grow and harvest their plants in a certain way. She then stores and blends them to ensure that the life-force of the plant is preserved in the finished product. Ambika Botanicals products come in violet glass that shields and protects the oils to further increase the quality of the products.
Ambika Botanicals also focuses on giving back in socially responsible ways, such as supporting botanical gardens. And while Menon doesn’t source many of her ingredients from New England yet, she plans to connect with regional farms as her business grows.
“I really want to visit farms and create relationships with New England farmers,” Menon said. While Menon is relatively new to the area, she moved here two years ago to attend Harvard’s Divinity School, she has found locals very receptive to her products.
“I find that people are very, very open,” Menon said. “People are taking care of themselves. People are very sophisticated with what choices they make for their health. There’s a commitment to wellness in general.”
Menon’s products are deeply rooted in nature, Ambika means divine mother in Sanskrit, so customers can connect with the natural world by using them.
“The products really connect you to the earth. Our body is natural, of the earth. When you realize your connection, it can be a very corporeal, visceral thing,” Menon said.
Plus, she adds, “it’s fun to smell good!”
Among Ambika Botanicals more popular products are the above-mentioned Lavender Good Night Foot Oil; the Yoga Oil, which you put on before yoga or another form of exercise to help use your body more effectively; and the Custom Herbal Oils, which are made specifically for each customer.
“That’s one of my favorite products,” Menon said. “Everyone loves the Custom Herbal Oil. Everyone wants to know, “what am I in a bottle?'”
Ambika Botanicals also has a product specifically for men, Sandalwood Night Soother for Men, though everyone can use any of the products.
Right now, Menon is focusing on expanding her business through the Harvard Innovation Lab, where she is a long term resident along with many other small businesses.
“We’re all start-ups in different stages of growth,” Menon said. “You learn and grow from each other.”
As for the future, Menon hopes to get Ambika Botanicals into the hands of more health care workers, massage therapists and reflexologists. She’d also love to expand more into stores, spas and yoga studios (right now most sales come from the Ambika website).
And in her spirit of giving back, Menon wants to have a community component that reaches out to those in hospitals or elder care facilities.
“I’d love to bring it to a community that could benefit from the wellness aspect of it,” Menon said.
It makes sense that she’d want to give back, because her business has already given her so much.
“I’m so grateful that it’s gotten this far,” Menon said. “When you’re doing something that comes from the inside, you don’t look at the clock.”
Stop by Cambridge Healthworks (36 White Street, Porter Square) on August 14 from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. to purchase products.