Beauty industry insider and entrepreneur Liana Blomquist, 32, had her “aha moment” in 2018 when she started getting back into gardening.
“I already had some basic knowledge, but it quickly became a passion, where I spent every minute of my free time tending to my plants,” she said. “During that same time, I was also seeing the alarming rate of new product launches out on the market that fed into the endless non-renewable and non-recyclable cycle,” she said.
Realizing that using reusable, sustainable and local ingredients was the best path forward, she had an awakening, literally.
“One night, I suddenly woke up and my head started spinning with ideas. I came to the realization that if I grew potent beauty botanicals on rooftops, I could merge my passions for beauty and gardening to help make New York City and the beauty industry greener and more beautiful places,” she said. “I didn’t sleep for the rest of that night and my head has been spinning ever since.”
From that germ of an idea, Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals was born, quickly blossoming into a passion where she spent “every minute” of her free time tending to and learning all about botanicals.
Blomquist started her career at Elizabeth Arden, later bought by Revlon, in 2012. Working in a marketing role in London, she helped launch celebrity fragrance lines from Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj, as well as designer fragrances such as Juicy Couture, John Varvatos, BCBG and Halston.
When she moved to New York City in 2015, she took on a global marketing and product development role for the Elizabeth Arden fragrance and skin care brands, launching some 30 products and winning global awards.
During that same period, she became more conscious of her beauty consumption habits, realizing she wanted to merge her passions for beauty with changing the way raw materials are farmed, processed and sourced in the beauty industry to help combat climate change.
“The personal care industry is still creating 120 billion units of plastic, of which only 9 percent will ever be recycled, and contributing to one-fifth of the world’s deforestation per year to produce soybean and palm oil — raw materials that are found in abundance in personal care products and sometimes guised under different names.”
She left Revlon in fall 2019, continuing to consult for them and a startup on the side until she was ready to debut Brooklyn Rooftop Botanicals this spring.
To date, it’s the city’s first rooftop beauty farm, spans over three rooftops (2,000 square feet) and grows over 50 botanicals from which to create extracts and beauty products.
“My mission is to show and educate how beauty botanicals can be farmed in an urban environment, so we can think more locally, sustainably and consciously when it comes to our beauty consumption habits,” Blomquist said.
At the moment, her Web site is an educational blog.
“I create content to help my audience learn how to grow, formulate and be more sustainable, so it generates advertising and affiliate revenue for me,” she said. “This year was the test year for the rooftop farm itself to make raw materials and then products out of the things I grow. The aim is to sell some of these products and then to further expand.”
Her days usually start with checks on her three rooftops (one is hers, two are by arrangements from friends), spread across Brooklyn, once or twice a week. A large chunk of her time is also spent on product development.
“Interestingly enough, my role is similar to what I was doing in my previous role at Revlon, it’s just that I’m concepting and developing products from seed to bottle on my own rooftop, effectively shortening the supply chain,” the founder and CEO said. “Once I harvest my botanicals, I dehydrate them and process them into my extracts. I then meet with my various product development team members to create simple yet efficacious products out of them.”
Creating her own biz has not been without speed bumps.
“When times are tough, you have to relook at your path, focus on the things you can do now, and go full force on them to keep moving you forward, even if they take you out of your comfort zone,” she said. “Before the pandemic, I didn’t care for social media because I didn’t want to deal with the repercussions of putting myself out there. Then the pandemic hit and a lot of my plans took a standstill, so I looked at how else I could gain awareness and TikTok was an avenue.”
For aspiring entrepreneurs, Blomquist stresses that it’s a literal jungle out there.
“To be a real change driver, you need to think about what’s happening in a social and economic sense, as well as look to the future to see what you can solve,” she said. “Being completely transparent and authentic is also the only way forward.”
To that end, Blomquist said it’s key to “have a long-term picture of what you want to do, and have it absolutely crystal clear in your mind, but be realistic about how you’re going to get there with achievable and measurable goals that start with right now.”
Other important advice for entrepreneurs?
“Know your strengths and find the people who can fill in your weakness gaps,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t do this alone, so I branched out and cold-called everyone in the industry to get any tips they might have to help get me to the next level. It’s sometimes just those 30-minute conversations that can really help you move the needle.”
Through it all, staying committed to your vision is paramount.
“Being afraid of the commitment, risks and reality of [running your own company] are all normal feelings to have when starting out, so know you’re not alone,” she said. “I myself had a lot of these thoughts when first starting, but I came to the conclusion that if I didn’t jump in fully, I would regret it.”