In this interview you get 2-in-1 so it is a bit longer than usual. But I really urge you to take a few minutes to read it all - and get moved, amused and inspired by the founders behind RÅ Organic Skincare.
I met Torhild and Amanda quite recently. As We Are Now had just been taken in by the department store Illums Bolighus in Oslo and was planning a launch event. My event partner itsHappening went on a site visit and told me excitedly about a possible collaboration with another Illums brand, Rå Organic skincare for our AW:AN lounge. Meeting the mother and daughter founding team behind this Norwegian produced skincare brand turned out to be the highlight of the launch day for me. I knew I had met new friends.
Not only is it rare to meet a young mother and daughter founding team, but even more rare to meet two women with such warmth, humour, wisdom, determination and openness - in business as in life.
Read about the RÅ story, the sacrifices Torhild and her family made on the journey to create their company, and fall in love with them, as well as with their amazing products.
Name: Torhild Næss & Amanda Næss
Age: 51 & 30 year old
Residence: Gjøvik & Bergen
Self proclaimed title:
Torhild: Entrepreneur and founder of RÅ Organic Skincare
Amanda: Co-founder of RÅ Organic Skincare and an all rounder. I do a bit of everything in the company, but stay away from numbers and accounting.
How many hours a week do you work?
It is hard to give an exact answer to this as it varies a lot from week to week and year to year. Let me put it this way: I have a job that I really love to do, also in my spare time. So many of the hours I spend working don´t feel like working. For example, I have been working on two projects since January that have demanded 12-15 hours work, days and evenings, with the odd day off for family time. But it doesn´t exhaust me. Only my eyes get tired. I think need to get some glasses soon…
My regular hours are between 8am-4pm. In addition I happily do extra evening work, especially in the winter time. In the summer I tend to step out of my work modus to spend more time out in nature with my family.
How much sleep do you get (per night on average)?
I rarely manage more than 7 hours a night, but I always try to get at least that. Without a proper night sleep I become inefficient and scatterbrained!
A minimum of 8 hours a night. I depend on a lot of sleep and often go to bed early.
How do you relax? What´s your instant relaxation trick?
In the spring, summer and autumn I hike up in the mountains around the city of Bergen. I hike alone, with one of my daughters or with a friend. After a hike I feel completely relaxed, which is extremely important to me and also helps me to sleep better at night.
I am a coach potato! All winter, you will find me happily spending time on the couch with my family. We are a family of ”cuddlers”!
I am also lucky to have the forest as my closet neighbour. In the summer you´ll find me most relaxed in the woods or in our garden. We spend a lot of our time picking berries, gardening and enjoying time with our three hens.
What´s your favourite failure (perhaps something that seemed like a failure at the time by actually lead to positive changes)?
I started a soap store in 2002 and thought I would conquer the world with a soap store chain. My soaps cost on average 39 NOK ($4.5) and we had approximately 11 customers, so I had to close down the shop in a haste after only 4 months. By this time I had lost 1,5 mill NOK ($172,4k) that I did not have. This mistake made me start developing what I today consider my livelihood. It was an expensive mistake, but I wouldn´t be without it.
Cooking soaps also gave me a severe perfume allergy. This is the reason why I chose to focus my attention on allergy friendly skincare. It was yet another very expensive failure that actually almost killed me, but I would not be without it either.
Hmmmm…. Tough one. Generally, in the company, adversity has always led to good things and positive development. My mum will have a lot to say about this :)
How do you manage your life/work balance?
Suddenly I find myself with older children. My youngest is now 17. Only a year ago when they were younger, my life seemed much more stressful. Thankfully my type of work meant I could take time off in the day and compensate by working nights.
All in all I´ve done my best, and that has to be good enough.
My kids force me to keep a good balance between work and play. Without them I would have worked too much for sure. Tough prioritising is key as an entrepreneur. Some things just have to go. Letting go of time-wasters such as personal Instagram and snapchat accounts have been easy choices, freeing up a lot of time.
Making sure we have days without plans in our calendar has also been important for our family. I love weekends and weekdays with nothing scheduled.
What´s your favourite time in the day and why?
Torhild: I am most definitely a morning person. I love early mornings around 7am, when I find myself the most focused and creative. Whenever I manage to start my day early I get lots done.
I am a true morning person too. This is when I am the most efficient.
What decisions have you made as an adult that has positively changed your life?
The most life changing and positive decision I´ve made was to become a mother at the age of 20, 31 and 33. At 33 I also chose to start my own company that was the start of what is now RÅ.
I think I´ve always pushed myself hard. And for a while after having a baby I worked out 5 days a week at the same time as I was becoming an entrepreneur. I also tried to find enough time for family and friends. It got to a point when I had to make a decision to be more happy with myself the way I am. Now I often tell myself: “So this is just how it is right now…”. I can now happily accept not having time for everything, and have become much better at saying NO to myself and to others.
What do you strongly believe?
I strongly believe that something that might appear to be totally lost or destroyed can be restored or rebuilt and perhaps take on a new form even stronger than the original one. Kintsukuroi is a Japanese artform meaning “to repair with gold”.
Strength in sisterhood. When we stand together we can achieve magical things.
What is your best recent purchase or investment?
I don´t buy much these days, and that´s fine with me. I have chosen to invest everything into my business as well as in invaluable life experiences like holidays and such. Come to think of it I do actually need a new fillet knife…
Paint! I recently painted our living room in the most beautiful green colour that is truly lovely to spend time in. We rarely paint (perhaps every 5 years) so it is important to find a colour we can live with. And this time we have definitely nailed it.
Something you can´t live without.
At the moment, my computer and mobil…
What is your favourite room in the house and why?
I am a coach potato. And the coach is in the living room, so…
You will find me in the bathtub at all times of the day and even in the night. If I wake up in the middle of the night and can´t sleep again perhaps because of an important meeting the next day or something like that, I almost always end up in the bathtub. This is where I recharge my batteries and energise myself. I allow for long uninterrupted thoughts or listen to a good podcast.
Who inspires you and why?
I am so easily inspired. But a specific example is when someone criticise a job that I´ve done. It allows me the opportunity to adjust and improve. My worst critics are my customers, my mother, my brother (he´ll never read this) and my girl Amanda (haha, she´ll read this). I´ll usually get quite upset after being criticised but then it sinks in and most often makes a lot of sense, resulting in new thinking and solutions. I love it…
My mother has a willpower and determination that inspires me so much. She has always put everything into what she believes in and it is so amazing to see that everything she has worked for the last 15 years is starting to pay off. She really deserves this success.