I’m back with another fun feature from my Women Who Inspire series. Today, I’m so excited to introduce you to Justine Kahn, the passionate and innovative founder and CEO of Botnia. I learned about Botnia’s organic, plant-based line of skincare when three separate friends called me to rave about it in the same week.
After trying out the line for myself, I could see why – the products feel amazing on your skin, smell lovely, and are formulated from organic, natural botanicals and extracts, many of which are grown on Justine’s own local farm! I also really appreciate that Botnia, offers refills for their packaging so their bottles can be a one-time purchase that you can reuse time and time again – which means less waste for the planet.
I spoke with Justine about taking career risks, how she fuels her creativity, and her actual morning routine. The full scoop is straight ahead…
Q. The most valuable career advice you’ve ever been given?
“You are exactly where you need to be.” I love this advice because we are in a culture of go go go, and growing a business feels just like that. And so to know that I am exactly where I need to be and that my business is exactly where it needs to be—this simple thought takes the pressure off being somewhere else to allow for the learning of the moment, and lets me be present with the success I’m having now.
Q. Entrepreneur or leader you admire and why?
Katina Connaughton, farmer and founder of Single Thread Farm and Inn in Healdsburg. I admire her for so many reasons, but mainly because she’s following her dreams and her process. She is a farmer, flower artist, and visionary. She and her husband run a three-Michelin-star restaurant. The past few years in their area, they have seen floods, wildfires, and pandemics that have closed their restaurant temporarily, plus she moved farms. Still Katina is resilient and pushing forward with her vision, undeterred and yet present to the challenges that have risen. She has found ways to offer support to those in her communities, from feeding firefighters and first responders to working with local food rights organizations to nourish those who need nourishment. She’s truly an inspirational woman.
Q. A risk you took that paid off?
Learning how to make my own skincare. I know that might seem obvious, but when I was opening my own spa I realized that I wasn’t finding skincare companies that had the skincare I wanted to use, and so I started taking classes and invested in raw ingredients and created what is now Botnia Skincare. I had no background in cosmetic science prior to making skincare, it’s just exciting to believe you can do it and then do it, you know?
Q. The thing you like most about yourself?
That I’m ambitious, and for some crazy reason, I’m not blocked by a fear of big dreams. My goal is to create skincare for my peers (estheticians) to use in treatment and skincare solutions for all. When I zoom way out in 20 years, I want Botnia to be the gold standard of skincare, and I think we will be. Every day, I get up more excited than before to push that dream forward.
Q. Proudest accomplishment?
Making and growing skincare that heals skin. The truth is, anytime our skincare has helped a human, I feel the proudest I possibly could. I feel so proud of the effective skincare we make daily.
Q. How do you fuel your creativity?
By creating an organized space to dream in my calendar. Through conversations with my community of estheticians and by working directly with my own clients in the treatment room and then applying those conversations to research in the plant world and the cosmetic science world. Through spending time in my garden with plants, nurturing them and then bringing them into my lab and finally applying all those pieces to a formulation that helps to heal the skin.
Q. Go-to daily uniform?
It truly depends on the day, but right now, I’m wearing a Gravel & Gold tie-dye sweatshirt from an artist in Marfa, Texas, and black leggings from Everlane with Wigwam socks, Birkenstock slide-ons, and a face mask from Baggu.
Q. Actual morning routine?
The first thing I do is wash my face with Botnia’s Gentle Cleanser, followed by our Rose Water Toner, then Hydration Serum and a new face balm (shhh) that I’m working on, and finally top it off with SPF on the top half of my face (since the lower half is covered by my face mask). Then I make a cup of coffee (I love coffee), and while it’s brewing, I drink a large glass of water with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon. I can walk to Botnia’s lab: it’s about a block and a half from my home, where we also have our micro-farm. It’s a pretty sweet setup.
Q. Earlybird or night owl?
Early bird. I love the mornings, they’re filled with energy and possibility. I’m wasted to the world after 8 pm, hahaha.
Q. How do you recharge when it’s all too much?
I love to take baths. I have an old clawfoot tub in my bathroom, so I’ll use our Relaxing Bath Salts, throw on a face mask, and zone out for 30 screen-free minutes. The other thing that recharges me is being with plants in my garden. The slow rhythms of time and the energy of the garden recharge my soul.
Q. One self care tip you follow religiously?
I eat organic food from the farmers’ market. Going to the market is the thing I do every Sunday, and I have relationships with the farmers that grow my food. It feels so nurturing to me to connect with the source of my food. And the most in-depth care I could offer my family.
Q. Your #1 go-to easy weeknight meal?
A simple salmon with herbs from our garden and locally grown brown rice with broccoli.
Q. Favorite snack or treat?
Pepperoncini! It’s weird, I get it . . . but you know I’m celebrating when I’m snacking on spicy foods haha. I love the sour and spice together. Such an epic combo!
Q. Favorite or most used app on your phone?
Instagram—follow me @botniaskincare. IG has helped me create the connections to launch my dreams. It allows me to communicate daily to those aligned with me. I also love the new features like Reels. It’s a fun way to express all the nuance in my business, from gardening tips to making skincare in our lab. It allows us to show the whole process of our handmade skincare.
Q. What’s in your handbag right now?
My handbag is just my phone; I have a Bandolier phone case that houses my credit cards and my phone, and that’s it. It allows me to be hands-free and minimal. In my opinion, less is almost always more.
Q. Sweatpants or real pants while on Zoom?
Real pants mostly, sometimes leggings.
Q. Digital or physical planner?
I’m all about Google Calendar since I share my calendar with so many. It’s been a hard adjustment for my dyslexic brain, but I feel like I’ve had a breakthrough recently and can see how having a digital calendar can offer so many tools for tracking projects that my daily planner didn’t. I do miss writing in a planner though.
Q. Favorite gift to give?
Skincare, flowers, or jewelry. My family has a gift store in Woodstock, Vermont called The Unicorn, so my love language is definitely gift giving. I love giving something that brings beauty into the home or an object of lust such as a beautiful necklace or skincare for a home ritual that will bring joy daily.
Q. Can’t live without beauty product?
Haha, I can’t pick just one, and it depends on the season and my skin. Right now Botnia’s Gentle Cleanser, Hydration Serum, Rose Water Toner, Clarity Oil, and the new balm I’m working on are the magic key to my hydrated and dewy complexion. In the summer months though, I switch it up because my skin isn’t as dry.
Q. Guilty pleasure?
Coffee, I love it so much. I know it’s dehydrating but I look forward to it every morning. Fun fact: I almost opened a coffee shop because of my love.
Q. Your favorite spot to retreat to in your home?
In the micro-farm, it’s just spectacular to be immersed in such beauty. We grow chamomile, rose, lavender, comfrey, sweet Annie, rose geranium, calendula, arnica, yarrow, rosemary, and sage. Especially in the spring, it’s a jaw-dropping experience and the most beautiful retreat.
Q. Anything fun coming up that we should know about?
Yes! We are working on an SPF and a face balm for release this year.
Thank you so much for the inspiration, Justine! You can learn more about Botnia, and treat yourself to some organic skincare that smells like fresh flowers, right here. My personal favorites are the daily face wash (so gentle!) and the hydrating serum which feels like a drink of water for parched skin.
Disclosure: I love spreading the word about small businesses I love. No affiliate links here.