Support Local: Alma Aromatherapy
June 30, 2017Dominique Stewart
In person, Victoria Serra is the equivalent of inhaling a handful of peppermint essential oil that’s been massaged into one’s palms after a long day: a jolt of bliss that is both refreshing and calming. Even when talking about the bleakness in current events or how futile it can be to try and level with someone whose main intention is to be a troll, Serra remains poised and full of gentle, unrelenting sincerity as if dosed in an oil blend of lavender and chamomile. Though it’s not hard to subscribe with her “all is well, ignore the fire” vibe when the cure-all–if only temporary–elixir to the ways of the world is pressed in a simply designed roller, waiting to wipe away the weariness from your temples.
I talked with Serra, who along with her sister, have started Alma Aromatherapy, a skincare company dedicated to nourishing the body and perserving the planet by means of mediation, sustainable living, and essential oils.
What do you do and why?
I started this aromatherapy business with my sister, actually it hasn’t even been a year yet. I want to bring back essential oils to everyday life. I want people to start using them again. They’ve been in use for thousands of years, but once things started to get mass produced, they kind of took a step back because they’re more expensive than other things. People wanted to buy the easier option but now we’re going through this time where people are actually caring more about what they buy and what they use, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to bring them back. I’ve always been in the wellness world ever since I was little. Subconsciously, I’ve been into those things. There’s an essential oil for everything: meditation, eating well, [and] yoga. Essential oils are all one.
They’re kind of a hidden gem.
Yeah, when I first started to used them it was because I wanted my house to smell like a spa and [have] that “aaa” (Paolo: is that the proper spelling?) feel. I thought it was just the smell, but if you think about it, that’s what they do. Lavender gives that “aaa” feel, it’s so relaxing. then I did the research and learned about them and became really obsessed with them.
Yeah. I wanted to start making my own because I have an herb garden with some mint and rosemary, but seems like a tedious process.
With essential oils you need basically a distillery and a whole room of lavender just to make a small bottle. I do this with my sister [who] has her own garden where she grows all the stuff, and she wanted us to make our own oils. I’m like, “Gaby that’s not possible!” That’s why we have another project called Alma Ascend, and that project is a little more herbal, made from things that you can find here in Miami.
my sister found hibiscus so we dried it and used it to make tea. that’s the fun part that my sister enjoys, where I have fun doing more of the essential oils.
How did you guys come up with the name Alma?
Honestly, I came up with some stupid name because I was trying so hard to come up with a name. I made 100 Instagram accounts, and then my sister’s friend, Patricia who does all our branding, is like “my sister in Argentina was going to do something similar and was going to name is Alma, you can use it.” At first I felt bad, but it was perfect. Alma means “soul” in Spanish.
Memory is often tied with our senses, and with you guys dealing with scents, is there a memory you associate with a certain smell?
Rose. I remember my grandma would bring me these rose candies that at first I was like, “ew candies made out of rose” but every time i smell [rose] it brings me back to those times. and I just bought a soap Sakura soap that is made from roses and I had to buy it for my grandma because I associate rose with her.
Do you and your sister have familial ties to herbalism?
Without us knowing, we actually do. I remember my grandma has always been into herbal medicine. so i remember when we were little, everytime we wanted water, we had to check to see if it was actual water and not herbs and tinctures because more than once we would drink out of it. growing up we didn’t realize, but when we started my grandmas was like, “yes, I have these books you guys can use.”
What are some tips you’d give someone who is starting their essential oil journey?
If you don’t know how to incorporate it, start by getting a diffuser and put a few drops of oil. I feel like once you do one thing, it opens the door for you. Or you can buy a roll-on, which we make that I use as perfume. Now I can’t wear perfume because it’s too strong for me. But like I said, once you start with the oils it opens the doors, [so] you’ll start doing yoga and then start drinking water and eating healthy. Something as simple as replacing perfume with lavender oil will open the doors to the rest. Really it’s the same with anything. When you take that first step, everything else will follow.
We’ve become so dependent on companies taking care of us, often in ways that have adverse effects to us.
Exactly. If you have the option, and nowadays we have so many, to do something that is going to be healthy for you instead of using a lotion that has chemicals when you can use almond oil with essential oils that is organic and all natural that would do the same thing, which one would you choose? Why would you chose the one that’s gonna harm your biggest organ. If you can chose better, why not. It’s just realizing that you have options. This applies to local businesses and shopping small in general, if you can buy a shirt from someone who made it or buy it a big retail brand, why wouldn’t want to support the person who spent so much time and effort to make that shirt.
I just moved into a new apartment, and all my furniture is from local businesses like Grove & Anchor. I got into pottery, so my bowls are by me or my teacher. and I buy my soap from someone who made it, instead of going to the supermarket. There’s somethings that are out of your control, but for the things that you can, you realize that Miami has so many options. It feels nice to buy it from the person. It’s personal. you’re actually helping someone. Every time someone buys from us, it’s like a step closer for me to do what I love.
Learn more about Alma Aromatherapy here.
This is a piece in our series spotlighting small businesses part of our Support Local initiative.