O&N Collective Business Spotlight

TGW Business Spotlight - O&N Collective

We recently got a chance to sit down and have a great chat with O&N Collective, an online sustainable beauty, grooming and wellness apothecary featuring the very best in organic and natural products for living well. Founder and CEO Michelle Witherby opened about the excitement, passion and deep-down reasons for her successfully good business. Find the interview below and don't forget to read all about the good O&N Collective infuses into their business by checking out their TGW profile


- Why sustainable beauty products? What were the key reasons that led you to start this particular type of company?

At the time of O&N Collective’s conception, I was at a very precarious place in my life. A place of huge transition – personally, professionally, emotionally, physically (suffering from lymphocytic colitis) … I was at a spiritual crossroads.  In hindsight, many wouldn’t normally consider that time to be a breeding ground for creation or inspiration – but putting my attention into creating a business that was surrounded in goodness, one that uplifts, fulfils and empowers seemed just the thing that my spirit aligned with. In many ways to help others live well, be happy and healthy, I was in-turn helping my own self through the process. Guiding others to love themselves more by treating their bodies better, helped me to fall back in love with my body and soul. Throughout this entire journey I have stayed the ever present teacher and student, all wrapped into one. It’s been a very real, raw, beautiful, love-inspired journey.

Cultivating and having beauty in life should be ritualistic. And happiness and wellness is our birth right. Launching an apothecary that was a home to beauty and personal care products was very much me reconnecting to the little girl inside who made perfume from roses and wild flowers in my home state of North Carolina. Who then grew up to moon-light in the evenings and weekends working for Aveda, and traveled to Amsterdam numerous times to revel and buy out inventory of products from one of my favourite stores at the time, Rituals, (which I commissioned to buy into a franchise to bring them to the States back in the early 2000’s). Even though I had a successful career in a very different industry – I dreamt of the day of having my own apothecary space of beauty and wellness. The time finally came – however the caveat being that due to my own personal transitions in life and taking more responsibly for my lifestyle and accountability for what I put into my body and overall health, O&N Collective had to reflect this as well; safe, effective and earth conscious.

- We were really intrigued at how the city of Asheville, NC and its surrounding area and environment have such an impact on your business. Can you dive into that a bit for our readers?

With pleasure! Even though our team primarily resides in the Big Apple, Asheville is where our HQ’s lives and breathes. We feel that anyone who lives in a place where “natural elements” surround you permanently, meaning you don’t have to search them out, can attest to the constant flow of positively and aliveness that atmosphere can provide. I have been an ocean dweller my entire life – but can say that living here amongst the mountainous terrain, is a beauty that surpasses many.

A lifestyle of wellness reigns supreme here. Our community and city understands why we are doing what we are doing, why our mission for non-toxic products matters so much. Communing in nature, living off the land, supporting local businesses are all at the core of what Asheville is about. As quoted by one of our local journalists, Caitlin Baird, “To the Cherokee, Western North Carolina was a place for healing; to late 19th- and early 20th-century physicians, it was the place for a cure. Today, amid a boom in complementary and alternative therapies, WNC’s mountains, birthed from rock and earth, remain inextricably linked to wellness. And like the Land of the Sky’s silent sentinels, the story of how the Asheville area became a 21st-century wellness hub begins with a natural phenomenon.” This says so much about the energy and intention that is here and will continue to grow and flow through our person and business more, each and every day.

- How do you determine what products and brands to sell within the O&N umbrella?

Through our unique curation process, our apothecary brings the very best in organic, natural and sustainable products that are as good for you as they are for the planet. Self-care products that help create beauty and grooming as ritual and self-healing, while in tandem meeting our criteria of: social responsibly, ingredient transparency, purity (non-toxic), performance, sustainable manufacturing processes, and mostly women owned/operated. A collective of small companies doing amazingly big things. We are big fans and supporters of artisian brands and are looking forward to bringing more on board, the 2nd generation of O&N Collective.

- A majority of brands you work with are products of women-owned businesses. Can you describe briefly the benefits of a strong network like this behind your brand and business?

We want to bring back the power of grace. To capture the essence in life, one in which is about living well, in harmony and in commune with nature, and treating ourselves, and others, in turn well. It’s so important in life to support each other, especially women to women. This passion is a light we want to shine through our business and personal lives, for one woman’s success should encourage another.

There is a quote we love and I have pinned to my inspiration board “Girls compete with each other. Women empower one another.” I was raised as an athlete and participated in sports throughout my life. I felt the thrill and edge to compete and win, but that was in the pool or on the court … in life however, in the personal realm, I felt always equal. Never above anyone, yet never below. It confused and perplexed me how often women tore another woman down. Squelching her spirit or wanting another to play small in essence not to play the bigger role and rise above her own self – yet at the same time, these same women felt very much undervalued by society, men, media, etc. It was an oxymoron, how can you expect something of value and kindness to be attracted to you, when you don’t posses nor reflect it yourself? So I never subscribed to it. Luckily I had amazing parents, family and friends that supported this instinctual feeling, and hence exalted my individuality. In addition, I am humbled greatly to have a village of fabulous women (and men) today that help facilitate these same feelings and beliefs. The reason I share this very personal aspect of my life is because as the founder of O&N Collective I knew first and foremost that working with fellow women would be a calling to me; women with integrity, who are authentic, genuine, and sincere. Women who believe that in helping others this isn’t a method to exploit someone’s search for wellness and optimal health, but a part of their larger purpose in life and personal mission as well. Women how are prepared to be a part of something bigger. “The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within – strength, courage and dignity” as Ruby Dee says. This pretty much sums up the women, businesses and brands we align with. And not to forget the amazing men behind our men’s brands  – we adore our lads!

- Are there examples in which you work with or gain inspiration and ideas from other businesses or organizations?

Yes – all the time.  We find inspiration at every turn in our daily lives. From the local grocery co-op we buy our goods from to being a “culture creator” in which O&N facilities yoga, meditation, prayer, and giving back to organizations that speak to us, you’ll see in our bio that there are many, … to an amazing “point system” our VP of Branding, Michele Barge, uses to record her daily intake of organic, whole and pure foods and products – we find inspiration in every day – and beauty is all around us, it never leaves our side, we just simply have to look for it.

We keep our eyes wide open for inspiration from others as well. There’s an old adage that says “Nothing works until you do” when we see companies that are congruent with their mission and take action to do more in business and the world around us – we are on board. They ARE our inspiration. There is a fear in this society that doing more means showing up more, and that’s true yet not to be feared. We all are original and unique unto ourselves and there are companies out there making a difference for the consumer and for society as a whole. We are aligning and supporting with them every day – and it’s not about the next big shout out for a magazine feature, we are ride or die company that is truly committed to making a difference.

- Are there any specific "good" initiatives out there that you've really found yourselves drawn to, either as a business owner or a consumer?

We are deeply passionate about initiatives for full disclosure in the food we eat and the products we use on our skin and in our homes and spaces. As well as prevention and what steps we can begin today to protect and guard our bodies and the world around us, for a healthy and brighter tomorrow. Dis-ease is prevalent the world throughout, and prevention is at the core of what peaks our awareness and heightens our mission. Organizations such as EWG, Organic Consumers Association, Green America, Soil Association, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (support local agriculture everyone) help to keep us informed.  Connected to that – we are rooted in the belief in turning to nature to support our health and wellness.  I'm a big advocate and participant in foraging and using herbal remedies as a part of a healthy and holistic lifestyle – which will evolve into our first homesteading platform taking shape this Spring and Summer. Earth first!!

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