Jennifer Revello: a clean break from the run-of-the-milled
No matter how successful you are in a position you were hired for, you’ve got to admit there has to have been at least one occasion where you’ve asked yourself if you could work just as hard but reap something more valuable than a pay cheque above and beyond financial independence. What if you could start with a clean slate and go the entrepreneurial route?
Although the idea of starting off from zero can stop some people in their tracks, Jennifer Revello acknowledged her fears, the economy at the time, and the value of self-care before it became “a thing”, and moved forward anyway.
In her case, connecting with her future husband and, later, meeting his family—soap artisans in Occitania, France—put the New Jersey-born, Uruguay-bred executive onto something that prompted her to clean up her professional act and go into business to create something that would empower everybody to slow down, smell the roses (or whatever other botanical was used for soap) and wash the troubles of the day away.
‘When I first visited France and met his family, I not only fell in love with the process of making these amazing soaps, but using them to bring the south of France lifestyle into North American homes,’ Revello explains. ‘While Averal soaps are still made in the same traditional way since the 1800s, and passed down to my husband’s family, my soaps blend those traditional ingredients and techniques with fragrances appealing to the modern palate. As Averal translates to authentic, genuine, natural and original, it was the perfect name as I wanted to create a company with products that embodied those values.’
Jennifer, who returned to the US at 18 after spending most of her childhood in Montevideo, never dreamed her future would lie in the past. Like others in her generation, she was raised to believe that hard work in the corporate world would lead to living the definition of career success, working for a well known company and climbing the corporate ladder. However, that changed in 2007, starting when she met her husband, and continuing when he convinced her that she had what it took to open her own business on her terms.
‘I believe one reason why we are seeing more women entrepreneurs than ever is that more women want to call their own shots, and be more involved in politics, in leadership, in running things rather than just earning a pay cheque and having others reap the rewards,’ she says. ‘Women bring a different perspective to the market-place, to lead with vulnerability, to make it our strength, to empower and protect at the same time, to bring a sensibility that is sometimes inaccessible when we are dealing with just male leaders. Building and maintaining a business filling a certain niche ensures you never stuck in an impossible situation because of a financial reason.’
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Jennifer Revello: It’s a story that blends my career with my personal life and always reminds me of how serendipitous life is. Every year, I participated in the trade markets in New York and bring my soaps there. At this point, I had been trying to get pregnant for over two years and I found out I was pregnant at the same market in Central Park where I had met the father of my son years before. Some might call it coincidence, but I call it providence.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting, and what was the lesson you learned from that?
Back in 2009, I was trying to build my website and I decided to look on Craigslist for resources. I found someone who was willing to do it for less money than other quotes I got, and since I didn’t have a lot of money as I was just starting my business, I decided it would be a good idea to work with him. I was so trusting, and I didn’t even think twice when he requested a $300 cash deposit. Unfortunately, he ended up taking the money and disappearing. I not only learned a valuable business lesson, but I also decided to learn how to build it myself. It may not have been the most pleasant experience, but since then, no matter what obstacle comes my way, I know I will find a solution for it. I also learned to surround myself with people I can trust.
Based on your experience being taken advantage of by your first web designer, what is advice you can offer other entrepreneurs about how to properly vet and evaluate service providers, red flags and where to look and not to look?
I don’t think there is a magic formula for this. It is an individual process that we all have to go through to learn. You need to make mistakes in order to learn, with the years and good and bad experiences you start to learn to read people better. The advice I will have an I wish I would have implemented before is to always follow your gut feeling. If something doesn’t feel right listen to the sign your body is sending to you.
What was it about the way your husband’s family soap business operated above and beyond the product that informed your decision to start your company for both yourself and the well-being of others?
On our second trip to the south of France, I met his family who are in the soap business and got to experience all the scents and flavours of Provence. There was something so magical about the fields of lavender and the triple-milled soaps, the fact that they were using the same production process from centuries ago … I saw the pride, dedication and love they were putting into making it. In that moment I realized this was something special. I knew I wanted to bring that experience back to the US with me and introduce it to others.
What were the most surprising things you learned about both artisanal and commercial soap while you were going through the learning process of hand-crafting soap?
Just like in fine cuisine, there is a difference between a frozen burger and a burger made from scratch with organic ingredients. It’s not different with soaps, as the dedication put into artisanal soaps and the ingredients make a difference on the experience you get from the moment you hold the bar in your hands. You smell it and most importantly the impact that [it] makes on your skin over time. Just like with what we eat and put into our bodies, I learned the importance of taking care of our skin.
Was there anybody during the learning process of crafting soap or building a business who was like a mentor to you, and in what ways?
I can’t say I have just one mentor. I am fortunate enough to have many amazing people in my life. But when it comes to business there are two people who in different moments had been game-changers. While my husband gave me the courage to build my own business, my dear friend, Martín Díaz, has not only been there for me in my lowest lows and in my highest highs, but he’s also believed in me and encouraged me even when I had almost lost faith in myself. He’s one of those kind people who’s been a mentor, a friend, a confidant, a business adviser, and has somehow always managed to have the best response to every question I had for him or any situation I’ve encountered.
Who are you mentoring these days to pay it forward, and in what other ways are you giving back?
I like to help the women in my life. I have some friends who are starting their own business, and I have offered to advise them and guide through the process. My goal is to help as many women as possible to conquer their dreams and become financially independent.
Where do you see your business and small businesses like yours heading in the next decade, and why?
I think during the current pandemic, we were all forced to stop and take a moment to look inside. One thing that came out of all this for many people is the importance of self-care. I believe businesses that are focused on well-being can be very successful as people recognize the psychological and physical need for it. However, social media has been a game-changer. Online businesses are here to stay, and there are many opportunities and space for many creative people to start something new.