Margot Elena: Her Message is Love
Colorado’s coolest entrepreneur mixes genius design, soulful product and bushels of heart
Photos by Chandler Kim
Margot Elena sits on a plush velvet sofa in her sprawling office set in one of three South Denver buildings that house the inner workings of her namesake fragrance, skin care and home décor empire. She’s surrounded by stacks of fine china, vibrant antique rugs, botanical paintings in gilded frames, towering bookshelves, a fully stocked bar, family photographs and a play space devoted to her 4-year-old daughter, Theory. Each piece suggests the various roles she plays in life—Chief Creative Officer, mother, entrepreneur, artist, bibliophile—and reflects her detail-oriented nature and authentic-yet-effortless sense of style. As a whole, the curated collection conveys the same message as her business motto: Beauty is at its best when it’s personal.
A visual holiday feast of things we love, all spruced up for the season at Margot Elena Companies & Collections in Denver. Here, Margot's in-office bar.
“Our tagline is, ‘Making beauty more beautiful,’ ” she says. “The nature of beauty is individualistic; it’s not adhering to what someone else’s prescription of beauty is.”
Elena’s powerhouse beauty business has been a lifetime in the making. She learned her first lessons in entrepreneurship at 9 years old, when her marketplace was the Queen Elizabeth Elementary playground and her customers were her third-grade classmates. On her walks to school, she’d make a pit stop at the local five-and-dime to buy birthstone rings for a quarter each. By the end of recess, she’d be sold out, with a twofold profit in hand.
“I learned to create demand by saying things like, ‘Your ring might not be here if you don’t come to the playground at 10 o’clock’ or ‘I only have a few November stones left, and I don’t know when the next shipment will arrive,’” she recalls.
A sweet mother-daughter moment with Elena and her daughter Theory
In hindsight, Elena attributes her business gene to her upbringing in the sleepy Canadian town of Vegreville, Alberta. She was born to an artist mother and musician father, who taught their crafts at the local high school and sold instruments and paintings out of Wells Music & Art Studio, a shop in the front of their house. Interacting with customers and making sales transactions became part of Elena’s daily life, and creativity was never stifled.
“If we wanted to have a tea party, we would get hunks of clay, make teacups, fire them, glaze them and then have a tea party. If I wanted to play the saxophone, I could go to the storefront and try one out. Nothing seemed implausible,” she says.
This enterprising spirit and artistic talent carried into Elena’s teenage years, when her family relocated to Denver. She relished the array of extracurricular activities available and signed up for just about everything. She lettered in track, painted sets for the drama club, and created an underground newspaper called the Flamingo Flyer, which first brought to light her love of branding. Elena spent nights and weekends hand-painting T-shirts, sunglasses and shoes that sported the paper’s Miami Vice-inspired logo.
“I had all these ideas. I was always making a world, and people would just show up and want to be a part of it,’ ” says Elena, who was rightfully named Most Likely to Make a Million by her high school senior class.
Decades of intense work ethic and relentless creative passion later, people are still drawn into her creative orbit. Elena’s five beauty collections—Lollia, TokyoMilk, Love & Toast, Library of Flowers and The Cottage Greenhouse—were designed with personas in mind (TokyoMilk is the edgy little sister; Library of Flowers is the free spirit) that are reflected in the product and its brilliant packaging. Elena illustrates flowers, sketches logos, selects color schemes and designs labels so that each bottle, box and piece of wrapping paper conveys the spirit of the product inside.
“I think people identify with my products because I breathe a little soul into them,” Elena says. “I never just make something I like. I want to make something that you like. I want you to fall in love.”
And fall in love they have. Her collections of lotions, scents, soaps and candles have gained the approval of celebrities and major retailers, from Oprah to Anthropologie to Urban Outfitters. But for Elena, the goal of her multimillion-dollar company remains simple.
Some incredibly cool pom-pommed shoes
“It was never about creating a big business or starting an empire,” she says. “It was always just about bringing beauty into the world.”
Until now, Elena has stayed behind the scenes and not associated her face with the brand. This story changes that. In an attempt to spread her message of wellness and, yes, love, she is stepping out from behind the curtain.
Part of that message, for Elena, started at home and spread to the office. While taking a break from 14-hour workdays to spend more time with her daughter in 2013, Elena realized in a profound way that work need not exist as a separate entity from life. In an effort to improve her 50-plus employees’ quality of life and stress levels, she proposed a new business model that promotes holistic living in the workspace, what she refers to as a “heart-centered, love-based approach.” The fresh modus operandi includes daily yoga, meditation and strength-training classes; an organic smoothie and juice bar; and a community garden. The new model also sparked an idea for a new company—WonderSoul, which opens the Margot Elena headquarters to the public for skin care workshops and social hours, as well as the ability to shop her collection of home accessories, textiles and furnishings handcrafted around the globe.
“We are not objects; we are real human beings. Your life does not start at 5 p.m.,” she says. “I really do believe this is the future of business—there’s no risk in doing this kind of stuff; the risk is not doing it.”
The on-site yoga studio
Another view from around the office
Continue below for an edited collection of Margot Elena's products that make thoughtful gifts for the season and all year long.
French Antique Settee, $2,275, and Otomi Hand-Embroidered Mexican Pillows, $89.75 and $123.50.
Salad Servers, stainless steel with forged copper finish, $33.50.
The Cottage Greenhouse Candles, $34.
Hand-Woven Moroccan Pillow, $115.50.
Rustic Terra Cotta Plates, starting at $5.25.
Hand-Stamped Stoneware Plates, starting at $4.75 and Hand-Stamped Stoneware Bowls, $10.
Hand-Stamped Ceramic Bowls, $1 and Hand-Stamped Ceramic Plates, $7.50.
Hand-Woven Turkish Kaftan, $98.
Petite Treat Handcreme Gift Set, $45.
Velvet as Night Poetic License Candle, $34.
Another Quiet Day Poetic License Candle, $34.
Little Lux Eau de Parfums, $9 each.
Wish Shea Butter Handcreme, $25.
Dream Bubble Bath, $50.
Another Quiet Day Poetic License Reed Diffuser, $48.
Carrot & Neroli Shea Butter Handcreme, $24.
Rosemary Mint Rescue Foot Cream, $28.
Pomegranate Facial Serum, $30.
Violette Fig & Black Currant Relaxing Bath Soak, $34.
Sungold Apricot & Sage Fine Salt Scrub, $35.
Wild Ginger & Agave Dry Body Oil, $24.
Fresh Fig French Soap, $6.50.
Tour Eiffel Fine Hand Soap, $12.
French Kiss Travel Candle, $12.
French Kiss Eau de Parfum, $30 and Gin & Rosewater Eau de Parfum, $30.
Let in the Light Eyeshadow Palette, $24.
Gin & Rosewater Handcreme, $20.
Rose Flower Fine Hand Soap, $12.
Let Them Eat Cake Lip Balm, $10.
Field & Flowers Bath Oil, $28.
True Vanilla Bubble Bath, $36.
Honeycomb Eau de Parfum, $48.
Forget Me Not Parfum Crema, $21.
Forget Me Not Handcreme, $24 and Honeycomb Handcreme, $24.
For an extensive sampling of Margot Elena products, visit margotelena.com.