In this instalment of our founder chronicles series, we bring you Michelle Ranavat, the founder of Ranavat Botanics. Learn all about how she started her business and the tricks and tools that have helped her along the way. Stay up to date on previous articles here.
Michelle Ranavat is the founder of Ranavat Botanics, a line of carefully curated skin treatments inspired by the beauty rituals of Indian Royalty. Michelle draws upon her educational background as an engineer and inspiration growing up visiting India in her treatments. She views skincare as an heirloom, to be carefully shared across generations.
What is your superhero origin story? Please, do let us know what your superhero nickname would be as well, in case you have one!
Mine would be Bollywood-Superstar-Binita! I grew up in a small town of Wisconsin – my parents had immigrated there in the late ’70s in search of the American dream. So, I was immersed in Indian culture and especially BOLLYWOOD. I loved dancing and eventually went on to perform at Lincoln Center in NYC, TV and Film. Even to this day, I feel that so much of what I learned on stage performing has helped me in my journey to create Ranavat. Partially because it brought me closer to India (since I grew up in the US)- but also because I learned how to combat stage fright and learned the importance of practice and discipline.
What was your eureka moment, and how did you test your idea?
I was brainstorming with some friends about some of the incredible foods that existed in India that would be huge hits in the US. Eventually, we started talking about how incredibly scientific Indian beauty rituals are- and how they are a huge part of our culture. I immediately thought to share these ancient treatments was something I wanted to bring to life—and I knew I could use my background as an engineer to do it!
What’s your competitive advantage when it comes to the industry?
I believe it is 2 things. First- it’s my background as an engineer. This informs my sourcing and formulation and is a huge part of why our Royal Ritual is so special. I take the plant (and the science backing the plant) into consideration but I also look at processing.
I want to keep the ingredients fresh, use minimal heat and also find rare botanicals and combinations to create a unique experience that really changes the skin.
The second part is my vision and inspiration: the Royals of India. Part of my family is from Rajasthan (land of Kings) and I can imagine my ancestors mixing their royal elixirs and indulging in elaborate self-care rituals using ingredients like saffron and roses. This really creates such a rich backdrop and takes you back in time to experience this beautiful art. I believe beauty traditions are family heirlooms we should treasure and share with our loved ones.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the biggest mistakes early on was to use an agency for my social media. Yes, it saved me tons of time each day- but ultimately I was missing out on a way to connect with my customer in such an intimate way. I love that my customers send me DMs and ask me personal questions- it is my pleasure to serve them
What role has social media played in your success?
Social Media is an important tool- but I believe so much of my success comes from on the ground experiences with customers in the store and live. I love doing events and finding ways to engage with the Ranavat customer on a personal level. I have the best time travelling the world and meeting the nicest, most genuine people that truly love to indulge in these royal treatments!
When partnering with fellow companies, creators or influencers, what criteria do you look for?
I look for a unique point of difference. I want to work with people/companies that know who they are and are leveraging their unique view of the world to bring their idea to life.
Who is your ideal collaboration with?
I would love to collaborate with an Indian fashion designer like Payal Singhal. She has blazed a path fusing traditional Indian garments with a western sensibility. I love her floral prints and her attention to detail. I can see both of us aligning on our interest to empower our customers—for them to feel confident because they are wearing and using products that have been carefully designed and created.
None of us is able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people- but first I have to thank my family. My dad – especially who started his company and showed me what it takes to build a business (honesty and integrity) and my Mom for always assuming I’ll be successful! A few other business owners have been so kind as to lend their time and energy: Stella Simona of HaatiChai, and Ami Desai of (@amidesai). I respect their opinions and they have always been so kind as to spend their time answering my questions!
What is the most worthwhile investment (time, energy, money) that you have made?
My products. I spend the most time, money and energy creating beautiful treatments. With royalty as a backdrop, I knew my treatments had to be something special and unique. I spend so much time getting/maintaining certifications and searching for unique ingredients. It is such a rewarding part of my job- and I have a very high bar for what I bring into the world.
What piece of industry advice do you often hear that you disagree with and why?
I disagree that you need to raise money from Silicon Valley to be successful. Yes raising money is a status symbol and can put you in conversations with potential partners. But it is at the expense of you and your ability to control your vision for the brand. I know fast growth is really tempting but being creative on spending and taking your time to build your vision will put you in a much stronger position in the long run.
What advice would you give someone thinking of starting a business on their own?
Be unique. I think the most valuable thing we can do is add our own view of the world and our own life experiences into our vision or product. Making it a personal journey and adding your own view allow people to connect with your brand on a deeper level. This also needs to be communicated through all aspects: your story, product, packaging—everything. Create an experience and not just a product.