We talked to: Beyond Happiness
Hi, Aaron! Could you tell us a bit about yourself, your business, and why you chose downtown Northampton (and Thornes) as a location?
Hi! This started back in high school, at the end of my junior year. I began making products for myself, as I had extremely dry skin and was not responding well to products in stores. Nothing seemed to help, and my skin constantly itched and burned. I was feeling pretty hopeless at that point, but after visiting the dermatologist, I started looking more closely at the ingredients in the products I was using. I came to discover that many of them were actually very unsafe and even toxic. I started doing more research on safer ingredients, such as shea butter and coconut oil and creating some of my own products. At this time, my financial literacy teacher encouraged our class to get involved in a business pitch competition. It involved around 25 other schools, and we ended up winning third place. It was a super fun experience, and after that, I knew I could potentially turn this into something.
I just kept going with my research and creating, and when I got to Hampshire College, I felt like I could combine some of my passions and channel them into a business. I was experiencing a lot of anxiety and depression issues at that time, so I started creating YouTube videos that talked about self-care, products, and being open about mental health. At that point, I really saw it evolving into more of a wellness lifestyle brand that encompassed a variety of experiences, products, events, and approaches. Thankfully, I had a lot of support at Hampshire, from my committee members to my teachers and mentors. I was even able to start selling my products at farmers’ markets and getting school credit for doing so.
I also realized during this whole experience that I didn’t want to work for anyone. I was getting into some toxic work environments, and I just felt more anxious and depressed as a result. I knew I couldn’t continue that way, and that lit a huge fire beneath me to go full-force into this business. Another goal of mine was to create an environment and space where others were enthusiastic about coming to work every day, not dreading it. When I noticed that this space in Thornes was available, I left some messages for Rich and he reached out to me. I met with them and explained my business vision, and they were eager to have me! It all just fell into place and I’m really excited to be here.
What are some challenges you’ve experienced as well as some positive things that have transpired in the past few years?
That period was a challenge, but I thought more about how I could use the time to my advantage. I came to see the pandemic as an opportunity to continue to be active and productive. I remember talking to my mentor in college and saying “It’s over, I can’t do this anymore” because I couldn’t obtain my usual packaging. Then my mentor said, “Aaron, get different jars” and that gave me a totally different perspective. I learned a lot about how to adapt quickly and approach things from a new point of view. I focused more on self-care and wellness, as I knew people were interested in that while we were all in lockdown or just feeling limited by the changing landscape.
Honestly, the biggest hurdle for me ultimately wasn’t opening the store, but growing myself to be able to run it. There were so many internal shifts, mindsets, and paradigms that had to happen. I had so many new and different things to consider and focus on as I started the brick and mortar.
What are some exciting things/products/events coming up for the business?
We are finishing getting geared up for our partnership with a CBD line! I am really excited for this, as we’re taking a different approach. We’re fitting the products into what we have, and making them fun, colorful, and “poppy”, rather than making them more like a pharmaceutical line or cure. It’s more about the full experience. The first batch of Valentine’s Day stuff is also coming out, including candles, soaps, and bundles. During the spring, we’ll be doing more events, including partnering with Resilient Community Art, who host different art events. In the fall, we’ll be doing Fallbides, which is something I created when I was at Hampshire and features vendors, music, a dance party, and more!
As a business owner, what do you do to unwind/relax/rejuvenate?
I’ve learned to bring unwinding and relaxing with me. I feel like some people separate it, but I really work hard to create an internal space in which I’m relaxing all the time. I surround myself with people and things that help me relax. I love making music, which is something I do on my own. Honestly, I think my business is my hobby. That said, I am finding more new and different joys in spending time with friends and going on nature walks—and not always bringing the camera so I can be fully present!
What is one thing about Northampton that inspires and motivates you?
For one, I grew up here, and I’ve always appreciated the art community and scene. So many of the stores are art-based, and I love that because it’s less about stuff to sell, and more about learning how people get into their artwork and craft. You get to see into their dreams and really feel like you are a part of it. I think that’s hard to do in other cities. I also feel really supported within Thornes itself. They have truly stepped up to champion me and uplift my brand. A lot of people who knew me from back in high school have come by to help and offer support. There’s a mutual give and take within the building and the community, and I am so excited to show up and be a part of it all.
And finally... What’s your favorite winter food and/or beverage?
For a beverage, it’s anything mango. Juice, drinks, mangos everywhere! Favorite winter food is a variety of breakfast foods, including pancakes, waffles, and eggs. I’m a really big breakfast person, and I like to cook it so I can make as much as I want.