London Van Oss laughs at her former life as a jet-setting, world-traveling, young New York City professional. She worked hard, thrived in the city and “practically never thought twice about parabens or chemicals in her beauty products.”
Now, it’s almost all she thinks about.
Though she is historically a woman who set her sights on her goals and pursued them with purpose and tenacity, her newest career change was something she stumbled upon.
Van Oss, who grew up in Baton Rouge, cooks up all-natural, organic, personal care products in her kitchen, including rose and glycerin face and body spray, brown sugar and coconut oil exfoliating scrub, and makeup removers, lotions and creams.
It started off as a hobby, which was novel for her.
“I never had a hobby before. I was always going, going, going. I never had time for one,” Van Oss laughed.
She’d just finished a contract auditing job and dreaded the thought of going back to a cubicle and immersing herself in spreadsheets again.
“I came across a book about making lotions, and my mom had some wild mint growing in the backyard, so I bought it, and went straight to Whole Foods to get the ingredients,” she said, and she loved it.
She loved her homemade creams so much, in fact, that she started gifting them to friends and family.
When they came back to her consistently for more, and with stories of how eczema, psoriasis and other chronic skin issues had been either greatly improved or disappeared with her products, she started researching the essential oils she was using for their healing properties.
But it’s not all about healing for Van Oss.
“I know a few people who say they embrace their wrinkles. I do not embrace my wrinkles,” Van Oss laughed. She noticed a marked improvement on that front when she started using her first batch of rose and glycerin spray to moisturize her face.
Historically, when Van Oss decides to do something, she moves fast.
She decided to move to Orlando, Florida, after her first semester at LSU.
“That was on a Friday. By Sunday, my car was packed, and I was on my way,” she said. In 1997, she’d do the same thing, moving to Las Vegas to take advantage of the booming economy there.
When she ran into a friend who traveled the world working as an auditor, she quickly signed up for LSU’s program.
“I wanted to get started as soon as possible, so they allowed me to sign up as non-matriculating. I got through the necessary classes and got started working,” she said.
After a girls’ weekend trip to New York City, she decided she wanted to live there.
The next week, she went to an LSU job fair, and was offered a position with Deloitte and Touche.
At the reception for new hires, she found the person in charge of international clients, and told him she didn’t have kids, pets or a social life, and she’d devote all her time to his business if he took her on as an auditor for the international accounts.
“Three weeks later, I was in Finland,” she said.
She would later move to Lehman Brothers, where she worked from 2006 until 2008, when the company famously went bankrupt. The company that bought the firm had its own internal auditors, and she was laid off.
Her father was sick with an autoimmune disease similar to multiple sclerosis, and it seemed like a good time to go home.
“I was glad I got to spend time with him,” she said. He died in 2012.
She took on a series of auditing jobs that left her increasingly dreading her days. She was in near-constant pain with almost daily migraines. The only thing that seemed to take her mind off it was her new hobby.
Eventually, a friend asked if she could buy a gift basket of products, and added that she should really consider making this a business.
When her final contract auditing job ended, she decided to put her full attention on the botanicals business, and she’s working at the Velvet Cactus to fund her ingredient purchases in the meantime.
“It may seem like a step down, but I haven’t had a headache since. It felt like a giant weight had been lifted off my shoulders,” she said.
And she’s wrinkle-free.