We had the good fortune of connecting with Jess Hunt-Ralston and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jess, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
A few years ago I decided that “balance” would be my word of the year. The next year I joked that my word might need to be “no” — that one little word had been so tough for me to say, but learning to say it well and from a place of clarity, kindness, and intention is such an important first step in taking care of yourself, your work, and your world. Learning how to set and say clear boundaries also matters, especially at work. No one around you is going to set boundaries for you with your job. A great boss or mentor can help there, but ultimately, it’s up to you to decide and say it out loud. And if you’re feeling, over and over, like you’re in a role where folks are ignoring what you say there, or that your job keeps taking too much — it’s time to take stock and see if there’s a better fit out there, a place where you feel your contributions are truly valued and that you are fully respected and heard. I also like to say, “start with your big rocks first” — those major work and life goals and projects that light you up, plus those restorative activities that help you come from a full cup each day. When you start with your big rocks, you’ll always have space to add in the small rocks. For me, those smaller things tend to be social outings, social media, scrolling the news, or sitting down with someone for an hour or two each week to just share advice or ideas. I so enjoy those activities, but if they take priority over making real progress on projects that are important to me, or personal routines like decompressing with a long walk, reading, and getting a solid night’s rest, then I’m less likely to keep an even keel and less likely to be able to bring my best at work or at home. So, get clear on what really matters to you, align your work and life in service to that, learn to set and say boundaries, set up your schedule and commitments with your big rocks first — and try to get comfortable with a graceful “no” in order to say yes to more of what you love.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Little Otter Skincare started in 2017 on our kitchen stove when I began researching the formulas behind luxury skincare lines and building my own apothecary of essential oils and organic skincare solutions. I tinkered with formulations over an improvised double boiler, borrowing my husband Chad’s Glencairn glasses and droppers, writing down measurements and mixtures, and upcycling jam jars and lip balm tubes to house a collection of natural and organic oils and balms. Living in Atlanta, most weeks we put more miles on our bikes and walking than in our cars, but in our cleaner commutes we noticed a pattern of the pollution in the air and environment around us creating blemishes and problem spots across our faces. So we began creating natural skincare products for ourselves — sourcing GC/MS tested, certified organic ingredients from a distillery in France and raw beeswax from a fourth generation beekeeper in Florida. We shared our favorite formulas with our family and friends, wrapping up handwritten packages of face oil and lip balms a few years ago. When our favorite people began asking when and where they could buy their new favorite face oils and lip balms, Little Otter became more than just a hobby — and 100,000 balms later, we’re excited to see what’s next!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I grew up on a farm in North Georgia and moved to Atlanta for college. Ever since then, I have loved living and working in the city and heading to the mountains and countryside for adventures! Some of my favorite trips and travel spots are posted to my blog, Where With Elle, along with my go-to packing lists and tips for weekend getaways. Up in North Georgia and Tennessee, there are tons of hikes with waterfalls and swimming holes — here’s a list of some of my favorites, and the All Trails app has many more. If you have a few days and a car, the drive to Savannah, Charleston, and the Golden Isles Barrier Islands off the Georgia Coast are filled with history, culture, delicious food and beautiful beaches. Back in Atlanta, we’d definitely stop by ASW Distillery (Chad is a partner and CMO there) and Georgia Tech for an art and arboretum walk (my alma mater, and where I work as a communications director), and take a bike ride to Decatur and Avondale Estates for brewery tours and Taqueria Del Sol for dinner. We’d take a walk to Double Zero and Wagaya at Emory Village, then stroll to Lullwater Preserve or down to Freedom Trail and Candler Park. And of course we’d make a stop by the High Museum, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Fernbank, and pop by our friend’s spot, Little Bear — one of our favorites for amazing drinks and dinners.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My husband Chad and I co-founded Little Otter Skincare, and he’s actually the company’s Chief Operations Otter. Back in the summer of 2017, we spent a few months working through everything we’d read and learned about the state of the environment and climate around the globe. Chad wrote down a goal, “10 M X 22” — to help ten million people find ways to reduce their carbon footprint by the year 2022. Around that same time, I began making the very first batches of organic lip balm and face serum, and really focused my career on environmental and social equity and education. So, as our Little Otter dreams coalesced out of our reading and research and long walks around Atlanta and hikes in north Georgia, we also thought we might be able to help begin to transform an industry — create the Patagonia of high quality skincare, if you will — shifting the status quo from a plastic centric, linear model based on quarterly earnings, to a more sustainable, circular model that’s healthier for people and the planet. That’s where “Little Otter for Clean Water” comes from — from the start, we decided to opt for plastic-free lip balm tubes, and that we would donate 10% of the company’s net revenue to organizations and non-profits working to keep waterways clean and wild places green. That’s one of my favorite things about this work — that every product we make helps our customers and helps us give back to organizations like Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Environment Georgia, and Rollins School of Public Health at Emory.
Jess Hunt-Ralston and Chad Ralston