We had the good fortune of connecting with Lena Leyva and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lena, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Zola came about after I just couldn’t find simple, low-ingredient, AFFORDABLE natural products, so I just started making them for myself. I realized that with a bit of research and some fiddling, it wasn’t so hard to create products that actually WORK from plant based ingredients. As I began to create and share with my community- it occurred to me that we didn’t have what we needed because the skincare industry as a whole hasn’t really catered to the “other” of the world… the brown, the queer, and folks not necessarily “of money”. This kind of knowledge has been around in indigenous cultures for a long time- I am Native Hawaiian and Mexican and plant medicine has always been a given, a regular go-to. The idea was just to weed out reliable information… information that has often been obscured, written off, and devalued by big pharma and mainstream/colonial culture.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Feeling like you have “arrived” (anywhere) is hard when it comes to creation and small business. There is constantly another level, echelon, goal to reach and very little time to appreciate how far you’ve come. But I AM proud of creating and owning a business that has been able to continue to be accessible, and true to our calling. When we’re surrounded by other business models (that very much have their place), but that are high-end retail driven, it’s hard to wonder if choosing a higher profit route would have been the smarter way to go. But then I remember that the whole point was to create an inclusionary space in this market, and pricepoint is an easy way to cut folks out. I am proud to have an inclusive, gender-neutral, unconventional, and environmentally conscious business.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
First things first- I am a huge homebody, so most of my entertaining is done at home in my kitchen or on a covered porch… but! I love plants and plant shopping (duh), so Rosehouse and Little Lula Rose would def be a must, and Studio Colfax for local pottery/jewelry/art. I love Colfax (if you can’t tell), soooo… also Squire Lounge for a little mess, and hangover-fix coffee from Lula Rose Coffee shop or my neighborhood fav Downpours. Top it off with a walk with the pups around City Park and a ride to Cheeseman for a lay-about?? CHEF’S KISS!!
Also the Denver Botanical Garden is never a bad choice to spend the day wandering and musing.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Shoutout to the brown femme creators out there! I am a product of a long line of strong indigenous women who weren’t afraid to push forward in ideas, academia, and resourceful thought, and would not have the opportunities I do without my predecessors and fellow women and femme creators forging the way, and creating communities to lift each other up.
Photography: Nigel Penhale