Labors of Love
It's easy to forget that horst rechelbacher, founder of Aveda, got his start in the industry as a hair stylist. But Rechelbacher began working in a salon at the age of 14, and it was his salon experience that led him first into beauty and then the world of spa.
"Because I wasn't excelling academically," Rechelbacher says, remembering his years as a youngster in Austria, "the teachers suggested that I start looking for an apprenticeship. Across the street from my school was a hair salon, and I looked in its windows each day; something about it attracted me. Eventually, I started cleaning in the salon to make pocket money. So, when the teachers said that I ought to pursue a trade, the hair business was the one that came to mind."
Rechelbacher began a three-year salon apprenticeship in preparation for vocational school. After his training, he became well-known in Austria and throughout Europe for his talents. He then was approached by product manufacturers who hired him to demonstrate the latest haircutting techniques on stage at industry shows and to work with them on product development. It was this work—on-stage demonstrations—that first brought him to the United States; he was invited to be a guest performer at the 1963 International Beauty Show held in New York City.
A resting area in the Intelligent Nutrients flagship invites guests to relax while taking in the room’s varied, colorful furnishings brought in from around the world. left:
Two years later, in 1965, Rechelbacher was living in Minneapolis and opened his first salon, called Horst & Friends. He notes that it was around this time that he started to question the safety of the chemicals he was exposed to each day. Says Rechelbacher, "It took me awhile to realize this, because when you're immersed in it, it's hard to get perspective. In other words, when you're sitting on the mountain, you can't see it."
Ayurvedic HorizonsIn 1970, Rechelbacher spent two months in India studying Ayurveda, meditation, and yoga. Upon his return to Minneapolis, he started making plant-based haircare and skincare products with his mother's assistance (she was a trained herbalist) and using and selling them in his salon. The product line was called Horst.
Left: An image from the 1960s, in which Rechelbacher has just created a new look. Right: Rechelbacher accepts a trophy for hairdressing.
After several more trips to India in 1978, in which time he studied Ayurveda in-depth (he earned two doctorates in Ayurveda), Rechelbacher renamed his product line Aveda. A-Veda is Sanskrit for "all the scriptures of knowledge" and includes the medicines of Ayurveda.
As demand for Aveda products increased, Rechelbacher sold his salons (the business had grown into a chain) to his protégé David Wagner. He did, however, decide to keep the school he founded, which, in addition to hairstyling, offered classes on massage, esthetics, and yoga. Over the next two decades, Aveda flourished as a company based on its mission statement of protecting the Earth and conserving its resources. In 1997, Rechelbacher sold Aveda to Estée Lauder to create more time for himself on a new project.
Above: Because giving clients an enjoyable sensory experience is one of the philosophies behind Intelligent Nutrients, the flagship reflects this with its exquisitely detailed product displays.
New FrontiersWhile remaining involved with Aveda for five years after the sale to oversee its transition, Rechelbacher continued to study plant-based medicine and collaborated with physicians, chemists, and pharmacognosists on his new business idea, Intelligent Nutrients. "I have been focusing on it full-time for about a year now," Rechelbacher says. "It's like a new start."
Intelligent Nutrients is a line of holistic functional foods and nutraceuticals dedicated to combining the pursuit of natural health, beauty, and wellness with eco-minded business practices. ("Functional foods" contain dietary components that provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition.) In addition to food and nutraceuticals, the line offers products for the home and food-grade aromatherapeutic oils—all made with organic, biodynamic, or harmonically grown plant-active materials.
Above: The entrance to the Intelligent Nutrients learning center, which is located in a nature preserve along the St. Croix River in Wisconsin. Below: Organic chocolate squares infused with essential oils provide antioxidant benefits and make a healthy, tasty amenity for clients.
"Our ingredients are not just organic," Rechelbacher says. "They have to be chemically verified. And we also test them for pesticides and trace metals, particularly when they come from China, Egypt, and India. Quality product is the key, and it's important to ask what the certification behind the products is."
Having brought into the world a company that offers all-natural salon and spa products for external use, Rechelbacher is now focusing on the body's internal health. When he began to study traditional medicine in the 1970s, he came to the conclusion that the key to health is integration. He started looking at the ingredients in cosmetics and their effects on the body. "There are sixty known carcinogens in cosmetics," he says. "And they're still used. It's astonishing that the FDA simply does not care about that. Consumers are now slowly becoming educated about the health effects of the ingredients in the products they use. So changes are happening—but not as efficiently as they could be."
The first products developed for Intelligent Nutrients were food supplements. "I looked at products that were kidney and liver cleansing," Rechelbacher says. "If you want to have good skin, your liver and kidneys need to function well, and you have to have a good digestive system. When one does not efficiently eliminate toxic buildup, bad skin can result. It's like having a bad sewer system that doesn't get cleaned up. So I looked at substances that clean the blood."
To develop the line, Rechelbacher studied the effects of chemicals on the body, working with university chemists and medical doctors. Because of its diverse product offerings that cater to each individual's needs, Intelligent Nutrients products are only available in select locations where consumer education is offered, such as in spas and salons. "It's important to use the products the right way, or they won't be as efficient; the client won't be getting the best results possible," he says.
To facilitate this, Intelligent Nutrients has a 15,000-square-foot flagship store and manufacturing center in Minneapolis where spa and salon staff can come for product training. It's also open to consumers for regularly scheduled seminars as well as product sales and houses a cafe and a bar—both organic, of course. "It's been a holistic process," Rechelbacher says. "I believe in practicing what I teach. And to me, training and education are very important. We do different workshops for people who are interested in getting involved with Intelligent Nutrients, from product knowledge and anatomy to meditation and grounding."
Spa DevelopmentsRechelbacher's ideas on the mind/body connection inform his views on the spa industry. "I think spas are definitely one of the most important services in today's society," he says. "To me, the future of spa is totally medical. And by 'medical,' I mean holistic, integrative medicine." Rechelbacher says that's why he's interested in going back into the business world. "It's about delivering nutrition from the inside of the body to the outside," he says.
Rechelbacher, who has been involved in management and operational training from early in his career, also runs a retreat in a nature preserve along the St. Croix River in Wisconsin where managers and staff go for several days at a time for intensive, experiential learning. There, trainees learn how to start and finish a treatment, manage time, and educate the client so he or she can do post-treatment at home. "Business owners don't understand why clients do not come back," he says. "But the truth is that people know exactly what they want when they get it. It's a five-sensory thing. When we are being nurtured, we are consciously alert and spiritually connected." He says that to deliver such an experience, one has to practice being at that place. When people get what they like," he continues, "that's called relaxation. When they are relaxed and at peace, they feel spiritual. Spirituality is feeling deeply nurtured and satisfied; it has really little to do with belief systems. It has to do with feelings. It's not thinking, it's feeling."
The science of relaxation and the chemical compositions of health are what Rechelbacher is currently most interested in. He's been studying what happens when a person is truly relaxed. "The mind subconsciously stores all sensory information—smells, tastes, images, physical sensations, sounds, and thoughts. When we are relaxed, we have access to it. When we are hyperactive, we're replacing one thought with another. Relaxation doesn't occur, and this is when the body goes into a toxic state."
For managers, Rechelbacher suggests that you do for yourselves what you regularly do for your shelves: Take inventory. He looks at self-productivity in the realm of cause and effect. "Are you happy with what you caused during the day?" he asks. "If not, do something about it. This is especially important for those in the nurturing industry." In addition, he recommends meditation. "I don't care what kind of meditation," he says. The key is to transcend one's thoughts through conscious awareness of the breath and stay with it for ten to twenty minutes each day."
Next up for Rechelbacher: a book he's writing called The Business of Being. In it, he looks at the structure of the body like that of a business. His parting advice to spa managers? "It's important to let go, calm down, and get grounded," he says. "We need to listen to ourselves. When one becomes aware that our present-moment thoughts are not productive, one should simply let them go. Change a negative thought to a positive one." —Julie Sinclair