Gone are the days when working oneself to the ground was considered sexy. India Williams, attorney and founder of nail-polish retailer Rooted Woman, knows this intimately. She struggled with maintaining work-life balance until a serious illness forced her to stop and take notice. Nothing takes you out of the game or puts your dreams on hold faster than burnout or failing health, according to Williams.
“We focus on our partners, children, families, friends, and communities while neglecting ourselves,” she says. “Rest is just as important as work and self-care is not selfish. You cannot truly serve others or give your best effort if you don’t take care of yourself first.”
The idea for Rooted Woman was conceived during Williams’ hiatus from work, and her nail polishes are a small part of a movement to encourage high-achieving professional women to slow down and relax. Her line of vegan friendly and organic nail polishes proudly bear names like Renewed, Healed, Cloaked in Peace, and Favored, and puts self-care for women at the forefront of the conversation.
mater mea spoke with Williams about Rooted Woman, her inspiration, the journey and her plans for the future.
Tell us more about your inspiration for Rooted Woman and self-care for women?
Rooted Woman came from Rooted, the blog I started three years ago to document my thoughts, experiences, and journey as a corporate finance attorney at a large firm in Chicago. I took some time off when I fell sick, and for the first time in a long time, I truly saw the world around me. I spent time with friends and family and experienced life outside of work.
During my break, I realized I had been going through life, but I wasn’t living it or enjoying it. I chose to focus on me and on what was going on around me, and it led to me think about self-care for myself. I also noticed that the ladies around me—in my personal and professional life—always had their nails done and loved doing it. It was one of their happy places, and the splash of color in my professional environment.
I was too busy caught up on a life plan rather than enjoying my life.
I thought, What if I could take something that was mundane and bridge it with self-care? Getting our nails done is one way we love on ourselves as women, but we can be more thoughtful and present during the process. I chose nail polish to bridge that gap, because it is a more lasting reminder for women than say lipstick, which you can wipe off the end of the night. You can keep nail polish on for a couple of days, a week, and even longer.
It all came back to not staying present in my life. Between [going to] law school, graduating, and working, I was too busy caught up on a life plan rather than enjoying my life. I was one of those crazy people who knew they wanted to be a lawyer since they were kids. I never wanted to be anything else, and my entire life [was] about becoming a lawyer. Falling sick made realize there are other things out there, and self-care must come first.
Why did you choose to produce a vegan and 5-Free* product line?
After I fell sick, I stayed at an integrated medicine center, and was placed on a food detox program. The center believes in the body’s ability to heal itself naturally; I was on a restricted diet: gluten-free and vegan.
When I started Rooted Woman It was important to me to have a product that people who were vegan, gluten-free, or had similar kinds of intolerances could enjoy. I had always wondered why it mattered, but I have come to learn that chemicals can go through your skin. I had no idea these products were hard to find. A couple of vegan companies exist, but they may not be 5-free. It is usually one or the other, and the intersection Rooted Woman has is rare.
* 5-free refers to nail polishes that don’t contain five of the most common and harmful chemicals.
Your career as a lawyer is different from your entrepreneurial pursuit with Rooted Woman. How do you navigate between one and the other?
It is a balancing act, and I can’t pretend it is easy navigating between the two. It requires intense planning and time management, but my work as a lawyer helps me with discipline and with setting my schedule. I’m also learning to use the hours of each day wisely. As a lawyer I bill my clients by the hour, and I understand how much my hour/time is worth. I take that into consideration for Rooted Woman, and I try to make the most out of each hour of each day without neglecting myself.
Every morning, I give the first hour or two to myself—I read my Bible, drink coffee, and get myself together for the day. The next 6-8 hours are pretty much dedicated to my clients, and the afternoon allows me to move to the creative side of my brain. It is one thing I love about being an entrepreneur: Rooted Woman involves creativity, colors, my passions, and things that drive me. It is the place I get to recharge.
How did you build your team?
The Rooted Woman team is always evolving, but it started out as my mom and I. I came to her with my idea, and she said, “Okay, let’s do it.” She was integral with helping me build a team, because she is also an entrepreneur.
It is really important to me to work with a team of women, because there is something special about connecting with other women. My creative team is made up of women, from photography to website design and everything in between. It is special for me, because as a lawyer, I work primarily with men.
How do you navigate through the obstacles and challenges that come with the entrepreneurial journey?
The blog was a lot easier. It felt like I was opening up the pages of my diary. I wasn’t necessarily trying to reach an audience; I was simply sharing the issues that bothered me or that were on my mind as a professional woman. It was a lot easier, because it didn’t take a lot of out of me, and it didn’t call for a huge dose of vulnerability.
The business, on the other hand, was hard. I had to dive into a lot of research and figure out who were the right players and partners. I also had to make decisions on issues like, “Who is going to make this product?” and “Will I be able to get it produced?” When I call people and tell them what I want to do, I get questions like, “What kind of capital do you have?” I find myself always having to say, “I’m attorney at a law firm,” to get people to listen to my dreams for Rooted Woman. I was frustrated that I had to use my pedigree and calling card of being a lawyer to get people to be willing to listen to me and give me some level of respect.
A good friend who is a business owner and also a Christian told me, “If you are in business and you are a Christian, you are doing God’s business. You are a steward of the work he wants to accomplish.” Her advice changed my perspective. Today, I look at rejection as closed doors not meant for me, because it is ultimately not about me. God closed that door, and he has a different plan and direction for me. That mindset shift has given me a significant amount of peace around rejection and hardship.
Today, I look at rejection as closed doors not meant for me…
I also believe in not going at it alone and in building a village around you. I have had times I thought, I don’t know what I am doing. It sounded like a good idea then. I don’t have a degree in chemistry, and I am not familiar with all the chemicals. This is crazy. I chose to be vulnerable with those thoughts and express my doubts to my team, my friends, and family who know me and support me. They are helpful in supporting my dreams.
What is in the future of Rooted Woman?
I’ll really like to do some more events. We recently took about 10 women to a spa to get pedicures and manicures using the Rooted Woman line. We later had lunch and had so much fun connecting with other women. Many of the women said they were glad they took time out to connect with other women from different backgrounds. The event built a sense of community, and gave them a chance to reflect and lay down the heaviness. I want to do more events like that moving forward.
What is the greatest accomplishment of your career?
I wouldn’t call it an accomplishment, but it touched me and made me realize I am on the right track. I got an email from a customer who recently got a diagnosis, and she said wearing Healed, one of our polishes, to her appointments helped her get through treatment. Reading her email was a good moment for me, and it reminded me of why I’m doing this.
What advice will you give to mater mea readers with a dream they are passionate about and want to launch?
Protect your dream! Just like pregnancy, you don’t tell everyone until you are over the safety line. The same with a dream: You don’t have to tell everyone about it, because you don’t want your dream to get aborted by negative words and doubt from others. It is bad enough dealing with your self-doubt and negative self-talk. Once your dream is developed, be cautious about who you share it with. It is also important to build your dreams in community. When you share, share with people who can be godparents to your dreams and who will assist you in building it up.