Before she’d even launched her brand, Nisha Grewal had her first customer: Neiman Marcus.
Not surprising, though, because Ambari is so much more than elevated branding and a good sales pitch (though it is both of those things). Launched in 2020 by Vancouver-based Grewal, the streamlined luxury skincare offering is actually worth its price tag. And Neiman Marcus isn’t the only big name to take notice: Kourtney Kardashian is a known fan. So much so that her ecommerce and lifestyle site Poosh recently hosted an event in Los Angeles in collaboration with Ambari.
“Kourtney is more popular than ever, I feel, with her new relationship and her lifestyle brand,” Grewal says. “The Kardashians are the most-watched family in the world. So for us to have them try our products and say such great things about it is huge. On the day of the event when I was there, I actually got to have conversations with some of them—and these are people who have brands left, right, and center. So the fact that they’re able to go out and post about how great our products are is truly so rewarding. I think it really put us on the map, for sure.”
Ambari’s evening serum is a must-have; it’s powerful but not irritating, resulting in clearer, smoother skin. When followed by the soothing and light Hydrator Cream, it’s truly like a five-minute at-home facial. The whole line comes in gorgeous, hefty, blue and gold glass bottles that belong on display. Via video, Grewal discusses her winning ingredient trio; parenting (“I put a lock on my office door so my kids can’t enter when I’m in meetings”); and launching a brand during a global pandemic.
What hole in the skincare market were you looking to fill with Ambari?
The reason, actually, why I truly wanted to start this is that I was very much into skincare growing up. My mom, more so than anything else, was always making sure our faces were clean. I’m Indian, so we have a lot of traditional things that we put into our skincare, as well, such as the adaptogens that I have in my line right now. So, that was always very big growing up for me.
Fast-forward to when you start to wear makeup, you really start to see the wear and tear on your skin because you’re constantly tugging at this or that. And then with trying to prevent any sort of anti-aging stereotypes that there are, I would purchase skincare lines that would promise me results in 30 days. But what I found was that there were far too many steps to see a result. That’s when my love for facialists and derm spas and medi spas grew, because I would go in and get a resurfacing peel or a glycolic peel, and would walk out noticing those results.
What I wanted to formulate is the three products that we currently have: two of them are resurfacing ones [the serum and moisturizer], and then we have the mask, which is a much stronger product; it’s what I like to call our deep clean. And they promise you results after the first time you use them. It’s not just a marketing gimmick. I wanted to back that up with clinical studies, as well: to offer that extra layer of transparency to anyone who is purchasing Ambari that after one use and 24 hours, you will see a difference in your skin. So that’s basically what I wanted to develop—skincare for the busy woman, or someone who just wants a no-BS product. This is what it says it’s going to do, and it’s going to do it.
Can you talk a bit more about the research and development that goes into creating a product?
When I started working on Ambari in 2019, we probably had about 25 revisions on every single product. It takes a long time, obviously; certain ingredients weren’t meshing with the other ingredients. Our finalized ingredient system is called The Modern Blend, and what that consists of is our three key ingredients, which are smart adaptogens, clinical actives, and CBD. How these three ingredients actually work together is: adaptogens go into your skin and remove any environmental stressors and impurities and bring your skin up to a healthy pH level; a lot of people don’t know the basics around pH. The adaptogens bring your skin up to a healthy pH so that the active ingredients are able to go in and do their work.
And we found that when we put CBD into our resurfacing products, they didn’t neutralize the acids. The CBD did what it was supposed to do, which is calm the irritation and any sort of sensitivities that you would get from using such active products. So that’s the core value of our ingredient story.
Launching during COVID must have been really challenging.
It was terrifying, actually. When everything shut down in 2020, we were in the formulation phase; we were going to launch that July. Coming as a new brand founder, you’re obviously afraid of what could happen, and then you’re hearing these horror stories of some of the largest brands closing down, and you’re like, “Okay, is this something that we can do?” However, I think what separated us is that we were able to provide a service during that time; no one was able to go out and physically get a peel from their derm or see their facialist because everything was closed down. So I think that definitely supported us.
But I really felt that we had something great to offer, and that our products were amazing.
What has it been like for you as a founder?
It’s been very busy, but it’s been great. For me, this hands-on learning: there’s nothing like it.
When you get time to breathe, what do you do to come home to yourself?
I think the hardest thing for me right now, just because these past couple of months have been so busy, is finding time to zone out. One of my girlfriends booked me a massage for my birthday, and the whole time I was there running numbers in my head. It’s just hard to turn off. But I set myself goals: “Okay, I’ve done X amount of stuff this week, so I need to balance that with the time I’m going to be with my children.” I compartmentalize my time.
In the evening I think it’s just about being in a quiet area, like in my room—not even with TV, nothing. Because I’ve been around noise all day, I just need it to be quiet.
What do you like to do with your kids?
We go out for walks, go to the park. During that time when everything was closed—even the playgrounds at one point were closed—we had to become very creative and do things around the house. My son was very much involved with the house chores: anything that I could get him to do to keep him preoccupied. We were doing basically everything; cleaning dishes was a fun thing to do at one point, even though it’s not fun. But we made it into a game.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.