It’s safe to say that Melissa Palmer has always had an entrepreneurial spirit.
When the CEO of luxury skincare brand OSEA was in high school, she subcontracted her paper route and made something of a small fortune. “I had aspects of the job all contracted out,” she recalls, seated inside her family company’s Venice, California headquarters. “I had multiple routes—because not everyone had the same flexibility and freedom to deliver, but they could fold and stuff the papers. It was a whole thing.”
That may have been a while ago now, but Palmer’s business acumen has only been honed and chiselled since then. OSEA began in Palmer’s childhood home in the 1990s with her mother at the helm, turning ingredients into products in their kitchen sink; but Palmer and her siblings all took part in the company from the beginning.
“Growing up we were all involved. I’m the oldest, so I was the most involved. I always like to say I was always the boss of the family anyway, so I just assumed my rightful role,” she says cheekily. “Boss of everyone.”
Still, her journey with OSEA—a line of clean skincare products that harness the healing powers of seaweed—was not entirely straightforward. After about 10 years with the business, Palmer took time off to do other things, including running an adult hula hoop exercise company called Hoopnotica. After learning valuable business and marketing skills there, though, her mind began to wander back to OSEA, for which she had always seen the stratospheric potential.
“I ended up taking a year off and travelling around the world; I did a 500-mile walk across Spain, I had these amazing adventures,” Palmer says. “All the while I was just tinkering on OSEA, and with the amount of traction I got just from tinkering, I was like, ‘Ok, I just have to come back to this.’” Since rejoining the team full-time, Palmer has helped take the brand—an early trailblazer in the clean beauty movement—to the next level, helping it gain it a social media following, expand its wholesale partners, introduce ecommerce, and create an Abbot Kinney storefront that also offers the most amazing facials. It’s all worked to showcase what OSEA has always been about: overall well being.
“We’ve never considered ourselves a beauty brand—it’s always been about wellness,” Palmer explains. “And the fact that clean beauty is actually even a word that means anything to anyone is so bizarre, because when I used to do our sales 20 years ago, people would be like, ‘What are you talking about? No one cares!’ It was a non-existent conversation. My mom and I, we’re both completely committed to the idea that if we’re doing something in the world, it has to be healthy and safe. Raising consciousness is a very large bucket of us, and clean, effective, safe [skincare] has always been a way that manifested.”
Still, even being surrounded all day by beautiful-smelling products designed to spread wellness can get stressful. Palmer says that whenever her family gets strained about the business, they seek help. “We are a really close family and get along really well; I would say once in a while if something feels stressful then it’s your family so it gets a little extra charged and emotional,” she admits, “but about four or five years ago we met the family that started Patagonia, and they told us they had so many falling-outs and family dramas and this and that. They said, ‘Get into family business therapy right away.’ We did some sessions, and if ever anything’s going wrong, we actually do family business therapy. It helps us immediately, because we all agree our number-one priority is the family first.”
As for when things get squirrelly in her day-to-day—she likens her CEO role to “being a bouncy ball”—she has learned a few key ways to rejuvenate, including blocking out quiet time to work from home, swimming, and going for walks. And then there’s her “number one outlet”: ecstatic dance class. “Oh my gosh it’s so fun—it’s basically just 100 people in a room with a DJ who’s also giving you [cues] like, ‘Connect with your body!’” she says happily. “You literally just dance like crazy in a room, with no choreography.” From high-performance serums to dance parties, self-care definitely comes in many forms; the trick isn’t so much how you practise it but that you find time to do so at all.