There aren’t many people quite like Kitty McEntee. Founder, creator, CEO, marketer, retailer and the herbalist behind hand-blended botanicals brand Lab Tonica she’s one busy woman. And a mother to boot. Born into a family who practise white witchcraft, Kitty has always been fascinated by the healing power of plants. She believes in the amazing alchemy of nature and our bodies. And draws her energy from the plants around her.
After 15 years in advertising, sat at a desk all day, she saw an opportunity to create change for herself and the world around her. She took an undergraduate degree in herbal medicine and set out on a quest to challenge the old dusty stereotypes of herbalism to launch a brand that talks to a new audience – and that looks as good on the outside as the herbal goodness on the inside. That brand is Lab Tonica. What we love about the brand is how every sip of their herbal tea, smudge of their balm and spritz of their mist contains century-old knowledge, modern techniques and the finest herbal ingredients, to nurture you inside and out.
Keep reading to delve into the captivating mind of the woman behind it all…
Can you describe Lab Tonica in one sentence?
Plant-powered wellness for modern living.
What was your brain-wave moment?
Prior to launching Lab Tonica I had a 15 year career in the advertising industry, creating global campaigns and brand strategies for some of the world’s leading brands. This was an exciting, fun but highly stressful time in my life. There was one particular day when I was working late on a pitch and drinking my 5th cup of chamomile tea, when I became struck by how old-fashioned most herbal tea packs look – which seemed at odds with the ever-growing number of younger, urban people valuing health and wellbeing over partying and hedonism! In that moment it became clear to me: There was a gap in the market for a modern herbal brand for a younger, style-conscious audience. It was time to take herbal products out of the cupboard and put them pride of place on the shelf!
And herbalism is something that runs deep in your family, isn’t it?
Yes, my great-grandmother Louisa was, by all accounts, a white witch. She was locally renowned in her village as a healer, she would “create things in the garden” to help people with their ailments. This used to fascinate me as a child – and with what I know now I’m pretty sure she was a home herbalist – but those terms didn’t exist in those days. I like to think that some of the magic and passion Louisa had was passed down to me – and with it a responsibility and passion to share it with others.
We love how ethics are embedded into Lab Tonica, can you tell us more?
My vision for Lab Tonica is to share the healing power of plants with as many people as I can. Inherent in this mission is an understanding and respect for the natural world. It is vital that we walk in unison with nature, treading lightly on the environment with as a little impact as possible.
I focus a lot of my time on sharing ethical-foraging knowledge, home remedies and tips so people can learn to work with nature themselves, without having constantly to buy products.
In the future I would love to get to a place where we are investing back into the natural world, through biodiversity and regeneration. In the meantime, we do our bit to follow sustainable practices; we use compostable and recyclable packaging. We are moving to a refillable subscription model using long-life tins instead of cartons. We only work with partners who share our values, our suppliers are all SALSA and Soil Association approved.
What do you draw upon for inspiration?
Inspiration is something that happens both intentionally and subconsciously. I have some of my best ideas in dreams and wake up bursting with new thoughts – I’m lucky that I have always been able to lucid dream, which is wonderfully helpful for creativity. Other ideas I have while out walking in the woods near my house… being outside gives your brain space to float and explore.
For product collections, in essence, people inspire me. Everyday life inspires me; knowing what barriers people struggle with and need natural support with. For example, we have a huge endemic of stress and sleep problems in the UK, so it was vital I created a collection formulated to support this, which led me to create Unplugged and Breathe. Today, we are so far removed from our pre-industrial lives that my aim is to bring the healing power of nature back to people. I’m adamant that our modern way of living in cities and towns – disconnected from the natural ebb and flow of things – is one of the inherent issues with our everyday wellness. The more nature we can all have in our lives, the better!
What’s your creative process like?
My creative process is generally a colourful web of actions and thoughts. I usually go for long walks and spend time with plants to get a feel for their real-life energies. My ideas become much clearer when I’m out walking in nature. I also love to while away the hours in my home lab creating new blends and products.
Can you describe the journey of one of your projects from sketch to shop floor?
Essential oil roller balls were initially part of my launch plan. But over the course of development they turned into our beautiful little Lab Tonica Aromatherapy Balms.
After mapping out my five collection themes – sleep, calm, energy, libido and immunity – I meticulously researched the possible oils for each of these benefits before getting into the fun bit – me squirrelling away in my lab at home, testing, blending, testing, blending.
A group of friends tested my samples (then I involve our chemist who provides feedback, quality assurance and the final recipe). During these research sessions I discovered people were finding the roller balls leaky and skin irritating. So I evolved them into solid balms, formulated with skin-soothing organic coconut, organic beeswax and healing vitamin E – making them gentle for the skin and easy to carry around in your pocket (leak free)!
All of our balms are made in-house and poured by hand. A lot of love goes into those little tins of goodness!
What are your hopes for the future of Lab Tonica?
I would love to see Lab Tonica grow to help more people be more closely connected with nature through our natural healing products and the sharing of knowledge. It was not so long ago that humans used to turn to plants for day-to-day remedies, but we have lost this knowledge over time. If Lab Tonica can help reignite a love and respect for the healing powers of plants then I will be very happy. If we are lucky enough to grow to be of a size with significant influence then I will use this to activate change in the commercial industries with a focus on biodiversity and environmental regeneration.
Sounds like something you’d like to try? Shop the lovely Lab Tonica collections on Monsoon Bazaar today. Your perfume shelf will thank you.