Well Woman Interview: Aish Iyer, Founder of Brightland Olive Oil
Aishwarya Iyer has created a beautiful and thoughtful brand and definitely something that is very unique for North America. She is the founder of Brightland and is on a mission to champion authenticity in the American olive oil industry, offering custom blends of olive oil harvested from a single family farm in California’s Central Coast and milled on-site through organic methods. Their sole ingredient comes from trees that live on for thousands of years and is quite literally straight from the earth.
As always, I’m inspired by women who are bosses, who are changing the game, running shit and who really just see a new path forward for the way we eat, live, breathe and interact with our environment and communities.
I’m also impressed and inspired by solo female entrepreneurs, partially because I know all the effort and hard work that goes into bringing one’s vision to life.
Hope you enjoy this interview with Aish, her perspective and hopefully you can try Brightland’s incredible olive oil in the future. x
Hi Aish! Tell us about you. How do you define yourself? What is your favorite quality in yourself?
I have always broken barriers. I grew up in an immigrant household where safety and security in our futures was paramount, so my family hoped I would have picked out my major, college choice, career path by the time I was 5. Instead, I took a more exploratory route; I went to college in Texas before transferring to NYU because I wanted to be bold. At NYU, I studied at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where you create your concentration/major from scratch. No two majors are the same (mine was media + globalization with an emphasis on South Asian gender studies), and you are empowered to shape your time at the school as you see fit. I ended up working in technology/startups for many years after, and when I decided to launch Brightland, I felt that same feeling of breaking through something: there are not many women, let alone south Asian Americans who are in the olive oil world, yet I knew this was my purpose and path.
Do you have any morning rituals? What is the first thing you do when you rise?
I love to snuggle with my dog, think about 2-3 things I am grateful for, and drink a cup of hot water.
What’s your philosophy on food + nourishment?
Beauty from the inside out and authentic nourishment for the body, heart and soul.
Quality of food is very important and so is quality of mind. How do you feed your mind?
I like to read inspiring magazines like Monocle, and I listen to podcasts like Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations.
Tell us about how you started Brightland! Was your background in food? Product development? Business?
After learning that most of the olive oil that Americans consume is rotten/rancid/adulterated, I wanted to do something about it — I wasn’t sure what that looked like. After moving to California I wanted to champion American-made, beautiful extra virgin olive oil that is also elevated — and that’s where the journey began.
Why California olive oil?
Olive oil is a foundation of wellness; a cornerstone of nourishment for thousands of years and a historic source of wellbeing + ceremony. Athena’s gift of the olive — useful for light, heat, food, medicine or perfume — was one of the most useful and beloved gifts of the gods. I truly believe in honoring the beauty of the land — the California sun and soil and respecting the nourishment it provides.
What does a typical day of work/life look like for you?
No two days are the same, so it could be anything from product development, figuring out some supply chain issues, brainstorming marketing plans, working on a new social strategy, putting out a fire of some sort, meeting other entrepreneurs, hopping on the phone to talk through potential collaborations or BD initiatives, working with our wholesale/retail partners and interacting with our customers.
What has been the biggest reward/win and biggest struggle with being the solo founder of your company?
I will never tire of hearing how Brightland has changed how our customers think about food, cooking, and even self-care/wellness. We have heard countless stories of Brightland customers sharing that the oils inspire them creatively in the kitchen and in their home. The biggest struggle is not having a co-founder who can understand fully the roller coaster/highs and lows, but I am fortunate to have friends who are fellow entrepreneurs who completely understand.
What does self-care look like?
I absolutely love walking into any of the Aesop stores — they deeply relax me. I always indulge in a little present to myself + I use so many of their products at home. Lately, I have been going to Y7 Yoga in LA on Friday evenings, and it has done wonders for my mind after incredibly stressful weeks. Finally, not keeping my phone around at night is game-changing. I don’t keep it with me in my bedroom and give myself at least 45 mins to 1 hour to reflect on things in a 100% analog way.
What are you excited for? Both personally and professionally.
We are so excited about collaborating with artists, designers and brands who embody the Brightland ethos, and we are thrilled to continue inspiring people to celebrate simple, everyday moments of gathering and nourishment.
Favorite health hack? Favorite beauty hack?
My all-time favorite beauty hack is using YSL touch eclat highlighter. It instantly brightens.
How do we teach women confidence instead of perfection?
Perfection is so overrated! To me, “perfection” means that you haven’t taken risks and you haven’t fully LIVED. Confidence comes through living a full life, which means taking risks, failing, falling and getting back up again.
What advice would you share with other women to empower them to feel strong and confident?
I personally struggled with my inner critic. Shutting off my ‘inner critic’ has been an enormous challenge every step of my career, and one that I still tackle. Everyone has an inner critic based on experiences and feedback from earlier years that governs how they view themselves, affects decision making, and sometimes, sabotages them from their natural power. In the past few years, I have done quite a bit of work, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, to create space from my inner critic, and I’ve been able to unleash powerful qualities because of it. To anyone who resonates with this, I highly recommend reading Embracing Your Inner Critic by Hal & Sidra Stone. It changed my life.
What would your last meal on earth be?
An authentic south Indian meal from my mother — sambar, rice, potatoes, okra, and yogurt rice.
What does it mean to you to be a Well Woman?
Living an imperfect, messy, beautiful and bold life filled with wonder, creativity and challenges.