July 21, 2022
If you haven’t heard of self-warming eye masks, prepare to have your mind blown by two sisters bringing the Japanese invention to Australia – and to your wellness kits. The road to success has not been a straight line for the best friends, sisters and business partners, but not even cancer could stop them from bringing this innovation into our homes. Here, Aisling and Margaret talks about overcoming adversity, slowing down and the importance of self care.
We are sisters, both single Mums, who live next door to each other and together we run our business Lula Eye Masks, so our lives are very intertwined!
While creating our first Lula Eye Mask samples, Margaret received the unexpected news that she had breast cancer. We decided we would continue with the business, as I would be able to work when she couldn’t but just six weeks later I received the same shocking diagnosis – I too had breast cancer. We unexpectedly became our own best customers, needing the warming eye masks more than we could have imagined.
Despite the setback we continued working on the eye masks testing and perfecting the warmth and scents during our surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. We fell in love with our own product finding comfort in our eye masks during chemo and our times in hospital. Our business became a much-needed distraction from all things cancer – it brought us so much joy during a very hard time.
We were forced to slow right down and have learnt that it’s such a gift to take time for yourself – but it should be something we give ourselves every day, without guilt. So our mission through Lula is to inspire moments of self-care that bring calm and joy to women’s busy lives.
Can you share a little about your career journeys up until this point and how it led to the creation of Lula?
Aisling has always worked for herself, as a graphic designer, then a professional makeup artist and artist (painter). Margaret worked as a purchasing officer in the health sector for over 14 years. We had always wanted to create a business together and finally found something we were both passionate about. We have the perfect combination of skills; Aisling is very creative so looks after our website, social media and marketing and Margaret is the logistics, financial and analytics part of the business partnership.
What is your “why”?
Our children are our ‘why’. Margaret has a son and daughter (12 and 7) and I have a daughter, 10. They have been through so much, seeing their mums going through breast cancer at the same time. So our why right now is to be there for them and to give them a happy, safe and calm life. Creating Lula Eye Mask is allowing us to do this.
How did you hear about warming eye masks?
Margaret came across the Japanese invention online, they were available overseas but she couldn’t find anything similar in Australia. She thought they sounded so amazing and mentioned them to me, and I felt the same – we needed them in our lives. Before we’d even tried them we thought it would be a great business idea.
We received our first Lula samples the week of Margaret's first chemo session. I was feeling stressed and Margaret was exhausted from her first treatment – the eye masks were exactly what we both needed at that moment. I remember calling Margaret right after and saying that was absolute bliss – and she felt the same. We knew this product was as wonderful as we hoped.
Through Lula we hope to spread the message that women deserve guilt-free time to care for themselves and to create rituals or routines that support their wellbeing.
How do they actually work?
The masks contain iron particles and when they come into contact with oxygen the iron slowly begins to warm – it’s a natural oxidation reaction. There are othe ingredients that help this oxidising reaction to happen and to heat evenly like water, salt, charcoal and vermiculite. The eye masks are each sealed individually because once you open the pouch and air comes in contact it will start warming immediately. So you have to be ready to relax! They are also scented with natural essential oils that help you relax and sleep, you can choose from rose, lavender and jasmine.
What makes the masks so special?
The Lula Eye Masks help you to focus on yourself, de-stress, rest and refresh the eyes and mind. You can use the masks to relax, to meditate, to comfort headaches and migraines or to fall into a deep sleep. The biggest benefit is the calming, relaxing feeling you get from wearing them. The warmth helps to relax the muscles around the eyes and also encourages circulation, helping to ease tension and strain. It’s like a warm compress, the warmth creates a fine moist steam that hydrates the skin around the eyes, also giving relief to dry eyes.
Have there been any hurdles?
Both having breast cancer has been an absolutely massive hurdle in life and business, it slowed the business development right down and still does. The side effects and treatments over the past two years has meant we’ve had ongoing hurdles in our path. Margaret needed two hip replacement surgeries due to an unfortunate side effect from the chemotherapy. The treatments left us quite exhausted for months (Margaret still feels this almost two years on from first being diagnosed).
How do you like to use the eye masks?
Aisling: I like to use the eye masks for a break during the day or if I need to stop and calm myself when I’m overwhelmed. I don’t work well at all when I’m stressed so the eye masks are great at making me just stop, relax and breathe deeply.
Margaret: I have had trouble sleeping due to two recent hip replacement surgeries. I have to lie on my back, which makes it hard for me to sleep, so I love a little help from our eye masks.
What is next for the brand?
We have a few new products in the works that we can’t wait to launch. Like the masks the new products are all about women taking time to look after themselves, to give themselves some much needed love.
What are you most proud of?
The fact we actually launched the business was a very proud moment! We launched in July last year, almost a year after both being diagnosed with cancer. So it was a massive year of treatments, business development and then all the covid lock downs and home-schooling thrown in there too! The fact that we’ve done it, despite everything still makes us very proud and quite amazed at ourselves! We weren't sure how many orders we would have once we launched, but in the first 6 months we had done over $250k in sales!
We’ve had many messages from people going through cancer or difficult times that have loved our eye masks, and every time we read a message like this we just feel so touched that they have connected with our story and proud that our eye masks have brought them a little comfort and relief.
The podcast I’m listening to is…
Aisling: I love listening to business podcasts like Lady Startup and ECommerce marketing with Lisa Byrne, learning from other successful business women, And if I’m in more of a contemplative mood I’ll listen to Oprah's Super Soul podcast I have a couple of favourite episodes that I’ve listened to over and over again the past few years.
Margaret: If I'm not listening to Harry Styles new album I'll listen to business related podcasts or my other go-to is Parental as Anything with Maggie Dent, for when I'm feeling overwhelmed as a mum. She has great advice and often makes me realise that I’m not failing as a mum as other people are experiencing the same issues.
The one thing that would surprise people about you is…
We are both sober. We both quit drinking more than three years ago, before our cancer diagnosis, ironically giving up alcohol because of the health risks. So you will never see our self-care brand promoting the idea of relaxing with a wine. It’s something we’re very passionate about.
In my handbag is…
Aisling: My wallet, perfume roller (my favourite from Your Bliss), car keys, nail clippers (daughter plays netball!), three lip balms, a face mask and dog poop bags!
Margaret: I rarely carry a handbag so my hands are always overflowing with my keys, phone, sunglasses case and my purse. I really should invest in a bag.
My coffee order is…
Margaret: Our coffee ritual is an important one! Every morning Aisling makes us coffee at her house, we both have it exactly the same, a large latte with oat milk, no sugar. We then chat about business (and often get side tracked and talk about the kids), and we plan what we’re doing that day. A lot of our important decisions are made over the morning coffee.
The thing that gives me most joy is…
Aisling: Right now I find so much joy just watching my 10-year-old daughter do the things she loves… her netball games, singing in the choir, watching her compete in Irish dancing. It takes most of my free time but I am so happy to be feeling well and healthy and able to take her where she needs to be and to watch her. I’m that Mum crying floods of tears watching her sing, very happy tears.
Margaret: Working on Lula gives me joy, I love working with Aisling and it has been fun to see how much we have accomplished in a short amount of time, I am really excited about the future. Also my home is giving me a lot of joy at the moment. I spend so much time here due to working from home and I’m finally doing some small renovations I’ve wanted to do for years.
The best piece of advice I’ve been given is…
Margaret: By nature I am a worrier and always have been. I think the best piece of advice I’ve had was from Aisling, the day I was told I had cancer. She told me to always stay in the moment and work with the facts and information I have in that very moment, instead of being worried about negative things that ‘might’ happen. I use this advice now with my parenting, the business and about my health. Always reminding myself to stay in the moment and not to worry about things that haven’t actually happened.
Follow Lula Self Warming Eye Masks @lulaeyemask