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Meet Mother & Daughters Owned Clean Beauty Retailer, Lala & Elm

We are honored to introduce you to Lala & Elm - a clean beauty boutique in Wilmington, North Carolina owned by Erica Mearns and her daughters, Alexis and Claire. They share a passion for clean beauty, sustainability, and giving back to and supporting their community. To celebrate Mother's Day, we chatted with Erica to learn more about her story and of course, we had to chat about their go-to EVOLVh favorites.

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We would love to know more about your story — why is clean beauty important to you and what inspired you to create Lala & Elm?  

My godmother was a testament to what a strong woman can accomplish. She broke barriers and was an incredible role model and mentor in my life. It was her breast cancer diagnosis that prompted my journey of healthier living and clean beauty. My first pregnancy a few years later amplified that desire. Like any parent, I simply wanted better for my children. I wanted purity, efficacy, transparency, and integrity when it came to the products I used for both myself and my daughters. My mission grew as I watched my daughters grow. I wanted products that were as beautiful and effective, as they were luxurious, without compromising ingredients.  

How does it feel to have your daughters, Alexis and Claire, share your passion for clean beauty and sustainability alongside you?

Amazing! It's been such a fun and rewarding journey and they continue to amaze and teach me along the way too. Growing up on the coast, the girls have always been passionate about the environment. Alexis had her "a-ha" moment with clean beauty in middle school and went on to graduate from NC State University, double majoring in Environmental Science and Biological Science with a minor in Environmental Toxicology. I can't remember Claire ever not being passionate with using products that are clean and sustainable. Claire has also been especially vocal with advocating for banning shark finning since elementary school. I learn from them as much as they learn from me.

What significance does the name "Lala and Elm" hold for you?

Everything. It ties 3 generations of our family together and truly makes me smile every single time I see those words and the logo. My godmother always sang to Alexis when she was a baby and often sang the scales to her, so Alexis lovingly called her "Lala". We chose to honor the very woman who prompted our clean beauty journey by naming the store after her. Elm is simply my initials. We chose the seahorses, partially due to our coastal location and commitment to being an ocean friendly establishment, but more importantly because of what it symbolizes-strength, balance, peace, persistence, protection, stability. The seahorse is a testament to resilience against life's adversities and encourages us to thrive, not just survive. The seahorse is a reminder that we each have the ability to adapt when faced with adversity. When I reflect on these qualities, I think of my godmother. I feel her presence in so much that we do.

What beauty advice have you passed down to your daughters?

I think if you were to ask them the most important advice I've given and continue to remind them is to give yourself grace. We are our toughest critics and often imperfections that we see, others don't. Women are especially hard on themselves. I also try to remind them beauty, as well as life, is about balance and to practice some form of self-care everyday, even if it's just 5 minutes. It can be as simple as making their skincare routine a mindful ritual, cleansing not only their skin, but metaphorically letting go of any negative thoughts and what no longer serves them. It took me longer than I care to admit to realize that self-care is not selfish. As women, we're notorious for taking care of others, but you can't pour from an empty cup. Practicing self-care in some form daily enables us to be the best versions of ourselves. Of course, my girls would tell you sometimes I need to be better at following my own advice. I guess you could say I'm a work in progress.  

Do you have a favorite moment or experience you've shared as a family while building Lala and Elm?

There's a lot that I've loved. I love the photoshoots, the all hands on deck late nights hosting masterclasses and doing inventory, (even the dogs have joined us on inventory nights), and experiencing brands together. I've loved watching them gain confidence in roles they may have initially thought they wouldn't excel in. One of my favorite moments was watching the girls together at their first market in NYC. They just took the lead and I followed soaking in all of their advice and feedback. Such a proud mom moment! Like any mom and daughters, we have our moments, but they really are my best friends and I love having the opportunity to work with them.  

How did you come to define the standards/values for the brands you choose to work with?

Aligning on ingredients, avoiding known and suspected carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, non-transparent synthetic fragrance, etc is paramount, but it's so much more than that. Is it effective? We want to align ourselves with brands that are not only committed to transparency, efficacy, & purity, but are equally committed and mindful of their environmental impact, are cruelty-free, science backed, and clinically proven. What's their story? Do their values align with ours?

What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a small business owner and sharing it with your community?  

Empowering others. From helping educate a customer who wants to clean their routine but is completely overwhelmed on where to start and how to navigate with so much greenwashing prevalent these days to helping others gain confidence and being comfortable with their skin to reminding others that self-care is NOT selfish. I love being able to take what I've learned on my personal skincare journey and help and empower others. I especially love facilitating the masterclasses that we offer. In addition to that, if I had to pick a single moment it would be our Sassy's Saturday & Sunday event that we started a few months after we opened, after losing our white german shepherd, Sassy. I've always been an advocate for giving back to our community, but this weekend is different. Perhaps not the best business plan, but it gives us all the feels-that weekend in store and online we cover our costs and then donate ALL of the proceeds back to Sassy's Fund (a fund dedicated to study hemangiosarcoma) with the NC Veterinary Medical Foundation. We committed to raising $50,000 in 5 years and I'm over the moon that this past year we met that goal, 3 years ahead of schedule. That's was a very proud moment for both myself and the girls. In addition we always support paws4people that weekend and an area animal rescue. As long as Lala & Elm exists, so will this very special weekend. Our pets play such a vital role in our wellness. They're family and we're grateful to have this opportunity to honor our Sassy while helping others.

What are some of your favorite ways to unwind and take care of yourself?

I make it a daily practice to spend time outside with our yellow lab, Jackson, and german shepherd, Star, playing in the yard to decompress. Claire and I have our own little nightly ritual. We'll each go grab a nice hot bath, followed by our mindful skincare rituals (toss in a face mask and EVOLVh hair mask twice a week too) and then join back up and curl up on the couch together each night with our german shepherd and a cup of tea and chat about our day and watch a favorite series together. I do try to get a deep tissue massage when I can and of course, love a spa day, but it's these simple, daily rituals that I find solace in. Life gets hectic and hard for everyone these days. Sometimes the only self-care time I get is my skincare routine so I make sure I embrace and savor every moment.

We're honored to be stocked at Lala and Elm. Do you or your daughters have any EVOLVh favorites and what is your hair type or concerns you try to solve for?

We're so grateful to partner with EVOLVh and LOVE so many products! An absolute favorite of all three of ours (and Alexis' fiancé, Jordan) is WonderBalm. I'm convinced it could make straw feel like silk! I still remember the first time I used it. Claire was taking surfing lessons and I sat on the beach watching for a couple of hours on a windy day. It was the first time running a brush through my hair after being on the beach for so long didn't feel like a torture test. Oh, and I didn't look like I stuck my finger in an electrical socket, haha. I remember thinking wow, this is a new experience! I feel like I've always struggled with frizz and just overall my hair not looking as healthy as I'd like. I also struggled with thinning hair after having surgery in my 20's.

About a year ago I started incorporating the UltraRepair Reconstructing Masque overnight once a week and really credit that for my hair health. It's stronger, healthier, and I'm not putting heat on it as often as I used to trying to combat frizz. Now, my hair is the healthiest it's ever been with tons of new growth. Not long ago a woman who was new to the area came into the store and complimented me on how healthy my hair looked, asking who was my stylist and what products I use. That was a big moment for me. Never would I ever have thought someone would compliment me on how healthy my hair looked - thank you EVOLVh!