Interview with Kira Walton, Co-Founder of Voya Beauty

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Meet Kira Walton, Co-Founder of Voya Beauty

VOYA – from the word VOYAGE – began in 1912 when the doors of the first seaweed baths opened on the Atlantic coast of Strandhill, Co. Sligo, Ireland.  This 300 year old tradition is continued today by the Walton family. I am thrilled to interview Kira Walton, Co-Founder of VOYA.

VOYA Seaweed Baths
Strandhill, Co.Sligo, Ireland
Instagram @voyabeauty

Siobhan: I first discovered VOYA on my quest to find the best organic skincare for my boutique. I looked to Ireland because it’s where I have spent a lot of time visiting as my parents are from the west of Ireland. My mother told me stories of how she visited Strand Hill as a child. I always thought that if I was going to find an authentic natural brand then Ireland would be my first place to search.

Kira, I’d love for you to share how VOYA beauty came to be – what brought you into the business of organic beauty and seaweed as skincare?

It’s a story that started a long time ago now, we decided to trade in the rat race and hectic corporate careers in Dublin for the quieter, slower pace of the West Coast of Ireland. Mark holds a master’s degree in Law and I.T but was working in investment banking as a business strategist when the company he worked for closed due to the economic downturn and he decided to make the move home. I’m originally from Meath, after training at the College of Marketing and Design, I started as a freelance illustrator then took a job with a start-up known at the time as Lifetime Learning, later to become Riverdeep where I was a graphic designer, then project manager, leaving to embark on a Start Your Own Business course with FÁS.

Migrating west to scenic Co. Sligo, Mark and I decided to help and join the family business. This business happened to be a traditional seaweed bathing house. Established by Mark’s brother Neil Walton with the help of his late father Michael, in the gorgeous village of Strandhill. As the popularity of the baths grew, we (the Walton family) found more and more customers asking if there was some way, they could replicate the soothing effects of a VOYA spa experience at home and in other spas around the world. In 2003 we took a leap and launched a retail seaweed bath. This then led to skincare and body care lines, evolving into range that now includes over 50 products, from advanced organic facial products for specific skin concerns to home fragrances; giving you the power to emulate a full spa experience at home.

How has your business and mission grown over the years?

VOYA was inspired by the 300-year-old tradition of seaweed bathing, Ireland’s only indigenous therapy. VOYA started out as a family-run seaweed baths in Strandhill. Over the years it has evolved into an Internationally recognised luxury Spa brand, we moved into our own facility and warehouse and grew a new identity. The brand has grown from strength to strength, through economic turbulent climates over the years. Our mission from the start, has been living by and promoting the ‘green’ movement, we have always been on a trajectory to reduce waste and pollution. VOYA are constantly looking for new technologies and innovations within the eco-friendly field. We view sustainability as a necessity rather than an option in an ever-growing global economy. We brought wellness into the workplace with yoga and meditation classes for our employees. Embracing the west coast quality of life, the importance of laughter, family and friends combined with a relentless hunger and drive in a team that strives for ‘a better way’ is key to the success of this business.

Why is seaweed so important in skin and body care? What are the biggest skin and health benefits of seaweed?

Seawater and blood plasma have an almost identical chemical composition. Seaweed naturally absorbs its nourishment from the sea. As a result, it contains countless minerals, vitamins and beneficial ingredients in high concentrations making it the perfect solution for replenishing the body’s minerals, protecting skin against free radicals, and aids in treating several skin conditions including psoriasis, eczema, and acne. Seaweed naturally cleanses and purifies the skin, helping to improve its suppleness and elasticity, thus improving the signs of aging by toning, smoothing, moisturising and stimulating skin cells. All VOYA products contain extracts of wild seaweed which is sustainably hand-harvested from the cleanest waters off the West Coast of Ireland and are formulated to deeply nourish your skin and aid its natural ability to heal and repair. From sea to skin, we go to great lengths to maintain the unique purity of our seaweed.

Siobhan: Now the stories of how my mother grew up having seaweed baths makes perfect sense. I also had the pleasure of experiencing VOYA’s seaweed bath at their beautiful spa in Strandhill a few years ago.

What are your personal favourites in the skincare line?

I always cleanse my skin of the day’s make-up and pollutants in the air. I don’t live in the city but it’s very important in that environment to cleanse, even if you don’t wear make-up. At night I will either use a night cream (Dream Crème) or facial serum (My Little Hero) before I sleep. I also exfoliate every week using Love a Scrub which super time friendly (important when you are a new mum); it’s a must to rid the complexion of dead skin cells. I use VOYA’s Softly Does It body lotion and religiously apply Angelicus Serratus, Nourishing body oil an amazingly luxurious product.

Siobhan: The effects of using the body oil have really been outstanding and it is one of my customers’ favorite products.

What is your favorite part about doing this work?

We’re very lucky, we enjoy our work, especially now as we are larger business and have a lot of brilliant colleagues who can help us, our time is more creative, as in we focus our energies, firstly and most importantly on creating new products and new strategies, identifying opportunities in different markets. You need to be inspired, get a buzz out of this, which we do, we say, “that’s cool” a lot!

What is the most challenging part of the business?

Kira’s father always says there is only one constant in life, and that is change! I suppose as we started our business with nothing, every part of our business existence has been constant change, this is bad in that your landscape and the perspective of that is constantly in flux, but the good is that we have become extremely adaptable. It can be hard, as we grow and more people join the company, some people are not used to such fluid thinking and fear change.

We’ve heard lots of ominous quotes about this over the years “If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind….”. We think some of that is hype, but you do need to move with the times and keep on top of scientific advances within the organic chemistry, seek out the next horizon and go past it! Environmental packaging solutions, reduce your footprint, leave no trace, which is a dichotomy to growth! Just embrace the chaos! Accept you cannot control every part of it, but that you are sailing in the right direction.

What’s it like working together as a team not only in marriage but a shared mission and passion?

In the beginning, I used to offload everything on my mind in the evenings or at night. Then I’d sleep soundly while Mark would be awake for hours going over what I’d said. We now have a strict rule – no work talk beyond the front door of home. I’ve said this before but one of the main reasons it works is because our personalities are complementary, I react strongly to things whereas Mark tends to be very level-headed and will talk things out to reach a point where we agree to disagree.

What is your definition of beauty?

What a difficult question to answer, as it means so many different things to different people. We think personally it’s a collection of things. Lots people talk about living their best lives, or best version of themselves, though we feel sometimes they trying to live someone else’s best life. Beauty is a total wellbeing state from the inside out, a state of contentment, happiness and health. These things combined are beautiful. With the only caveat being, that this does not have to come at the cost of our planet!

What’s next for VOYA beauty?

We are constantly looking to improve what we do. We are testing the boundaries of organic formulations and have a robust 5-year new product development plan in place. We are working on new treatment to launch in 2020 along with exciting collaborations. While we would love to share some of the details however as you can imagine this is a competitive market and we will be keeping some of these safely guarded secrets until we are ready to launch! All we can say is watch this space!

Siobhan: Thank you, Kira, for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. It has really been a pleasure having VOYA as part of ORGANACHS and a brand that I will also hold dear to me.

– Siobhan

COMING TOGETHER THROUGH THE LOVE OF NATURAL BEAUTY, WELLNESS, FOOD, AND SUSTAINABILITY