Women In Beauty You Should Know: Lisa Li, Founder of The Qi

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Lisa Mattam leaves pharmaceutical sales 9-to-5 job to start skincare brand, Sahajan

How Meticulous Attention to Quality, a Wellness-First Approach to Beauty, and a First-Of-Its-Kind Product Helped This Wellness Lifestyle Brand, The Qi, Sell Out Within 4 Month of Launching and Land a Coveted Spot at The Wing’s Perch.

I first met Lisa Li when we both participated in a mastermind a couple of years ago at The Wing. We connected over our passion for beauty through wellness and our immigrant upbringings. 

She is originally from Liaoning, a small town about 10 hours from Beijing, where she grew up drinking teas with her grandmother. She reflects, “Those moments were some of the most nourishing and healing times of my life. Holistic wellness for me as a child was much like brunch… it was simply a way of a joyful life.” 

After moving to the US and experiencing the opposite approach to wellness in addition to feeling burnt out by the hustle culture in NYC, she set out on a mission to bring ancient Eastern holistic healing wisdom to the US.  While traveling to Shangri-La, she came across these one-of-a-kind roses that locals enjoyed as tisanes. It was a beautiful and transformative experience and Lisa was hooked. 

In 2018, after finding the right family farms to partner with, she brought these high-quality, food-grade flowers to the US and The Qi was born. 

She notes, “We began with rare flowers as they have long been used in history for its holistic healing properties due to their beauty and potency (packed with powerful antioxidants and much more). They are also believed to have the most Qi (life energy) in Traditional Chinese Medicine because plants flower when they reach their peak and climax, flowers are the result of this massive (Qi) energy.  When you ingest all that Qi from the flowers you also benefit tremendously.”

I have to say, whenever I’m looking for a healthy pick me up in the afternoon at The Wing, I like to get The Qi Shangri-La Rose, which helps promote glowy skin and hair, gut health, and restful sleep. 

Below, we caught up with Lisa about her biggest successes to date—nbd, but within a year she landed Bloomies and The Wing, and was featured on Emily Weiss’ Instagram. Not a bad start, right? 

She also shares how she comes up with new product ideas, her #1 marketing strategy (it’s not what you think),  and the business book that inspired her to build work relationships based on kindness and generosity.

1. What inspired you to start a beauty company? 

We think that beauty and wellness are really just two sides of the same coin. Beauty begins within. If we can take really great care of our insides then our outsides – skin, hair, and more will reflect that radiance.  I was born and raised in Asia where I grew up drinking a lot of herbal tonics and teas and much of it was about the enjoyment and pleasure from naturally healing ingredients from plants and nature.

And that led me to create The Qi – a holistic beauty/wellness brand where we believe in the healing power of super flowers that provide a simple, beautiful, and nourishing ritual experience. We offer the highest quality edible flowering herbs for teas, infusions, and beyond. This flower sipping ritual is a beautiful sensory experience that allows the mind and body to rest, connect, and restore. 

The Qi Power Flower Set

2. What was the hardest part of launching a beauty business? How did you overcome that challenge? 

There are so many challenges to launching a new product and business. For us, sourcing was one of the biggest challenges as we wanted to offer 100% organic – zero pesticide edible flowers.  They are soooo hard to find as most flowers are cultivated with tons of pesticides to prevent pests and diseases. It took over a year of time, 100+ herbs/flower tastings, and tens of thousands of miles of traveling later we now work with three small family-owned farms where they’ve been cultivating the same flowers for generations. 

3. Was there ever a moment when you almost decided to not go forward with your business? How did you overcome that? 

Yes, all the time! But it never lasts more than a few minutes as the thought of going back to a job while being stuck in a cubicle 5 days a week doing data entry somewhere gets me right back up and keep going. I think starting and sustainably growing a business is knowing when to take a break and rest in order recharge so I can keep going otherwise burnouts and calling it quits is inevitable. Having people and things outside of my work is so important to create that balance too. And it also gives me perspective in life that business is a part of my life, but it is not my entire life.

I don’t ever want to be in my 60s and have built a HUGE business but regretting not truly lived my life in terms of spending time with my loved ones, playing with my dog, smelling the roses, cook for others, travel/see the world, and give back to those who are in need. It’s important not to be trapped in other people’s dogma and follow a path of what success means to them. I want to create my own life doing what’s meaningful to me on my own timeline. Those things keep me going with The Qi.

4. What has been the biggest success since starting The Qi to date? How did you celebrate? 

I’d say the most memorable success is getting our flowers into The Wing Perch. I’ve been a Wing member for years now and have met so many incredible women through the organization where my life has been so much richer on so many levels.  Being able to offer this wonderful community our healing flower infusions is such a humbling experience. I think I literally cried from tears of joy when it finally happened and I’m sure we went out to dinner to celebrate as well. A couple of other memorable experiences include when Emily Weiss IG storied our products and getting picked up by Bloomingdales over the holidays just a few months after we launched. 

5. What does your morning routine look like? 

To be completely honest my morning routine is not the most ideal at the moment – I’m working on getting back on track with a routine that is more mindful which is:

  • I need at least 8 hours of sleep every night (this is my secret to good skin and good health). I’m a very grumpy person to be around if I don’t get enough sleep
  • 8:30AM Wake up
  • Doing 10-15 minutes of QiGong (a mind and body meditation exercise)
  • Shower
  • Breakfast (I’m really into black sesame cereal these days – I top it with honey and roasted nuts) It’s so delicious and nutritious
  • Work

6. Congratulations on selling out most of your current offerings. What do you feel, in your business, created the highest urgency or demand for your products? 

That’s a really good question! I think people are always looking for something new, different, and good for their well being.  I think everyone is starting to realize wellness is not an extension of beauty but a starting point for beauty. In addition, we’re the 1st brand to offer these one-of-a-kind super herb whole flower teas here in the US. Many people are familiar with the health benefits of herbs and teas, but many may not realize these edible flowers are also super herbs with great health benefits and they offer a way more stunning sensory experience when made into a tisane (herbal tea) or infusion compare to any other beverages like they’ve never had before.

7. How do you come up with new product ideas? 

A lot of research both online and IRL, and a strong gut feeling. Also, it has to be aligned with our mission which is creating beautiful and nourishing experiences for all with flowers. 

8. What has been your #1 most game-changing marketing or pr strategy to date and why? 

Creating high-quality products and content is our #1 most important thing. You can have a great marketing or PR strategy but at the end of the day that’ll only get you so far aka someone to buy it once. If you have an amazing product and incredible experience that’s what will keep them coming back for more and tell all of their friends about it. 

9. What’s a non-fiction book that’s positively impacted your business and why? 

How to win friends and influence people is my all-time fav book in life and in business. It teaches so much more than what the title suggests. It’s a whole new way to think and act where it begins with kindness and generosity. In life and business, I feel like the relationships I am able to cultivate are my biggest assets – growing a business is about growing genuine friendships where we can all help one another. 

10. What’s next for your company? We love the new Special Connection Set from The Qi!

We have a couple of new launches coming up this year that we are super excited about. Since it’s still a work in progress we’ll share more closer to date!

Want help building a cult-status beauty brand with the right brand and marketing strategy? Do you desire to be the kind of brand that has customers hopping on waitlists and spreading the word of your brand for you without you even asking? Learn more about how you can do this here

Lisa Li The Qi

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