Talk about a beauty icon- Nicole Rechelbacher Thomas embodies it. She’s the co-owner of the super-natural Intelligent Nutrients Brand- and has a unique perspective about the industry- she’s the daughter of late visionary Horst Rechelbacher- the inventor of Aveda and Intelligent Nutrients.
A couple weeks ago I had the honor of chatting her up in the posh-meets-zen meeting space inside the IN salon and store in Minneapolis.
Nicole and I discuss what beauty is for her and how it permeates EVERYTHING in her life, her father’s lasting influence- and her sense of responsibility to carry on with the Intelligent Nutrients brand- and make a difference for future generations.
S: What’s your definition of beauty?
N: Growing up in the hair world of beauty- there are a lot of definitions of what beauty is- some of it can be very spiritual and meaningful, and some of it can be very shallow-
I really see beauty as internal connective energy- more vibrational. Something you can actually feel and create-
you can send beauty to people- and it’s all about connection and energy. Touch is beautiful.
Inner thought and strength within- I think there’s nothing more beautiful than somebody with confidence.
And somebody who gives to others- it’s all about giving to others and not expecting to receive anything. When you do good to others you receive that in return-
I always believe (beauty is) healing within- giving the nutrients to feed our body as a whole but being respectful of the beauty of the plants- the whole life-cycle of what we do at Intelligent Nutrients. The art of service is beautiful.
You take care of yourself, you take care of others, you take care of the earth- that’s where real beauty comes out.
S: When you’re creating a beautiful life around you, you’re creating a more beautiful world.
N: You look at it in a different telescope and it’s like, yeah- I’m going to focus here. And you’ll always get the negatives around- but it’s how you take it and turn it around- and bring somebody else out of that space.
S: When do you feel the most beautiful?
N: Umm, the little things, your kid giving you a hug, your animal doing something like acknowledging with a little lick- you know like ‘thank you for giving me treats!’
~Someone says something kind to you…
Or after a good workout- when I sweat and probably STINK you know, but I FEEL great. It’s that energy internally.
I’ll tell you when I don’t feel beautiful- when I overdo it. When I put too much make-up on or get over-dressed up- it’s like, that costume- that facade. And yeah it’s fun to play and be creative- I think that’s exciting- I mean we used to do hair shows, I grew up in the beauty world. THAT was FUN- that was art. But to sit there and do all that because you think that’s beauty? Mmm- that’s an allusion of what people think beauty really is.
I guess that’s why I don’t really wear that much make-up-
(S: I have to add, that during this whole interview I marveled at the beauty and radiance of Nicole’s skin- she looks 20 years younger than she is. She attributes it to great skin care- and she tests all the products at IN on herself!)
S: What makes you feel the most empowered?
N: I think it’s your support people around you. It’s so vital to our success and our happiness- it’s so vital to our energy-
And giving back to others.
Life is about happiness and connecting to others and family-
It’s always about growing and evolving, and you know, respecting each other and sometimes you find strength and find a stronger relationship in that and sometimes people have to go their opposite ways.
S:So, I’ve heard you speak on different occasions and I know, obviously, your father was a huge inspiration to you so you can talk about that if you want, but I’m wondering, who in your life inspires you?
N:Definitely him, at a very young age- I think a lot of that was because of what he said and what he stood for- there was huge value and lessons in what he was saying- and dissecting what his messages were.
I sat in all his lectures since I was a single digit… and it was always about trying to de-code what he was actually saying and the messages within that –
I always found that so inspiring because I felt that maybe I could find something that maybe someone else didn’t see- it was like a little game with myself- when others thought he was saying this, I was always like, maybe he was saying it this way…
There’s a lot of people like that (who are inspiring)! Like driving home, listening to NPR I alway catch something that’s interesting- you know, I love words and finding the messages in them.
I think there’s inspiration every single day- it’s opening it up and being aware of your surroundings- being inspired by what you see and also what you hear and acts of kindness- that’s inspiring.
I think it’s around us all the time.
Of course, my father was my big inspiration, but my Mom was as well-
She was a single mom at a very young age and she had a lot that she needed to control and organize through the world around my father and that strength internally is inspiring.
S: You’ve decided to stay within the beauty industry- what is it that lights you up about it?
N: Continuing on was a decision I had to make with my Dad’s partner-
It was an easy decision for me because I always knew that I needed to continue doing this- I didn’t want to have any regrets-
… I was taking on a lot, and I was being compared to him (Horst)- , I didn’t listen to that part of my brain. I know people thought it: ‘what are these girls going to do, they don’t know what they’re doing-‘
But I believed in the philosophy in the company, and we don’t have to make it huge, we just have to make it real and be who we are and enjoy it – why do we have to compete with what all these other people are doing?
I mean- manage, and do it well, and be transparent. Other brands can’t say that, you know. It’s more than just a brand, it’s a lifestyle- and that’s what it is for me.
I love products, I love to listen to the customer, I love working with service providers-I love getting my hands dirty- If I had it my way, I’d be in the lab with the scientists- I don’t like to listen to myself talk- ‘cause I get into my head a lot-, I got influenced by my Dad like that.
I think there’s so much that hasn’t been discovered- especially with nature and sustainability, I think it’s a huge opportunity with the right scientists and chemists, thinking outside the box and inspiring others- that’s what I really like and that’s what I think the world needs- especially the younger generation. There’s no such thing as, ‘you can’t’ and, ‘no’.
S: Did having kids have anything to do with that? You said it’s about the younger generation.
N: You know, to be honest, when I got married in 1997- it’s the same year we sold the company (Aveda). And I never thought my Dad would pull the trigger- It was myself, my brother, and my dad who owned the company, and I was just turning 30-
My whole life had been building around (my father and Aveda)- building himself as a brand- and how we fell into building a product was really his own personal soul-seeking/self-involvement. He was a giver, an artist, a creator, and he made it into something really beautiful but you know, but he lost himself (in it) and it just got really difficult… with so many people and how big it got- he felt out of balance.
So when the deal was done- they told me when I got back from my honeymoon and they were like, ‘well, we knew on your wedding but we didn’t wanna tell you…’
And I decided I didn’t want to work for that company (Aveda- when it was sold to Estee Lauder)- although, it’s a great company and they’re doing great stuff- nothing but good energy goes out to them from us.
When he sold it I was like, well, I guess I’m just going to move on and have babies, that’ll be easy- how hard could that be?
And let me tell you – it was a wake-up call for me- I never really thought I would have three kids or even one kid because my life revolved around Aveda- but when I met my husband and we sold the company I was like- oh! That could be a possibility-
I decided I’d focus on the kids and be that uber mom, hybrid, organic everything, hopefully chickens in the picture… you know, dogs… and I lost myself.
I was- (wearing) khakis and T-shirts, I wasn’t worried about wearing make-up or getting my hair colored- I was au naturale.
Being around all that energy of raising the kids and having a family and watching my dad go through what he did with Aveda and then moving on to Intelligent Nutrients I would always help him and do projects with him- I would always have my foot in the door…
And when he called me- and he told me he had pancreatic cancer…
He fought it for two years- which… you know, they pretty much said he only had like a week to live…
You see a lot of strength in somebody who goes through something like that.
Cancer is devastating- it takes you cell by cell and your ego with it.
It’s my goal to help anyone going through something like that- and that art of service is art of healing as well-
When you can take something that is so difficult and create normalcy there- that is so awesome.
(Intelligent Nutrients has a special salon in the oncology department at the U of M Hospital where volunteers do haircuts and treatments for patients visiting for cancer treatment.)
It’s easy to take a pretty girl and jooshe her up, that’s boring! But to take someone who’s down here (she gestures down at the ground) and bring them up- that’s what beauty is.
That’s something that I get excited about.
S: If you were to boil down- what would your legacy be or message or vision?
N: I don’t know!! I think having a legacy is scary…
S: It’s kind of a heavy word…
N: I think I would want… I always think of my kids- I want them to think ‘she was an inspiring mother, but was fun, had a good sense of humor, was always there, kicked me when I needed to be kicked, pushed me when I needed to be pushed and hugged me when I needed a hug’- that to me is my legacy.
With Intelligent Nutrients… I think anybody who has an opportunity should do better. This is my opportunity- and anybody who can do better, should. If you see something that’s not right, or you’re doing something that’s wasteful or toxic, you know, I mean, c’mon!!
S: cut it out!!
N: yeah! We’re all in this planet together, there is a thing called climate change, and it’s just going to get worse until we all take responsibility because it’s going to be our children’s responsibility- and we need to seed in them to strive for sustainability- and let’s clean up the corporations- and this is one little piece (Intelligent Nutrients)- this is what I can do and it’s my responsibility!
I’m not going to sit in a corner- and be on a sailboat or on a beach, you know, reading a book- it’s like, I have an opportunity and I take it as a responsibility! SO, we’re still hacking at it- and people think we’re crazy, but what is that?!
S: Let them talk..
S: What motivates you or drives you?
N: I think… challenges- people saying no. I’m always taking a negative and making it positive- it’s entertainment for me.
We get ‘you can’t’ all the time, especially in the world of cleaner chemistry – you know- ‘you can’t get a plant retinol’ ..well- you CAN. And we DID.
The more you dive into it, the more you learn.
Positive people motivate me..
Things around us every single day- there are always messages around us everyday- and it’s just getting in tune.
When you connect with your own mind and body- and also the earth and the vibrational energy you’ll find inspiration everywhere…
It can be food, or coffee! Right? That’ll help- that’s MY motivator- there’s nothing like that first cup of coffee in the morning!
Thank you Nicole, for sharing your awesome story- and I can’t wait to see where you take Intelligent Nutrients as a brand. You are a beautiful visionary, and it’s been awesome getting to know you better!
photo credit: Sheri Fleming Photography
Now, it’s your turn. What makes you feel the most connected, empowered, or beautiful? Leave a comment below!