Athena Hewett is an esthetician and founder of skin care line Monastery
in San Francisco, a line that focuses on creating product using the purest natural ingredients (we are HUGE fans of her Sage cleansing oil). After following her brand for some time and mutually fan girl-ing each other's work, we were finally able to catch up with her in SF to talk about Monastery, motherhood, and her fave SF spots.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you came from/grew up and how you ended up in the city you live in.
I'm from the central valley of California. I grew up on a farm and am a first generation American. Maybe it was because my parents were foreign but I always felt that I was raised differently from the other families around me. We composted our food and we ate dinner on a straw mat on the ground. It wasn't because my parents couldn't afford a table, it's because my mom thought it was more intimate to be on the ground. I had always had an interest in being an esthetician and living in San Francisco. I moved to San Francisco in 2001 to enroll in an esthetic program and am still here.
2. How did you end up opening your business? what's the story behind it?
I always knew that I wanted to have my own skincare practice but I was also a very loyal employee. I had the clientele to go out on my own probably 7 years before I actually did it. I finally made the move when I felt under appreciated by my last employer. I've always had a huge passion for oils, botanicals and creating recipes and when I opened my own place I knew that I would use only my own mixtures.
3. Your skin care line is so good and the quality is top notch. We feel like we're getting an expensive spa treatment when we use the product. Tell us about the ingredients/process....
Quality is my top priority. It took me years to find extra high quality ingredients. A lot of reading of obscure botanical blogs, newsletters and books. Traveling overseas, finding translators, sending letters in the mail to some address I found on the internet. Weird stuff like that. These days I don't have to travel much because my sources have already been secured, but every once in a while we lose a source and it's very stressful.
4. What is the story behind the name Monastery?
When I was naming the brand I felt kind of shy about naming it my own name for some reason so I was looking for something else. When I was in the naming process someone asked me what I wanted the brand to evoke and I said the highest level of simplicity, purity, and ritual. A Monastery is a place for extended ritual; a place where a person goes to edit themselves , to take everything away that they don’t need in search of finding the purest way to live. That’s what I want to believe my line represents in the world of skincare brands.
5. You have a toddler and your husband helps with the business. tell us how you juggle motherhood/husband/business?
I don't do it gracefully thats for sure! haha. I feel like the family can suffer when a business grows. It's good that I have my family right here with me, this way we are actually together even if I'm always on my phone or my laptop. I'm not proud of that fact that I'm always in front of a screen but it's the reality these days. Someday I hope it's not the case. My husband left his job to support the company and help with the raising of our son. If he wasn't able to have done that we would have had to hire two people, someone for Monastery and someone for our son. It was an easy decision for us.
5. Top 5 favorite SF things to do/eat/visit?
1. The Conservatory of Flowers. It could very well be the most beautiful place in the city, for me I find inspiration there. Golden Gate Park (where the conservatory is) in general is also just so pretty and there are so many little secret spots.
2. State Bird Provisions. Love that place. The food is so yummy and the atmosphere is fun.
3. SF MOMA, we have a membership and it's walking distance from our home. We like to go there with our son and then take him to Yerba Buena Park afterwards.
4. Chrissy Field. That's our go to beach. The dog loves it plus It's a bit warmer than Ocean Beach. The view of Golden Gate Bridge is also a plus.
5. Valencia Street. We live close to Valencia so when we need to get out of the house for an hour or so we'll walk to Valencia, hit up a few of our favorite stores, grab a fancy beer and head home.
Check out Monastery HERE.