Aishwarya Iyer is the founder of Brightland, a modern olive oil company that champions authenticity in the olive oil industry and celebrates good design and California living. Their instagram alone makes you want to cook up a huge pot of pasta to drizzle their olive oil over. Previously based in New York City, Aishwarya now lives in LA (along with her dog, Crosby). We corresponded via email this week and Aishwarya wrote about the origins of Brightland, her previous career path, and silencing her inner critic.
What was your career path before starting Brightland?
I spent 10 years in tech, venture capital and startups in New York and LA. In New York, I worked in public affairs at a finance tech startup that was a marketplace for private company stock for some of the most powerful venture-backed companies in the world. I also worked at an early-stage venture capital firm that invests in a wide range of industries and sectors, including drones, hardware products, dating apps, food delivery platforms and more. After moving to LA, I first joined a consumer mobile startup and then consulted for a number of early-stage startups in finance tech, health tech, artificial intelligence (AI) and chat bots.
How did you get involved in venture capital?
I wanted to learn about a wide array of companies and industries, and understand what it’s like to start a tech company at its most nascent stage, so early stage VC was the perfect way to have a look at amazing founders who started drone companies, dating apps, powerful SaaS platforms, etc. Ultimately I decided I liked operating: building, creating, not just advising/providing guidance.
What inspired you to start Brightland?
After learning that most of the olive oil that Americans consume is rotten/rancid/adulterated, I wanted to do something about it—I wasn’t sure what that looked like. After moving to California I wanted to champion American-made, beautiful extra virgin olive oil that is also elevated, and that’s where the journey began.
Why olive oil?
Olive oil is a foundation of wellness; a cornerstone of nourishment for thousands of years and a historic source of well being and ceremony. Athena’s gift of the olive—useful for light, heat, food, medicine or perfume, was one of the most useful and beloved gifts of the gods. I truly believe in honoring the beauty of the land—the California sun and soil and respecting the nourishment it provides.
What went into the process of creating your business?
Being curious, Googling non-stop, asking others questions non-stop, being relentless and not taking no for an answer….and knowing when it’s better to be done than perfect.
What are some of the challenges you faced?
Shutting off my ‘inner critic’ has been an enormous challenge every step of my career, and one that I still tackle. Everyone has an inner critic based on experiences and feedback from earlier years that governs how they view themselves, affects decision making, and sometimes, sabotages them from their natural power. In the past few years, I have done quite a bit of work, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, to create space from my inner critic, and I’ve been able to unleash powerful qualities because of it. To anyone who resonates with this, I highly recommend reading Embracing Your Inner Critic by Hal & Sidra Stone. It changed my life.
How did the packaging/design come about?
I wanted to channel Matisse, California living, and elevate the overall idea of what an olive oil bottle looks like. I worked with incredible brand firm, Stitch Design Co, who helped bring my vision to life. Our bottles are powder coated matte white with a UV protected powder coating, which keeps the oil extra safe.
Can you talk about the farm you work with?
It’s a family run olive farm in the Central Coast of California, with a certified organic mill on-site. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.
What does a day in your life look like?
Varies wildly—could be packing boxes, inventory planning, overall business strategy, building social and marketing plans, meetings, working closely with our summer associate.
How do you unwind/practice self-care?
I put my phone away from my bedroom before going to sleep
I cook simple meals from start to finish and listen to folk music
Take long walks with my dog around the neighborhood
What's some advice you were given or wish someone had given you?
Other entrepreneurs told me, “You are going to make big changes in your business in the first 60 days," and before Brightland launched, I wasn’t sure what that meant—and within two weeks, there were some big changes that we needed to make! I would say that to any entrepreneur—you will change things shortly after you launch. Be ready to iterate!
What's up next for Brightland?
We are just a month in, so we are excited to be in people’s homes, and love seeing that people are gifting Brightland as housewarming, host/hostess or birthday presents! I think that will be huge for us.
What's your sign and how do you feel about it?
I’m a Pisces—99% agree with all of it. I am absolutely a dreamy, relationship-based person. I am not a good swimmer, so I find it a bit comical that I am a Water sign!
What are you currently watching?
I’m currently watching Queer Eye and The Staircase—totally different for totally different moods!
What are three spots to visit in your neighborhood?
Highly Likely: a new cafe in West Adams: delicious, inviting
Santa Monica Beach: expansive, liberating, freeing
Malibu Hindu Temple: for spiritual bliss, open to all