Meet an American who left a high-flying career to settle in Greece. At Vilia Soap Company, she maximizes the potential of nature’s bounty. Get a coupon too!
By Alexia Amvrazi
Vilia Soap Company: a blooming business
American Staci Wagner Hamalis met her husband in Chicago, where she lived for four years. The city was especially romantic for him because that is where his own parents met. Since he proposed to her in 2012 at The Bean (a sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park), she began visiting his homeland. Gradually, she fell more and more in love with Greece — and his family — while also learning about traditional soap making. Her life changed dramatically when she settled in her husband’s hometown of Kavala.
“I love the Greek culture and richness of nature here and wanted to share this with others, which is why in my brand you will find inspiration from Greece in the products and in the packaging.”
She spoke about the growing market for organic cosmetics, and why she felt confident about this move, and starting Vilia Soap Company.
“The global organic cosmetics market is expected to grow 10% each year and the market is expected to be $16 billion in 2021. Part of the reason why I took the leap of faith and left my stable corporate career is because I see that this market is growing and there is opportunity to make bio artisan soaps using his family’s top quality olive oil.”
Home is where the heart is
Her high-flying career had her traveling around the world and living in cities such as Brussels and London, but she found her true path upon settling in northern Greece in 2015. She moved soon after her marriage, and was immediately inspired by the fertile Greek landscape and its cornucopia of natural products — most of which have curative and cosmetic properties. Above all, she became fascinated by what her father-in-law, a retired chemist, began teaching her in 2012: traditional soap-making. Using the purest of nature’s bounty and employing old school artisanal methods, she is now running the successful Vilia Soap Company. Her use of old methods is most impressive, especially in a world of mass produced, chemically-laden products.
A family affair
Vilia Soap Company markets its products around the world. This is both challenging and exciting.
“It’s very different running your own company because you do everything, from marketing and sales to actually creating the products — I am all branches!”
She laughed as she explained, but was quick to add that she is fortunate enough to receive incredible family support on all levels.
“Dino, my husband, who has his own website design company, helps me to market materials and to have a good online presence. My father-in-law builds all the soap molds out of recycled wood and made the wooden soap cutters. My mom is my top US distributor — she and my sister even ran a natural crafts festival for my products in the U.S.”
‘Vilia’ is from the Greek word ‘voukamvilia’ – the beautiful flowering plants which are prevalent in Greece. The flowers have also inspired the company’s logo and packaging. COURTESY: VILIA SOAP COMPANY
From Kavala with love
Vilia Soap Company uses Greek organic olive oil from Kavala combined with almond oil from Volos in central Greece. Inspired from local flora and fauna, they use lavender from the local market, and various other indigenous herbs like rosemary. Ingredients like Tea Tree oil and lemongrass are sourced from foreign suppliers.
Their soaps have already proven a great success among customers in 11 countries across the world. Their largest demographic is women, from late 20s and up, who seek pure, handmade, high-quality, chemical-free and uniquely fragranced soaps. But they aren’t stopping there.
“We have just launched a lip balm line. Our next product will be keralifi – a kind of wonder-cream (based on beeswax and olive oil) that can be used to treat a variety of things from stretch marks or skin irritations or dryness. That will be followed by a facial serum and facial toners, and then a baby line next year.”
She hopes to get her products into U.S. boutiques that feature indie brands.
Apart from making the world a happier, more sweet-smelling place via her gourmand cosmetics — Lavender & Oatmeal, Earl Grey Tea & Patchouli, Lemongrass & Rosemary are just some of the delightful fragrances she concocts — the company also offers support to charity.
“When I founded this company my goal was to give back. I believe that all human beings should have access to clean water because it can change an entire community. I donate a portion of the profits to Charity: Water, a non-profit organization that provides clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.”
Family comes first
Despite living a busy, creative, and exciting existence, it’s quite a change to go from zipping around Europe’s urban jungles to gathering olives in a sleepy seaside orchard in Kavala. Staci said that although very different, her life of the last two years feels more purposeful and most of all, rewarding.
“I’m still working a lot of hours like I did before, but it’s different because I’m doing it for myself and my family. The slower pace of life is enjoyable, and I’m learning more about the people of Greece, the cuisine and landscape. I’m now finally able to enjoy a few hours of yoga during the week — I’m learning, siga-siga! I love that it’s much more family-oriented here, people spend more time at home, eating together at every meal, for example. I’m very independent and at first it was hard that I couldn’t communicate and express myself easily. But then I just got over it and embraced it all!”
SPECIAL OFFER! Staci and Vilia Soap Company have offered a special coupon for our readers! Shop online. Enter the code “windycitygreek”, and receive 10% off your purchase. This coupon cannot be combined with other coupons or sale items. This coupon can only be used once per customer. There is no minimum order amount on this coupon.
Alexia Amvrazi is a Greek-American who was born and raised in Rome and lives in Athens. She has worked as a writer and editor for English language publications and websites in Greece and abroad for over 20 years, hosting her own daily live radio interview show for a decade at the municipal Athens International Radio and travelling far and wide around Greece and its islands for travel guides such as Fodor’s and her own pleasure. Her favorite assignments involve travel, gastronomy, holistic wellness, culture and lifestyle, and she is always in search of the next big thing. In her personal time she enjoys cooking, creative writing, photography and video-making, songwriting and studying holistic practices. Connect with Alexia on Twitter.