The Flower Alchemist of Lotus Wei: Meet Katie Hess

At least once a month on Annapurna Living, we spotlight a creative entrepreneur who chooses to do business with integrity and soul. Today, please enjoy our conversation with the luminous Katie Hess, founder of Lotus Wei.
Katie Hess by Thea Coughlin

Katie Hess by Thea Coughlin

(Note: this article is a repost and was originally published last year.)

Hello! Please introduce yourself. Who are you? What do you do? How does your heart manifest in the world?

My name is Katie. I’m a visionary + a flower freak—or more formally a Flower Alchemist, Entrepreneur + founder of LOTUSWEI, a growing company devoted to creating a worldwide positive ripple effect through flowers and flower elixirs.

It all starts by going out into the wild or special gardens around the world to find unique flowers whose transformative benefits we all most need today. I make elixirs—or flower essences—which are diluted infusions of the energetics of the flower. They don’t have a scent and are traditionally taken internally. Each flower has a very specific transformative effect on our state of mind, waking up different parts of us and catalyzing insights, self-awareness and wisdom. We infuse these flower essences into a variety of elixirs, aromatherapy mists, oils and other daily use mood boosters.

I spend most of my time running and leading the business of education, storytelling, connecting with people and re-inventing and re-imagining how we nurture, evolve and wake up ourselves through flowers and flower elixirs. I love anything to do with creating experiences that reconnect people to themselves, their loved ones, to nature and a vast sense of interconnectedness with everything. I love promoting the re-discovery of our own greatness and potential in the world.

Photo by Taylor Rico

Photo by Taylor Rico

My work is important because____.

My work is important because it transforms people’s lives and catalyzes their greatness, creating ripple effects of positivity all over the world. Currently we work mostly with 95% women—women who are open to nourishing their wellbeing through flower elixirs, aromatherapy, meditation and healthy eating. Most of them also truly want transformation—they want to reach their full potential and are open to flower elixirs accelerating self-discovery and self-awareness. They want to change the world from the inside out and take charge of their state of mind as the most powerful agent of change in the world. We use the word: Flowerevolutionary, or someone who uses flowers to evolve themselves, which creates a positive revolutionary or paradigm-shifting change around the world. Not only do we make transformative products and experiences, we make a difference in the way that we walk our talk, how we run the business and how we take care of our community. We are authentic, transparent and truly loving. We do the right thing. We truly care about people and their lives and they feel it.

As an entrepreneur, who in business do you admire, and why?

I love the way Eileen Fisher has grown her business, the way she takes care of her team despite being a huge national business and how she weaves sustainability into fashion. Go into any Eileen Fisher store and ask the women how they like working there—they’ll tell you fiercely that they love it, proud to get paid for volunteering in their community and to get wellness benefits (retreats, massage, acupuncture, creative classes). EF also has a grant program and gives away money each year to small businesses or startups run by women.

I also love the story of Anita Roddick. Though she's no longer alive, her book Body & Soul is super inspiring: how she grew her business, worked with communities around the world in fair trade agreements and brought unique new plant ingredients into personal care. I love Leonie Dawson, for her down-to-earth authenticity. I love that she posts funny photos of herself with bedhead and is in general fearless about being herself. She weaves business, home life, kids, hubby, self-discovery and insights all into the same space. I admire Amanda Palmer. Her writing skills are insane and she’s a master of thinking outside the box, doing things in a wild and fresh way and fearlessly speaks her truth. Business-wise, she really loves people—she really cares about them—and it shows. And her use of social media + real-time events + innovative systems like Patreon + Kickstarter to create communities and get funded for creating—is masterful.

Another woman I’ve recently fallen in love with is Elizabeth Gilbert. I think she considers herself more writer than entrepreneur, but her message is music to my ears and it applies to business perfectly—being an entrepreneur is one of the most creative professions there is. She encourages us to get out there, get it done, make something imperfectly, create and not be too hard on ourselves, to be authentic and self-loving. She also talks about magic, passion, creativity, ‘failure’, fear and courage. Her best talks are those she gave in her recent book tour for Big Magic, but she’s got TED talks, too.

This photo + header photo by Denise Andrade-Kroon.

This photo + header photo by Denise Andrade-Kroon.

What does soulful business mean to you?

Truly caring, and being motivated by a sense of urgency—that life is precious and life is short—that we can make a difference and positively impact the world by our actions, what we say, how we do what we do and our state of mind. It’s all vitally important and we must be impeccable in our word, actions and thoughts. It starts with the bones of the business itself, the vision, the everyday goings-on, the dedication of the people at the core—and expands out to the community that it builds and how all of those people expand the vision and transformative power of what’s being created.

Why do you create? Why is a soulful business important to you? What motivates you?

Creating is fun, joyful and expansive. It fuels me like a good espresso—it gives me a surge of energy and joy. Whatever is born out of that creative state inspires, touches or resonates with other people. To me, a business without pure motivation to benefit people at its core is irrelevant. That is increasingly apparent these days. Benefiting others is sustainability. A business that benefits people can live forever—and will forever be relevant. What motivates me: that each of us have a vast, untapped potential. Each of us can not even conceive of the boundless greatness that we possess and the multiplicity of ways that we can and will express our greatness in this life. We are bigger than we know. That is very exciting to me—this sense of infinite possibilities and opportunities. Anything that speeds up the process of awakening that in each of us as individuals and in our communities excites me.

Where did you cultivate your work ethic?

Hmm. I grew up in the midwest with a German ancestry, which I imagine is what planted the seed of a desire to do things well, finish what I start and finish work before play. Contribution and selfless helping others was important where I grew up in the midwest. I remember people mowing their neighbor’s lawns or blowing the snow out of their neighbor’s driveways out of kindness. Even now, I’m so proud whenever I observe my parents. When we’re invited to have a meal at someone’s house, they jump in the kitchen and help the host clean up and wash the dishes. My parents are selfless and enjoy helping people out. Whatever work ethic I have is inherently instilled by them. In my early 20’s, I met my spiritual teachers, who taught me the profound value of work ethic—how being impeccable with one’s words, actions and thoughts impacts the world in every moment and how one’s work ethic can be woven into self-awareness, a way of life and even a spiritual path in everyday life. How we do anything is how we do everything.

What is the best piece of business advice you have received?

No need to ever chase money or success. If you do good, the money will follow you—it will look for you. If you are good [at what you do], people will look for you.

What is the best business advice you would give?

Figure out everything as you go. Everything. Do whatever it takes to figure out every part of your business as you go. No MBA will teach you that, only through personal experience will you gain business mastery. Don’t be afraid to take classes, get a mentor or be a part of an entrepreneurial incubator/accelerator. All of those things help. And in the end, you’ll always fall back on your ability to figure things out as you go. Personal experience and wisdom always trumps knowledge. Be motivated by something other than the money. Your passion and desire to be of service or to be creative will fuel you forever and get you though the challenging times. But keep your eye on the numbers. Have someone else do your bookkeeping, but learn how to read financials and look at them regularly: see all the clues about what’s working and not working. The financials show where you've been and where you'll be if you keep doing things in the same way—it's like a map. Do financial projections, learn the language around money and access to capital— especially if you're a woman. Also, learn to delegate. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Grow a team based on how people are—skills can all be taught—the most important things are those that are inherent and cannot be taught—their values.

Photo by Goldwire

Photo by Goldwire

How do you stay connected to loved ones when deeply entrenched in work?

It becomes more about quality than quantity. I make sure that when I am with my loved ones, I am 100% present with them. I listen, I observe, I reach out and connect with them. I ask them about the things I know are most meaningful to them. My listening and presence envelopes them in love and care. I also remind myself constantly that things always change, that life is always unpredictable, that our loved ones will not always be with us—and that therefore every moment counts. That motivates me to be present with people.

What is your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur? How do you work with or around it?

My biggest challenge … I LOVE what I do so much that I tend to go and go and go until I can’t anymore. I have sacrificed my own wellbeing at times for the business. Over the last year I have noticed the long-term effects of that and have been shifting my habits—I’ve been coming home earlier at night and focusing on making exercising and self-care more of a priority. I recently read on a tea bag tag and totally resonated with it: ‘A relaxed mind is a creative mind.’ I have to constantly remind myself that taking breaks and taking time off from the business is valuable.

Please share a personal mantra, motto, or ritual for when you feel drained.

Dark chocolate. Spending time in nature. Meditation or enjoying breathing. Just taking a minute to breathe outside and feel connected to the trees, flowers, earth and everything around me is a quick pick-me-up. I also like to remember the profound quality of life, how precious and fleeting everything is—that fills me with gratitude and brings tears to my eyes.

When you feel burned out or uninspired, what lights your fire again?

Sitting in the sauna, walking through a forest, going to a bathhouse, taking some time off, pushing back from work to take a day off, taking flower elixirs for creativity, going out to eat a good meal … the simple things in life.

Photo by Thea Coughlin

Photo by Thea Coughlin

How do you start your work day?

I wake up early and feed the dogs. I grab coffee and tea and sit down to meditate. Meditation time is a daily commitment no matter where I am or what I’m doing. I am at my most creative in the mornings, so I write for one hour in the morning, or work on some creative project related to the business. Then I plan out my priorities for the day. I usually take the whole morning to work by myself and then in the afternoon I head to the office, talk with my team, work on collaborative projects or problem-solve with the team.

If you could do something else as a vocation, what would it be?

Florist. Juice & Elixir shop. Bathhouse/hot springs. Treehouse resort. (Ways to create transformative experiences for people with/in nature.)

When do you feel most creative?

In the morning with coffee. Or after a day off. When I’m in nature or traveling, when there’s more spaciousness and a little less routine. Sitting in an outdoor hot tub with a laptop—that’s my favorite office. ; )

Photo by Goldwire

Photo by Goldwire

Who inspires you and where or how is their influence felt in your work?

My spiritual teachers are my greatest inspiration. My closest teacher doesn’t have a website—he’s not online anywhere. He’s sort of incognito. I aspire to be like him—he is absolutely fearless, hilarious, super in-tune and incredibly kind-hearted. My other favorite teachers are HH the Karmapa and HH the Dalai Lama. I especially love the message of the Karmapa, because he is so contemporary, talking about women’s rights and sustainability. Their influence can be seen in my work with the core philosophy and method: changing the world from the inside out. Also, it is reflected in the way that there is a method. For example, talk is cheap—there must always be a method to get us from A to B. Simply saying, “Be present,” or “Be happy” is not enough, there must be a method or tool we can share or a practice to help us attain that.

When did you first realize you wanted to be an entreprenuer?

I had my own business doing one-on-one flower essence consultations, for over a decade, but since it was just me, it didn’t occur to me that I was an entrepreneur. After seeing so many dramatic transformations in my clients’ lives, I felt a duty to get the flower essences out to a broader audience. I found out about a local resort building a flagship spa for the world’s largest hotel chain. I worked for three months formulating products without pay in order to land that opportunity. The day they hired me, I discovered a rare, night-blooming cactus flower blooming on their property. I took it as an auspicious gift from Mother Nature, and infused that flower elixir into the entire line of organic products I was designing for them. It was wildly successful—and as a result I scaled my business from one-on-one consulting to formulation, manufacturing, marketing, sales, education/training. That experience made me realize that I was a serious—and serial—social entrepreneur.

What did you want to be when you were a little girl?

Astronaut. Singer. Dancer. Work on a huge project to help lots of people.

What did you know you did NOT want to be?

It never occurred to me what I did NOT want to be. That only happened later in my twenties, when I realized that I never wanted to work for/under someone who wasn’t motivated by constantly making things better. That made zero sense to me. I quit soon after to run my own business.

Do you have a first memory from childhood that connects you to what you have created today?

Yes, of course. I wrote about exactly that in my first book that’s coming out fall of 2016. I LOVED playing outside. I moved around a lot as a kid, so I lived in a variety of places, but everywhere I played around trees, flowers and nature. In my mother’s gardens in Minneapolis it started with the huge, ruffly peonies, bright fuchsia flowers, dangling bleeding hearts, aromatic lily-of-the-valley flowers and floating water hyacinths. I ran through the alleyways with the neighbor kids sucking the nectar out of the tiny bulbs on the wild honeysuckle flowers. In Michigan I picked blueberries, hunted morel mushrooms and marveled at the solitary lady slipper forest orchids and the carpets of white trillium flowers that looked like popcorn sprinkled on the forest floor. The deep forest waterfalls, massive sand dunes and expansive, crystal clear Great Lakes inspired me. Building tree forts was unsurpassed fun. In Wisconsin I climbed cedar trees and spent hours walking through the forest as my refuge. Nature connected me with a sense of something bigger than myself that I belonged to.

Photo by Thea Coughlin

Photo by Thea Coughlin

What did you learn from your childhood that impacts you today?

Things are always changing. It’s a big world out there—endless options and opportunities. We have to choose wisely. Mother Nature is a source for interconnectedness + support. Gentle is powerful. Imagination + play are where it’s at.

If you could do or make something every day that you give away, what would it be?

Poems. Bouquets of flowers. Love notes. Love-all-around-inducing amulets. Herbal medicines for the road. Incense & offerings. Singing & music. Shots of elixirs & magic potions that positively change the trajectory of a life. Hanging mobiles of driftwood, gems & precious things for blowing prayers into the wind. Wind chimes.

What is the thing that keeps you up at night?

Am I feeding my dogs the right food? Am I taking care of my teacher as best as I can? Am I present enough with my teacher/s? Could I do more? Am I aware of every moment? Am I cherishing everything as best I can or will I regret it later when loved ones are gone? Am I pushing myself in my business enough? Where and when am I getting complacent, unaware, ignorant or hanging out in some kind of plateau without pushing myself to be better?

How do you stay nourished and inspired as a soulful creative?

Practicing meditation daily gives me spaciousness of mind. Taking it slow in the mornings at home or at a coffeeshop allows me brainstorming & quiet creative, reflection or writing time. Sometimes just looking at other creatives’ work on Instagram nourishes me—I look through the lens and eyes of potters, photographers, writers, poets, moms, creatives, entrepreneurs—and I am filled up! I love music. I burn pinon pine incense as offerings. I love wearing silk, linen, cotton. I dab some essential oils on my skin. I take flower elixirs—lots and lots of flower elixirs to wake up the best parts of me. I love people. I love traveling. I love playing and snuggling with my dogs. Whenever I’m in the vicinity of an Asian bathhouse—I go there to take a few hours off. I sit in the sauna, dip in the hot and icy cold baths, eat spicy soup, lounge, do nothing. That’s deep rest for me and nourishes me for more creating later. {My favs in LA: Wi Spa; SF: Kabuki, Osmosis; Santa Fe: 10,000 Waves; Japan: any hot springs; Korea: any jimjilbang}

Photo by Thea Coughlin

Photo by Thea Coughlin

Who supports you?

My teacher: fierce wisdom & catalytic words for personal, business + spiritual path. He points out my weaknesses, builds up my strengths, constantly and skillfully pushes me to be better in all areas and in all ways. He also makes me laugh. He keeps me joyful, light-hearted and humorous, no matter what. My family (who I live with): I live in a house with several people—we all support each other in various ways. It’s a nice system. I cook 1-2 times per week; all the rest of the nights I come home and dinner is ready. We share responsibilities and help each other with dogs, kids, businesses, life. My family (parents): They’re always rooting for me unconditionally. They've allowed me freedom, independence and to be who I am, even if it’s very different from everyone else. They raised me with unconditional love and continue to support me unconditionally. My team at LOTUSWEI: I can’t say enough about them. They fuel the vision. They pour themselves and their efforts into making the world—and the business—a better place. When I’m off writing, traveling for business or working outside the office, they keep the momentum going. They truly care about people, love our community and are motivated by making a difference. Read about them here. My dogs: They get me out of bed in early in the morning—without hesitation. They keep me walking at night. They shower me with their joy, playfulness & unconditional love & loyalty. They've taught me about the depths of love I’m capable of.

What is your business philosophy?

Every person counts. We care deeply for each person who comes into our community. We care deeply about the experiences and quality of products we create. Each of us as individuals is dedicated to our own personal growth and our evolution as a team. We’re joyful, playful, creative and visionary. With our hearts in the right place and a little strategy, the rest falls into place. I am constantly trying to find ways to push past my/our limitations - to be better each day in as many ways as possible.

What are your favorite entrepreneurial resources? Business mentors? Please share books, websites, and more.

Best method for a start up—

Join an social entrepreneurial incubator or accelerator like Seed Spot. Their method of testing, proving, expanding your business through MVP’s (minimum viable product), creating pitch decks, etc. is effective and time-saving. I did a full time program a couple years ago and learned how to pitch to investors. I would recommend this type of program/method to anyone starting a new business or scaling a business (don’t give away any equity in your company though).

Favorite Books—

Learning to prioritize, discern which opportunities are golden, create a life you love & how/why to say no: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown. Moving toward what brings you joy: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. Taking creative risks & still loving yourself: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Asking for what you need & the power of social media: The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Let People Help, by Amanda Palmer.

Best program to learn about financials, scaling your business & mapping out the financial future of your business: Profit Mastery. I did it in Phoenix, but they have an online program with the same videos I watched. If you need to ask for a loan to grow your business, this is a quick way to learn how to speak to any banker or investor. The language of money is not my first language (or second, third or fourth)—it’s something I’ve had to work at, but it’s extremely empowering to understand and speak this language, especially as a woman.

Photo by Dabito

Photo by Dabito

What was the biggest "lesson" you've learned through your experience in business?

I can’t think of any one big thing. It’s been years of ongoing lessons … giving too much, saying yes too much, what contracts to sign/not sign, getting a full grasp of the tremendous value we bring to the table, sharpening our vision and speeding up execution. We’ve evolved a TON over the years. Running a business grows us in a similar way to a spiritual path or practice. I think one of our biggest learnings is that patience is a virtue, that if you do everything well and continually improve, bigger opportunities will simply present themselves over time. We’ve gone further and further away from doing things the way we felt they were ‘supposed to be done’ or hoping some big opportunity would sweep us off our feet. Now we take more risks, do things our own way and create the opportunities ourselves.

Tell us a story or describe a time when something occurred in your business that made your heart leap and you KNEW you were doing the right thing.

The story I shared earlier about finding the Night-Blooming Cereus flower—that was a moment. The flower only blooms one night each year—it was divine timing. Four months after the resort/spa opened, the President Obama came to stay just as he had gotten into office. I got a kick out of thinking about him using the soap in the shower—with the Night-Blooming Cereus flower elixir bumping him up energetically as he just got into office. Beyond the president, many people were positively impacted, by the simple act of using a lotion, soap or getting a spa treatment designed to make people bold and courageous—to move beyond self-limitation into a bigger expression of themselves. You never know how your work will touch or impact others in subtle ways. We constantly get letters and testimonials from our customers about how their lives have changed as a result of the flower elixirs, which is so heart-warming for us.

Please share any messages, wisdom, stories, or insights you have gathered through your entrepreneurial journey.

You can figure everything out. Write down exactly what you want if there were no limits. Keep writing it down. Your team is everything. Hire the best people. If you can’t find them, keep looking. Dream big. It will all happen, probably somewhat slower than you think, yet in a bigger and better way that you could have ever imagined. Pay attention to your financials. Cherish your loved ones—make the time you have quality time. Work with people that you enjoy and who have the same values, whether it’s your suppliers, customers, wholesalers or industry. Build your business around everything you love most about the world and work with people who resonate with your values. Life is short. Say ‘no’ to anything that’s not a “hell yeah!”; another way to think of it: say no to anything that’s not a 9 or 10 (from 1-10). You don’t have to create a hierarchal business—you can make it unilateral. You can use systems like holacracy or open space style meetings to invite more collaboration, self-motivation and self-organization.

Photo by Thea Coughlin

Photo by Thea Coughlin

UPDATE: 

KATIE HAS PUBLISHED A BOOK! Congrats Katie! 


About Katie

Katie Hess, founder of LOTUSWEI, travels worldwide to hand-collect bio-energetic flower remedies that balance body and mind. After 15 years of independent research of flower and plant-based healing, she is known for discovering the therapeutic qualities of flowers and creating flower elixirs that reduce stress, improve sleep and accelerate personal growth in today's modern busy lifestyle. Her transformative elixirs are sold in 12 countries, and have been featured in Oprah Magazine, Prevention, Martha Stewart + custom-created for President Obama. She partners with spas, resorts and wellness centers worldwide, and is recognized and endorsed by other leaders in wellness such as Dr. Andrew Weil. Instigating a r/evolution with the premise that you transform the world by transforming yourself (with a little help from flowers), Katie is currently writing a book about the transformative power of flowers with Louie Schwartzberg, filmmaker and master time-lapse photographer featured on TED, Oprah and at the United Nations Climate talks. Their book will be published by Hay House in 2016. Discover LOTUSWEI on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and on LotusWei.com.