Lily Galef on building Hilma, conducting clinical trials, and all things brand marketing

We had a chat with Lily Galef, Co-Founder and Cheif Brand Officer of Hilma all about how Hilma was founded, completing three clinical studies, and more! Enjoy.

Lily Galef

Tell us about yourself!

Hello! I’m Lily, I’m a Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Hilma--natural remedies that actually work. I grew up in CT with 4 younger siblings and 4 dogs, was an art history major, and prior to the pandemic I lived in NYC. I’m currently hibernating in Colorado.

How did you come up with the idea for Hilma? Any upcoming launches you can tease us with?

My co-founders (Nina Mullen + Hilary Quartner) and I realized that we had transitioned to clean label, natural products in our food, skincare, beauty, and cleaning products, but that we didn’t have a comparable option when it came to our medicine cabinet. It didn’t feel right to be buying organic groceries and getting rid of all the parabens in our skincare, but still be using OTC products full of dyes, fillers, and artificial preservatives. When we looked for natural, clean-label alternatives, we were not happy with what we found: the herbal options were confusing, not backed by science, and were ingredient-focused rather than solution-focused. We felt like we needed to get a degree in herbalism in order to know what to buy! We decided to create Hilma because we believe that natural remedies should be effective and accessible and that everyone should have a natural alternative to what’s currently in their medicine cabinet. We put together a team of doctors & scientists to help us formulate products that we could trust to be clean and effective: we only use natural ingredients that have been clinically researched, we have a strict no list, and we do our own clinical studies on our products. As far as upcoming launches, we have quite a few!! We just launched Respiratory Support, which is a great natural option for occasional congestion. We have an exciting retail launch coming up at the end of March, and another product in the digestive space coming in April… so stay tuned!

How did you work to create such an empowering community?

We see our community is an engine for learning and inspiration--we started engaging with the community a year before we launched, interviewing hundreds of people just to hear about their experiences with OTC, what their pain points were, and what they were looking for. Through that experience, we learned that there was such a thirst for clear, scientifically-backed information on natural ingredients and how they can be used for common health issues. As a result, our community building strategy has been to give the people what they want: utility-based content that is thoughtful, helpful, and easy to digest but never dumbed-down. The metric we look at most to ensure we’re doing our jobs well on the community & content front is the saves. We want to make sure our platforms are additive, providing information that is useful & that our community is genuinely interested in.

Since founding Hilma, what’s been your biggest achievement? Biggest setback?

Funnily enough, they are quite intertwined! Our biggest achievement has been completing our three clinical studies. We’re so proud to be setting a new standard for the natural remedies space and to be able to share such strong results with our community. However, it was a long road to get there! The studies took much longer than expected, which was a huge setback, and ended up delaying our brand launch. At the time it felt devastating.

What is the biggest lesson the pandemic has taught you?

I learned how much I had taken my everyday life for granted. Something as small as my morning commute, for example--I didn’t realize what a gift it was to get up, walk outside for 15 minutes, hop on the subway and see all of the performers and other people on their way, then go into the office and have a full day of in person meetings. It sounds like such a dream to me now!! I also think the pandemic has strengthened my ability to self-soothe. I learned that prior to the pandemic, the way I coped with anxiety and stress was to surround myself with distractions. During the pandemic, so many of those distractions were stripped away, and I was forced to (somewhat brutally!!) learn how to manage it myself.

Stress is real! What’s your go to stress reliever and how do you take time for yourself while running a start-up?

I will admit I have not mastered this at all!! However, I have learned a few things during the pandemic about myself and how to cope with stress. For me, doing yoga in the morning and connecting my breath to movement dramatically reduces my stress levels throughout the day. Even if it's super short, it really helps! Some mornings I will literally just do a downward dog for 10 breaths. It can be so hard to prioritize taking time for yourself when you’re in a mindset of ‘GO GO GO’, particularly while running a start-up, but I’ve found a way to position it to myself that taking that time will actually make me better at my job. My therapist says I should find a way to not have to position everything as ‘productive’, but I’m not quite there yet :) Reading fiction also really helps me gain perspective. Novels remind me that the world is big and life is long (if you’re lucky), and whatever work crisis I’m stressed about isn’t really a crisis at all.

As you know, Community is everything to us, how has your community helped you? Personally & professionally.

The pandemic has made me realize that community is a fundamental human need! My community of friends and family has absolutely kept me going. Professionally, Hilma would not exist without the network of mentors that Nina, Hilary, and I have been lucky enough to have throughout our careers. Our community helped us work through our concept, poke holes, strengthen our instincts, and spread the word. We’ve also been fortunate to join the herbal and scientific community through the process of launching Hilma, and have found it to be a brilliant, inspiring, and generous group of people.

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