A Look Ahead with Susanne Norwitz
Founder of Maya Chia
If there’s anything more rewarding than introducing a devoted community to new beauty discoveries each month, it’s getting to know the Founders behind my favorite brands. I am always energized and enlightened by the conversations and I always take something away, whether it’s a bit of useful education, a beauty tip or words of inspiration. But in all my face-to-face meetings with Founders, never have I ever walked away with a fortune-telling. This was just one of the many gifts I received on my 24-hour whirlwind trip to Charleston to meet Susanne Norwitz, Founder of Maya Chia.
Susanne Norwitz is one of those rare people I instantly felt a lifelong connection with after just one conversation. Maybe it’s just her southern charm, but for nearly two years since first meeting her, I have found her passion for clean beauty, her excitement about the evolution of Maya Chia, and her generous spirit to be uniquely authentic and attractive. So, when we decided to collaborate for a second time, I made it my mission to fit in a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, where Maya Chia is based, to spend more quality time with Susanne. As it turned out, my pitstop was full of southern hospitality and a few unexpected surprises!
It was clear upon my arrival to Charleston that this quaint, quirky city is definitely witnessing a cultural and economic revival, as evidenced by the ubiquitous construction and trendy eateries, coffee spots and boutiques sandwiched between antiquated mom-and-pop shops. Maya Chia HQ is in Mount Pleasant, just over the beautiful, modern Arthur Ravenel bridge. Susanne’s office and production space is open, naturally-lit with a view of Shem creek outside her window. The walls in the main room are lined with inventory and a long fulfillment table runs down the center of the space, where all Maya Chia orders are hand-packed with care. Susanne’s desk is small and unassuming, tucked in the corner of this sun-filled warehouse. Around the corner I found a smaller production room, ingredient storage area and a kitchen. My first surprise of the visit was sitting on Susanne’s desk. It was a typed agenda for our visit, outlining the events for the day, including an afternoon at the nearby Woodhouse Spa for a Maya Chia facial. She had also picked up a few snacks and a basket of treats for me to take to my nearby Airbnb. Suddenly, 3000 miles from the Bay Area, I felt at home.
Before our spa day treat, we had work to do. Susanne guided me to the product room where she set up all of the ingredients to make The Eye Achiever. She lent me a lab coat and a hair cap and showed me the printed formula, with precise measurements for every ingredient. The formula was adjusted to make exactly two bottles, a small amount. One by one, we measured precise amounts of chia and astaxanthin, sea lavender, raspberry seed, sweet lupine, black cumin seed, pomegranate, eyebright fennel and more, nineteen ingredients in total. As she talked me through each of the ingredients and how she pours over the in vivo studies on each one; brown algae increases moisture by 70% and stimulates natural hyaluronic acid in the skin, increasing it by 24%. Sea lavender has been studied to increase micro circulation by increasing the tubal length of the blood vessels by 32%. She explains that she chose ingredients that have ‘the muscle’ to deliver real results around the eye area. As we went through each ingredient, Susanne shared with me the trials of arriving at right formula, having gone through approximately sixty iterations on The Eye Achiever. She was intent in creating a Hero product that does it all and delivers on its promise. In my humble opinion, she nailed it.
During our time in the production room, she also shared that her most difficult product to formulate was The Super Blend, with more than one hundred and sixty iterations. True to Susanne’s over-achieving nature, when customers began clamoring for a Maya Chia balm, she knew she couldn’t just turn out another balm, she had to create a product that delivered results that would set it apart, so she decided to create a pressed serum, a face serum in balm form. The Super Blend is her most complex formula, that takes a lot of care to manufacture. In it you will find chia and astaxanthan, shelf-stable Vitamin C esther paired with co-enzyme Q10 (a winning pair according to Susanne), horsetail, sage, nettle and sweet lupine seed extract from France that Susanne says has been studied for its remarkable firming and collagen-building abilities. The product of The Super Blend for this month’s Beauty Heroes discovery took a lot of planning and coordination, and I’m even more excited to share this labor of love with the Beauty Heroes Tribe.
After Product Development 101, I was ready for a little R&R, but Susanne had something special lined up that wasn’t on the agenda. Before laying horizontal on a facial table, we had a surprise guest drop by…Jessica Morse, from Bare Beauty! This all-star Brand Ambassador caught me up on the green beauty boom in Charleston (which Jessica and Susanne are smack dab in the center of), and I got to gush over her ‘new mom’ natural glow.
Finally, it was off to the Woodhouse Spa, where Maya Chia, a favorite of the Spa Director, sits alongside traditional, legacy spa skincare brands. Here, an exclusive Maya Chia scrub and mask can be experienced in treatment only, another reason to travel to this delightful city! As I settled in for my facial and listened as my esthetician educated me on each Maya Chia product she would be using on my skin, my inner Spa Director was doing her happy dance. The staff was superbly educated, and gave me every confidence that what I was about to experience would be unforgettable. Indeed, it was. I loved feeling and smelling my own personal favorite Maya Chia products, and was thrilled to experience new blends, including the scrub! (I may have made a post-facial plea to Susanne that she make this Hero-worthy scrub available in retail. We’ll have to wait to see how much influence I really have!)
Next, Susanne and I headed to Butcher and Bee, a new farm-to-table restaurant, where we were served up vegetarian small plates with an extra helping of Southern hospitality. (Our favorite was the whipped feta with honey.) Susanne and I learned that we went to the same university and were only a year apart in school. We lived in New York over the same period of time, and wondered if our paths had ever crossed.
After what felt like the perfect day, it was time to return home. When planning my trip to Charleston, Susanne gave me several options on where to stay – a hotel, a bed and breakfast or an Airbnb rental, one of which was a tiny house situated in the back yard of a family home in Mt. Pleasant. You can guess which option I chose. After dinner, we headed to check into the tiny home that was surprisingly well-appointed and spacious. Equipped with a full kitchen and bath, living space and super-cozy full-size bed in the loft, I dreamed about checking in for a few weeks, or better yet, living in one myself to truly practice the art of using less and loving more. This is an idea that I am sure I’ll revisit in future writing, so stay tuned.
The next morning, Susanne drove me around Charleston and we stopped by one of her local boutiques, Out of Hand, that stocks Maya Chia. We walked through their beauty selection and noticed how green beauty is being fully integrated into traditional retail, and not set apart in it’s own section. I think we both felt affirmed by this. As we left, Susanne casually suggested that she should read my tarot cards. I was surprised, as I didn’t know she read cards, but of course she didn’t need to ask me twice. We made our way back to Maya Chia where we had just enough time for a ten-card reading. I brought to mind a current situation in my life that I needed insight on, and I pulled the cards. As Susanne read me the meaning of each card, insight dropped in as we walked through the present, the near future, my hopes and fears and the eventual outcome of the situation. The last card, the outcome of the situation, happened to be the only water card I pulled, and signified forgiveness, a positive outcome, mutual love, kindred spirits and an unexpected gift.
With tears in my eyes, I thanked Susanne. As I should have expected from working with Susanne, my visit far exceeded my expectations. Before our final farewell, we popped in to her favorite little hole in the wall restaurant in Charleston, The Pickled Palate. It was the perfect ending to an enchanting 24 hours. The trip ultimately confirmed something that I had known, but now felt more deeply – Maya Chia is a labor of love, born straight from the soul of a genuine (and camera shy!) woman who generously shares her gifts, and a few surprises, to make the world around her a little bit more lovely.