We recently had the delight of visiting the new Pranic Forest location just down the street from our Kensington office. It was a sunny Friday morning and stepping into the little shop, we were instantly greeted by the sounds of soothing wind chimes and a subtle scent of the lavender bunches sitting in the corner. Here was the world that master herbalist, aromatherapist, intuitive energy channeler, cosmetologist, and artist Amanda Spicer had crafted - full of ethereal illustrations, beautiful dried plants, and bottles upon bottles of heavenly scents. We sat down with Amanda to talk more about her Pranic Forest journey from its early inception to present day with her very own brick and mortar store.
For those who don’t already know, what is Pranic Forest?
We’re an apothecary deeply rooted in herbal medicine, botanical beauty, and toxin-free beauty. I started in the beauty industry really young and later became part of the herbal community after graduating as a master herbalist and aromatherapist. I wanted to give back to that community of home beauty because I had actually begun to get a little bit sick from all the toxins and chemicals found in conventional cosmetics. I then began to curate my own beauty products that were initially for myself. At some point, I took a leap and decided to do that on a larger platform and it went quite well. That first opportunity was actually with Market Collective.
Amanda completed her herbalism training over the course of 4 years and she now works as an herbalist (you can book appointments with her in the shop). She combines those skills with her beauty background, her studies in therapeutic beauty with a modality known as Diện chẩn from Vietnam and incorporates all that knowledge and experience into the facials she offers at Pranic Forest as well as in the development of her products.
On your website, you mention in Pranic Forest’s ethos that you want to educate people on the safe use of holistic beauty. What are some of the common misconceptions of holistic beauty that you’ve come across?
We had an example of that yesterday with essential oil! We are absolutely trying to retrain people in terms of what scent is. A lot of times I’ll have people say “Oh no, I’m very allergic to scents” but what they don’t realize is that those are probably fragrance oils and are synthetics that are highly toxic to your body. It became really important for me to make sure I was bringing in high quality essential oils and retraining people as to what things really smell like. There is no essential oil for strawberries or root beer [laughter]!
That became intensely important to me as I had noticed I was so sensitive to anything that was highly chemicalized and other people were too. I now had a customer base of people that had become extremely allergic to conventional cosmetics. We do not have very strict laws governing cosmetics here in North America, unlike Europe. There’s many things banned in Europe that you cannot put in beauty products that you can use here in North America, sadly.
We are also very much against animal testing and any form of cruelty. We are not testing on animals but we still feel it is very important to run our products through tests and we have achieved 6 NHPN numbers from Health Canada which means that our more medicinal formulas have been scrutinized highly by Health Canada and approved. We wanted to make sure that we were practicing safe and effective herbalism as well as aromatherapy. And actually, to be honest, they are very safe in comparison to many other conventional types of goods. People are very interested in this now, it’s really changed, but unfortunately there’s a lot of misinformation out there as well, so we would like to educate people about that.
Can you tell us about some of the services you provide at Pranic Forest?
We are offering a variety of holistic beauty services here at Pranic Forest. After my long journey in the beauty industry, in herbalism, in all kinds of modalities of energy work, and being raised in more of a mystical home as well, I had really expanded my consciousness. The whole idea of traditional beauty just really didn’t appeal to or apply to me anymore. I was looking for something more and I felt that if I was looking for something more, there was a community of people looking for something more transformative. I thought, ‘I’d love to be able to offer this!’
So we are offering services such as our most popular service here: the cosmic facial which is utilizing a Vietnamese form of acupressure and reflexology through the face. We’re using beauty tools and we’re using our own product line which is completely natural and cruelty-free, developed here.
We’re also doing some very significant energy work along with crystal sound alchemy healing bowls. It’s a very transformative experience. We offer other things called vibrational vortex (which is really just a chance to recharge your energy in our treatment rooms) as well as some aromatherapy, natural perfumery, and we even host perfume parties here. We have some really fun things but at the core, everything is deeply transformative and meant to have a deeper meaning than what it always had before. We’ve really turned the facial into a healing modality and therapeutic beauty.
What about the products you have here at Pranic Forest?
Our products are developed by me! As you know, I’ve had many years in the beauty industry, but I also studied for 4 years to become an herbalist. It took me a little bit longer because I also studied clinical aromatherapy and many other things which I felt added to making a really great product line.
So of course, it’s cruelty-free, completely natural, and almost everything is completely organic (all of our herbs are 100% certified organic). We have made some medicinals and we carry the coveted NHPN numbers for six of our products which are granted by Health Canada. We are really trying to re-educate people about the safe use of aromatherapy, oils, herbs, and teach them what things really smell like - which is beautiful, natural, and not intense where it gives you a migraine headache.
Reconnecting with nature through beauty just made sense to me and it seems that it’s making sense to a lot of people and so we’re so excited to have a great staff here and offer services and education on our products and how to use them. We’ve been well supported by Calgary and actually Canada as a whole so we’re so indebted to everyone. Thank you.
So now that we know more about your professional and entrepreneurial side, what more can you tell us about yourself?
I also play the role of mom and wife. I have four beautiful children and another child I took on (that loves me to death and I love him as well) so that really makes five, and my husband. They’ve all been so supportive of what I’m trying to do and it’s really nice because we grow a lot of our own plants. I live on an acreage outside of Calgary and part-time in British Columbia as well. I ski, I paint, I draw, I love music. I like to have a lot of fun and Pranic Forest is just an extension of all of that.
What about the artist side of Amanda Spicer?
It really never emerged as a full-fledged career in my life but I had always been extremely creative, extremely artistic, and that actually lent itself really well to Pranic Forest because I decided I wanted to do all of my own labels and all of my own art. Our wrapping paper is all illustrated by myself and it’s a really fun part of the business for me to do. I’m still getting to use my creativity which is really nice.
Can you tell us a bit more about the inspiration behind your drawings and illustration?
Definitely the names [of the products] and what not are all very cosmic. Everything I’ve named in here or drawn a picture for is from an authentic type of experience that I’ve had. From the time I was a child, I was having a strong cosmic connections and visitations - all sorts of things people wouldn’t imagine or understand, so I learned early on that it wasn’t very acceptable to speak about publicly. I think I really began just sort of drawing them, and these creatures or energies or whatever it was that I was seeing made their way onto labels, pictures, or names. I guess in my own tiny way, it’s sort of tongue and cheek that when you look at the wrapping paper or a label on a product, you think about it a little deeper and suddenly you have an expansion there. Or you might just go, “What the heck is this?” [laughter] And just enjoy it, it’s completely up to you. They are from experiences that I’ve had that have been very unique and just part of my whole life.
How did you know when take the leap and start up a brick and mortar store?
It absolutely felt like it was time to take that leap. My acreage in Calgary had become just completely busy with clients and services all the time. I was also hosting other people to come and teach yoga in my spare room and it had really become so busy that I knew it was time to open up an actual brick and mortar store. It was not easy because the space we had took on was completely vacant and we had to do a large amount of renovation. We needed to fit everything we wanted to do in the space. So a few redesigns later, we were open here in Kensington and we’re so happy to be here!
What are some challenges that you faced along the way in your journey as an entrepreneur?
First of all, explaining to people how I was mixing energy work with beauty and what that even meant was pretty much impossible at first. Even going to people’s homes and doing perfume parties - we’d always do a bit of channeling and ore gazing which made it really quite fun but what a different thing to put together! It was challenging, but I sort of enjoyed that because I really felt like people were expanding their thoughts and expanding their consciousness. After I’d leave, they would often come to see me in my studio out on the acreage for healing or aromatherapy. I definitely found it challenging to explain what it was that I was doing and because we knew our services are more experiential, we decided to offer [in our store,] a 20 minute complimentary facial tune-up with our sound bowls just to be able to introduce to people what it was that we were offering here [after which] they could book the whole service. It’s definitely experiential so we’re learning through that and Calgary’s been accepting us so that’s great!
Is there anything specific about the Calgary community that you feel like helped you?
Definitely the art communities. One of the things that became really important to me is the sense of community and supporting local. It’s really hit home to me. I have a lot of friends who have other businesses here in Calgary as well and we're all small and big at the same time. I took on as many artists that I could promote in my shop besides my own product line here and most of them are also part of Market Collective which is really nice. People come in and they smile. I see them smile when they look at a product that they recognize or a book that somebody has wrote or candles from Vancouver. We all support each other, I believe, and it's just really, really, lovely. One of the greatest platforms and the only reason that anybody saw anything I ever made was because I got to be part of Market Collective. It’s just so great that it exists for a lot of people that wouldn’t be able to take on a storefront like this because it is obviously a big undertaking.
We asked about some of the hardships of your journey as an entrepreneur but what were some of the victories as well?
I’m gonna bawl! [laughter] I should mention carrying Jordan’s chocolate. I definitely have a favourite artisan that I like to support in store. A massive victory for me was getting to support other artisans but most especially Kin + Pod Chocolate, because, as some people might know, she’s the eldest of all my children, and she’s trying to do something so ethical and clean and sustainable. And I’m just so thrilled to have opened up a space. I wanted to fill a whole wall with her stuff, but I have found that she’s on her own journey. When people ask me about the chocolate in the store and they try it and go, “This is really great!” I often find myself going, “Isn’t it lovely?” And then I don’t tell them that it’s my daughter [laughter] but inside that’s like my biggest victory.
Thanks to Amanda Spicer for showing us around Pranic Forest and telling us more about herself and her business. Visit Pranic Forest at 1,1145 Kensington Cres NW, on their website, or follow them on Instagram!