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In their initial launch, the business sold out of its inventory in a week, then compiled a 1,000-person waitlist.

By Samantha Hunter
March 16, 2021
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portrait of Aishwarya Iyer with brightland vinegar bottles
Credit: Courtesy of Brightland

Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs—as well as their quality, handmade goods—and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.

Aishwarya Iyer, founder and CEO of Brightland, lived in New York City a full eight years before ever attempting to cook (not all that surprising given that restaurants and eateries abound). What Iyer did find surprising was that, when she did finally start cooking at home with her husband, she became ill, suffering from chronic stomach issues. It wasn't long before Iyer discovered the culprit: her cooking oils. She discovered that 70 percent of the olive oil that Americans consume is rotten, rancid, or has been adulterated and believed the pantry staples she was using were lacking. In 2018, Iyer started Brightland, a modern pantry essentials company. Based in L.A., with her latest endeavor Iyer is on a mission to transform our relationship to the food we consume.

Her Inspiration

Iyer was born in South India, and she says that her rich culture and heritage play a role in the company's ideology as well. "My ancestors were salt farmers in South India, and when I learned that before starting Brightland, it really solidified the connection between land and food as being foundational to the brand's ethos. As an Indian-American, I have fearlessness around color—especially for a California-made brand—so many are muted, neutral tones, and I always wanted bright and bold. Food has always been my family's language and way of showing love and care, so when I look back at my relationship with my family, my heritage and with love as a language, I am not surprised that I am building a business in the food industry."

Iyer says that, as a brand, Brightland stands for three key elements—living thoughtfully, joyfully, and truthfully. She reveals that this inspiration for the company's name was inspired by a song. "When I was on a trip to Japan before launching Brightland, I kept hearing really beautiful folk music in Tokyo boutiques that really inspired me—in particular, the lyrics of the 1967 Seeker song that goes 'I long to share a world of sweet contentment there; in that bright land where grows the olive tree.' We had been thinking about a name for a bit, but when I heard that lyric, it clicked," she recalls.

assortment of brightland vinegars
Credit: Courtesy of Brightland

Sourcing Sustainably

Aishwarya says that Brightland is a modern heritage kitchen and home brand that celebrates traceable supply chain, elevated design, and emotional connection. Brightland began its offerings with its hero product, extra virgin olive oil from California; in the summer of 2020, expanded its line to include fruit-forward, double-fermented, and family-farm to table vinegars, each with their own distinct flavor palette and tasting notes. Of Brightland, Iyer shares, "We are fortunate to work with an incredible family-run olive farm in California's Central Coast. They have a certified organic mill and master miller on-site, so we are able to stay really close to the process to create our custom Brightland blends. We work closely with our farm partner to identify the best California-grown olives for our custom blends with a desired flavor profile in mind."

Iyer puts her background in public affairs and corporate communications at various technology companies to use to create the unique concept for her product line: "Awake" features heirloom Arbequina olives, so the end result is very complex and herbaceous for cozy dishes; "Alive" is a blend of Arbequina and Arbosana for a nuttier, fruity profile that's great for salads and vegetables; "Lucid" (lemon olive oil), "Ardor" (chili olive oil), and "Arise" (basil olive oil) all use Frantoio olives, as they are a great blending olive.

For Iyer, process matters as much as sourcing. "The olives are harvested and milled once a year in late October and early November," she explains. "Between harvest and milling, it's a matter of hours, and then they get filtered and racked and are stored in airtight, temperature controlled rooms. We bottle batches at a time, to maintain and preserve as much freshness as possible." The process for creating her vinegars is also designed for maximum quality. Ivey explains, "Our fruit-forward vinegars are made on a family-run farm in California's Central Coast. Champagne and Zinfandel grapes, Navel and Valencia oranges, and ripe Triple Crown blackberries are grown in nutrient-dense soil, selected with care, and double fermented in stainless steel."

Cooking with Oils

Iyer's inspiration for creating Brightland wasn't merely to create cleaner, better products. She says she also wanted to inspire people to take a moment to enjoy a simple, everyday moment such as savoring a good bite or drizzling some luscious olive oil or vinegar onto a dish. She notes, "Brightland was founded to celebrate the analog over the digital, and I hope that people are inspired to do just that when they see our products in their homes." To that end, Brightland's chef in residence Noreen Wasti, who is Pakistani-American, has created several South Asian recipes with Brightland oils and vinegars, which can be found on the company's site.

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