How two brothers bring their commitment to personal and global wellness to the fore at Éminence Organic Skin Care...and are having a ball doing it.
Wellness Warrior is fortunate to have many grass roots individuals who believe in wellness, as well as organizations, foundations, and supporters in the business community—all of them closely allied with health products and services. Our newest Sustaining Member at our "Forest" level is Éminence Organic Skin Care. We salute them this month, and want to share the extraordinary story of how two brothers from Hungary have built a family business into a paragon of sustainability and concern for the future of the earth...and future generations.
Amidst the vast panoply of skin care products that focus on “good looks,” Éminence in particular stands out in its commitment to heal and nourish the body first—the most natural way to get that true glow of health.
Éminence Organic Skin Care has a strident commitment to organic ingredients, the environment, and community involvement. And, in their case, “community” translates to “global.” Their name—which means well-known, celebrated, distinguished, outstanding—is not just a brand but a true company ethos.
Founders Boldijarre Koronczay and Attila Koronczay are spa industry entrepreneurs who have merged their company’s own excellence and success with their personal passion for helping others. Éminence has been honored by the International Spa Association with its 2016 Innovate Award Winner for “Philanthropic Initiatives.” The company is also a member of Green Spa Network and is a "Forest" level sponsor of Wellness Warrior.
Recently Wellness Warrior's Damon Cory-Watson sat down with them for a Q & A session and learned just how serious these “warriors” are about health and wellness.
WW: Where in Hungary are you from? Tell us a little bit about your heritage.
BK: My brother and I were both born and raised in Budapest, which is the capital of the spa world in Europe. On my dad’s side of the family we’ve been in Hungary for as long as records have been kept.
AK: On mom’s side of the family, our grandmother settled in Hungary in the 1800s from Germany. Our maternal grandfather was a Hungarian.
What brought you to the United States?
BK: We particularly chose Vancouver due to the healthy lifestyle that the city could provide, as well as already being acknowledged as one of the greenest cities in North America in the mid 1990s. We were also looking for a place that had a mild climate all year long, due to having natural and heat sensitive products.
AK: I’m an engineer by trade, and had an opportunity for an engineering position through a Hungarian friend of the family who had emigrated to Vancouver. Knowing someone in the city was a comfort for us as Vancouver is literally one of the furthest geographical locations in the world from Budapest.
What special memories do you have of your parents and grandparents when it comes to health and healing?
BK: To help me in my recovery from childhood leukemia, my grandma would make me healthy juices grown from local fruits, which wasn’t necessarily “in fashion” during that time. Also, because of the chemotherapy, I didn’t have much of an appetite for solid food. To build my appetite, my grandma would boil rhubarb in spring water with cinnamon and cloves, then let it cool. She’d stir in some honey and serve it to me. After a few bites of rhubarb, I was hungry enough to eat something even more nutritious.
AK: Grandma always had natural remedies. When I was little, I got burned after touching the hot oven… my grandma sliced a tomato and placed it over the burns to take the sting away.
AK: Grandma and Grandpa always kept pretty healthy themselves. I remember they would go to the thermal spring water baths regularly to help reduce any rheumatological symptoms.
BK: That’s right. And because our parents were working full time, I spent a lot of my days with Grandpa. He would take me outside the city to the surrounding hills and we would go on long, two- or three-hour walks to help me build strength, get fresh air and sunshine.
AK: And we’d come back to a healthy, nutritious meal cooked by Grandma… usually a hearty vegetable soup and possibly some eggs from their own free-range chickens.
Can you describe some of the basic differences between Hungary and the United States when it comes to cultural perspectives on health and wellbeing?
BK: When we were kids, life was very different than now. In Hungary, fast food chains did not exist. There was no concept of “fast” food, because “real food” was cooked that day and made fresh. There were less problems with kids being overweight and high levels of sugar intake in Hungary in the 1970s and 1980s than in North America.
Also, in Hungary, most sports were sponsored by the government. Therefore, almost every kid had some sort of sport to play regularly. It wasn’t a question of “Do you want to do a sport?” but rather “Which sport would you rather play?”
AK: Agreed! I was really involved in kayaking and part of my motivation growing up was that you got to skip a day of school for sports competitions.
BK: As proof, Hungary ranks 10th in the world for its number of Olympic medals. For a country with a population of just 10 million (the population of Michigan), that’s a really incredible achievement and shows how a culture of sport and activity makes a lasting difference.
AK: Now, my daughter takes jazz dance classes and my son does karate and rugby to instill good habits and an active lifestyle.
BK: Now that I’ve been in North America for 20 years, I notice that people here go to health extremes like juice fasts, raw diets, macrobiotics, eating according to blood type, high carb, low carb, paleo et cetera, to try and correct for a culture of fast food. In Europe, it’s common to have cheese, a dessert, some pasta, but you only have a little bit and you don’t overindulge.
AK: On recent trips back to Hungary though, when I visit our farms, I’ve noticed that a North American influence has spread to Hungary and there are fast food chains.
Healing our bodies and our planet are intrinsically connected. Tell us about your business model and partnership with Trees for the Future and project called Forests for the Future.
AK: We had a simple idea, and that was for every product we sold, we would plant a tree. Because we’re in the skin-care business, not the tree-planting business, we needed a partner who could plant the trees for us. We researched tree-planting organizations and found Trees for the Future to have a good reputation and reliable work ethic.
BK: We also liked that Trees for the Future planted trees and “forest gardens” in developing countries, so not only do the trees help heal the earth, offset carbon emissions, cool the air and provide fresh oxygen, but they also provide a sustainable source of food and income for families in need.
AK: Our vision was to have forests cover the dry, barren land, so we named our partnership Forests for the Future. There’s an educational component so volunteers at Trees for the Future actually educate families on how to plant crops, grow trees, harvest fruit and vegetables and keep a garden thriving year after year even in extreme weather conditions.
BK: Our spa partners are really the driving force behind Forests for the Future. They create social media posts, signage at their spas and marketing collateral to teach their spa guests about the initiative. We were recently honored by the members of the International Spa Association as a 2016 Innovate Award Winner for “Philanthropic Initiatives.”
AK: We’re the first skin-care company in the world to plant six million trees. We are really proud of that.
Education is an important thread in all that you do. Please elaborate.
BK: With our Éminence Kids Foundation, which delivers organic fruits to sick children to aid in their recovery, healing and long-lasting health, we include fun, kid-friendly infographics that have nutritional facts about one of the organic fruits we deliver. We want to teach future generations and instill good habits early on, just like my Grandma and Grandpa did for me. I grew up learning how to get well and stay well. Fast food chains do a very good job of marketing to children with toys, ball pits and games...we are trying to do the same thing at our partner locations to make it more fun for kids to learn good habits.
AK: Education lays the foundation for kids to make the best decisions for the rest of their lives and ultimately their health.
BK: And, we believe education should be fun! Laughing triggers endorphins which makes you feel good, and then you remember that moment as a special memory. Lots of people have fun at our trainings… American Spa Professional’s Choice Awards recognized Éminence as the Best for Product Education for 7 years in a row… that’s never happened in the history of the industry.
You’re known for your boundless energy and a deep passion for health and wellness. Where did it begin and how do you keep it going?
BK: It all began when I was just four years old and I was told that I might not live for a long time. Even being so young, that changed my attitude and I really always just wanted to make every day count and live each day like it could be my last. That helped me throughout my childhood in a different way than most kids. I had no sense of entitlement; rather just an appreciation for every moment I was alive.
Growing up, the sport I chose was ballroom dancing, which is a strenuous exercise. You have several training sessions a week. It became a habit for me that still exists. I try to workout in the morning now, no matter how [little time I have]. Even just 10 minutes of cardio, first thing in the morning instead of having coffee or other stimulants, raises my heart rate to help me wake up.
There must come a time when you need to unplug and unwind. What do you do to relax and rejuvenate?
BK: Even though I live in a highrise in the middle of the city, I make sure I have living plants on my balcony and indoors. Seeing the big green leaves and knowing they make fresh oxygen reminds me of being in the Hungarian countryside. It gives me great joy and relaxation to care for them and helps me to unwind. I also love to watch standup comedy.
AK: Nothing’s better than a long night of sleep.
How do you define beauty and/or wellness?
BK: I think beauty and wellness are directly related. If you’re healthy and feel good, then you look better.
AK: Wellness starts in the mind. It’s essential to have psychological wellness. One of my favorite sayings is Mens sana in corpore sano, a phrase that means "a sound mind, in a sound body."
With farms in Budapest, and offices in the U.S. and Canada, you must spend a lot of time traveling. What are the “must haves” you keep with you on the road, and “must dos” to stay balanced and healthy while you travel?
BK: Must Haves: Lavender essential oil, applied to pressure points to help me sleep, a white noise machine (the sound creates a consistent ‘feeling’ even when I am in different hotels every night for business trips), vitamins and elastic workout bands.
Must Dos: At least 10 minutes of cardio first thing in the morning, and if I’m on a long conference call, I’ll use the workout bands to do bicep curls, chest presses and more.
AK: I always pack running shoes on business trips so I can get in a workout after a day of meetings. A workout always helps me to have a good night’s sleep.
Éminence has played a leading role in bringing awareness to organic skin care. What in your background inspired you to make organic skin care so fun?
BK: I love what I do, so of course I want to make it fun! I want everyone to love it, too. Humor and laughter releases endorphins into the human brain which creates happiness. When people use our skin-care products as part of their daily routine, it makes them feel that same happiness. People have enough challenge and stress in their lives as is, so we want to be a fun part of their lives rather than a source of stress.
What is your favorite herb/plant?
BK: Lavender. My mom used to give me lavender to help me sleep and I still love it to this day.
AK: Rosehip, because I love rosehip tea. It’s my favorite. It has a really nice red color and has lots of Vitamin C.
Your latest project is the Éminence Kids Foundation. Tell us what it is and how you came to it.
AK: It started when we back to Hungary in 2013, and visited the same hospital—Semmelweis—where my brother was treated for leukemia when he was a little boy. We noticed that the kids didn’t have good food to eat, and we wanted to help them. From our experience with my brother, we knew that juice would be best because oftentimes kids undergoing chemotherapy can’t eat. We started sending juice to the hospital each week in Budapest. Then, we realized we could take it worldwide, and now we’re in Vancouver and in Texas. Since we started officially in 2014, we’ve now served over 32,000 meals.
BK: Our dream is to bring Éminence Kids Foundation everywhere in the world so kids have healthy food to help them heal.
AK: Because of this story of my brother’s recovery, we believe that healing can start from within.
If you could change one thing when it comes to the future health and wellbeing of our country’s kids—and future generations—what would it be?
BK: I would make nutrition classes a part of the education system...but in a really fun way so that kids would like to learn about what’s good for them and why.
AK: Just like we grew up, physical education class should happen every day, so kids would have at least 30-45 minutes of physical activity a day. Instead of sitting in front of a computer, playing video games or on social media...this would help kids have a healthy body and healthy mind.