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Meet Toni Berlandi of Unwritten Apothecary

Today we’d like to introduce you to Toni Berlandi.

Hi Toni, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today.
I was six months away from presenting my Doctoral dissertation in Criminal Justice when I had a massive stroke. It was a very surreal experience. One minute I was a Ph.D. candidate, and the next, I couldn’t speak, walk, or even drink. I had to learn everything again. But being the type of person I was, and knowing absolutely nothing about strokes, I thought I would be better in less than 3 months. I can only laugh at the arrogance.

Fast forward a year and a half. I was getting better, but so slowly. Doing nothing but rehab was (figuratively) killing me. I had always worked. I got my first job at 11 (babysitting for the neighbors), got a “real” job at 14, and continued working through school, college, my master’s degree, and my Ph.D. If one more person told me that getting better was “my job”, I was going to scream. So, to feel productive outside of therapy, I tried my hand at cold-process soap making. I can’t tell you how many burns I got from the sodium hydroxide (lye). But each one felt like a victory. I. DID. SOMETHING. That’s all I cared about. I gave soap away to everybody with the caveat that they give me their honest opinion. Some were nicer than others, but, in the end, I came up with what I have today.

A few months later, I was in my kitchen when I dropped a glass jar. I want to say it was my first. But it wasn’t. Not even close. My inability to keep glass jars intact prevented me from buying many things. As I stared down at the wreckage of my kitchen (now covered in garlic aioli), I found my path. I would make all kinds of bath and body products that were great, but also accessible to everyone (right after I bleach wiped my entire kitchen. Twice.). I would also donate a portion to The American Stroke Foundation.

Now I make (for men and women) soaps, luxe lotion, whipped soap, scrubs, bath products, beard oil, lip butter balm, wax melts, carpet sprinkles, and, coming soon – room and linen spray. The list keeps getting longer! Four years after my stroke, I’m still trying my hardest to get better – but “my job” is this crazy idea called Unwritten Apothecary. And I couldn’t be happier.

“Live your life with arms wide open. Today is where your book begins. The rest is still unwritten.” – Natasha Bedingfield.

Can you talk to us about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I envy the people who say it has been a smooth road. It might not have been smooth, but at least it has been interesting! It has been like sledding down a huge, tree-lined hill while wearing a headband with teeth and hitting your head on the trees as you go down – which happened to me when I was 8. Little did I know, it was a sign of what was to come. Haha. But I think the biggest lessons I have learned (thus far) were: 1. Sometimes you cannot control what happens, but you can always control how you respond, and 2. Sometimes, you have to have patience.

We’ve been impressed with Unwritten Apothecary, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I make great bath, body, and home products, but what sets me apart from others is that I pay significant attention to functionality for everyone. My soaps have extra clay and oats to absorb some of the slippery feel, and all my bottles and jars are plastic and have flip tops. I know PET plastic is still plastic, and that is not ideal, but for some people, it makes a world of difference. I want to make everything as simple as possible so that people can use it whether they’ve had a stroke, lost a limb, have arthritis, or have any other impairment. I know firsthand just how frustrating it is not to be able to open a jar or, worse, to have it shatter on the ground if you drop it. If I can make that a little bit easier for someone by using plastic, I will do it. Life is hard enough. Your bath and body products shouldn’t add to that. Also, I’d like people to know that if they want something specific, ask. I’m always up for a good challenge!

Are there any books, apps, podcasts, or blogs that help you do your best?
I love all books, but I have my soap-making books for work, which helped me understand the basics. But I credit all of the wonderful soap makers and candle makers on YouTube for giving me invaluable information, not in any book. There are so many amazing people I can’t even begin to name them all for fear of missing one. That being said, Katie Carson of Royalty Soaps inspired me to try cold-process soap. She is hilarious. Also, I couldn’t go a day without music. My Amazon Music app is always playing on my phone!

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