Legacy, Vision and What Really Matters
After 40 years at the helm of Janece Skincare, founder, Janice Sarre Smith, is entrusting the business side of the company to her daughter Kristen Jelk. But if you think she intends to fade into retirement, think again. Jan is as passionate as ever about bringing people and plants together and her creativity is flowing thanks to the freedom she now has to spend more time with her hands in the soil.
Kathryn Overall chats with Jan and Kristen and discovers that while Kristen is working to preserve her mother’s legacy, Jan herself is still far too full of vision to be looking back.
Having reached the grand age of 84 years old, you could understand if Janice Sarre Smith, legendary herbalist, naturopath and founder of Janesce, wanted to retire and put her feet up.
There’s no denying she’s earned the right. It’s not just that she helped to pioneer a holistic skincare movement, or that she developed the powerful botanical Janesce skincare range, or even that she grew Janesce into a widely-loved company from grass-roots beginnings on her Claret Ash farm in the Adelaide Hills. What speaks the loudest is that at the heart of her accomplishments is a woman who loves people and who believes that nature holds the key to a thriving life.
Jan has cared for countless thousands of people whose skin disorders have been healed as they have embraced her Janesce products and wellness-from-within philosophy. It’s a beautiful legacy, by anyone’s standards.
But anyone who knows this remarkable woman will tell you that it is vision for the future, not notions of legacy that fuels the fire in Jan’s blood. “I am, at last, getting the time to be even more creative,” says Jan. “The team and I are growing healthy plants and creating new products that are very much needed in the world at this time.”
Plants are not just raw biological material to Jan. Nature, in her world, is always spelt with a capital N – carrying with it a sense of urgency, perhaps even redemption. “I know that Nature, as the ultimate healer for body, mind and soul still has a lot more to offer the world,” she says. “I always believe that Nature imparts its knowledge at the time we most need it.”
It is this sense of mindful urgency, which compels Jan to work towards her expansive vision of human flourishing for all. It’s a vision that is rooted in both science and spirituality. “I want to remind people to embrace the needs of all people – regardless of race, faith and ideologies,” she says. “When people look to Nature for their nourishment – physically, mentally and at a soul level – it brings a new way of being into the world. It is available to everyone. “
Jan’s determination to focus on the grass roots of Janesce means she spends most of her time managing the garden and the laboratory. These days, you will often find her younger daughter, Jo-Anne Sarre, working along side her, making the plant extracts, which the Janesce skincare range is based on.
Jan says she welcomes this opportunity to pass on the essential elements of her vocation to family members. Jan herself brings together a deep understanding of the structure and function of the skin with a reverent love for the plant kingdom. She brings both the learned knowledge of a biochemist and the intuitive wisdom of a devotee of Nature to her work. It’s a powerful alchemy and Jan is grateful that Jo-Anne has the disposition to embrace the herbalist’s art. “She has a strong affinity with the plant kingdom and treats plants with respect and love,” says Jan. “She feels their energy and reveres that. Her love and energy is in the extracts, along with mine”.
Jan’s eldest daughter, Kristen Jelk, has been involved in Janesce on a full-time basis for the last 12 years. With a background in fine arts and design she says she has always veered towards the design and creative side of the business. “The company stores have been part of that,” says Kristen. “I have enjoyed telling the Janesce story through bricks and mortar outlets”.
In this time of transition, Kristen is now taking over the business management of Janesce. While Jan works her magic at Claret Ash Farm, Kristen oversees the business operation that distributes her mother’s passion, philosophy and products to women all around the world. “Kristen has total honesty, integrity and purpose and I am so proud of her,” says Jan.
Kristen absorbed her mother’s nutritional and holistic philosophies right from childhood. “Each morning we would have a lemon and honey drink sitting on the bench in the kitchen waiting for us – plus any vitamin supplements we may have needed at the time,” says Kristen. “The foundations of her work were always around us.”
Kristen is determined that her mother’s pioneering work will be carried forward to the future without any dilution of the values that have set Janesce apart. “Jan has not wavered from her work on skin health through nutrition,” she says. “While beauty industry trends came and went, she remained true to her core beliefs.”
Jan says she feels grateful to have her daughters carry forward the Janesce vision. “It is such a blessing that they are not only interested, but that they have the same values as I do,” she says.
Part of Kristen’s role involves ensuring that the business model, which supports the Janesce skincare range, is sustainable for the future. Preserving her mother’s legacy means she sometimes has to make hard calls, such as the recent price increase across the Janesce range.
Kristen says the cost of some raw materials used in Janesce products have tripled in price due to the boom in the natural skin care industry. In addition, Jan always allows for a very high percentage of plant extracts in each product. “This is very unusual in our industry,” says Kristen. “We maintain this standard because it gives the client the full benefit with great results.”
She adds, “We have put off this price adjustment for a long time but it is now imperative to ensure that the time honoured process of making Janesce products is maintained into the future.”
When you ask Jan about her vision for the future of the beauty industry, she talks abut the seeds she is planting. “While the big companies bombard people with so many impossible promises, I sincerely hope the seeds I have planted will become aromatic, wonderful healing blooms,” she says.
It’s a fitting reminder from the founder of Janesce who taught us that we achieve the flourishing of tomorrow by sowing seeds today. For Jan, everything in the end comes back to the soil. Her faith is in the seeds she holds in her hand – calendular, rose, lavendar, geranium – the infants of the plant kingdom, pulsing with promise. That is where her hope for us lies.