Behind Blue Eyes:
Introducing Jan Benham by Angelo Furlan
You see it in her eyes. The key to understanding Jan Benham lies not in her quick warm smile, nor in her gentle English-accented voice. It's those blue eyes that reveal the drive and focus that has brought Jan success in varied fields.
Those eyes get their spark from a lifelong thirst for knowledge, a need to understand how things work. This is what led an eight year old Jan to combine rose petals with a generous amount of lard. Working from a book, she spread the mixture out to simmer under the summer sun.
The end result was supposed to be a home made perfume. However, the recipe was meant for warmer climates. A few days under the cool English sun provided results that were anything but aromatic. This noxious introduction to the wonders of nature might have been one of Jan's last missteps.
Four years on, Jan visited her doctor and was prescribed vitamins for some minor ills. The marked improvement in her well being opened Jan's eyes to the importance of health and nutrition.
So it was only natural that Jan entered the therapy field in her native England, taking a two-year course in holistic therapy. She learned reflexology, nutrition, massage therapy, esthetics, and was introduced to aromatherapy.
Graduating at twenty, Jan set out with a specific game plan. For the next two years, she worked at a variety of low-paying jobs in her field. The object wasn't to fatten her pocketbook, but to expand her knowledge base. A stint with a plastic surgeon taught her remedial camouflage makeup. One employer allowed Jan to specialize in aromatherapy, while another insisted Jan follow her lead in working the media.
"I learned a lot from these people", said Jan, who was now ready to start her own holistic practice. Despite warnings from others, she only offered clients treatments in reflexology and aromatherapy. The focus on a particular niche paid off quickly. It didn't hurt that one of her first tasks was to get an article placed in the local newspaper. Jan had learned the importance of media and made it a point to develop a steady stream of media stories.
Hard work and effort would lead to new ventures and opportunities. Jan created her own mixtures of essential oils for her clients, blending them into a commercial cream base. Clients wanted to mix their own, and Jan became both supplier and instructor. A growing unease with the chemicals within the base eventually led her to create her own natural cream.
That thirst for knowledge and a quest for adventure took Jan to Montreal. Setting up shop in Westmount, Jan called up local papers and TV stations to promote herself. Every three months she'd go on radio to answer questions. As she says, "If you haven't got clients, you've got to do something about it".
Cupid carried Jan to Toronto, where she ultimately wound up with two going concerns at a charming building located in the Beaches, at 1968 Queen Street East.
The first was the Institute of Aromatherapy. Reflecting Jan's diverse skill set, the Institute is a combination of businesses. Continuing from her first business, the clinic offers a variety of therapeutic services to relieve and relax. And there's the school.
As Jan says, "There's always somebody wanting to learn from me". She draws from a lifetime of experiences to offer courses ranging from single day workshops right up to full time studies offering recognized diplomas. Students can follow in Jan's footsteps and start their own holistic practices, with the most popular course being the Certified Natural Health Practitioner Program.
Or they can learn to make their own cosmetics. Remember how Jan decided to create her own cream? It wasn't long before her innate curiosity kicked in and she mastered the techniques of creating cosmetics.
In 1996 she wrote her first book, The Creamy Craft Of Cosmetic Making. Now she could show others skills that could lead to a hobby, a sideline, or even a full-scale business.
Which leads to the second business located at 1968 Queen East. The Aroma Shoppe is where Jan sells her cosmetic creations. There are a tasty variety of soaps, creams, and bath bombs, all made from natural ingredients. The shop also carries a complete range of supplies for those wishing to make their own cosmetics. And there are related books available, including Jan's second book, The Baby Boomers Beauty Bible, published in 2004.
One would think there's enough going on to keep anyone's hands full, but Jan has got a new challenge firmly in her sights. She recently debuted her own line of mineral makeup. The key to this makeup is that the minerals nourish the skin, improving health as they enhance beauty.
Unlike most of their commercial counterparts, Jan's new cosmetics are made without any harmful chemicals. Instead, her lipsticks contain such healthy ingredients as shea butter, jojoba, rose hips, and myrrh, which is a natural healer. And her nurturing lip-glosses contain natural fruit extracts such as banana, strawberry, and mango.
The Jan Benham Mineral Makeup line also includes mascara, foundation powder, eye colour, and rouge. The vibrant colours of products such as Blue Suede Shoes Eye Colour and Hot Pink Lipstick come from natural oxides, micas, and fruit extracts.
The entire line was developed by Jan after many hours of careful testing. And to this day, every item is hand crafted by Jan herself, which means there's an extra special ingredient - love!
Whether it's writing a book, creating a new colour of lipstick, making an edible bath bomb, doing a radio show, teaching a class, or starting a new business, Jan Benham is constantly living her personal motto:
"You can do anything you want to do - you just have to know what you want."