Lola Tillyaeva (Lola Till) is a wellbeing activist, entrepreneur, author, philanthropist and the creator of The Harmonist Maison de Parfum which was inspired by the philosophy of Feng Shui. Working with top perfumers and using natural ingredients, Lola translated the qualities of the five elements into the world of high parfumerie to craft a range of scents with its own unique and modern signature into a successful global luxury brand with a flagship store in Paris.
She is the author of “Be your own Harmonist” – a self-help book dedicated to advance knowledge and educate the reader of the delicate interplay between our physical, emotional and mental health. As a businesswoman, philanthropist and chairwoman of charitable foundations as well as being a mother of three, self-inquiry has been the driving force behind Lola’s research.
Lola Till holds a master’s degree in International Law from the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and a doctorate degree in Psychology from Tashkent State University. She served as Uzbekistan’s Ambassador to UNESCO (2008-2018). Most recently she completed her Apprenticeship at the Gaia School of Herbal Medicine and Earth Education in Malibu, California.
Her charitable works include the “You Are Not Alone Foundation”, a charitable organization that provides homes and education to severely underprivileged children in Uzbekistan which she founded in 2002 and sustains to this day. Additionally, she and her husband Timur Tillyaev set up educational programs that offer scholarships to young people from Central Asia to pursue their postgraduate studies in European universities. Lola and Timur Tillyaev support a wealth of cultural projects from art exhibitions to films, including the award-winning documentary Ulugh Beg: the Man who unlocked the Universe, which they produced in 2017 and at the same time launched “The Droplet”, a visionary multisensory installation aimed at sparking discussions around one of our planet’s vital elements, Water.
Where did the idea for The Harmonist Maison de Parfum come from?
I wanted to create a perfume house that would be about more than just beautiful scents. The ancient philosophy of Feng Shui has fascinated me for years, particularly the idea that you can enhance harmony by balancing the natural, fundamental elements of the universe – metal, fire, water, wood and earth. A devoted perfume lover, I thought: why not translate the language of Feng Shui into the language of scent? I wanted to create fragrances that would help people harmonize with the energy of the natural elements and tune into their inner energies through a scent that embodies Feng Shui philosophy. This is how the Harmonist brand was born.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day begins at 6 AM. I try to stick to my own golden rule of not picking up any gadgets until I have finished my morning meditation routine, spent time with my family and had breakfast. I believe that starting the day calmly sets me up for the whole day. It helps me be my best and most productive when I open my emails and check the news at 9 AM. I devote most of the daytime, 9 AM to around 4PM, as concentrated in-office or remote working time. By being 100% concentrated on my work and business activities during this time I am able to complete more work in a shorter period of time and avoid bringing my work commitments with me to my family and into my evenings.
In the evening, I focus on my family and set some time for myself. I have dinner with my husband and children at 6.30 PM, do homework with my children and spend quality time with them. Of course, I remain available for important business-related calls. Because when you’re self-employed, your day never really finishes. I do, however, minimize these distractions and try to be 100% focused on one activity at a time.
To destress at the end of the day, I do yoga, read a book and drink chamomile tea. At 9 PM, I prepare mentally for bedtime and begin the end of day routine which includes reading and meditation. I have come to be strongly convinced that without good sleep no one can be truly productive in the long-term.
To increase productivity during my usual days, I use a few techniques:
• Avoid Decision fatigue
When one takes more than 5 decisions per day, it becomes challenging to stay efficient in the decision-making. I make most of my most important decisions before 3PM and focus only on crucial decisions I need to take. The rest I simplify and delegate.
• Plan and prioritize
Planning and prioritizing is key to productivity. I set a few key priorities for my month, week and day and I stick to them. I avoid making enormous daily to-do lists which include even the smallest things I had in mind as I know I will not be able to complete them and will only waste energy trying to fight windmills. Instead, I set 2-3 priorities for the day which will make a difference in my business or in my other activities.
• Take my wellbeing seriously
To feel good, I do meditation twice per day, do yoga, and regular breathing practices throughout the day. Whatever is important to you and makes you feel resourceful, make it your personal daily routine. We all need to replenish our resources, otherwise, we burn out and our productivity and creativity suffer. The key to my productivity is knowing when I need to stop, breathe and take a break.
How do you bring ideas to life?
First of all, I think about how innovative and original an idea is. What’s unique about it? Has anything like it been done before? What can society gain from this idea? How can it help people? Once I have assessed an idea and came to the conclusion that it is truly valuable, I move towards the implementation. I begin to plan each stage very carefully to ensure best possible realization of this idea. For me planning, prioritization and a strong team are key to bringing ideas to life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Definitely, sustainability. The resources on this planet are finite, so we all need to work together to re-use, re-cycle and re-invent technology so that we can maximize Mother Nature’s gifts with minimum negative impact on climate, the environment and the species who share the planet with us. I see sustainability as a business imperative, so at The Harmonist we choose sustainably sourced ingredients and recyclable materials wherever possible. Our deluxe packaging can be recycled, and we offer a refill service for our signature perfume phials. That makes sense for the client as well as the environment.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Being able to efficiently prioritize. Prioritizing correctly by assessing your business needs will save you a lot of time and energy. Once you’ve established a pecking order, stick to it, and soon you’ll find that focusing on high-priority tasks is more energy-efficient than getting to the end of the day and realizing that actually you’ve spent a lot of time on something that’s not essential. We all have limited energy, so I try not to waste any. Prioritizing helps me conserve my strength, and that makes me more productive, because things go unattended when we’re tired.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t rush, everything happens in its own time.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Many would not agree with my belief that there is nothing in this world but consciousness. Consciousness appears as limited forms in myself, yourself, animals, plants, rocks and any other matter in this world. The experience in our lives is nothing but consciousness in dense forms. This principle has been known for centuries, and yet it has been forgotten and ridiculed by modern society which only sees and understands material wealth.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I always listen to my inner voice and follow my gut feelings. My advice would be to stay true to your ideas, stay focused, and keep your eyes on the ultimate goal you are trying to achieve.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I follow three stages for growing a small business.
First, it’s important to lay the foundation. This stage includes brainstorming, planning, and conducting market research to carve out your niche and make sure your business has something unique to offer. This preparation stage is crucial, and you have to be patient if you want to see dividends further down the line. For example, we spent three years preparing our product before we launched The Harmonist.
The second stage is about natural growth. It is all about establishing good relations with our clients, understanding how they think and feel about our product. We also put together a solid networking team to make sure our marketing is always on cue. At this stage, it’s essential to have a reliable team of professionals on board who can steer the growth process. It’s a challenging time, but you have to be patient, and have faith in yourself.
The third stage is expansion. This is the moment when you weigh your options. You have to think strategically to maintain growth and expand without overstretching yourself. This can be a creative stage when you think laterally about new avenues your business could explore. You should always be on the lookout for partners with whom you can build mutually beneficial relations. You can learn from other companies in the industry and follow the momentum maxim.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I don’t like and agree with the word ‘failure’. I believe that there are natural ebbs and flows, a cycle of growth and contraction. We can use the contraction phase to reflect, gain strength, and prepare for the coming growth phase. Of course, it’s important to learn from our mistakes. If we do, we’re better prepared once the next growth phase begins.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I would say that sustainability and circular economy are the trends that all aspiring entrepreneurs should keep in mind: green consulting, wellness retreats, recycling and sustainable production of niche products. There are plenty of opportunities there. For example, there is a real gap in upcycled furniture. More and more people want to ensure their furniture is not only fashionable but also sustainable. Creating a business which upcycles old furniture – from Ikea to rare antique pieces – by either fully reusing materials for something completely new or bringing pieces back in shape will certainly result in great success.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
That has to be the MasterClass app. I believe in flexing your brain muscles and trying something new, and this is a brilliant app where you can learn anything from oriental cooking to classical guitar. It’s easy to use, you can go at your own pace, and it’s so inspiring to see top artists, athletes and creators sharing their own experience. I was particularly enjoying the acting, writing and Japanese cooking classes.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I find the simple stopwatch on my phone an indispensable tool. I follow a daily meditation routine with breathing techniques to help me focus and relax, so the seconds timer is great for keeping my breathing slow and steady. When the breath is relaxed, the mind is relaxed, and we begin tuning into slower brain waves. These slower brainwaves stimulate creativity, so by slowing down I actually boost my energy levels and productivity.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Body written by Bill Bryson. I think everyone has to read this book, because it gives us the most precious information about ourselves. Knowing ourselves is the most important wisdom and this book is the perfect start to self-knowledge. It is also very useful for understanding the history of medicine and where we all are today with physical and mental health given all of human’s technological and scientifical breakthroughs.
What is your favorite quote?
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
- Plan and prioritize efficiently and you will soon find yourself achieving what you set out to achieve
- Your wellbeing routine should be your golden rule. Self-care is one of the most important and yet most neglected things in modern society. If we are not well, we cannot bring added value to the world.
- Patience is a virtue. Have faith, believe in yourself and be dedicated to your passion. Do not believe in “failure”. There are natural ebbs and flows, a cycle of growth and contraction. Use the contraction phase to reflect, gain strength, and prepare for the coming growth phase.
- Set yourself a big goal but take small steps to reach it. One step at a time, move towards your goal with baby steps. You should be able to measure the size of your steps, and adapt them accordingly, to make sure you are not draining out of energy on your path to the achievement of your goals.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.