After leaving the eastern Croatian city of Osijek as a young girl to go to Canada, and living and working all over the world after finishing her studies, Iva Bravic Millereau has settled in Hong Kong where she has just launched her own business.
Proud of her Croatian roots, Iva launched RE.VITYL, a business grounded on wellness from Croatia. We caught up with her to find out more about her and her new business.
Iva, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I moved to Toronto, Canada when I was 11 just before the war started. Osijek and Slavonija were hit hard by the war and we were devastated by the news. We always kept close ties with the Croatian community in Canada and we spend our summers in Korcula. I am forever grateful for what the Canadian Dream gave to us, but I missed the European way of life dearly, so after university, I moved to Paris for my MBA degree and stayed in Europe and have been on an incredible journey ever since.
I was fortunate to live and work in Paris, France, Geneva, Switzerland, Moscow, Russia, Miami, USA, Shanghai, China before I moved to Hong Kong in 2019 with my husband and 2 kids. It’s been a long journey from Osijek to Hong Kong, but my heart and soul are Croatian. Ultimately Hong Kong has been the city that has finally allowed me to fulfill my dream of building a company with ties to Croatia.
You launched a business during the pandemic, can you tell us about it and what was the trigger for the idea?
We started working on this particular project 18 months prior to launch. The pandemic definitely put a wrench in our plan, but we decide to still move forward with our plans because we realized that sleep is something that has been really affecting people during this stressful time.
Our brand DNA is about self-care, and there is no better time than now to put a spotlight on our wellbeing to maintain optimal health. The idea was triggered by our collaborators based in Rijeka, who reached out to my co-founder Rashia Bell about a collaboration since she has been recognized for crystal healing in the wellness space for some time. Since I was the only Croatian person she knew, she reached out to me to see if I would meet them for a coffee during my vacation. I met with the co-founders of BC Tech for a Croatian-style coffee while I was running to the airport in Split and the idea was born from this fortuitous introduction encounter.
We Croatians love to sleep and rest and put on emphasis on slow living. While I flew around the world and chased my corporate career, I found myself exhausted and wishing I had more energy. After meeting the BC Tech team and, I knew that there was a natural solution to my problem and the idea developed from there.
RE.VITYL™ is a play on words emphasizing the feeling of the verb revitalize, or the action of infusing something with new life and vitality. This is the core of the intention behind every product we create. The pre-fix “RE.” on all of our products echoes and elevates that action. Our hero product, the RE.LEASE Sleep Mask, in particular, features a mixture of 16 crystals that combined have the ability to change the way you sleep, de-stress and revitalize yourself at the end of a long day so that you wake up feeling rejuvenated.
Croatia is also a haven for some of the highest quality essential oils in the world and we wanted to tie that aspect into our storytelling. I used to stock-up on my yearly quantity every summer in the local apoteka, and we figured why not bring these amazing products to the world and help our essential-oil farmers get the recognition they deserve from the international holistic community.
What are some of the products you sell?
Our hero product is the RE.LEASE Silk Sleep Mask with a crystal-infused insert developed by our Croatian partners. Our mask is scientifically proven to help you sleep better and this technology was a hit in Croatia with the athletes including Ivanisevic. We have taken it and put it into a product that every consumer can utilize and enjoy. The mask and our sleep pads are suitable for all ages and genders.
We also have an amazing collection of essential oils, Single notes and Sleep blend all sourced from our partners in Istra and Dalmatia. Our oils are organic, vegan, cruelty-free and lab-tested in the EU for consumer safety standards.
Your brand has partners in Croatia, can you elaborate?
Everything you see on our website is tied to Croatia. Sleep mask and sleep pads crystal infused insert component is made in Croatia by BC Tech.
Our essential oils are 100% sourced from Croatia. Our bottles arrive in Varazdin at a printing facility where they are printed on and from there they are dispatched to Zagreb or Istra depending on which partner we are ordering from. Both of our essential our partners have their own farm and distillery and all our oils are traceable from harvesting to bottling and tested in a laboratory to meet European standards, which are the highest in the world.
Whenever you buy a RE.VITYL™ product you are helping a minimum of 6 Croatian companies. From graphic designers, photographers, and printers to our main suppliers in BC tech or one of the Essential oil farmers.
Our brand DNA truly lives in Croatia.
What makes Croatia great for wellbeing?
As a child growing up in Croatia we had home-made remedies for everything! A lot of those things are the mainstream bedrock of wellness 2.0, was a part of our daily routine.
In Slavonija we ate bone broth soup or kale soup once a week. These staples of our cuisine are some of the biggest wellness trends of the last 5 years. Drinking warm water is another example of a super health benefit, that has become a mainstream wellness trend. We were told to drink warm water or we will catch a cold, but our grandmas probably were not aware of the other amazing benefits warm water offered to our bodies in helping it detoxify the toxins.
When it comes to our beauty regime we have always been minimal and that is also a trend we are starting to see come to life with the clean beauty movement. (Washing our face with chamomile tea, nourishing our hair with olive oil and egg yolk).
Let’s not forget Croatia’s love affair with sleep! We are a nation that loves to take a mid-day rest and sleep well, hence it’s natural that our Brand DNA lives in Croatia!
Croatia is about slow-living. We take the time to smell the sea, the fig trees, the lavender, the pears, the flowers and we feel the wind in our back. We believe that nature can heal almost anything, including a shot of rakija if you are feeling unwell.
In Croatia life rhymes just a little bit slower and today that is a luxury many people are searching for!
What are some of the main challenges with the business?
The biggest challenge has been trying to grow and scale a global business in a pandemic.
Our wholesale has started to pick up, but initially, we were only available on e-commerce through our website www.re-vityl.com; with a lot of limitations to shipping globally to other regions outside of the USA, Canada and Hong Kong.
Despite those challenges, how has your brand been welcomed so far by customers?
We have seen some great results early on for our brand. Repeat customers, new mothers, fathers, mothers to be, grandparents, buying it for their kids and grandchildren. Who does not need a good night’s sleep and a little help from nature to make it happen?
The mask is suitable for all ages and genders and we have had a positive reaction from our initial customer and a lot of them are Croatian. It has been great to see the support from our community! Of course, we have many international customers too. Certain orders have gone also for corporate and this is definitely an opportunity we would love to explore. All Croatian-North American businesses can count on us to provide them with the ultimate corporate-gift this season.
Our strongest markets are the USA, Canada, Hong Kong and Europe.
Where can people find or buy your brand?
We are available online at our own e-commerce www.re-vityl.com and we ship to the USA, Canada, Asia (HK, Singapore, Thailand, Australia) and Europe (France, UK, Belgium, Germany, etc.) We have a few offline Brick & Mortar points of sales in New York and are available online at www.ondabeauty.com and https://sanctuairelife.com/ and www.iamwomanboss.com
We are still working on developing our offline reach, which has been challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic and retail stores being shut.
Do you often visit Croatia?
I usually visit every summer, unfortunately, 2020 was a special year and the pandemic kept us in Hong Kong throughout the year. Since my business is inherently tied to Croatia as soon as travelling resumes I will be on their first plan home to meet with our suppliers and look for new inspirations.
My summers are usually spent on Korcula with three generations under one roof. We all anxiously await for those golden summer months to rest and recharge. I still have family left in Slavonija and I love to go and visit when I have the opportunity, Osijek, Vinkovci, Djakovo and Baranja. My 8-year-old daughter loves to tell everyone she meets that she will live in Osijek or Zagreb when she grows up!
What are your plans for the future?
Our goals, even during this challenging time, really haven’t changed from what we first envisioned. We aim to increase our brand awareness and expand our direct consumer reach by shipping to additional markets; are also looking at strategic partnerships with some key online and offline retailers. We are also working on some new product offerings in the pipeline for 2021 and lastly, our ongoing goal is to impact how people experience rest, sleep and wellbeing.
Croatia Week Readers offer:
Support a Croatian Business this Holiday Season and use the code CROATIAWEEK on www.re-vityl.com to get 25% off. Orders above $120 USD will receive free RE.LEASE Essential Oil Scent Therapy Blend.