Yiasas! (Hello!) My name is Staci Hamalis
I grew up in the lovely Midwest and had the opportunity to travel abroad and live in my husband’s beautiful country of Greece. I met my Greek husband while working in a global technology consulting firm in 2010, and even though I was based in Chicago and he was based in London, we were able to make it work. Through our consulting career we had the opportunity to live in various European cities. During that time we were travelling to Kavala every Easter, summer, November (to help pick olives and make tsipouro) and Christmas. I fell in love with Greece and its traditions, culture, lifestyle and people, and in 2015, we decided to move to Kavala and stayed there for 2 years.
With my husband’s business, he was able to work anywhere and we had been talking about the idea of Vilia Soap for a couple of years. The consulting life took me away from home due to a lot of travel and we wanted to move away from that lifestyle, especially since we were getting married. So, we decided to take the leap of faith and move to Greece and start Vilia Soap in 2015. After our US wedding, we moved to Kavala and had our traditional Greek Orthodox wedding!
I really enjoyed our time there learning about the Greek culture and really being submerged into the everyday Greek life – like going to the fourno (local bakery) for my fresh bread and tiropitakia (cheese pies) and going to get fresh fruits and veggies at our local laiki (farmer’s market). I enjoyed learning about all of the customs and traditions (especially those around Easter – which has now become one of my favorite holidays). I am still attempting to learn the language and did pick up some words while living there. I also met some amazing Greek friends that welcomed me into their town and they have become some of my best friends.
My love for olive oil started after my father-in-law, a retired chemical engineer, taught me how to make my first batch of soap with Greek olive oil from the olives our family harvested. Making the switch to the all natural soap helped my dry skin, which was because it was a chemical free product. From then on, I began to study the actual ingredients in beauty products. There are over 1,300 chemicals banned for use in cosmetics by the European Union and only 11 are banned in the U.S. There are over 20,000 chemicals that are on the market in skincare and beauty products and many of those chemicals haven’t been tested for long-term effects and some of the chemicals are proving to be toxic for various reasons.
Living in a country that was rich in ancient history beauty rituals and full of natural botanicals, I found inspiration in formulating my own skincare products. I left my consulting career and made it my mission to bring Greece to life in healthy skincare products that I could share with others.
Vilia Soap Company is a natural, Greek-inspired small-batch skincare line now based in Chicago. Our products are made with high-quality, effective ingredients that have been used in Greek apothecary since the days of the beautiful and empowered Greek Goddesses. Our mission is to provide you with natural luxury products that are non-toxic and chemical free.
The word ‘Vilia’ is from the Greek word ‘voukamvilia’ – the famous flower in Greece. While vacating in the Cyclades I came to know this beautiful flower and how it could decorate an entire street or building. Our signature packaging includes the voukamvilia flower which was illustrated by one of my amazing friends, Antonia Kaplani, a local Kavala artist, exclusive for our products!
Inspiration & Influences
I am influenced by traditional Greek apothecary and the natural plants and herbs in Greece. The scents like lavender, geranium, and rosemary inspired by soaps. One weekend my father-in-law taught me how to distill wild chamomile that he picked in the mountains- it is inspiring to be able to do that! I am inspired by ancient traditions, for example, clays were often used for bathing and charcoal was used in medicine. I love taking ingredients like these and using it in modern products today. Most of all my customers inspire me and keep me going! I have so many customers tell me that my Activated Charcoal & Tea Tree soap has cleared up their acne and my Geranium & Pink Clay soap has helped with their dry skin. I love when I hear that the Lavender & Oatmeal works for their children’s dry skin. This inspires me to move forward creating natural products that are effective. I love that my products all tell a Greek story – I really want others to experience Greece as I have.