How I Thrive: Otherland Founder Abigail Cook Stone

How I Thrive takes an inside look at founders, entrepreneurs and leaders and the behind-the-scenes self-care work they do to in order to live balanced, happy lives. Today's edition is with Otherland founder Abigail Cook Stone, who swears by a 10-step skincare routine for winding down at night and is all about hors d'oeuvres.  

Name: Abigail Cook Stone

Age: 31

City: New York, NY 

Company: Otherland, a luxury candle brand

 Role: CEO and co-founder 

Beyond the role: Hors d'oeuvres enthusiast, art lover, maximalist, women’s mental health advocate

Morning routine:

I wake up and check the news, Instagram, and any texts on my phone. I then airplay an upbeat playlist on the speakers in the living room to coax me out of bed and into the world! Current vibe is Steel Drum Party, because it's tropical and breezy. Then I drink a glass of water, wash my face with CeraVe or Glycolic Foaming Wash, and get the French press out to make my first cup of coffee.I grind the beans at the beginning of the week and freeze the grounds in Tupperware so I can scoop and go on the weekdays.

I add a little collagen powder, some oat milk, and the tiniest spoonful of Swiss Miss hot chocolate powder: a little trick I learned from my mom to make coffee extra delicious.I inhale coffee and before I’m alert enough to talk myself out of it, zip into my workout gear and sprint downstairs and outside for a jog. I am a slow runner (no shame here!) but slowly starting to enjoy running more and more. So fair to say, I’ve been a reluctant runner but have now turned a corner!

Next comes shower, skincare (vitamin C from the fridge, peptide-packed moisturizer, physical-blocker sunscreen) and a quick blow-dry. I follow that up with makeup, outfit and statement earrings, and I'm ready to go. 

The first thing I do after work:

I love to hold a mini happy hour on Fridays to celebrate the end of the work week and kick off the weekend. My co-founder is my significant other, so I always make sure that includes a signature cocktail in a special glass (I love fun glassware!) and a small plate of hors d'oeuvres. Sometimes that just means my favorite Castelvetrano olives, a cheese or two, perhaps a fruit spread or honey, pistachios, and my absolute favorite: Cape Cod Potato Chips. Cheers!Dinner ritual:  

Right now, I’m cooking just about all but my Daily Harvest green smoothies and one meal of the week (which we usually takeout from our favorite neighborhood spot, Dudley’s NYC, along with to-go cups of rosé or a cocktail). Dinner is usually a little later, 8:30 or 9 pm—I tend to underestimate the amount of time each dish is going to take, though I’ll learn one day. I have yet to accept that even “throwing together a salad” might be 30+ minutes after washing and drying the greens, chopping toppings, adding protein, whisking dressing, plating, etc. But I do love cooking and am really enjoying doing more of it right now. 

Nighttime routine: 

At night, I'm all about skincare. I remove makeup with micellar water and cotton pads (I actually love testing new cotton pads. The best are Chanel Le Coton or White Rabbit cotton pads from SoKoGlam. I double cleanse with Then I Met You’s set: Living Cleansing Balm followed by their Soothing Tea Cleansing Gel. I apply prescription tretinoin cream, followed with a hydrating, antioxidant-rich serum (rotating through a few right now) and Drunk Elephant’s LaLa Retro Whipped Moisturizer or Paula’s Choice Replenishing MoisturizerIf I’m feeling particularly dry, I might top certain areas with a hyaluronic-laced sleeping mask like the one from Glow Recipe.

I used to wonder who had time for a 10-step skincare routine, and then I realized mine probably qualifies. The last step is spritzing a little lavender pillow spray before bed for a sensory queue that it’s time to sleep. I’ve learned to embrace the ritual and make it feel as "spa-like" as I possibly can to create a wind-down experience. 

Self-care guilty pleasure: 

Other than Otherland candles (obviously!), plain croissants from Supermoon Bakery in NYC. They are rich, crispy-flaky, golden brown, and perfectly lacquered, all with the perfect, buttery interior. I get out my grandmother’s beautiful dessert plates with gold leafing and painted fruit, admire the lovely setting and gorgeous pastry, and enjoy. My go-to method is to slowly pull one end of the croissant at a time to release the middle in a long, delicious strand, and then unwrap the middle, crispy exterior. Also, really decadent down pillows. I inherited mine from my mother and wow, am I never going back to regular pillows! You must try these: The Bloomingdales My Flair Down pillows in medium density.Workday self-care hack:

Pair candles! I'll burn two of my favorite scents together to create a completely new, transportive experience. Our limited edition summer Beach Club Collection, comes back soon. These days, I love to burn Stone Fruit (notes of Beach Plum, Peach Skin, and Brown Sugar) with Freshwater Pearl (with notes of Sea Crystal, Salt Water, and Crushed Shells). The two together instantly transport me to the smell of crisp, seaside air. And who wouldn't want to enjoy a beach vacation right now?
How I define self-care: 

Self-care is all about cultivating a practice of feel-good habits, rituals, activities with both long and short-term outcomes. For me, this includes weekly therapy sessions to help take care of my mental health, healthy eating (or thoroughly enjoying indulgent meals and treats—setting the table, getting out the fine china, etc. to make it an experience!), exercising, focusing on skincare, staying on top of my finances, going to regular doctor’s appointments, finding creative inspiration like cooking, mood boarding, checking in with friends, and yes, even decompressing with the TV.

It's all about making it an experience. Light the (hopefully Otherland!) candles, put on a face mask, carve out that me time.

Favorite childhood toy or hobby:

When I was four or five years old, my mother, who early in her career had been a 7th grade English teacher in Weston, MA, decided I needed to work on my descriptive language vocabulary. She had often played a game with me called "taste test" where she would have me try two different items (e.g., cereal, cracker, fruit) and describe the difference, but she wanted to take this to the next level.

So she created something called "cheese journal" for me. We got an adorable little journal from Gap Kids with a black Labrador on the front of it. Every week, she would buy a different cheese and I would dictate an entry to her for the journal, including a rating on a scale of 1-10. Looking back at my descriptions, I’m amused by my frame of reference! “This is more of a cracker cheese” or “great for grilled cheese”. While the descriptions have become more refined as I’ve gotten older, having an early practice of thinking about experiences in descriptive terms has informed how I experience the world. As I followed my love for scent and artwork into creating Otherland candles, I’ve taken this approach to the task of communicating and selling scent online, using our scent poems and ingredient descriptions, along with the candle and label designs and art direction of the photography, to convey the full scent experience.

State of your (email) inbox: 

I aspire to be an inbox zero person, but have thousands of unread emails in there. I do use it as a task list in some ways, triaging through to the most important, action-oriented items. But, for the most part, I translate my overall to-do list to my trusty pink spiral-bound notepad that sits next to my computer.

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Illustration by Megan Behrendt

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