Thinking About Taking a Leap of Faith (in Yourself)? I Vote Yes.

by Sarah Villafranco, MD /


When life presents you with the opportunity to hear your mother’s last heartbeat, with your ear desperately pressed against her chest while your brand new baby is crying in the next room, time has a way of collapsing and expanding all at once. Or did it implode? I’m not sure, but it made me think long and hard about my life, how it might not be as long as I have indicated on my calendar, and what I wanted to do with the time I have here.

I’m a doctor. Countless sleepless nights and a degree from Georgetown University will prove it. I trained as an emergency physician in Washington DC, where I saw everything from stab wounds to anxiety attacks to babies born in the ambulance bay to foreign objects inserted in places beyond your grossest imagination. I had the best work stories at any dinner party - unless it was with my medical friends, and then it was like a contest to see who had seen the most heartbreaking or surreal or ridiculous or life-affirming cases. I finished my training and moved to Colorado with my husband and our then 2 year-old daughter. Until that point, I had lived within 10 miles of my parents for my entire life. No longer.

Mountain practice was different – like an orthopedic clinic, with an occasional trauma case and lots of high altitude sickness. I brushed up on my skills, and was soon putting dislocated shoulders back in place with ease. Things were swimming right along until my mom came to visit a few months later. We were hiking when she had a brief episode of stomach pain. It passed with a little Ujjayi breathing, and we didn’t think too much of it. A month later, back in DC, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

After 16 months of aggressive treatment, my stepfather finally made the call to say “I think you’d better come home”. I numbly got on a plane with my brother and my second daughter, who was 3 months old. We spent a week in their house, caring for my skinny, ravaged mom, telling her it was okay to let go. She slipped into a coma not long after we arrived, and died 8 days later, at age 64. She was my most precious, beautiful friend.

Back in Colorado, I returned to work, but something was different. Of course, everything is different when you lose someone you love. But there was something missing in the work – as if I couldn’t define my purpose there. I knew I was helping people, and that I was a good doctor. But, at the end of a shift, I just felt exhausted and empty. Looking back, I think it was a sense that I had not, despite 13 hours on my feet without peeing or eating, made the world more beautiful, safer, or much healthier. I was taking care of problems that had already happened – basically putting out fires. I saw so many patients with problems they could prevent by simply choosing their own health over the cigarettes or fast food or alcohol or whatever else was making them sick. After losing my mother, who lived an incredibly healthy life and died anyway, I started to resent patients who took their health for granted. And I didn’t want to become a resentful human. So I began to percolate.

About this time, I took a class making soap at a local ranch. I was immediately transfixed: chemistry plus beauty was an irresistible combination. I converted a windowless room in a dear friend’s house (fondly referred to as the “meth lab”) and worked for 2 years on formulations. I exploded things. I coated myself with every plant oil known to man. I taught myself about emulsions and surfactants and preservatives. I was obsessed. When I worked a shift in the ER, I counted the hours until I could get back to the lab. I knew something had to change. I just had to figure out how. And why.

You know how, when you fall in love, there’s no answer to the why part, and we don’t really ask because it’s LOVE? That’s how I felt about making these beautiful, natural products. (Still do.) I wanted to shout from the rooftops: “Hey everyone! Let’s stop using all these chemicals that make little girls get their periods too early and cause cancer and fish mutations and are changing the planet and the course of our evolution! And, let’s do it not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because there are SO many luxurious, incredibly healthy options, and I know how to make them!!!”

(By the way, here I am. Standing on the rooftop, still shouting.)

The process of justifying it all to myself was excruciating. I am a doctor! I worked hard to be a doctor, especially while making babies at the same time! My dad is a law professor, my mom was a lawyer, and I’m going to be a SOAPMAKER? I suffered silently for a long time, and thought endlessly about it from every angle. But I kept wondering what my mom would say, and I could hear it as clearly as I heard her little heart stop: “Honey, do what you love.” When I finally said it all out loud, my prince of a husband cocked his head at me with a slight, confused smile. And then he looked at my face and said “OH. You’re serious. Okay, let’s make a plan.”

So we did. And three years later, I am CEO of our budding little skincare company. We have five full time employees in a 3000 square foot facility where we make all our products. I use my medical background to help people with specific skin questions and to encourage healthy life choices.   I open my personal life to our customers on our social media feeds, and if one person goes for a run or quits smoking or takes up yoga because of that, I have practiced medicine. If we can educate people about why certain chemicals are bad for the world, and one person switches over to greener products, I have practiced medicine. And if the level of 1,4-dioxane in our water supply goes down over the next 30 years and fewer aquatic species are affected because of my company and companies like it, I have practiced medicine. And, most importantly, I have practiced love.


What’s your passion? And what’s your plan?



With love and faith from us to you, 

Sarah and the Osmia Crew.

Leave a Comment

I’m quite amazed at the journeys of individuals and the hardships they may endure to come to a place of peace, love, understanding, and self awareness. Much like your PD kit and FAQ about which products to use, etc had inspired me to start making lifestyle changes, this blog post has done the same. I feel inspiration flowing out of me and I admire your strength through the hard times and your wisdom to seek your individual truth.

Thank you for sharing your gift of soaps, your MD recommendations for other products, and a little bit of yourself. I can ensure you that the World is a little better thanks to you, Osmia and your ideologies.
-Danielle S

Danielle on February 16, 2016

I worked in a Hospital lab for 30 yrs. I actually called you to order products on a Sunday several years ago, and I remember you said to me " you must be working in a hospital if you are working on a Sunday. "And you shared how you are a physician…..non practicing. I started to feel suffocated and unhappy at work. This past August I was let go after 30 yrs in one place. I felt embarrassed, but not sad. I am working again in a lab, but I feel like I am going through the motions. What I would really love to do is work with dogs. I own seven, all rescues and they are my passion♡. After reading your inspiring message, I feel like I need to step back, and figure out how to make my dream happen. Thank you for your inspiration and your beautiful products.
Pueblo West, CO

Peggy on February 14, 2016

Wow this article should come with a tear warning! You are such a beautiful writer and the more I read about you and from you the more respect I have for your brand and vision! Have you considered writing a book in all of your spare time ?

Susannah on January 21, 2016


I am a true believer in signs. I discovered your website while researching PD, something that I have struggled with for the last several years. I love your products and I admire you for taking the leap. From the moment I found your website, I have felt that we are kindred spirits – a weird thing to say to someone that you’ve never met, I know. I shared your website with a friend and said that I would love to work for you ! The past 6 months have been very difficult for my family. My 14 yr old daughter has struggled with severe anxiety and depression with suicidal ideology. There is nothing like fearing the loss of a loved one that makes you reevaluate your life and what is important. I am originally from northern Michigan and grew up collecting beautiful stones found on the shores of Lake Superior. Over the last couple of years, I have dabbled with making jewelry and decided that I wanted to try making jewelry out of the beautiful stones I have collected. I am getting ready to start an Etsy shop and have been asking for a sign that I should take the leap and try to make a go of it full time and I came across your blog today. It is incredibly scary and I have no idea where I would even begin let alone how I would replace my generous salary that my family depends on. I would love to hear more about your story and how you got started. Thank you for sharing your love with the rest of us. I know your mom would be so proud of you!!

Lisa Wohlford

Lisa on September 24, 2015

I am new to your site and company. I found you because I was researching perioral dermatitis and saw you on utube. I ordered the sample set that was recommended. I can’t wait to get it! I love your story and I look forward to getting more of your products but mostly I love your site. It is so different from any other I have seen. Please don’t ever get too big to lose this personal and caring attitude. I am so inspired by your story. So happy you have found your passion!!!

Rhonda on July 30, 2015

I’ve heard about the story of the birth of your company before but this post really brings your message home – do what you love and be your best self! Life is precious! My own mother has an illness and we’re still dealing with it. That experience also made me question my job and life. I’m still in the midst of figuring things out but I’m hopeful that I will someday figure out how best to make myself happy. In the meantime you are an inspiration – I want to be like Sarah!!

Linda on June 04, 2015

@Christine – So nice of you to leave a note. I know my mother thought very highly of you. I love that you are using and gifting Osmia products – it is such an honor for us to become part of people’s lives, especially people with a connection to my mom! Thanks for being an Osmia Girl, and for passing the love of healthy products to your daughters. Love to you and yours. S

@Danielle – Thank you for reading! XO, Sarah.

Sarah Villafranco, MD on March 22, 2015


I had the privilege of practicing law with your amazing mom at Collier Shannon in the 90s. (My office was next door to John’s.) She would be so proud of you — and so am I! It takes a lot of guts to depart from the path that people expect you to take, to venture bravely into the unknown, to follow your passions and your calling. And you’ve followed your calling so well! My daughters (13 and 15) and I are smitten with your products. In particular, we have fallen in love with Osmia’s black clay face soap, spot treatment, facial calibration serum, Juniper Fire perfume, and vetiver grey body soap. (I get particularly grumpy if I don’t have my black clay face soap handy …) This Christmas, I even stuffed stockings with your products — and received rave reviews, of course.

Your work is a blessing to many. Thanks for following your passion and giving the world your delightful products!

With admiration,

Christine Wilson on March 19, 2015

What a beautiful journey you’ve been on…Thank you for sharing it here and thank you for your commitment to Osmia!!!

Danielle on March 19, 2015

@Cheryl – Thank you for your note, and so sorry for your stress lately. You, too, are loved, and you are much stronger than you think.
@Stefania – Grazie mille – tanti baci a te!
@Susannah – Child, things ARE gonna get easier. They always do. Then they get harder again. And so it goes. Much love to you.
@Caitlin – Jeez, I hope we don’t need a lawyer in house, but we are always looking for great team members, so let us know if you get sick of the law… Thanks for reading!
@Amanda – I LOVED reading that comment – so happy for you and your brave decision. I hope you always continue to follow your instinct, and there are so many paths to follow with an MSW that I know you’ll find one that’s perfect for you. Much love – S.

Sarah Villafranco, MD on March 19, 2015

Sarah, even though it’s been a while since we’ve connected, know that Osmia emails always light up my world. I love reading your stories- always so colorful and filled with warmth and power. Tales of happiness and passion prompted by leaps of faith always inspire me…silencing the ego and logic and following the heart can bring such a sense of freedom to the soul.
I am actually speaking from experience on that one. I’m not sure if you remember my fascination with your unique life trajectory (and your products…duh), given that I found your company at a time when the idea of a career in medicine was rapidly losing appeal to me. It wasn’t healing as I had always conceptualized it.. Around the time I was applying to med school, I impulsively decided to call a few social work master’s programs to see if they would consider an application…5 months post-deadline. Everybody denied me, but one school made an exception. I still don’t understand why they decided to let me apply despite the program starting in six weeks. I frantically compiled the app in a week, they blessedly accepted me the following week, and three weeks later I moved to Chicago to start at U of Chicago’s MSW program. This was undeniably the most impulsive decision of my life; my ego still laughs at me every now and then, but there is a feeling of peace and belonging now that had been absent for a long time. I’m still “figuring it out”, but I think I’m home. I’ve been meaning to write to you for a long time because your courageous story has always resonated so strongly with me. So, thank you for the inspiration and for sharing your story with us. And for creating your heavenly products.
XOXO Amanda

Amanda on March 18, 2015

Amazing. This could not have come at a better time for me as well. Thank you Sarah.

P.S. If you ever need to hire a lawyer at Osmia, I’m your girl ;) I’ll help make the soaps too!

Caitlin on March 18, 2015

Wow Sarah – thank for this. Truly. I read this with tears in my eyes (and now my mascara is stinging). Thank for all you do and thank you for taking the leap. So many of us have benefited from your products (especially for PD!) and even that alone is enough. But you’ve done so much and you just keep on going! There’s a silly commercial on right now with the song lyrics, “Ooo child, things are gonna get easier…” I needed both this email and that song right now.

Susannah on March 18, 2015

Hi Sarah,
I read it all in silence, all in one breath, tears fell from Italy ….. follow you on Instagram and fb, thanks from me and my family, I have three children:-) I love what you do and I understand perfectly , is a common struggle and love that I’m trying to do educating my neighbor, a big hug

Stefania on March 18, 2015

Being in the hustle and bustle of a day – I don’t always tend to have time to ready lengthy non-work emails – however – whenever I see it is from you, I read. This was impactful and very timely. 2 days ago I ended up in the ER with stress and anxiety; if you knew me – you would know that I am not a fan of docs or hospitals and although I do follow up with routine checkups – for the most part I try to work out any other ailments on my own if I have a problem. I eat very healthy, live a good lifestyle, rarely ever drink alcohol – but – I have high levels of stress at work and at home and even with all the good I do – I do not set aside time for me in the way of yoga or exercise. That needs to change – this was a “wake up call”. Time to re-evalute my work – stress – life. Your words brought tears to my eyes. As I was having all my heart testing done, I was talking to my decesased mom (also my dearest and best ever friend) – with intensity and prayfulness. Thinking – I have to make changes……and appreciate all of the little things we overlook every day. I am back at work today, and feel relieved with a bill of good health – a chance…..not to take life for granted; you don’t think you do – but it happens. I should have known when last week my face from forhead to chin looked like measles – the perio-oral and occular returned – that the stress was again spinning in and around me!!!! It has since disapated as fast as it came…….

Thanks, Sarah, for a very meaningful and uplifting email – it most certainly touched my heart and soul. You are a special woman and a good doctor! As I was lying in the hospital looking at the crest toothpaste, and ? soap and lotion, I thought – man am I “high maintenance”? I need my black clay soap and lotion from Osmia….As a result I begrudgingly brushed my teeth and only used water (nothing more) on my face. As for the food – well need I say more; the garden salad was all iceburg lettuce and gluten free food was available – but not in t he way you and I would qualify it. Again, thanks for sharing, you are so loved……

Cheryl Plank on March 18, 2015

@Molly – you are the best. I am so glad your skin is happier, and can’t imagine anything that could make me happier than knowing that OO has reminded you to #exerciseyourprivilege – it is a privilege to have you as a customer and a long-distance friend! XO, S.

Sarah Villafranco, MD on March 17, 2015

Beautiful! Thanks to your help and guidance I figured out I had PD. Once I tried the Osmia spot treatment and black clay facial soap it was game over, I immediately began switching all of my products and a year and a half later I’m about 98% organic and extremely passionate about the natural beauty industry. And every time I drag myself up off my butt to go for a run or do some intervals or force myself to take the stairs instead of the escalator I remind myself that I need to #exercisemyprivilege. You rock, Sarah. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Molly on March 17, 2015