Rob Messer was a third-grade teacher with a history of headaches and allergies, which he treated with over-the-counter medication. About four years ago, that routine changed.
“The way I was brought up was that if you had a headache, you’d take Tylenol,” he recalled. “If you had an allergy, you’d take Claritin or Flonase. One of my buddies from high school married a very holistic woman and she kept on forcing these essential oils on me, and I was like, ‘I’m good with your witchcraft. I have my ibuprofen on me.’ ”
One day, in an effort to mollify his friend’s wife, Messer agreed to allow her to rub an essential oil in his hands. He then followed her directions to cup his hands to his face and breathe through his nose and mouth. His relief was instant and effective.
“It was the clichéd light bulb that went off,” he continued. “Something else was out there that I didn’t know anything about, but I knew worked. The more I researched, the more I wanted to try it. And the more I tried it, the more I liked it.”
Initially, Messer kept his research into natural health products from his wife, Chelsea, who handled sales and marketing for a sports drink startup.
“He was researching behind my back to the point where I had no idea,” she said. “And I said, ‘Do your research into that. I am not into that.’ ”
“Chelsea needed to have her experience, too, but she was very reluctant,” added Rob.
Chelsea’s moment came during a gym workout. She dealt with asthma attacks for many years, but that day she neglected to bring her inhaler to the gym. She had an asthma attack while working out, but her husband had a small bottle of peppermint oil.
“I had her use her hand like a makeshift inhaler, and this terrible asthma attack subsided within seconds,” Rob said. “And she was like, ‘Alright, I’m in.’ ”
“After that, I left my corporate days in three days,” Chelsea said. “I figured that if there was something that helped me, there must be hundreds of others who could use help.”
Today, the Shelton-based couple is offering its services as natural lifestyle coaches, conducting seminars on chemical-free wellness across Fairfield and New Haven counties in town halls, chiropractors’ offices, a Lululemon retail outlet and even in people’s homes. In July, they hosted library screenings of the documentary “Stink!” about toxic products and chemical exposure.
“Anywhere where we can get a group together,” laughs Rob. “In many cases, people do need a coach to show them how to do it.”
Chelsea noted they are sought out by people who have become frustrated with a lack of results from traditional medicine. However, they do not portray themselves as medical professionals.
“Some people come to us as their last stop,” she said. “They’ve tried everything and done everything. We never, ever condone not going to your doctor or talking to your doctor. We are not crazy oil people. We help people marry the two and use oils in tandem with the medical advice of their doctor.”
“A lot of people are shocked when we share with them that you can take essential oils internally — if, and only if, the oil is certified as being 100% pure,” Rob said. “The oil industry is not regulated and it’s like the Wild West. They put things on the bottle like ‘100% this’ and ‘therapeutic that,’ but they can put whatever they want in the bottle. As you can imagine, there are a lot of fillers in there that can keep those costs down.”
The Messers have aligned themselves with the doTerra brand of essential oils, working as wholesale representatives for the product line. Chelsea pointed to the company’s transparency in testing results and its ingredient base as the key factors in their support.
“Their sourcing is from indigenous sources,” she said. “Soil and climate make a difference on how effective the oil is.”
The Messers are also seeking to build a regional community of like-minded professionals through their founding of a Westport chapter of the Holistic Chamber of Commerce. This group had its first meeting last month, with the goal of creating a support network for sharing leads and ideas on running a natural wellness business.
“There are a lot of holistic practitioners in the area,” Chelsea said.
The Messers have taken on a second mission in encouraging professional collaboration by spouses via a new podcast called “In Business and In Health.”
“Everyone tells me don’t work with your family members and your spouse, and we are going in the opposite way,” said Chelsea. “Our schedules are a mess and we don’t have our roles down pat. But as we are figuring it out, people can see our journey and see in real time what it’s like to work with your spouse.”
“We have the perspective of documenting the journey,” added Rob.