Anna Batyra is the founder of abtira | garden, a vegan and organic dermo-cosmetics brand from Cesme, Izmir that embraces slow self-care for skin + body.


Hello Anna!
First of all, we want to talk a bit about your past.

While you were working at Turkish universities to research sociological issues and living in Istanbul with all the colors of art and life, all of which you understand so well, you have decided to change something.
You were still involved in an area that touches people but has utterly different productivity. You’ve entered the kitchen of the business and played with plants.
And in a very short time, you started to produce abtira in the Aegean.

A vegan brand with organic and natural ingredients that makes its consumers very happy and honestly, in our opinion, has the best skin care products in Turkey.
We want you to know that we are all fans.

Thank you so much for this interview opportunity, it’s a great honor and pleasure for me to do it with you because my story is in part linked to your story. And of course, your words of praise are very flattering.

But I still feel very modestly about abtira, we are small and by far not the best in Turkey 🙂

You were the first one in abtira’s kitchen, so you blended the ingredients with your own knowledge and feeling.
We are curious — how inspired were you by being in the Aegean?

That is very true. Abtira has always been very personal; it was really born inside me, from just a little bit of knowledge, but a lot of feeling, and eventually from a lot of desperation. And yes, it has been completely inspired by the Aegean. I mean, I had always been close to nature, even before moving to Turkey, but the moment I set foot on the Aegean, took that drive from Izmir to Cesme in 2009, saw the hills of Urla and Karaburun entwined with the blue sea, I was hooked for life. I instantly wanted to live here.

This didn’t happen immediately. It took me some years to garner the courage to make the final change. Yet, all that time, the Aegean was my destination; I was spending any time I could in Cesme. Of course, I was seeing that both inspired and professional life was possible there, by looking at your Barbun, Alancha, Yek, Baris and Elfin’s Yucca, Gurcan’s Cacti, Yesim’s Yoga, Serap’s Arts and Crafts…. So the inspiration came from all of you, as much as it came from the flora that surrounded me.

But you know I was never an Alacati person; I spent more time in Ovacik, walking on that sand and rocks, between juniper trees, wild sage, and thyme bushes. That’s where I went in good weather with dogs and alone during the storms to shout my heart out. I also started making my own garden with Baris and when Yesim went into aromatherapy and taught me the basics, I was turned…

So you see, both the Aegean and all of you are in the story…

Speaking of the Aegean, we are also very curious about the places you think should definitely be seen and felt in the Aegean.
Could you please share a few of your feel-good spots?

We know that you have been in Turkey for many years, but you still have that ‘foreign’ eye and demeanor.
What excites and nourishes that eye of you

I was thinking about this recently because soon I have to host in our garden an event for a big magazine, an event that is to showcase the Aegean to a group of (Turkish) professionals. And yet here I am, a foreigner living in Turkey. What can a foreigner tell them about their own land?

I am still wondering… How can one communicate the striking beauty of the land seen for the first time with foreign eyes? How can one explain that this beauty only keeps growing on you as time goes by, as years go by? The land with its rocky shore bathed in the ice-cold sea, the maquis fields of textures and scents, a warm breeze in summer, and chilling winds in winter.

So arid and so raw, and at the same time so alive….

Since you promote and sell the products you create on online platforms, you are in charge of the kitchen, the display, and the hospitality of your business. In other words, you are doing one of the most active and demanding jobs of our day.

We guess it must be pretty intense. We’re also sure it requires good planning. What kind of tools do you have in your hands; can we ask for some advice?

Yes, it’s been very intense from the very beginning. Like many start-ups, abtira began as a one-man (or one-woman) show. At first, I did absolutely everything, from researching ingredients and formulating, through finding bottles and designing labels, to marketing and shipping. Yes, there was planning involved, but I think at that stage it was more of madness, an obsession to create what my head and heart were dictating.

It took one year before I hired an assistant and, soon after, an administrator. The one-person show was no longer possible; I was human after all and had human limits. Proper planning started then because it was at that point that I decided to make abtira a legit business. I suddenly had to manage a team, make a budget for the future. Two years that followed were basically a lot of planning and micro-management. It was exhilarating, but also a hell at the same time; I had to learn to delegate and trust others.

As abtira team was growing, very fast I understood that team was everything. Each person that joined, one by one, formed a new pillar without which we would fall. I think it was a lot of pressure for the people whom I hired. I don’t think it’s for everybody, and I am forever grateful to all of them for enduring these years with me; because more than anything I was battling with myself all that time, with the whole load, with suddenly having to be a leader (a role for which I never planned), all the while trying for us to be more like a family rather than a hierarchy.

So, yes, team is my advice to all businesses. I think that in our team we have truly learned to be there for each other…

For a long time, you designed all of abtira’s images yourself and also took the photos.
We wonder where this artistic eye and this taste comes from in your life.
Can you share when it was that you’d discovered the taste within you?

I am so glad you like abtira’s look.
What abtira communicates visually has always been very important to me. Sometimes I feel that, as much as to cure people’s acne, I created a brand so that through visuals I can channel to the outside what has always lived in me, what I have come to love in the world 🙂

I don’t know exactly where it all comes from; I guess from just looking around and seeing. I think over the years I’ve had a lot of suppressed energies: I was brought up to have a very pragmatic, practical life, where there was not much value given to esthetics. For this reason, since childhood, I have created a parallel identity that was hidden and known only to me. I guess one day that I wanted to come out… and for now, it has manifested in abtira…
But the abtira look is changing too.

Last year I started to work with a visual artist with whom I have a very similar vision for the brand. I found it amazing and liberating that our ideas are aligned and that we can share this process. Of course, I feel at the same time as if abtira is no longer just mine but I am growing to accept it, I guess it’s a natural process of letting go…

This is not actually a question, but a final sentence that we want to share.
You are creating amazing skin products. But beyond that, we think you and your team are creating art.
And it is very pleasant that this is happening on the Aegean coast. We would like to thank you for that.

Thank you so much, it’s a massive compliment. We are really working very hard to remain true to the original path we set onto, still with a lot of mistakes and a fear for the future, and hence with humility.

Really many thanks for having us on the Aegean.
We’ll be forever grateful for the hospitality and beauty that has been offered to us….

With the “Friends of YEK” series, we aim to introduce the precious people who add an Aegean beauty to life with their craftsmanship and elegance.

Click here to share their inspiration regarding nature, the Aegean, the art of living, and the very essence of creating.