Local Skin Care Entrepreneur, Featured in Cosmopolitan, Shares Favorite Sonoma County Spots

Stephanie Lee is the founder of a fast-growing skin care brand touted in national magazines. She’s also well acquainted with the down-to-earth vibe of Sonoma's west county.

Though Occidental’s Stephanie Lee is the founder of a fast-growing skin care brand touted in Forbes and Cosmopolitan, she’s also well acquainted with the down-to-earth vibe of rural west county, where she and her husband are fixing up a house in the redwoods. “I got my first chainsaw for Christmas,” laughs Lee as she details the many wonders of Occidental’s old-timey hardware store.

Lee has always been a bit of an overachiever. Shortly after college, she rocketed to the White House as a member of the staff of first lady Michelle Obama, and later built a career in product development at a big-name cosmetics company in New York. But after navigating a mental health crisis, Lee left the city to travel the world for a year and recalibrate her goals, visiting 11 countries and 16 states.

She launched her business, Selfmade, (beselfmade.co) in 2020 to connect skin care products to current research into emotional well-being and resiliency. Living in Sonoma has been a boon to her creativity, as she and her husband build even deeper ties within their community.

Here are some of Stephanie Lee’s favorite Sonoma County spots: 

“I go to Negri’s every single Friday. It feels like Cheers—like, hi guys,” says Lee. She usually has fettuccine with chicken and always, always orders Sandy Negri’s housemade cheesecake. “I like to think of myself as pretty much a professional dessert-taster now!” 3700 Bohemian Hwy., Occidental. 707-874-0301, negrisrestaurant.com

Negri's restaurant in Occidental. (Beth Schlanker/Sonoma Magazine)
Negri’s restaurant in Occidental. (Beth Schlanker/Sonoma Magazine)
Stephanie Lee, founder of (Savannah Ruedy)
Stephanie Lee, founder of Selfmade. (Savannah Ruedy)

Lee and her husband both volunteer at the nonprofit Occidental Center for the Arts. The center’s iconic Fool’s Parade will march through town every April. 3850 Doris Murphy Ct., Occidental. occidentalcenterforthearts.org

Lee and her husband have two dogs, so the nearby Grove of Old Trees is a favorite spot. “It’s very magical— the fact that the trees talk to each other underground and grow in fairy circles. It’s a reflective experience.” 17599 Fitzpatrick Lane, Occidental. landpaths.org

Lee first hit up Café Aquatica for a smoked salmon bagel when she and her husband were scouting the area before their move from New York. “There’s always someone singing on the stage, and there’s the river and the ocean beyond—beautiful.” 10439 Hwy. 1, Jenner. 707-865-2251, cafeaquaticajenner.com

Cafe Aquatica in Jenner. (Sonoma County Tourism)
Cafe Aquatica in Jenner. (Sonoma County Tourism)

On her zippy Vespa scooter, Lee loves two classic Sonoma spring drives. First, taking the back roads from Occidental through Graton to Healdsburg (Laguna Road to Trenton-Healdsburg Road to Eastside Road) past rolling vineyards and oak trees leafing out. And also, on the way out to the coast, she loves the green hills from Valley Ford to Dillon Beach. “I always take my family on this drive when they visit. It’s like what it would look like a hundred years ago.”