Smile Politely

Lola Pittenger has big dreams and so much to offer

a white woman leans against a short brick wall on a balcony. She is wearing a white dress and dark sandals. Her blonde hair is pulled back into a ponytail. Behind her you can see rooftops of tall buildings, treetops, and a sunny blue sky.
Louise Knight-Gibson

“I humbly meet you in the place where you stand today. That is how I serve my community, I’m going to recognize and acknowledge where you are at, why fake it?” This is how Lola Pittenger starts her sessions with clients. Pittenger may be known for her Glow by Lola products, but there is much more to the business than that. In fact, Pittenger seems to have no limit to the amount that she can do at one time. Currently she is a Spanish reading teacher in the Urbana school system, she is getting her masters of social work degree, and she just opened the Glow by Lola studio and shop, which features her handmade products and a space for classes and workshops that she also teaches. For this interview, we sat on the covered outdoor patio of her new space drinking sparkling water on a beautiful day. The space overlooks Lincoln Square Mall and Downtown Urbana, and for most of our interview, the bells of the courthouse chimed pleasantly in the background. Honestly, it was an idyllic scenario to get to know the person behind the Glow by Lola brand. 

The entry way to Glow by Lola. A large glass door connects to a red brick building. Glow by Lola is printed on the window.
Louise Knight-Gibson

Pittenger isn’t a stranger to Urbana. She was a student at the University of Illinois while getting a degree in Portuguese and then a masters in education. She moved to Chicago to teach and although the work was fulfilling, after ten years, the long days had left her completely burnt out. An opportunity opened up for her and her husband to move back to Urbana. Before moving Pittenger decided to get certifications in life coaching, holistic nutrition, Zumba, yoga, and aromatherapy. Glow by Lola started soon after, first as a product brand and then Pittenger slowly introduced new modalities. 

An office with large windows overlooking a street. There is a white chair and desk and a massage table directly across.
Louise Knight-Gibson

“I discovered Reiki as an energy medicine. I don’t want to culturally appropriate it because I’m not Japanese. So I always try to recognize myself as a guest in that space. But I think I have a real gift. So I’ve now decided to determine this energy work.” When she evaluates her clients, she finds out what issues they are working through and then using her many modalities (movement, breathwork, affirmations, and more) she works with clients to find a solution. “I have an ability to empathize and connect, not only on an energetic but [also] on a heart-centered level with people. So in a way I am mirroring their experiences and knowing I have also struggled and worked really hard, and am still working really hard on this journey of self development.” 

a wall of white shelves holds various products and crystals
Louise Knight-Gibson

Pittenger is clearly a people person. And it seems that connections and vulnerability fuel this drive to improve and offer more to her clients. In October, Glow by Lola will have a massage therapist working out of the space with a long term goal of adding more practitioners, a birth doula, teachers, and other partnerships into the practice. “In exactly two years, I’ll have more time to dedicate to this business. I’ll be seeing mental health clients for therapy and hopefully hosting events like regular happy hours. Five years from now, I don’t know if we’ll be in this space, but I think we will be a thriving hub for wellness. Right now we’ve just barely scratched the surface and we are just getting started.”

An open studio space with a mirrored wall, warm wood floors and sliding glass doors that lead onto a large balcony.
Louise Knight-Gibson

After spending so much time pouring into herself, Pittenger wants to pour into the community by increasing the inclusivity of her brand. “Most of my clients are of a certain socioeconomic status. There are a lot of senior citizens because it seems like they finally have time and resources to work on themselves. So a part of my two year plan is to launch a give back program or a sliding scale option to open it up to more people.”

Pittenger’s work has always been community driven and one of the ways she continues to do that is to work with communities through her Social Emotional Learning consultations. Part of this is through her work at school, where she helps children identify their feelings then meets them where they are at so that she can develop trust before working on more difficult issues. 

A close up of some of the items for sale. Including crystals, oils, and balms.
Louise Knight-Gibson

When I asked Pittenger what she hopes people take away from their time with her, she said, “I hope that people feel more drive and inspiration for living the best life that they can. I hope they can find that spark, that glow within themselves.”

Culture Editor

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