The best product ideas are born out of trying to solve a problem in our own lives. For Eunice Charles creating her own body butters and body scrubs was how she cured her skin ailment.
Charles’ sustainably-sourced homemade beauty and skin products, called Natralee, contain organic and vegan oils. Customers can shop for Natralee through the etsy shop, or keep an eye out for upcoming pop-up shops in and around Boston.
The Malden native currently works in the health care industry, building upon her higher mission of advocacy and helping others. “What I’m trying to build with the company is helping people on multiple levels,” she says, “giving people great skin care products that are positively impacting our world, and build proceeds to support other great initiatives.”
In an interview with Exhale, Charles shares how she began taking better care of herself, what it was like launching her own business, and how her clean beauty company continues to grow and expand.
Exhale: Why was it important for you to make your own sustainably sourced, homemade beauty products?
Eunice Charles:I have always been passionate about wellness and the environment. One of the reasons I started this business was because I came to a realization that everything is interconnected. The way we feel, what’s happening in our lives, [it] affects our bodies. The way we act and the things we do affects the broader community and environment.
A few years ago, I was living on my own in Washington D.C. I was away from my family and feeling overwhelmed. Over time, I started seeing these patches of super dry skin on my body. It was scary, [because] I didn’t know what it was. My doctor diagnosed it as eczema. You’re born with eczema, but I had never had a breakout in my life because I had never been under so much stress. Immediately, I was like, I need to change my lifestyle because this is out of control.
First, I moved back home. I needed to fix the environment that was contributing to my stress. Then, I grew more conscious of what I was eating and the products I was using. I was reading the ingredient lists of the products I used, and I didn’t like what I was finding. So, I decided, well, why don’t I try to make my own?
What is the process like making your own skin care products?
The first thing I made was the body butter. I used this mix, and I still do, of almond oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter and shea butter. Eczema is really drying so I was looking for the most hydrating and richest ingredients. I had to make a few versions of it. Initially I was sourcing the ingredients from Amazon, but then I switched to organic and fair-trade ingredients and that switch improved the quality of the product.
As I started making my own beauty products, I also started gifting them to people. I made special batches for holidays and birthdays. I was pouring a lot of love into it, and I wanted to share it with people. My friends and family started asking me for more and that’s how the business idea blossomed.
Currently, I source ingredients from places that align with our mission. They could be producers, farmers or distributors. I scour the internet all the time. When I first started making body butters, I sourced my shea butter from Ghana, from a community of women who make shea butter to sustain their families. Sometimes, I change where I source my ingredients from but I’m always looking at who we are as a company and make sure everyone we work with has values that align with ours.
What challenges have you faced as a new business owner?
The biggest challenge was that I didn’t know what I was doing. I don’t have a background in business. I didn’t know manufacturing laws, company structure and how to do bookkeeping. I’ve been figuring out ways to learn those things and tap into resources around my community. I’m still learning every day, and it’s a constant challenge.
I definitely have the community behind me supporting my every step, and I’m really involved with different organizations around the city. For example, I participated in Fairmount Innovation Lab’s Launchpad program in Spring 2017. So many doors have opened for me because of that program, and I have been able to collaborate with other small entities and emerging brands for photography work, website development, things I can’t necessarily do myself.
What are some exciting things in the works for Natralee?
My products [are now] available to purchase at a retail store for the first time ever — at Joyful Harvest Market, a woman-owned grocery store in Salisbury, Massachusetts.
We are a vendor at this year’s Massachusetts Conference for Women happening Dec. 5-6.
We’re launching some cool new products. We’ve downsized our jars so people can carry them in their purses and clutches. Plus, a brand new line of beard oil for customers with beards launched in November.
I’m also working on a project collaboration with two other brands to create a travel essentials box that will include Natralee products.
Do you have any advice for aspiring beauty entrepreneurs?
If you have a vision, and you’re able to have proof of concept and are able to validate it, just go for it. There have been little moments of affirmation for me. My former mentor from the FIL Launchpad program recently told me, “I’m sitting in my living room and my wife walks in and places a jar of lotion on the table. Guess what product it was?” She had bought my product without knowing I had been his mentee. I get calls like that from friends around the country saying, “I just saw someone with your product!” and I go, okay, I must be doing something right if people are continuing to buy my products and are spreading the word about them.