Some of the best business ideas are born out of personal necessity. The same could said of Brooklyn, NY-based Iwilla Remedy, a company that makes a line of wellness products. It was founded by Selima Harleston Lust and Tami Lust when they wanted to created organic personal care products first for themselves, then others.
Tami was suffering from fibroid tumors and began looking for more natural and organic ways to deal with the condition. And after family members had breast cancer scares, the pair intensified their effort to make their own lifestyle changes. “While there has not been a definite connection that it is cancer causing, a high percentage of women diagnosed with breast cancer have larges doses of aluminum in their lymph nodes,” explains Tami. In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, some scientists have suggested that certain ingredients in underarm antiperspirants or deodorants may be related to breast cancer since they are applied frequently to an area next to the breast. So Tami and Selima decided to create their own deodorant made of natural ingredients. Today, Iwilla Remedy offers a variety of products available online and in 30 small-to-medium-sized health food stores in the New York City area.
It all started with the deodorant in 2012. After trial and error with ingredients, Tami and Selima came up with their first product, “I Love My Armpits.” The product went through various stages. “Initially, it was a cream that was applied by hand,” explains Selima. But after conducting focus groups they discovered that application method was not desired (“No one wanted to touch their armpits with their hands,” says Tami) and switched to a tube. They also tweaked the ingredients and then finally debuted the product, which comes in various scents such as Baby Powder, Citrus Pearl, Floral Fields, Herbaceous Woods, and Spicy Lemon. The ingredients include fractionated coconut oil, beeswax, shea butter, castor oil, arrow root powder, brown rice flour, bentonite clay, sea clay, and neem seed oil. I Love My Armpits deodorant retails for $10.
The product line has expanded to include lip balm (Lush Peppermint), My Skin Glows creams, tinctures, Bug-Off Herbal Insect Repellent, body Wellness Oils and teas. The Wellness Oils have proven to be popular and have such scents as Relax, Relate, Release and Stomach Ease Oil. The body oils retail for $7.50.
The company is growing so fast that Selima recently left her job in arts administration to focus full time as CEO of Iwilla. Tami still holds down her full-time job in IT while handling Iwilla business as president of the company.
They have plans to add more to the products list, including two more lip balms and additional oils. And they are looking to farm out some of the manufacturing duties. Right now the company is still home-based, with the products being made in the pair’s Brooklyn apartment. “We also want to free ourselves up to better utilize our talents,” explains Tami. “Selima should focus on sales and marketing. She should be out promoting the product and meeting with new and current stores but she now is tied up actually putting the product together and packaging it.” Selima says another long-term goal is to receive "organic” labeling. The products are currently classified as natural. Selima and Tami are also reviewing their product line to see what items are sustainable in order to better supply their customers. “We like figuring out what people need and seeing if it is something that is doable for us,” says Tami.
“We consider our product line as personal care with a purpose,” continues Selima. Adds Tami, “Each product has remedial properties, such as the eczema cream. It is so great when we hear our product has helped someone. That makes us feel we are doing something to not only make money but that helps people and also encourages people to consider using more natural products.”