Crystal Joseph-Maraj's obsession with coconut oil has not only benefited her skin and hair, but also her pockets. The owner of Aviare Body Products, a line of local body oils and botanical infusions that was introduced to the market in March, told WMN skin problems and being laid off from her job as an accountant gave rise to what has now become her "baby".
"I used to have really, really bad skin, to the point where I didn't own anything short and I lived in long pants." That was until she discovered the healing power of coconut oil. "I used to be smeared from scalp to toes with it because it helped to clear up my skin and kept my hair healthy. I always found that it smelt weird, though, but I kept on using it because it was helping."
But it was not until she lost her job and needed to find another source of income that she thought about creating a product that makes skin healthy and smells good. After over a year of intense research into natural remedies she finally came up with a formula that is coconut oil, avocado and Vitamin E-based. "Coconut oil moisturises and nourishes skin and slows down the aging process, avocado oil is deeply moisturising, heals skin disease and wounds, and vitamin E moisturises the skin and heals wounds and scars."
The Aviaire line of natural body oils, she said, are perfect for all skin types and are infused with various botanicals, essential oils and all natural fragrance oils, among them rose, lavender, jasmine, citrus and vanilla sandalwood. "All oils are free of mineral oils, phthalates and parabens." She sources most of the ingredients locally, and only imports the things she cannot get locally. The formula, she said, has changed her skin so dramatically after years of eczema and severe dryness that she wants to help other people discover the benefits of using natural oils and botanicals in their skin care regimen to achieve clear healthy skin.
"My first batch was the Rose, Jasmine and Lavender. But then I wondered how I was going to package and sell it. I wanted great packaging because I'm like a moth to a flame when it comes to pretty things. I believe a good product should work and look well," 36-year-old Joseph-Maraj said. She eventually found the packaging she wanted and, armed with 120 bottles of product, she debuted her product at Up Market.
"This was all new to me. I had never been to a craft market before." She used a piece of white curtain as a tablecloth and spread out her bottles on the table. "The product looked very pretty, but a lady told me 'iron your tablecloth next time'," Joseph-Maraj laughed heartily. She said some of the other vendors came to welcome and advise her. "They told me don't lose heart because no one really sells anything on their first day. But then customers started coming and I sold more than a dozen bottles that day."
The following weekend she was at Green Market in Santa Cruz and sold more than double the amount. "By the end of March I was all sold out. Since then I have never missed a Green Market in Santa Cruz."
She recalled it was when Green Market was hosting a citrus festival that she began to add to the scents. "To be able to sell at the festival I had to sell something citrus, and made my Energising Citrus, which is one of my best sellers. It has a pick-me-up scent for if you just need a boost of energy." And the doors of opportunity just kept opening. "I had to keep restocking in bigger batches. When I did the Horticultural Society's annual flower show at Country Club I was sold out that weekend. I sold over 100 bottles."
But although the line was doing so well, the icing on the cake came for her when she got a call from the Starlite Pharmacy head office in Maraval. "While I was designing my packaging I used to go to Starlite Pharmacy and look at the shelves and say 'I want my stuff in here'." In June the phone rang and a representative from Starlite was on the other end. "She said, 'we've been hearing great things about your product and we want to carry it. Can you bring in some samples?' I did and they placed an order. This has taken off in a way I did not expect and I'm loving it." She recalled the time, just after she had lost her job, when she believes she was at her lowest.
"I prayed, I meditated and would often ask myself, 'what do you want?' At that time I truly believed there was nowhere else for me to go but up. I am living proof that you can do anything you want to do if you put your mind to it. Now, I so desperately want to go up the islands with these products."
Joseph-Maraj said she puts a lot into the products she puts on the market and she is seeing the benefits of the intricacies. "For me to create a product it takes a while because I want it to be perfect. It takes a lot of research and testing." Her next product in the line will be an anti-aging facial oil.
Aviare Body Products will be sold at Up Market and Green Market every Saturday and Sunday until Christmas, at Bess Fest at the National Academy for the Performing Arts on December 15, and at the World Christmas Festival, at the Queen's Park Savannah from December 19-23.
For more information visit AviareBodyProducts on Facebook.