Catty Asaveria-Snaggs has always been fascinated by the mud volcanoes in her hometown of Rancho Quemado, Palo Seco.
So, when she and her family found themselves in a financial bind in 2018, she was forced to fast-track a plan upon which she had been slowly building – one that involved the contents of the mud volcanoes she loved as a child.
“Growing up in Rancho Quemado, Palo Seco was very nice, it was very inspiring as there were a wealth of resources that we have in the community that was overlooked daily.
“One of my favourite places to visit was the mud volcanoes, located within walking distance of my home. I was always amazed at the never-ending flow of the rich grey mud. So, going there became like a sanctuary for me where I could develop my thoughts and creativity.”
She told Newsday she always had an entrepreneural spirit and knew she would establish and run her own body care products business some day. When her husband, Kern, the breadwinner, found himself unemployed with the closure of the Petrotrin oil refinery in 2018, she knew it was time to do something.
At that time she was pursuing a BSc in biomedical engineering at the University of TT (UTT), while simultaneously attending the Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme (YTEPP) Institute of Cosmetology in Woodford Lodge, Chaguanas.
“After my husband was retrenched from his job, I had to choose between continuing my BSc or completing my YTEPP course. I subsequently chose to complete my studies at YTEPP.
“I thought not only because I was nearer to completion, but also because it gave me the opportunity and realisation of my business idea and model." She subsequently opened Mitsu Cre8tiv Spa, based on Adventure Road in Point Fortin and named after her ten-year-old daughter. She works by appointment only.
Fortunately, she had planned ahead and over the years had taken the time to develop her skill set, and became a certified makeup artist, aesthetician and soap maker.
“I am the proud owner of Mitsu Cre8tiv which is the umbrella business for Mitsu Spa,” Asaveria-Snaggs said.
Mitsu Cre8tiv offers a range of natural and botancial products such as soaps made from turmeric, coconut, aloe vera, orange peel, coffee, charcoal, bois canot and rose. But her main soap-line comes from the mud from the volcanoes, which is also used to make face and body masks.
“These products were very effective because of the clay from which they are made. It consists mainly of kaolinite and montmorillonite with traces of silica and a stronger sulphuric content." Kaolinite is a clay that is reputed to gently slough away dull dead skin, absorb impurities from the pores, and leave skin feeling soft. Montmorillonite clay contains an absorbent properties that helps treat oily skin.
“No artificial preservatives or fragrances are used in the production of these products and they work very well on all skin types,” she explained. The products are available at the spa and via orders from her website.
Asaveria-Snaggs said YTEPP’s motivation to get students to explore outside-the-box ideas was among the many reasons she incorporated her love for the mud volcanoes into her products.
“At YTEPP, there was a product development course where the students were challenged to create hair and skin products by utilising natural ingredients from different aspects of nature.
“I did my personal research on the local market and didn't find anyone else using the mud to create products locally. So, I created my volcanic mud products and presented it to a panel of judges. They said it could be used internationally,” she explained.
As with many other small businesses, the covid19 pandemic has hampered the growth of her spa. And although she fears losing everything because the climate is just not right for Mitsu Cre8tiv to thrive, she is not giving up.
“The system was so frustrating. In order to get help or a loan it is a lot of run-around to different agencies in different locations. This can become frustrating and people just get fed up and choose to give up.
“I have applied for the salary relief grant and to date I haven’t been contacted. So, I chose to stick it out. Other people can’t. This is something the administrators of these programmes need to fix."
She said she hopes Mitsu Cre8tiv will be the pioneer in the volcanic mud industry in TT.
“My main intention is really to bring sustainability by using natural renewable resources. I strongly believe that helping to reduce the carbon footprint, as small as it may be, would help our planet and future generations.”
She also plans to open a branch where it all started – her hometown.
“In the future I would like to build a spa in Rancho Quemado dedicated to the use of the mud, where local and foreign visitors can experience different aspects of the volcanic.
She said her journey was not an easy one and there were days she thought about giving up. But thanks to the support from family and friends, she has come a long way.
“My teacher Lisa Baksh-Mills and my church pastors David and Lorraine Wiltshire among others encouraged me to continue developing and refining my product to bring it to an international level.
“It was a lot of prayers, persistence and faith in Jesus that kept me going. It was and still is a very difficult road since I was unable to access any funding from any organisation to produce on a larger scale.”
For more information on Mitsu Cre8tiv products, follow on Instagram at mitsu_cre8tiv.