Ezcema is an allergic condition that affects the skin. It’s usually seen in children, however this skin irritation can last a lifetime—as it has with Rita White. Growing weary of using all types of chemicals on her sensitive skin, Rita birthed Raw Ingredients—an all natural skin care line. She was never a doctor nor aesthetician, just a bank teller at Citi Bank, who was itching (pun intended) to use a product that actually worked. Research, hard work and perseverance were all the ingredients Rita needed to make this dream reality. For four years, she’s been mixing up that concoction and although she is still miles away from where she wants to be with her skin products; she’s definitely making significant strides to success. Rita is the brains and the brawn behind Raw Ingredients and she has no problem being a one-woman show. She conceptualizes the products and scents, develops them, packages them and ships them out. Now if that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is! We were lucky enough to get some of her almost nonexistent free time to chat with us about the start of Raw Ingredients, her hard work behind it and what’s to come. Let this story be an inspiration for you to never give up, even when it is only you pushing your product. Hard work always pays off—just ask Rita!
How did you manage to make your dream happen?
Basically what I did was just go on the internet and research how to make a scrub—a skincare recipe. Different things would come up. It’s sort of like baking a cake. There’s a special recipe you have to follow in order to make a lotion or a cream. Within those recipes, you’ll see that most creams are made out of water, oil and wax. The oil and water are not going to combine well, so you need the wax to hold it together. That makes the lotion and cream. It’s taking all those parts and putting them together.
How long have you been doing this?
I’ve been doing this professionally for a year. What really took me the most time was the market research. There’s a lot of testing involved. I do everything completely by myself. To make sure everything is right; all the products have been tested for at least 6 months or longer. Then, there was market research—bringing it to customers and saying, “This is a great product. What do you think?” They would give me a lot of feedback. That is what took me the longest—I would say 3-4 years.
How are you feeling now about the business, since you’re a year in…?
I feel this is a very good time for me because everything is coming together at the right time. The products look great, professional and they do the job that they’re supposed to do and they make you feel good as well. The website is up and running and I am getting a lot more exposure in addition to the positive feedback from the customers. Going forward, everything looks very positive and the company is going to grow.
How have you been able to keep yourself afloat?
I do have a full-time job. This is a part-time business, but I hope it will grow into full-time, but we have to be realistic; especially your first year in business, you’re not going to turn a profit. I don’t know if that is discouraging, but you need to realize that. You have to do something that you’re passionate about so you can keep going in those times when you’re not making a profit. It’s not about money in the first year, it’s more about the drive, passion and customer feedback so that you can do things better and smarter than you did before.
AUDRA features people like you who have a day job and a passion for their side hustle. What do you feel you’ll be able to tell people that are in your shoes and they feel like pulling the plug?
First of all, it has to be something you’re passionate about—something that you would do regardless of whether you’re making money or not. Talk to as many people as possible about the product. If people don’t like it, they will tell you and you will have to change it. It’s only going to improve as you keep going. Even when there are times you want to give up, a good idea is to find a mentor; find someone who is successful in doing what you want to do. You can get a lot of information from that. People do like to talk about themselves and they will tell you what to do to get to X, Y and Z. You can go to trade shows and talk to people about how they got started. They’ll tell you about vendors, suppliers, how they did their marketing and how long it took to turn a profit.
We feel hairdressers need to have good hair, skin care product-pushers need to have great skin. Do you feel like you have that? What do you use?
[laughs] People have commented that I have good skin. I don’t wear a lot of makeup. With minority skin, the worst problem we have with our facial features is dark circles under the eyes. For the most part, I wear lip gloss and a little cover. I find that if you take care of your skin, you really don’t need a whole lot of makeup to cover imperfections. Use things that are gentle on your skin and more natural; the more natural, the better. On my face, I use black soap and pure shea butter. If you can, use things with no fragrance because that can be irritating. You can do an oatmeal scrub really quickly with oatmeal and water on most skin types. I’ve been doing that a lot. Take some old fashioned oatmeal—not the quick-cooking kind—mix it with a little water, nothing else and it will be creamy in your hand. Go around your face and it will help moisturize your skin and take off any dead skin. It’s really good for drying out breakouts. After that, you may not need lotion or cream. I do it at night and it helps with rashes too. You have to be as gentle as possible. Don’t rub too much in the eye area, especially the skin under the eye because it’s thin.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
If you are going into business, I would suggest taking a course on taxes—business taxes, how to fill out forms—so you have a general idea of what you want to do. That’s important because a lot of shows you want to do as a vendor, you’ll need your resale or tax certificate. Some people don’t realize that. You have to report your earnings. Also, as you grow, it would help you for when you’re ready to deal with an accountant or CPA, you have a little bit of a foundation. You know where your money is supposed to go and what taxes you’re supposed to pay.
Pretend I’m someone that’s always used chemicals on their face. What would you say to get me to move over to your natural products?
First of all, I’d give you some testers to try and ask you some questions like—what is your skin care regimen? What products are they currently using? Any questions of concerns about your skin? Anything you want to improve? What kind of fragrances do you like? That gives me a basis to say, “try this or that. Or maybe you shouldn’t be using that.” Also, I’d educate you on what you’re using. What’s great about my products is that it they contain jojoba oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil and shea butter. Within those oils and butter, you find that they protect and penetrate the skin. Those oils help to repair any skin damage and keeps your skin hydrated. Jojoba oil contains properties that are already in the skin, so it just enhances what you have already.
Do you use your products as a platform to give back?
I want to work with battered women and educate them about their skin; maybe give them free products for them. It’s just a way of giving back because they go through so much in their situation that they can’t afford skin care or had time to take care of themselves. Their mindset deals with the whole abuse situation. That’s something I plan on starting to do for Mother’s Day. I want to contact different shelters in the Bronx and Manhattan and donate products. Maybe I can do gift baskets or come to the center, talk about skin care, what Raw Ingredients is about and let them try for themselves. That’s something I really want to do. It’s a cause that speaks to me personally. I was never abused physically, but I was in a verbal abuse situation. I know what it is. I think it’s important—from different life experience I’ve been through—to tell somebody, “This may be your situation right now, but that’s not who you are. You’re so much more than your situation you’re in.”
Tell me about your pricing.
The product does come in two sizes. The price points are competitive. I encourage people to look at other companies with the type of ingredients we use and compare everything to see if we’re giving you the best product. The four ounce body scrub—the products are very concentrated so a little bit goes a long way—is $10. You could get the travel size, which is one ounce—for the body scrub is $3. The body butter is $5 for one ounce. The four ounce body butter is $15. The soap is normally $5 for a four to five ounce jar.
Have you been able to turn a profit yet?
Pretty much breaking even. Everything goes back into the company at this point. I’m not at a point where I can leave my day job. [laughs] Hopefully soon. This year has started off wonderful. I have two spas that are interested in an aesthetician, so I have a lot of things going on this year.
What about the future of Raw Ingredients? Where do you see your business going?
[laughs] Hopefully, in the next five years, I see a retail store and a spa—that’s the dream right now. I want to branch out of New York and a few other cities as well.