Saturday, September 1, 2012

Business Was a Natural Change

Nick sells natural foods and other products,
including some that his family makes,
online and at the Perkasie Farmers Market.
He and his wife started the business after
adopting four African-American children and
 trying to find natural hair and skincare products for them.
Art Gentile/Staff photographer

Nick and Denise have always been committed to living green.  But when the white couple adopted four black children, they didn’t know much about how to care for the unfamiliar texture of their children’s hair.

“The norm for African-American kids was going to the store and buying a $5 bucket of blue grease and putting it in their hair,” Nick said. “We felt strongly that we didn’t want to put petrochemicals in their hair. That wasn’t acceptable to my wife. There’s got to be something better, and if not, we’ll make it.”

It turned out to be harder than they thought to find natural skin and hair care products that really worked for their children, he added. Many companies would claim to be natural, but their products would still be filled with preservatives, he said.

Eventually, they found a line of natural shampoos and other toiletries that worked for their children and for them.

Their hunt for truly pure and natural products could easily have ended there, but life had other ideas for the family.

A few years ago, Nick left his job as an IT director for a local medical uniform company to care for his children and wife, Denise, whose arthritis and degenerative disc disease have left her permanently disabled.

“We went from almost six figures to nothing,” Nick said. “That’s a reality check.”

Instead of dwelling on the negative, Nick and Denise decided to launch a home-based business, selling natural products online and at local farmers markets.

Truly Pure & Natural was born in April 2010, and Nick and Denise haven’t looked back since.

“It was very slow and hard because we didn’t know what we were doing the first year,” Nick said of the launch. “Last year was pretty successful.”

The business is always expanding to include items their customers want: Everything from raw treats and honey to natural makeup, glass drinking straws and water bottles.

Nick and Denise research products down to the toxicity level of each ingredient. Many businesses that request distribution through Truly Pure don’t make the cut, Nick said.

TPN also offers their own products, many of which were created out of necessity. Denise started making creams for one of her sons who suffers from severe eczema because store-bought products burned his skin.

They make hard lotion bars out of shea butter, coconut oil and beeswax and sell them for $5.

“If we make it, I can control the costs,” Nick said. “We wanted to make natural products affordable. … People don’t blink an eye at spending $5.”

Nick has also been experimenting with different healthy treats. They’ve started selling spreadable creamed raw honey, in flavors like fresh ginger, chocolate and raspberry. The chocolate flavor often sells out at the weekly local farmers market.

“He has the kind of products that people who are browsing seem to like,” said Joe Ferry, president of the group that runs the borough’s popular farmers market. “We enjoy having him there.”

Another big hit are Nick’s “tootsie raws,” a chocolate snack he invented and sold last Christmas at a different market.  The individually wrapped treats resemble Tootsie Rolls, but are made with pure cacao powder, powdered vegetable greens and other natural ingredients. Nick said he stumbled upon the winning recipe when he was making homemade granola bars and accidentally used too much cacao powder.

“To make something that people like is cool,” Nick said. “To make something that’s healthy that people like is even better.”

As Truly Pure & Natural grows, Nick and Denise say they want to make giving back a large part of their business plan.

“God’s been very gracious about putting things in our path,” Nick said.

Nick and Denise already use a portion of their profits to help other families adopt children and go on mission trips.

“Obviously, we have a heart for adoption,” Nick said.

Nathan, 14, helps his dad set up their stand
at the farmers market on Saturdays.  His parents
started the business after adopting four African-American children.
Art Gentile/Staff photogrPHER
© 2012


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