Conscious Skin Care: Meet the founders of Earth to Earth Organics

Earth to Earth Organics is a sustainable skin care company that was started by husband and wife team, Tenesia (Tee) and Danny (Dan) Pascal in 2016. The company produces and sells a range of body oils, body washes and body butters via their online store.

These products were created out of necessity by Tee, who at the time had developed health and skin problems, following her relocation to England from Guyana. The change in climate, hardness of the water and processed foods had led to rashes all over her body. The couple couldn’t find anything in the market that was cost effective and that healed Tee’s skin.  This took Tee on a journey of research and experimenting with different products, until she found a winner in flagship body butter called “Magic Cream”.

Earth to Earth Organics is an environmentally conscious alternative to chemical- containing skin care products that are widely available on the high street. The company’s body butters do not contain water, thus providing the rawest and most natural product and experience to customers.

I caught up with Dan and Tee on a mildly warm Sunday afternoon to discuss skin care, Aunties Magic Cream, environmental sustainability and the couple’s journey with Earth to Earth Organics thus far.

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What is your background and what inspired you to start this business?

Dan: I started working at the BBC straight after university. I co-run and manage the studios for some of the shows that we produce across our sites at Elstree Centre, Television Centre and BBC White City. After we got married in 2014, I had an epiphany to want to do something that changed the world for the better. I wanted to lead a purposeful life and felt that with Earth to Earth Organics brand, we would be able to build something that was aligned with our ethos.

Tee: I worked at Marks and Spencer and was responsible for shop floor layout and team management. I embarked on this journey after developing health and skin problems shortly when I moved to England from Guyana. I didn’t want to use anything that was not natural to heal my skin, so I tried to solve these issues by changing my diet to a more natural one.

When we changed our diet, we became more conscious about environmental issues. We started understanding more about the natural environment around us and realised this was our passion. As such, as part of our ethos, we plant trees with ‘One Tree Planted’, we are helping clean up plastics through our partnership with ‘Clean Hub’ and in Guyana we help children who have lost their parents by supporting them through school. These activities as well as our products reinforce our focus and passion for environmental sustainability.  

What is the unique selling point of Earth to Earth Organics Skin care products?

Tee: We don’t use any chemicals, chemical preservatives and additives in our products. Our products have no age limit, so anyone can use them, you just need to have skin. We believe this makes us stand out in the market.

Dan: Aside from our products, sustainability is something that is very important to us. You can see this for example in our packaging, which is 90% plastic free. We also partner with Clean hub, to clean up plastic waste in some of the most deprived places in the world. This I believe also makes us unique from other skin care brands.

How did you start developing these products and how did you know which ingredients to use?

Tee: I couldn’t find anything on the market for my skin rash, that was natural, cost effective and that could heal my skin. Therefore, I started researching natural ingredients and took some courses to further my knowledge. After trying different combinations of products, I found a winning formular that worked for me.

This was cemented by my nephew, who developed eczema and used my body butter to cure it. He coined it ‘Aunties Magic Cream’. Dan also fell in love with the body butter so we stopped using any shop bought products and only used products that we created.  For me, this was a sign that we were onto something and encouraged me to develop more products, which have been greatly received by our customers.

Are there specific certificates that you need for your products before you can sell them to the general public?

Dan: All our products are safety tested and suitable for public use. Due to the fact we don’t use water in them, the safety verification process is more straight forward for us.

What are some of the challenges you faced when you started?

Tee: Knowing how to run a business. We knew there would be a regulatory aspect, given we are in the skin care business. However, there was a lot more to learn about running a business, such as finance and marketing. It was a steep learning curve for us, which involved talking to experienced people, research and then implementing best practice.

Dan: We both have backgrounds in customer services, so we knew how to deal with customer issues and queries when they arose. However, everything else has been new to us. For example, we didn’t know that when labeling a product, you have to use the scientific names of all ingredients used. Although it has been challenging, we have learnt a lot along the way.

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Earth to Earth Organics

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What were some of the mistakes that you made in your earlier years?

Dan: We made some mistakes when we first started, which is to be expected. One of our earlier mistakes was when we sent our first order to a customer. I made a mistake on the shipping, which meant that postage was more expensive than the product I was sending.  It was a small difference of around £1 but of course it’s not something I wanted to repeat.

Tee: When making our product labelling, we hadn’t considered that our bottles could get wet, depending on where customers were storing them. This would affect the quality of our labels over time. We learnt from that experience and as a result, we make our labels waterproof.

How did you handle marketing when you first started selling your products?

Tee: At the moment we’ve only used Instagram, where we ask our customers a lot of feedback as part of our marketing strategy. This has helped us make a lot of changes, for example having consistent branding on our website and Instagram page.

What is your bestselling product?

Tee: Our magic butter, which is our first product, is the best seller. Most of our new customers are introduced to our brand via this product. A lot of our customers with skin problems like eczema have found that our magic cream helps them alleviate it. Subsequently, they then recommend our magic butter to their family and friends.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business in the same space?

Tee: I would say be authentic to yourself, do your research and be transparent with your customers. One of the things that our customers like about us is that we are always honest with them and we listen to their feedback.

Dan: My advice would be don’t worry about every little thing, just start it.

Where can people buy your products today?

We sell all our products via our website

Matugga Distillers: Scottish rum with an African Soul

Rum distillery isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Scotland, and that’s a big part of why husband and wife team, Paul and Jacine Rutasikwa established their Livingston based distillery, Matugga Rum in 2018. The company produces a multi award winning range of distinctive, artisan rums from scratch using 100% copper pot distillation. Matugga’s products are distributed across the UK and EU from its family owned distillery in Livingston, Scotland. “This is a unique undertaking for the UK, as currently most companies involved in the rum business usually import it from the Caribbean or South America”, explains Jacine Rutasikwa.

“We have chosen the very hard undertaking of making it from scratch in a much colder climate and all the challenges that that brings”, says Jacine Rutasikwa

The company’s portfolio of rums is a clever fusion of the founders’ heritage – Paul was born in Uganda and Jacine has proud Jamaican roots. To date, Matugga distillers produce a range of rum styles, such as white rum, spiced rum and cask aged golden dark rum. These are all sold directly to the public via their online store. The couple also hold rum tastings, and tours of their distillery in Livingston, where you can enjoy some of their produce while learning about the rum making process.

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How did it start?

The idea for Matugga rum took seed in 2014, when the couple were due to spend Christmas with Paul’s family in Uganda. They had just had their first child and Jacine, who worked in corporate marketing was looking for ways to achieve a better work -life balance. “I wanted to spend more time with my daughter when she was still young” she recalls. “I felt bad going back to work when she was nine months old and putting her into nursery”. The couple spent 3 months in Uganda and “by the end of the three months we decided to start a business”, says Jacine.

That business was making rum. “I married into a beautiful Ugandan family and spent a lot of time in Uganda where I had seen lots of sugar cane”.”I was asking for rum and I was never able to get any. I found this very confusing and it got us thinking”. ’Why is there no rum coming out of Uganda, when there is sugar cane here?’ she says. “When we started doing our research, we couldn’t see any spirits that were linked to Africa on the world stage, and certainly not in the rum category. There was also a lack of representation in terms of black owners.  It became our mission to showcase Africa in the world of fine spirits but at the same time, we also filled a number of voids.”

“We had the idea to launch Matugga not having any experience in the sector”

Together the couple began to learn more about rum, while pondering how to make their own East African variety. “We had the idea to launch Matugga not having any experience in the sector” says Jacine, “We saw a gap in the market and went for it”. The rum represents an interesting duality between the UK and Africa, which no other brand was doing at the time. “The one thing that is spiced across East Africa is tea,” says Paul. “It doesn’t matter where you go, you’ll find masala chai in all homes and restaurants around East Africa”, he added. “We therefore selected five spices from this – ginger, cloves, vanilla, cardamom and cinnamon – plus the tea to go into our Matugga Spiced rum.” The couple also had the innovative idea for Matugga Golden rum. A smokey rum, which combines the flavours of whisky and rum, appealing to fans of both spirits.

“Our business went from selling mostly over weekends to an exporting business in less than 6 months”

They launched in August 2015, producing their flagship Matugga Golden and Spiced rums through a contracted distillery in London. “I was in charge of the tasting side of things and Jacine led the brand and design development” Paul reflected, “Between us we managed to put out a really good product which we launched not knowing how it would be received”. Matugga rum was showcased six months later at the London rum festival, where its bold and distinctive taste lead to the couple securing their first export contract with a French distributor. This early success gave Jacine and Paul the validation to consider running this business full time and on a bigger scale.

“Our business went from selling mostly over weekends to an exporting business in less than 6 months. It was at that point that we realised that we had something serious that needed our full devotion” Paul explained.

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Matugga rum

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Moving to Scotland:

“Paul being the engineer, I kept telling him that he’d make a great head distiller”, says Jacine. Already a self-confessed ‘sprits geek’, Paul was able to hold his own when discussing rum production and flavours with rum authorities but felt he needed a formal education to solidify his knowledge. “When we looked around at where I could get that education, it was only Scotland”, says Paul. They moved their family to Scotland, where Paul began to study for an MSc in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

“We didn’t know anyone and the only certainty we had was Paul’s place at university and the vision of what we wanted to create” explains Jacine. “Moving to Scotland was a huge change and dislocation between us and our big close nit families, but we could see that we could bring this vision to life in Scotland”.

visit matuggarum.com

[Read: Female restaurateur, from working in a bookshop to owning a restaurant and property portfolio]

Matugga rum distillery:

Following Paul’s completion of his degree, the couple secured a facility in Livingston where they started production of Matugga rum in 2018, making it the first rum distillery in central Scotland. This was no mean feat, given the challenge of running a distillery and the lengthy process of obtaining all the required licenses. With Paul taking the reigns as master distiller and Jacine managing the marketing and branding of the products, this formidable team managed to persevere in order to achieve their dream.

One of the other challenges that they have faced over time, is having to change the reputation of rum from a commodity drink to something that can be as complex and classy as cognac or wine. The company achieves this with their inventive flavours. Recently they have introduced a new brand called ‘Liv’, a white rum who’s name means ‘life and living’ in the Nordic languages. “It’s very much our Scotland forward brand and highlights the natural produce of Scotland”, explained Jacine. It’s clear to see that Matugga is helping to create an identity around Scottish rum, therefore bringing leadership to the rum category in Scotland.

The ongoing situation with the global pandemic presents a new and challenging trading landscape for Matugga rum. At the beginning of the pandemic the company pivoted to making hand sanitizer to support the Scottish health Services. However, with the business environment continuing to change for Jacine and Paul, this has meant adapting to the situation by providing more digital experiences and focusing on the ecommerce side of the business. “In Scotland we are part of a network of distillers, which has been really helpful as we have learnt to adapt and bounce back as a community”, says Jacine.

Not ones to be defeated, the couple plans to continue pushing boundaries and innovating. They plan to strengthen the brand’s ties to East Africa over the next 3 years, by growing their own sugar cane in Uganda. This will be turned into molasses, which will then be transported to Scotland and used in the production of Matugga rum. Paul explained that “this will link Matugga and Liv to ‘Teebwa’, which means soil and climate of Uganda”

Visit matuggarum.com

From Environmental Scientist to Pottery business owner

Naked Clay Ceramics is a collection of tactile, minimal style tableware and is owned by Carla Sealey. Using a combination of handbuilding and slip casting, everything is made by hand in Carla Sealey’s studio in Bedfordshire.

I started this business because I wanted to make something that was special and intentional. I am all about being intentional “, explains Carla. Her passion for art can be seen in her exquisitely handmade home-ware, which she sells online.

We spoke to the woman behind Naked Clay Ceramics to hear about her background, starting Naked Clay Ceramics and her passion of ceramic.

1. What is your background?

I originally qualified as a geologist and chemist followed by 14 years of working in the environmental sector. In my earlier years I worked for a private water company based in the West Midlands, where I was the only black woman and 1 of only 3 women who were in a non-clerical role. I later moved to the Environment Agency, where again for most of my employment I was the only black woman until another black woman was employed as a PA a couple of years before I left. In my scientific and managerial position, I was responsible for the prevention of pollution of groundwater supplies for drinking water.

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2. How did you get into that profession and what was it like?

This was back in the 80s, so it was a very bold move by the guy who hired me at the water company in the West Midlands. I was an anomaly on so many levels because I had come from London, lived in a house share and I was not married, which was very weird for them back then.

It wasn’t a hostile environment but people were certainly ignorant and would say stupid things, which made it challenging at times. You just had to take it in your stride and deal with the ignorance as best as you could.

I enjoyed my time working at the National Rivers Authority. I loved getting out to the countryside. As field officers we spent our time driving around the country talking to farmers, landfill owners, scrap yard dealers and I loved it.  However, after merging with several organisations, we became part of the Environmental Agency. I realised that I was the lowest paid middle manager despite the fact that there were other people with less experience and qualifications than me.

[Read: How this black business man started his business during a recession]

3. When and why did you start Naked Clay Ceramics?

I had what they call a perfect storm where all things fell apart, so I took that opportunity to rebuild and refocus. In 2003 I decided to go back to university to train as an applied artist. Following that I started a glass studio and also did ceramic sculptures. In 2015 having moved to a new studio, I realised that I needed to rethink the commercial side to my business. I had been buying handmade mugs for 20 years and so I thought ‘You spend money buying them, why don’t you make your own?’. That’s why I ended up developing a range of ceramic cups, plates and bowls in 2017.

We all have our little morning rituals around food and drink that ease us gently into the day, whether its tea, coffee, juice, a favourite breakfast. I wanted to make something so that first thing in the morning you have something that pleases your senses. Something that was tactile, so that it feeds into your senses. For example, it looks beautiful when you see it, feels beautiful when you hold it, you use it when you are eating something that tastes good or smells good. My homeware products provide this peaceful experience.

Carla Sealey

4. How did you start?

After graduation from my Art degree I started making glass and jewellery in my utility room but eventually found studio space where I could also do ceramics. A friend kindly lent me some money which I used to buy a kiln. The equipment you need can be expensive, so I had to adapt my way of working to what I could afford in order to get things done.

5. How did you market your products when you started? Is it different from what you do now?

I do most of my marketing through my Naked Clay Ceramics Instagram page. Before the pandemic, I was doing a number of regular selling events where I could catch up with my customers face to face. I keep my community updated on all my events and my online shop openings via my newsletter. I have also used paid advertising, in a magazine called 91 Magazine, an independent interiors and lifestyle print magazine that’s very supportive of small businesses. Thanks to the work of a photographer friend, I was also featured as maker of the month.

Recently, since that start of Black Lives Matter movement, there has been a sudden interest in black owned businesses and a lot of free advertising for my business. It’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand it’s great that small black owned businesses are finally getting the attention they need. Especially given the difficulties in getting support from institutional lenders, and the lack of access to other traditional funding sources that black businesses have to overcome when they start out. On the other hand, it hurts my soul that it took the very public murder of yet another black man for people to wake up to the racial inequalities that are still very present in our society and institutions.

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6. What makes your ceramics different?

I don’t glaze the outside of my pieces and I am one of a few people who work with black clay for functional objects.

With glazed pieces there is a shiny coating that Is placed over the clay. With my pieces you are touching the actual clay that’s been fired in the Kiln. I do glaze the inside as it makes it more sanitary, especially as people use these products with hot food and drinks. Hence the glazing inside makes it easier to clean and makes it more functional.

7. Where do you get inspiration for your pieces?

I would say nature. My products are minimalist so as to create a soothing and meditative feel to them, just like being outside. I’m fortunate that my studio is on an old plant nursery in a slightly wild but lovely, peaceful, natural environment and so I use this to inspire me.

Naked Clay Ceramics

8. What is your most popular product?

There are two products which I find are popular among my customers. The mugs, (there’s always room in everyone’s kitchen for another mug!) and miniature vases, which are used for small wild flowers. They don’t take up much room and they can be collectables

[Read: Female restaurateur, from working in a bookshop to owning a restaurant and property portfolio]

9. How has your business been impacted by Covid 19?

Initially I thought it was a disaster. However, because I have my online shop, people continued to buy my products as they were at home, still getting paid and clearly wanted to treat themselves as a bit of a cheer up. Also, as a result of Black Lives Matter, I have seen an increase in orders especially from America. From product sales side, my business has fared well during the pandemic. However, I do pottery classes in my studio and due to the pandemic, they all had to be cancelled.

10. Where can people find your products?

I have an online shop and I am able to ship products internationally. My products are also stocked in Thrown Contemporary Gallery in London and the Kettles Yard Shop in Cambridge. As I mentioned I also provide pottery workshops. During the class we make functional products by rolling out the clay, forming it around shapes. The workshops last for half a day and at the end of it you have made a pair of mugs, a candleholder or a breakfast set which I then fire for you

11. What are your plans for the rest of 2020 and 2021?

My plans are to get a bigger kiln, move to a bigger studio and hopefully add to my product range. I would also like to get back into doing more sculptural work and installations.

Thank you for sharing your story with us Carla. See more from Carla on her website and Naked Clay Ceramics Instagram page.

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Interview with Joanna Trotman

Taking Care of Big Hair

Do you or your kids have big hair? Are you frustrated and tired of chlorine filled pool water getting into your hair even after your best efforts e.g. using two swimming caps at a time?  Well look no further because JoRae has got you covered.

Founded by long term London based friends Joanna and Rachel, this swimming cap company caters to people with big hair.  

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Joanna shares more:

What inspired you to start this business and where are you in your business journey?

We started the business because we found a gap in the market primarily for our children who love swimming but there were no suitable swimming caps on the market for us. We wanted them to enjoy the sport whilst keeping their hair protected. This had us thinking of all the other mothers and families that are prevented from taking part in water activities. Therefore, myself and Rachel developed this product to solve this problem.

Our small family run business is still in its infancy. We endeavor to make water activities accessible to many more families alike.

JoRae swimming cap models

Did either of you have prior experience that made you feel suitable for this type of business?

Not at all. I work in IT and Rachel works in Youth services. We just saw a gap in the market for people like us with big hair.

So how do you split the workload between both of you?

I handle all the technology and online presence and Rachel deals with the administration side of things.

Tell us an interesting thing about you that not many people know about

I competed in the long jump for team GB and was a Wimbledon ball girl during the 1996-1997 championships

Where can people find your products?

All products are available on our website

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