When Brenda Garcia finally decided to stop relaxing her hair, she found herself struggling to get her hair to look good. Even without the harsh chemicals, her hair was always dry.
"I braided it because I couldn't get it to look the way I wanted it to," Garcia says. "I began experimenting to find products that would give my hair weight so it wouldn't frizz."
She began making her own treatments, researching books on natural hair products. As a chef, Garcia was a pro at blending ingredients to get a desired result. And having majored in biology in college, Garcia had an understanding of the what hair and skin need to be healthy.
"I just started experimenting with ingredients, tweaking this, adding that, just like baking," Garcia says. "I found I was getting better results from the products I was making than I was from the ones I was buying. My hair looked so much healthier."
Phat Head coconut conditioner
She began chatting about her successes with her online friends, and sending out samples. Based on their response, she launched Brendita's Body Works last summer with Super Moisturizing Sulfate-Free Shampoo, Super Moisturizing Conditioner, Phat Head High on Coconut Conditioner, her No Knots Leave-In Moisturizing Mist and Oil Free Aloe Vera Styling Gel.
"They immediately started selling," says Garcia. "I was very surprised. There was no playing around. I hit gold with the first batch."
Although most of Brendita's products were developed for curly hair, Garcia didn't want to limit the line. So she tweaked her recipes to create some products for fine hair as well.
As she celebrates her hair-care line's 1-year anniversary, Brendita's sells three shampoos, three daily conditioners, two deep conditioners, two gels, one detangling spray, one moisturizing sun shield spray, a pomade and a shine serum.
Whenever possible, she uses only certified organic ingredients or those that have been grown and manufactured with minimal, if any, chemical processing. Although it costs a little more, Garcia says she uses aloe vera instead of water in her products. She believes people are willing to pay a little more to find quality products that work. All of her ingredients are supplied by companies and organizations with documented and certified fair and ethical trade practices for all of their farmers in the USA and overseas.
She says she gets ideas for new products from customer feedback. But she knows she can't try to create products for every request because she would spread herself too thin, and quality would suffer. Not to mention that "we don't have enough room in my house," she says.
"If I get a lot of people asking for something, or there's a lot of buzz about something on a chat board, I'll play around the lab when I have the time," Garcia says. "I'm currently working on a non-foaming cleanser."
Garcia, who balances Brendita's with a full-time job, still makes the products in her house, in two-gallon batches. She fills orders after work and on weekends.
In addition to her hair-care line, Brendita's also sells a wide variety of body-care products, including masks, toners and cleansers.
Garcia says she now has orders coming in from around the world, mostly through word of mouth. Eighty-five percent of Brendita's customers are repeat buyers, she says.
As demand grows, Garcia says she's exploring ways to make her operation more efficient, but not at the expense of quality. She has no aspirations to be in Ulta or Sephora.
"I don't want to get too far ahead of myself by sacrificing quality for mass production," Garcia says.
Check out other Spotlight stories here.