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David vs. Goliath: How a Hawi-based skin care company wins big against beauty giants

March 10, 2017 - 1:00am

HAWI — As part of a large growing trend, by 2025 the global organic personal care market is expected to reach $25 billion, according to a recent Research and Markets report.

Organic products are nothing new on Hawaii Island, but new ones can be found here regularly.

In Hawi, Eavara Organic Skin Care — a company started in late 2015 — is beginning to draw attention. In mid-January they won the notable American Choice Award — the largest consumer-voted product awards — in the “Anti-Aging Skin Care” category.

It was their first year in the competition, and other finalists they were up against included beauty giants Olay, L’Oréal, MAC Cosmetics and Burt’s Bees.

Eavara owners, Tom and Samara Mitchell, started their company less than two years ago. She has been in Hawi on and off for all of her life, and he moved here 15 years ago.

“We were looking for an online business and felt skin care was something that interested both of us,” he said. “Neither of us had been in skin care before.”

But Samara got her first glimpse into the now popular industry while working for an organic certification company in 2000.

“The knowledge that I learned there was invaluable,” she said. “The criteria for our company is pretty simple. We pay attention to what we put in our bodies and on our bodies, and wanted to create a company we could be passionate about — to stand behind the product.”

Eavara comes from the Hawaiian words, “e-a” meaning life, air, breath, and “vara” meaning best or most excellent.

All of their products are developed in Hawaii, but are manufactured in a state-of-the-art facility in North America. This is done in accordance with The Universal Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

“First and foremost, we didn’t want any harsh chemicals or parabens in our products,” Tom said. “It was very important to us to use organic ingredients, but that wasn’t enough. Botanical ingredients also showed their effectiveness on the skin.”

Some of their vitamin-rich ingredients are grown locally.

“They are harvested from about five local farms here on the Big Island — everything from mamaki leaves to lilikoi, fragrance oil from plumeria and oils from macnuts, kukui and avocado,” he said. “We also have an orchard in our own backyard.”

The enticing scent that wafts from plumeria isn’t the only benefit that comes from the flower.

“It also has antioxidant and antibacterial properties,” Tom said.

Samara created the products for personal reasons too.

“I have very sensitive skin and I’m pretty picky,” she said. “We went through a lot of different trials of ingredients before deciding what we would use, and I am proud to say I use them. It’s really about combining the ingredients that work best together. I happen to be a big fan of the face wash. It’s like having your own spa at home. It’s detoxifying and moisturizing.”

With nine items now in their skin care line, small batches of 200-400 units are produced every several months.

“By far, our age-defying moisturizer is our best seller,” Tom said. “Other products were added more recently.”

Although many other companies offer organic skin care products, Tom isn’t worried.

“If you look on Sephora or Amazon.com you’ll see a variety of products that sound similar, but we don’t pay much attention to the competition,” he said.

What may set them apart from the beauty care giants is that, besides being organic, all Eavara products are free of animal testing, propylene glycol, petroleum distillates, formaldehyde, SLS (sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates), parabens, phthalates, dangerous colorants and fragrances, and other harmful chemicals.

Despite the growing demand for organic products, the FDA still does not scrutinize what goes into standard skin care products.

“They can utilize almost anything they want, and the average woman could unknowingly put up to 200 chemicals onto her body daily in things such as shampoos, conditioners, skin creams and eye shadow,” Tom said.

The Eavara products are only sold online currently.

“We get a lot of requests to sell the products retail, but because we are a growing company this is what we feel we can manage right now,” Samara said.

In 2016, they saw the value of partnering with Dr. Laurie Steelsmith.

“She is the founder of Steelsmith Natural Health Center in Honolulu, and has been a naturopathic physician for 23 years,” Tom said. “I’ve known her for 15 years, and she has tremendous integrity. She knows what makes us different from other products and she believes in us. She has reviewed all of our products and ingredients and is willing to stand behind them.”

The Mitchells believe in their organic products so much they actually offer a “Lifetime Forever Guarantee.”

“If you buy our product, use it for two weeks and then it sits on your shelf for a year, you can write us two years later and ask for your money back because we believe in our products fully,” Tom said.

He has big goals moving forward.

“Our initial focus has been to create awesome products,” he said. “There’s a revolution going on with online marketing, but it still takes a tremendous amount of effort to become successful. Our intention is to grow this into a multi-million dollar brand. We are a family run business against the beauty giants.”

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