Natural skincare in Jamaica Plain
Entrepreneur takes a DIY approach to building a business
Inside a tiny storefront on Jamaica Plain’s South Street, the light-filled interior of Faith’s Naturals feels surprisingly spacious. White walls, a high white tin-paneled ceiling and light-toned wood shelves, coupled with a few deep-pink accents, create an inviting look to the narrow space.
Neatly arranged on the shelves are jars and bottles of face and body scrubs, oils, soaps and hair care products, all handmade by owner Faithlyn Scarlett with plant-based ingredients such as flaxseed extract, arrow root powder, aloe vera gel extract, coconut oil, honey, lemon juice and crushed oats.
“These products are geared toward your overall wellness,” says Scarlett, a Dorchester resident who came from Jamaica to Boston at age 10. “It’s not just pretty, it helps solve an issue. Eczema, alopecia, hair that’s thinning, I have products to help with that.”
Her customers come from every culture and every age group, she says, male and female and from all age groups.
“More people are into taking care of their bodies. [But] even if you’re eating healthy, the chemicals in your beauty products go in your skin. It’s always better to go natural and organic, and that’s what we provide,” she says.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, Herby Toussaint of Dorchester, a repeat customer, drops by with his 27-year-old daughter Roshni. While Scarlett helps Roshni find the right skin care product, Toussaint says he’s been buying Faith’s Naturals for his own skin since he heard about the store on local radio station 101.3 FM, where Scarlett advertises and has appeared on Tayla Andre’s “Wake Up With Tayla” call-in show.
The father and daughter leave with a bundle of soaps and some tea – “the basics,” Toussaint says.
Scarlett’s affinity for devising effective products was born of necessity. Besides having a lifetime of hair issues, the 36-year-old says, childhood chicken pox left her skin scarred. As a young adult, she succeeded in creating some concoctions to calm her hair and improve her skin.
More recently, she witnessed the youngest of her four children, now 4, struggling with eczema. One day, after a particularly severe flare-up had rendered Scarlett herself crying in desperation in the pediatrician’s office, she sprang into action. Upon arriving home, she tried a new body butter mixture and applied it to her son’s skin. It soothed his itching that night and in a short time, she noticed his skin condition improved.
“I remember hearing this voice telling me, ‘You should sell it,’” she says, “but I answered back ‘How can I do that? I don’t know anybody!’”
That was two years ago.
A week later, she was driving when the voice came again, this time clearly telling her to go ahead and do it.
“It sounded like someone was in the vehicle with me. They just screamed, ‘Now!’” she recalls.
At that time, she was working full time job as a patient account representative at a local hospital. She brought samples in to work and mentioned she was starting something called Faith’s Naturals. Soon, she was selling her products to her co-workers and at events that had vendor spaces.
She also hit the pavement, visiting local stores to see if they would carry her products. She was able to rent a little shelf space in two local stores, but the space within other people’s stores wasn’t sufficient to display all the items people wanted.
Last August she took two weeks off from her job to see what would happen if she had more time to devote to Faith’s Naturals.
“I was going to do it from home. There was no idea of a shop in my mind,” she says.
After two energizing weeks, she returned to work, and two days later decided she was ready to quit the job and make a go of her own business.
A realtor friend persuaded her to look around at some possible store locations. The space at 66A South Street, nestled in a stretch of small businesses from bike shop to bakery, stole Scarlett’s heart.
“It looked so small from the outside,” she recalls, “but when I came in it felt so good. It felt like home.”
Her last day at her job was also the day she signed a lease for the shop. A former art gallery, the space had a lot of features ready to go, including the white walls and ceiling. Scarlett’s husband installed the shelves. She made curtains. She bought a cash register and a computer and stocked the shelves. The Faith’s Naturals store opened for business Oct. 15.
It feels great to be her own boss and she enjoys making customers happy with her products, she says, though would-be entrepreneurs should take note that opening a business has meant trading 40 hours for 80. She is in the store every hour it’s open, six days a week, and when she’s not there, she’s making and bottling more inventory. She creates the products in her Dorchester home, often working into late-night hours.
“It’s my passion,” she says. “Once I get started, it’s hard to stop.”
Scarlett has taken a do-it-yourself approach to other facets of her business, too. She has not taken out any business loans, relying on product sales to pay the rent. The labels on her bottles and jars are her own design, printed from her computer, sometimes with the help of one of her children. She also sells Faith’s Naturals wares through an online store that she designed and built herself.
“When I have to do something, I find a way,” she says. “I just figure it out.”
Planning for the future
Just months into owning a brick-and-mortar store, it may be hard to keep an eye on the future, but Scarlett is thinking ahead to hiring a part-time sales assistant. Other plans include offering in-shop facials at some point, which would require hiring an esthetician, and starting a catalog sales operation that could help other people get involved as sales representatives.
Scarlett is feeling fine about her hair these days, and has even authored a children’s book called “My Locs and Me” about a girl happy with her black and shining locked hair, a style the author herself now sports.
When in doubt, she says, she keeps her grandmother’s words in mind.
“She always told me, ‘Do your best, and go with your passion.’”