“If it’s not safe in your body, you shouldn’t be putting it on your body,” Connie tells me. The more I think about this, the more unsettling it becomes. The skin is our body’s largest organ after all, so why have we been so okay with covering it in chemical filled products?
Indeed, consumers, especially female consumers, are becoming increasingly aware of what goes into their products. Most will opt for the all natural, paraben/sulphate/cruelty free option whenever possible. But let’s face it, more often than not these “natural” products boast premium pricing and an air of “better-than” that isn’t exactly welcoming. “We wanted to stay away from that kind of messaging. We wanted to be the voice of the girl next door. We wanted to be approachable for everybody. We wanted it to be affordable.”
In 2016, a mutual friend introduced Connie, the Queen’s commerce graduate, to Laura, the chemical engineer. Laura had an idea of creating an all natural, truly preservative free makeup wipe, something she herself had been looking for but couldn’t find on the market. “I loved the idea,” Connie recalls, “We were suppose to meet for a quick dinner – it turned into a 5 hour business meeting. It became clear that we could make perfect partners. She was great with formulations and I had the business know-how. We were both working, and still are working, full time jobs, but we wanted to take on this challenge.”
The two got to work and created their first product – a simple but effective makeup remover wipe. “It’s one of the only truly preservative free wipes on the market and we’re committed to keeping it that way. We didn’t add anything unnecessary – like water! With water comes mold, so any wipe that contains water has some sort of preservative in it. We use only natural oils and make them in small batches”. The wipes were featured in the U.S. based subscription box Petite Vour earlier this year, receiving raving reviews and bringing the brand cross border recognition. “7000 samples. It was such a large order we had no idea how we were going to fulfill it. All we knew was we couldn’t turn down this opportunity, so we just said yes. That’s something we’ve learned- just say yes and figure out how to do it later”. The wipes are now a fan favourite and Niu Body’s best seller to date.
“Niu” is the Hawaiian word for ‘coconut’, the ingredient that started it all for the company. Many other natural oils have since been incorporated into the line. “We wanted to use the unique properties of different oils to cater to different skin types – cedar wood for acne prone skin, ylang ylang for dry skin, etc. A lot of natural products out there, you’ll look into their ingredient list and see there isn’t a single ingredient that treats what it’s advertised to treat. I picked up a toning mist once and it turned out to just be floral water. We did a ton of research and tested each iteration of our products on ourselves, our friends, our moms even, to make sure we got it just right and that it actually works. It’s a long process, a lot of work, yes, but that’s what it takes to make a great product. There are no short cuts”.
The natural skin care space is becoming increasingly saturated with brands big and small. Connie admits it’s hard not to feel pressured by the big guys. “We’re ambitious, we want to be the best, and we know we have good products. It’s hard not to compare yourself to the big brands out there and think, ‘why aren’t we there yet?’ At the same time we also have to remind ourselves that we are new, and even the most established brands have to start somewhere. That’s what we’re gunning for, though, we want Niu Body to be synonymous with natural skin care.”
Connie’s drive and passion were evident from the moment she started talking. Coupled with her work ethic…let’s just say I would not want to have her as a competitor. “My Dad is an entrepreneur. He came to this country with $2000 and worked so hard to give me and my sister everything we could ever want. I used to go on business trips with him and see him in action. Seeing his work ethic, I knew I couldn’t not work my a$$ off, it would be like letting him down. I want to continue his entrepreneurial legacy in a way. Not just for him, but for myself, to know that I did the best that I could. That I didn’t settle.”
Want to try some Niu products? Visit the Niu Body online shop today to get your fix.
Due to conflicting schedules, Laura was not available for this interview. Connie, however, was gracious enough to sit down with me for the 30 minute session that I stretched into an hour.
This interview has been edited and condensed.