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Locally Grown Skin Care Products by Second Skin Naturals

SSN 009Raven C.J. Liddle of Second Skin Naturals in Moloa'a, Kaua'i, harvesting ingredients for her line of skin care products.Second Skin Naturals™ produces beauty and skin care products, including its flagship Hawaiian Jungle Shield Spray, salves, scrubs, masks and rejuvenators, all made from certified organic and locally grown ingredients. The company’s founder Raven C.J. Liddle created the company out of her personal search for high-quality skin products, finding that the market did not supply what she was seeking.

Liddle began researching what ingredients she could grow on her 8-acre farm, while at the same time experimenting with different skin care formulations using extracts of native and introduced species. Currently Liddle grows neem, noni, lemon eucalyptus, kukui, aloe, lemongrass, and many other crops in a certified organic permaculture planting.

Despite the lower cost of imported ingredients, Liddle firmly believes that the ingredients she produces on her farm are superior in quality. “For example, inexpensive aloe juice is readily available from the U.S. mainland. I can extract fresh aloe juice on my farm that contains active enzymes and higher levels of vitamins and minerals than the imported juice—this translates to a much higher quality product that customers prefer. The products are on the shelves within a few days of production,” explains Liddle. The products contain naturally occurring plant-derived preservatives, which gives them a 12-month shelf life. In her current sales venues, Liddle estimates that her products are on the shelf for a maximum of 2 months.

Anticipating needing more raw ingredients than she can grow on her farm, Liddle also supplies starter plants to other growers who want to produce ingredients for her. “I am promoting crop and income diversification for other farmers. All the species are selected for high productivity and high price on the market, so that they even have potential to be profitable sold as ingredients,” responds Liddle when asked about how other farmers might participate in her farming model. She plans to create a training workbook for farmers about her crops, including spacing, harvesting techniques, and how to grow them in mixed, multistory agroforestry plantings. “We need to create new crops for commercial farmers. The old crops are fading away,” concludes Liddle. Eventually, the plan is to have all of the ingredients used in Second Skin’s products be grown by Hawai‘i producers and form a growers cooperative alliance.

Second Skin Naturals products are sold in about 150 stores in Hawai‘i, online, and through several distributors on the mainland. Currently Liddle does all the marketing herself one-on-one with retailers and distributors. There is no paid advertising—word-of-mouth and personal recommendations are currently sufficient to keep demand rising. Liddle says, “The premium quality of the products translates directly into customer testimonials. Customers think our products are the best of their kind they have ever used.” Growth in sales has been 35–40% annually for the past 5 years, according to Liddle.

The company’s current challenges include the costs of hiring extra field hands to harvest and process ingredients. This is a secondary motivation to contract with other farmers to produce raw ingredients. Another concern is raising sufficient capital to finance expansion of the company in order to grow at the rate Liddle anticipates.

Liddle has received help from many through the years. First, she has learned from local farmers who have extensive knowledge of soils and growing conditions. Other entrepreneurs have helped guide her by sharing their successes and failures. She has benefitted from indigenous knowledge of different plant species shared by Hawaiian kumu of lā‘au lapa‘au. Finally, “UH’s Agricultural Incubator Program and the USDA Farm Services Agency have absolutely supported me and helped me grow,” acknowledges a thankful Liddle.

Second Skin Naturals™, Moloa‘a, Kaua‘i
Raven C.J. Liddle, President

This profile was excerpted with permission of the authors from:

Elevitch, C., and K. Love. 2013. Adding Value to Locally Grown Crops in Hawai‘i: A Guide for Small Farm Enterprise Innovation. Permanent Agriculture Resources, Holualoa, Hawai‘i. www.valueadded.info

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