Nature's Baby

NEW YORK — Keeping children healthy and free of germs is hard enough, but when they have a serious allergic reaction to something you've dabbed on their delicate skin, the challenge has just increased exponentially.<BR><BR>That's what Adena...

NEW YORK — Keeping children healthy and free of germs is hard enough, but when they have a serious allergic reaction to something you’ve dabbed on their delicate skin, the challenge has just increased exponentially.

That’s what Adena Michelle — who ultimately created her own baby product line — had facing her when the eldest of her two daughters developed “tons of allergies and skin conditions,” the worst of which was a mysterious rash that landed Michelle and her daughter at a UCLA dermatologist’s office. Twenty minutes and $400 later, Michelle left the doctor’s office even more frustrated.

“They were telling me to take all the products I used on her and find a common thread. That was insanity,” Michelle said of the half dozen or so items she used on her daughter, including soap, diaper balm, lotion, shampoo and sunscreen.

Trying to find an ingredient correlation among them was daunting for the 9-to-5 business woman who then owned and operated an online child safety products store.

“I am not a chemist,” she said.

Her search for the skin-irritating culprit uncovered that her daughter is allergic to sunscreen and also sensitive to perfumes and dyes.

Michelle immediately bought every natural product on the market, believing they would be less harsh and gentler on her daughter’s sensitive skin. When that didn’t work — “they were medicinal and the aromatherapy was drying,” Michelle recalled — she hired a chemist.

Now Michelle is the proud operator and creator of Nature’s Baby, a luxurious children’s product line that uses ingredients such as shea butter and Hawaiian kukui nut oil, a moisturizing oil. There’s a shampoo/body wash, conditioner, lotion, diaper creme and a diaper pail deodorizer. The shampoo/body wash is packaged in a 16-oz. container because Michelle believes the whole family will wind up using it.

Now Michelle is looking to create a sunscreen for her daughter with natural active ingredients, as well as a face cream.

Michelle expects first-year sales of Nature’s Baby to reach $150,000. She is also hiring sales reps to build her distribution.

Nature’s Baby started off being sold in high-end children’s boutiques last year such as Brambles in Simi Valley and Mfredric in Southern California. Now the line is also sold in the trendy Kitson store in Los Angeles, as well as high-end children’s retailer The Right Start.

This story first appeared in the June 17, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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Michelle said she is close to signing a deal with a major retailer, which would aim to increase sales next year to $500,000. Prices for Nature’s Baby, which uses certified organic ingredients, are around $19.95.

To help cut costs, the company is a true family affair. Michelle’s grandfather, who is 87, helps with shipping; her stepmom handles marketing and bookkeeping; her husband follows up with customers. In addition to working with a lab in Newbury Park, Calif., Michelle creates Nature’s Baby labels featuring her kids and family friends.

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