Adaaku Iwuajoku: How a Severe Skin Condition Inspired This Entrepreneur to Help Others by Belinda Lichty Clarke
Growing up in Nigeria, Adaaku Iwuajoku suffered from a severe skin condition called atopic eczema. An only girl in a family of five brothers, her unique skin condition was painful and problematic from age 5.
Her parents felt her pain and opted to shave her hair off in order to allow her scalp breath and lessen developing infections such as seborrheic dermatitis. Dealing with puberty, endless scratching and discovering oneself, she says her early years were very challenging.
Her mother sort after traditional remedies. African black soap was one. At the time where other kids her age would use more commercial products, Ada hated everything about having to use this alternative. As a result, she grew to appreciate the treasures of African black soap, which she now implements in her handmade/homemade products.
I talked with Iwuajoku about her skin and how her challenges inspired her to create a holistic and healing skin-care line, Derma Organics.
Q. Can you talk a little bit more about the inspiration for the holistic skin-care products? You’ve said that you and your boarding school roommate suffered from skin conditions. How did you produced her initial products at such a young age and how did you create those formulas?
"The inspiration came from a childhood filled with skin insecurities and missing out on childhood experiences due to allergies to dairy products and the state of my skin. It tortured me mentally. Being in and out of the doctor’s office every other week with prescription steroids that only thinned out my skin and gave me temporary relief. So all these struggles put together forced me turn to a more holistic approach since mainstream chemical medicine was not working in my favor.
"I started cooking at a young age, so mixing products was just like cooking for me, I knew what I needed. So I would grab utensils like spoons and bowls from the boarding house kitchen and mix the ingredients in the bowl, and then store the product I created in a recycled container from a previous product. My creations were self-preserving anyway, so I didn’t have to worry about expiration dates."
Q. What are the ingredients you rely on most for her formulas and how do those ingredients work to improve the skin's condition? Where are those ingredients sourced?
"My boarding school shelf was always packed with a combination of African black soap, shea butter and essential oils like lavender, which I got from home, as well as some steroid pharmaceuticals that my uncle who is a doctor would give to me at that time. I knew applying the anti-fungal steroids directly onto the skin was harmful but offered temporary relief, so I decided to dilute them slightly with shea butter so that way it was moisturizing and created a protective layer over my skin, while targeting the issue.
"I also knew lavender was calming because I would always sprinkle some on my pillow before sleeping, so I threw that into the mixture and tested it out on myself. It was effective and offered me more relief than any doctor’s prescription, which then enabled me to help my roommate out with her skin problems."
Q. How did you go from developing home remedies to starting a successful natural product company? And, how did you expand from skin care into hair/body?
"I have always said that Derma Organics is a purpose driven brand rather than profit driven, with that in mind my main focus has always been to be of service to others by using my gift. When you focus on the purpose and helping others feel confident in their skin, the success has no choice but to followup. Over the years my skin issue extended from my body to my scalp. I dealt with scalp seborrheic dermatitis for the longest! So as I was testing out products for my skin I was also finding solutions for my scalp issues, basically killing two birds with one stone."
Q. What is your inspiration and do you have any tips for success you can share with other women looking to start their own companies?
"My father is my inspiration. He’s an entrepreneur and has managed to give me and my siblings the life he never had growing up, so I have so much respect for him, which inspires me to be even more successful than he is. If he can do it, I certainly can, too!
"For women who want to start a business my advice would be do not start a business if the goal is primarily for profit! Your company should not just be about you it should be about being impactful in other people lives not just yourself. Because each and every one of us has a gift and someone out there is waiting for you to discover that gift, so you can help them.
"So in order to have a successful business you need to know that God didn’t give you your gift or business idea with just you in mind, it is really for the benefit of others also. Also PATIENCE and CONSISTENCY are major factors, it’s a bumpy road but you will get to where you want to be eventually so keep going, don’t be discouraged."
Photos: Derma Organics
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