Even though Bnatural Total Body Moisturizer has been around for 23 years, most people have never heard of it.
The product – conceived, created, and manufactured in Lithonia by Daryl and Sandra Martin – has a deep and loyal following, but only if you know the couple, are friends with them, go to church with them at First Afrikan Presbyterian, or have been lucky enough to meet them at a black business expo.
Bnatural product users swear by it, won’t use anything else, and over the last two decades wouldn’t allow the Martins to cease production in the challenging moments when they contemplated it.
“They wouldn’t let us stop,” said Daryl Martin, who mixes the special formula of beeswax, olive oil and other natural products to create the moisturizer. “We would be thinking about shutting down and we would get an order from California.”
The couple always knew their product had great potential, but with raising five children and holding down 9-to-5 jobs, the business often took back stage to life.
But no more.
This year, they acquired new partners – family friends Donald Moore and Abena Ajanaku – restructured the company, and in April, relaunched Bnatural to grab a share of the skin care market.
The Martins’ story is like that of many entrepreneurs in the African-American community whose good ideas and products struggle from the lack of financing.
They developed their moisturizer in 1994 after relocating to Atlanta from Baton Rouge, La. They first lived in Atlanta’s West End in a community of people who cared about what they put into, and on their bodies.
The mid-1990s was an exciting time in the West End and Southwest Atlanta. Wholistic living was taking root around them. The Soul Vegetarian restaurant, and community health stores like Sevananda Natural Foods Market and others were all the rage, and the Martins couldn’t get over how healthy and vibrant their new friends were.
“Around us were people who looked healthy and younger than their age,” Sandra Martin recalled recently. “We began to learn that good health starts from the inside out, and that the things you put into your body shows on the outside too.”
The young couple began studying herbs and healthy eating and for a while they embraced vegetarianism.
Daryl Martin said their research revealed that olive oil has been used for centuries in beautifying the body internally and externally.
“We decided to create a product using olive oil, beeswax and other natural ingredients,” he said.
Sandra Martin, who was a hairdresser, began using it on her scalp and skin, and when her customers commented on how great her skin looked, and asked what she was using, she began introducing it to them.
Before long, the Martins were selling jars of Bnatural Total Body Moisturizer to their friends and relatives.
They also traveled to black expos around the country to introduce the product to new people. But Sandra Martin said that it was their local black community that kept them going with steady reorders.
While they had a steady and loyal clientele, the business never reached the potential they knew it had.
“We were raising a family and couldn’t devote 100 percent of the time to it,” said Sandra Martin.
With Moore and Ajanaku – both longtime users of Bnatural – now on board, Sandra Martin said they are ready for the next level of business.
“Now we are going to conquer the world,” she said with a laugh.
Moore, who was a UPS driver for 34 years, retired in April. His fiance, Ajanaku, retired in January 2016 from Georgia’s Environmental Protection Department.
Both say the product’s effect on their skins has been an attention-getter.
Moore said he started using Bnatural five years ago when he began dating Ajanaku and saw what it did for her skin.
“You apply it on your wet skin when you get out of the shower and it locks in the moisture in your skin making it look supple and healthy,” he said. “Your skin will love you for it.”
Ajanaku said Bnatural moisturizer is a godsend for people with dry skin.
“It eliminates ashy skin,” she said, adding that she uses it on her entire body, from her scalp to her toes.
Currently packaged in 8-ounce jars, Bnatural comes in eight fragrances including unscented, lemon grass, vanilla, and China musks, opium and lavender.
Customers regale the partners with stories of how the moisturizer eliminates bags under their eyes, erases wrinkles and helps their skin look young and fuller.
The partners are now planning a clinical study to test the claims and to get the scientific proof they need to add to their marketing efforts.
As part of the restructuring started in April, they have created a new label for the Bnatural jars, designed by Stone Mountain-based Leavell Graphics and Designs; opened an online marketplace portal for customers to make purchases; and launched the product on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
In October, the company participated in the annual CrossRoadsNews Seniors and Baby Boomers Expo at the Mall at Stonecrest, where they gave away hundreds of samples. They say they’re now being bombarded by seniors with stories about how great their skin looks and clamoring to buy the products.
Shirley Miller, who has been using Bnatural moisturizer for 12 years, says she loves it because it works.
“I get a jar every month,” she said, explaining that she also uses it on her 32-year-old son, Brandon, who is bedridden.
“It keeps his skin from breaking down,” she said. “I know this because once I stopped and within a few days his whole back was breaking into sores.”
Miller, who lives in Lithonia, said she has used the moisturizer on her son ever since he suffered a brain injury in an accident 11 years ago. She says he likes the product because it feels good and protects his skin and smells good.
“We use the vanilla musk and he thinks it’s cologne,” she said. “He loves smelling good.”
Miller said that she has been encouraging the Martins for years to market the product so that others, including people who are bedridden, can know about it and benefit from it.
“I believe it works so well because of the natural ingredients in it and the love they put into the product,” Miller said.
Online, an 8-ounce jar of Bnatural sells for $17 plus tax and shipping.
Just in time for holiday shopping lists, the partners are introducing 2- and 4-ounce travel sizes.
They also are exploring additional fragrances to add to the offerings.
Since April’s relaunch, Daryl Martin says sales are up 30 percent.
“October was our biggest month ever,” he said.
Martin says he is having the time of his life developing new fragrances.
“I am having lots of fun dreaming up new stuff,” he said.
Moore says he is thankful to start a new career and being able to help his friends elevate the company from a mom-and-pop business.
“We will move it from our kitchen to Main Street,” he said.
Sandra Martin said she is thankful for having survived the hills and valleys of running a small business.
“Twice we almost burned the house down,” she said. “We have survived people trying to take the business from us. We are glad we never gave it up.”
They make the product in their Lithonia home, and after Sandra Martin comes home from her job as a nursing companion and her husband is home from his UPS job, the four of them gather at night around the Martins’ kitchen table to apply the labels on the jars.
As they work, they talk about a future where their moisturizer is used by millions, and dream of a future when Bnatural is a household name “just like Johnson & Johnson.”
“This is our baby now and we are an infant getting ready to grow,” Moore said. “The world wants natural right now and we are getting ready to deliver.”
For more information, visit www.bnaturalproductsllc.com or call 470-375-3674.