To gear up for our Summit21 Conference this year in Atlanta, 21Ninety has scored exclusive interviews with some of this year's participants. 

What started as DIY projects using natural ingredients in her home, has propelled into a full-blown business venture for entrepreneur Trenise Watson, creator of Asili Naturals

Asili Naturals is certified vegan skin care company that specializes in making fresh plant-based beauty care products free of any harsh chemicals or ingredients.

Read 21Ninety's exclusive interview below:

21Ninety: Can you give us a little of your background? What inspired you to create Asili Naturals? What was the vision behind the name?

Trenise Watson: Asili Naturals was created out of necessity. Growing up as a teenager, I often bought conventional skin care products to treat my sensitive and combination skin. While using the products, I noticed that they would regularly cause sensitivity, irritation, and dryness to my face, leaving it in terrible condition. This is when I begin reading the list of ingredients on my conventional skin care products. Which eventually drove me to research them, to figure out the meaning of each component along with its benefits. What I found would change my life forever.

The products that I used regularly contained harmful and synthetic chemicals that were too harsh to be applied to the skin. Aggressive ingredients such as (1) alcohols- used to stabilize products but cause dry skin (good and bad alcohols), (2) parabens- synthetic preservatives that can alter hormones in the body and mimic estrogen, (3) sulfates- cleansing and foaming agents that dries out the skin and depletes its natural oils, (4) harsh fragrances- that irritate the skin, and other harmful ingredients.

In the early 2000s, there were not a lot of organic, vegan, or cruelty-free options on the market. If there were options, they were expensive. This left me with few options, and as a teenager, with a tight budget, I had to settle for drugstore skin care products. I was frustrated with the skincare market. I took matters into my own hands and began making my skincare products using only natural ingredients. I wanted to be in control of what was in my products down to ingredients, packaging, and more. When choosing my ingredients, I carefully looked for ingredients which were plant-based, responsibly sourced, and sustainable for the planet. Therefore, we only use vegan ingredients.

Photo: Asili Naturals

After doing further research, I realized that a lot of conventional skin care products were being tested on animals, which is not okay. This drove me to make another decision to ensure that my ingredients were not tested on animals, nor will my company test product on animals. Animals deserve to live a happy and peaceful life. Also, animals and humans do not have the same genetic makeup which does not carry infinite results. I am pleased to say that our products are Leaping Bunny Certified. 

The Leaping Bunny Certification is the gold-standard in cruelty-free certification for personal care and household products companies and signifies no animal testing of finished Cosmetics and Household Products, or any one or more Ingredients or formulations used in manufacturing or production of such products.

Lastly, I knew that I had to create products which are not only healthy and safe but also helps cut down our carbon footprint. Using minimal packaging and secure containers, all of our products can be recycled, down to our ingredients.

21N: What was the vision behind the name?

TW: When looking for a word that fit the vision of my company, I began to search for words that meant natural, pure, and original in different languages. This was when I discovered the word Asili, which is Swahili for origin, nature, and natural. It was fitting, and I knew right then that I found the name of my company.

Photo: Asili Naturals

21N: How long have you been creating these beauty and skincare products?

TW: I have been creating skin care products for over ten years; it started as a solution to treat my skin and turned into a real passion for all thing’s health and beauty.

21N: What kind of work goes into the process of creating them? What ingredients are used?

TW: A lot of research and development. When choosing ingredients for my products, I carefully look for ingredients which are plant-based, responsibly sourced, sustainable for the planet yet unique.  For example, I created a Spirulina Algae Mask. I have always been a massive fan of Spirulina. Spirulina is an algae superfood that is packed with protein, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and more. It’s such a wonderful alga to consume because it can be effective at detoxifying the body. 

Knowing the benefits of Spirulina, I knew that it would be great to use in a facial mask to help deeply cleanse, minimize pores, regenerate skin tissue, etc. Another example of the ingredients we use is Lychee Fruit and Himalayan Sea Salt in our Lychee Fruit Body Scrub. I’ve always loved the way Lychee Fruit smells and knows that it is wonderful at supporting the skin. With a combination of Himalayan Sea Salt which is full of minerals, it’s the perfect recipe for an exfoliant to remove dead skin cells from the body.

21N: Which ones were the most fun to create? Any customer favorites?

TW: The Spirulina Algae Mask was fun to create because it was the most challenging. Our customer’s love the mask. We have loyal customers like Elisha Beach, wife of Hollywood Actor Michael Beach, Stephanie George former Bad Girl, and many others who use it as apart of their daily routine. Each product brings a fun experience as they are all different.

Photo: Asili Naturals

21N: What do you think makes your business/platform unique over others like it?

TW: Asili Naturals is a vegan skin care company that specializes in making fresh plant-based products free of harmful ingredients. Our mission is to provide safe, healthy, and affordable skin care products to our customers. Also, to create products which help our customers feel beautiful and confident in their skin. Unlike other beauty companies, we offer more than skin care products. My objective is to create healthy products which improve skin issues as well as help our customers truly feel comfortable in their skin. This starts with selectively picking quality ingredients.  My theory is makeup should be worn as an option, not a necessity.

21N: What do you hope to gain from Summit21 this year?

TW: I am excited to be a part of the event. I hope to gain sound knowledge from enterprising women of color and gain long-term connections with like-minded women. It is such a pleasure to be in the room with so much positive energy.

Photo: Asili Naturals

21N: Is there anything you wish to teach or inform the Summit 21 audience about? 

TW: My primary goal is to continue to educate consumers about the importance of using skin care products, which are non-toxic and made with plant-based ingredients. I cannot stress enough the importance of using safe products on your skin as our skin is the largest organ on our bodies. What we apply to it goes directly into our bloodstream. Therefore, we must be aware of what we refer to it. Additionally, empower Summit 21 audience to feel beautiful and confident in their skin.

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