The idea for Ao Organics Hawaiʻi sparked when its founder Chelsa Davis was looking for a safe product to shield her family from the sun.
Davis had always been conscientious of the ingredients she was feeding her family. However, when she was pregnant with her third child, the ingredients in her beach bag's most used item caught her eye.
"When I read about the ingredients and how toxic they are, we completely stopped using (that) sunscreen," Davis says. It was this revelation that led to the formation of Ao Organics Hawaiʻi.
In less than two years, Davis' startup grew to protect as many as 400 beach-goers a month with its original sunscreen product. In addition to selling a cabinet of other skincare items in its online store.
Some of Davis' natural products include Lash Queen, a brow and eyelash growth serum; 'Ōlena and Honey Foaming Cleanser; Ili Hydration Moisturizer; Get Naked Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil; Green Goddess Mask & Cleanser; and Hibiscus Mist Facial Toner.
"I try to source locally as much as I can," Davis says about her ingredients.
Ao Organics started with Davis sharing her skincare line with friends and family. Once those closest to her began using the products, word of mouth grew her company to a much larger enterprise. Now, Ao Organics is sold in more than 40 stores with locations across the islands, in New York, California, as well as Belgium.
Right now, Ao Organics is thriving due to the support of Davis' shoulders alone, but one goal for the skincare company owner is to build a local team.
"That's my dream," Davis says. "Right now, it's just me. I'm the team. I've done everything from the ground up, designing my website, running social media, designing the products and labels. I do the manufacturing and shipping."
With Ao Organics' growth and recent entry into accelerator Mana Up, Davis' dream appears to be a natural next step. According to Davis, the demand for Ao Organics products has jumped from 100 monthly orders to nearly 400 orders every month.
One item that led to this significant growth was rolling out her tanning oil line.
"Women are putting these on their bodies, and it is causing damage," Davis says about the urgency she felt to create a tanning oil. "We see other women using a product, and we think it's safe because it's working for her."
But that's not always the case. Similar to sunscreen, Davis found many of the tanning oils she thought were safe had toxic ingredients.
"I wanted to make a tanning oil that's safe for women and also makes them feel really pretty," Davis says. "The tanning oil was a game-changer for my company."
Ao Organics' online store currently offers four tanning oil options: Golden Hour, Bronzed Goddess, Endless Summer, and Rose Gold.
As a consumer, one frustration Davis found was the time it would take to evaluate different skincare products and research the long list of ingredients.
Davis says she wants Ao Organics to help simplify that process for consumers. Her tanning oil recipes have only ten components: jojoba oil, coconut oil, argan oil, red raspberry seed oil, avocado oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, rose gold mica powder, and pure coconut extract.
"You don't have to look it up," Davis says. "I can show you what's safe."
Local value-added products can contribute to a promising future for diversified agriculture. Mana Up brands have foundations rooted in quality Hawaiʻi-grown ingredients and each founder has a strong commitment to the islands that fosters their success.