The succession of a recipe book, family business, and the desire to continue a mother's legacy led to Ua Body.
Initially formed in Waimea 30 years ago under the name “Island Herbal,” Ua Body's skincare products were created to provide a clean, chemical-free skincare line. Ua Body's owner Leala Humbert in partnership with her husband Blaine Kusler, continued her mother Alice's mission and natural skincare products when taking on the business.
"When she passed, my family decided to maintain her beautiful and heartfelt legacy," Humbert says. "We renamed it Ua Body, which signifies rain in Hawaiian, and reminds us that nature is a powerful healer and that we, in turn, must nurture and protect the earth."
Ua Body's additive-free formulas consist of natural and local ingredients. Blaine and Leala design the products to hydrate and protect the skin. Each product is handcrafted in small batches in the Kusler's workshop on Big Island. Some of the family recipes focus on homeopathic remedies for ailments such as Psoriasis, or muscle pain.
"Leala's mom left us with a recipe book that is the size of an encyclopedia of all of these original recipes she made over the years," Kusler says.
Ua Body currently markets five products in its online store: lotion, body mist, soap, kukui oil, and dry oil. The lotion, body mist, and soap have a variety of fragrance options from niu (coconut), kupaloke (tuberose), kiele (gardenia) to pikake (jasmine).
"We really put a lot into this," Humbert says. "We're very, very mindful of the whole process. To have the packaging be reflective of the experience we are having here living on the Big Island, we really did a lot of our due diligence to get to this stage."
When the couple decided to go all-in with the skincare line, they changed the name and modernized the packaging.
"We started to do more sustainable packaging," Kusler notes. "We started to use as little plastic as possible and replace the plastic with glass."
Another sustainable aspect of Ua Body is its refill program.
While the pumps they sell with their lotions are all plastic, they encourage returning customers to buy refills.
"When you order your first bottle, the pump is in a separate package. You really have to take an extra moment," Leala Humbert says. "We wanted that extra pause for people to think about that."
Included in a first-time purchase is a note asking the consumer to conserve single-use plastic and reuse the pump as long as they can.
In addition to reducing the use of single-use plastics, Ua Body donates 1.5 percent of each sale to the Hawai'i Conservation Alliance. The alliance's mission is to preserve the culture, land, and oceans of Hawai'i.
Ua Body's owners commit to using local ingredients when they can.
"The sourcing of local ingredients not only helps the economy and farmers in Hawai'i but lowers the carbon footprint," Blaine Kusler says.
Adding a new ingredient to their family recipe, Ua Body's owners are working on a partnership with a local turmeric farmer to add a colorless and odorless version of the plant to their products.
"We're working on using (my mother’s) recipes as a foundation but creating our own," Humbert says.
Ua Body's products are in stores in Waimea, Hilo, and Los Angeles.
After the meticulous steps taken when focusing on rebranding and sustainability, Blaine and Leala are now trying to increase their exposure.
"We have a local community that supports the product," Kusler says. "We want to help people understand our mission for providing sustainable packaging and utilizing local ingredients and bringing broader awareness to what we're doing."
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.