By Jake Flannick
Christi Apodaca has long admired the therapeutic powers of the natural world, making it a point to learn about herbs and raw oils ever since she was a young girl. Disillusioned with the commercial cosmetics industry, the ambitious 35-year-old entrepreneur is crafting her own line of plant-based skin care products.
In a light-filled storefront in the heart of downtown Asheville, Apodaca’s small business, C & Co.®, displays all sorts of natural concoctions she and a few workers make from scratch there in the evenings. Visitors to the store will find soaps, balms, essential oils and tonics.
“It’s very expensive in this day and age to find good quality products that are made with organic ingredients and that actually work,” Apodaca says. “We believe that quality and organic skin care products should not be considered a luxury.”
The products are made with raw, plant-based ingredients—most of them are organic—including cold-pressed oils. They are free of genetically modified ingredients, petrochemicals and other synthetics. Reverse osmosis is used to remove metals from products like cold creams and moisturizers.
Apodaca started selling her goods at markets in Florida before moving to Asheville with her husband, Dr. J.J. Apodaca, a biology professor at Warren Wilson College. C & Co. (the name refers to Christi and her husband) opened in its Broadway Street storefront nearly four years ago, not long after she started the business online.
Since then, her company has grown considerably, drawing both locals and sojourners. Last year, it made and sold a little more than 15,000 products, and as of this past fall it was on pace to exceed that amount. About 30 percent of its sales take place online.
“The products do speak for themselves,” says Apodaca, who chose to study economics instead of Western medicine. She projects confidence when talking about her business, noting that it also sells wholesale and offers same-day shipping.
The goods are currently prepared after hours during the workweek in a modest enclosure in the rear of the store that includes a countertop and a sink. To meet the growing demand, she is considering ways to make more products during business hours. The manufacturing processes are carefully documented, outlined in a thick three-ring binder, and each batch is numbered.
The significance of using natural skin care products has gained attention in recent years, though the cosmetics industry remains largely unregulated. The US Food and Drug Administration monitors only the labeling of cosmetic products, offering a set of guidelines for manufacturing practices. Some products include harmful chemicals that can cause skin problems or exacerbate existing ones. They can also affect the pH level on the skin, which serves as a protective barrier against bacteria, viruses and other contaminants. “Skin care is not something that’s really taught,” Apodaca says.
For its part, C & Co. follows the FDA’s ‘good manufacturing’ practices and lists its products in a searchable database of cosmetics on the website of the Environmental Working Group. In addition, it offers free consultations on skin care, which is affected by a range of variables from eating habits to laundry detergent.
The idea is to create a sense of “efficacy in knowing that what is actually on the label is the truth,” Apodaca says. “You can control only so much. We can control what goes in our body and what goes on our body.”
C & Co. ® is located at 15 A Broadway Street, in downtown Asheville. For more information, call the store at 828.575.9144 or visit candconaturals.com.