Photography by Clifford Pate
My current skincare obsession is Maya Chia, the beauty oil made by real Chia seeds and the best part is that it’s local and 100% natural. With so many products out in the market it’s hard to filter out what’s good and what’s mediocre. There’s no guessing with Maya Chia, the proof is in the oil. Chia seeds contain the richest source of omegas, antioxidants and minerals which results in skin hydration, deep moisturizing qualities, and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Susanne Norwitz, the founder of the company, is a Daniel Island dweller and is proud to call Charleston her home base for her company. With her product line being less than a year old, she has already measured much success in both press and retail outlets. Major publications such as Teen Vogue, Nylon, New Beauty, and Glamour have featured her products as well as Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog Goop. Local stores such as Urban Nirvana, Pink Dot Beauty Bar, Capelli Studio Salons, and Ooh! Beautiful quickly took notice and have been stocking up on the miracle moisturizer. But for Susanne Norwitz creating a product that she’s passionate about isn’t enough, she also wants to give back. Maya Chia has partnered with Adopt-a-Village. For every sale she makes, she donates money to the Adopt-a-Village mission in northwest Guatemala to improve education, health and economic conditions for the Maya people.
View more to find out what inspired Susanne to launch her products and what she loves about Charleston.
What led you to start Maya Chia? Since way back when, I’ve always had a passion for skincare. And although my initial career took a different turn in politics and speechwriting, I always came back to skincare. I think a good gauge for finding your passion is by the magazines you’re attracted to at a a news stand. My interests are always the same.
I thought of creating a non-toxic, high-performance, natural luxury line after reading about the super food, chia, and how miraculous this super food was for the body — chia has more antioxidants and omegas than any plant source! I thought this little super food has got to be amazing for your skin — your body’s largest organ. At the same time, I was also at a pivotal point in my life where I thought, I need to take a risk, do something I really love, and care passionately about. I kept thinking, if not now, when?
What was your breakthrough moment? As an entrepreneur, if you’re lucky, you have a lot of exciting, high-five type of moments. It’s hard to point to a singular event. So many people in Charleston were willing to give us a chance, and saw the potential in our line from the very start. Warren Wise from the Post and Courier gave us our first big break when we launched, putting us on the front cover of the business section, people still reference the article to me. The Post and Courier piece gave us the springboard for other national opportunities.
Our first unexpected news piece early on came from an article in Teen Vogue. It was totally unexpected, and all of a sudden I noticed a surge in website traffic. That was crazy. It was also an awesome moment to be named as one of the best new must-haves by New Beauty magazine and then last month, we were thrilled to be highlighted as one of the best clean face oils by Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop website. That was a big deal. Exciting things happen when you least expect it. Just the other day a Sports Illustrated model, Damaris Lewis, tagged us in a photo on Instagram and said she loves our products and uses them everyday. That really blew us away.
As for retail accounts, our first major account in South Carolina was Urban Nirvana, I had been a client and knew and loved their spas, so we were over the moon when the owner agreed to take a chance on us and pick up our line in several of their locations.
Outside of South Carolina, we were thrilled when the Four Seasons in Atlanta started carrying our line earlier this year and just this month the Edition Hotel Spa in Miami Beach, which is a 5-star property. We were also beyond excited when Goop started carrying our line in their store on their site.
With each new account, there’s so much excitement. It never ever gets old.
What media outlet has generated the most traffic for your? The press hit from Goop generated a significant amount of traffic to our website. But I’ve found the traffic that comes from bloggers to my site is really critical, as consumers put a lot of trust & confidence in what bloggers say, and have a high intent to purchase.
How is it having a company that is based in Charleston? The people from Charleston have been so incredibly supportive, and I’ve been told how they love the idea of supporting a locally-made product and business. I cannot say enough about the people here. Sometimes you hear things about Southerners not welcoming transplants from other parts of the country, but I’ve felt the exact opposite is true in Charleston.
What has been the biggest challenge for you? Being a so-called entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. The highs are dramatic, but so are the lows. There are many problems that rear their head along the way. You have to be a real problem solver, and have the constitution to ride out the ups and downs in stride. At times, I miss the camaraderie, comfort and security that comes from working on a large team in a 9 to 5 stable job – it can be a solitary, daunting pursuit in the beginning. But you just have to dismantle each challenge in little pieces.
What has been the most rewarding for you? Far and away the most rewarding part of having your own business is when I talk to our customers one on one. Whether it’s someone who has tried everything for treating a persistent skin condition like eczema or psoriasis or acne, and says our face oil works. Or someone who tells me their aging skin feels ten years younger, revitalized and glowing. Each of these stories drives me to want to do more, and always makes me feel grateful I created this business.
Any tips for anyone who is thinking about breaking into the skincare/beauty business? I think the same advice holds for any business – skincare or otherwise. Do your research, learn every aspect that you can about the chosen field, and don’t get stymied by over analysis and perfectionism. It’s important to dream, but also to execute. Most importantly, I’d say let your passion be your guide. I know people say that a lot and it might sound hackneyed, but passion will keep you afloat during those times when the seas become a wee bit turbulent.
As well, it helps to have a unique differentiator inherent in your brand or product. And if you want to be around for the long haul, you should have a commitment to using the best ingredients and/or processes. Consumers are very savvy, and can suss out the difference along with slick marketing and little substance. All sizzle and no steak makes for a quick meal – in other words, to have longevity, you need to offer something real and meaningful. It cannot be all clever marketing.
What do you love about Charleston? It’s hard to put succinctly in words. There are so many amazing things you can point to in Charleston – the genuine hospitality of the people, the wildy beautiful landscape with the sweeping live oaks, the fiery sunsets over the marshes, the ocean in such close proximity, the history tucked in every corner. Any one of these reasons alone would certainly make it worth living here.
But for me, it’s something less tangible than any of these reasons. The best way to accurately sum up my love for Charleston is the feeling I get when I step off the plane after visiting other places. Charleston just feels like home.