When Allison Mays' toddler picked up a tube of lip gloss, she didn't just glide it on. She smeared it on, eating big chunks of the stuff that, after all, smelled like strawberries or mint or some other yummy treat. It was cute until Mays wondered what was really in those tubes.
"I started looking at all of the ingredients and thinking she's literally digesting so much junk," said Mays, whose daughter was just 2 at the time.
Let's call that a light bulb moment for Mays.
Mays, along with her business partner and close friend Leigh Noonan, are always on the lookout for new products to create. Mays, her husband and Noonan's husband are high school friends. Noonan joined the crew when she married. They live nearby in north Raleigh. Their kids are buddies too.
The two women run Wallflowers Media, a marketing and graphic design business. They've also launched their own products, including Have You Been Elfed kits for Christmas that I wrote about a couple of years ago. The two got to work to create a lip gloss that was actually safe for kids to ingest, since that's what happens even if you do just glide it on.
At last year's A Shopping Spree, the Junior League of Raleigh's annual holiday market, the two set up a stand with their elf kits and some of their lip balm. The lip balms, Mays and Noonan told me, did great. Customers loved the all-natural ingredients and the price point.
"You can eat our gloss and balm," Noonan said. "It's safe."
They went home and got to work, finding new formulas and ingredients and rebranding their products. The result is Klen Shop, a new line of all-natural products that includes Gator Balm just for kids, along with gloss, bug sprays, lotion candles, creams, scrubs and even an all-natural spray to prevent lice. Right now, the products are whipped up in their kitchens.
I sampled a few. Not only are they effective (the cream does wonders for my always dry hands), they smell great with scents like honey orange or lemon lavender. (There's also a fragrance free option).
Mays and Noonan have taken their products to the massive gift market in Atlanta, where shops and other retailers come to try products and buy items for their stores. Klen Shop products are now in 30 locations around North America, including a spa in Mexico and a boutique in Santa Monica. They also are sold online and at several shops in the Triangle, including Ornamentea, Johnston Memorial Hospital Gift Shop, Oxford Green and The Green Monkey.
They have plans for growth, adding more products such as shampoos, conditioners, sunscreen and other items.
But their goal, they say, will always remain the same: To help families get rid of products filled with chemicals and preservatives and offer all-natural items that are safe for kids and adults at reasonable price points. Klen's lip balm goes for $2.99. Gloss is $6.99. A jar of the cream, which goes a long way, is $15.99. Klen LiceAway sells for $12.99.
"We truly believe in this," Mays said. "It's not hard for us to talk about and push this. We think it's the best thing."
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