After Ayo Hart’s mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer, the family’s oncologist handed them a list of ingredients to avoid. But it wasn’t a dietary recommendation—it was a list of chemicals found in every day products like shampoos and deodorants.
“He didn’t say these would cause cancer, but he said, ‘these will not help.’ We took the list and went through our medicine cabinets and began throwing things out—when we finished, there was nothing left,” said Hart, a mother of two and varsity girls basketball coach at Fox Lane High School.
It dawned on Ayo and her husband, Nigel Hart, who live with their twin girls in Pound Ridge, that while they pointedly ate organic meat and vegetables and drank organic milk, they hadn’t been as careful about reading the labels on skin and hair care products for themselves, or their twin girls, who started kindergarten this year.
(Full disclosure: Ayo Hart is part of the Patch "," a local group of parents sharing information and resources through Patch).
After experimenting with homemade soaps—and handling increasing requests from friends for their product—the couple launched Dolphin Organics, an organic skin-care line for children now carried locally by , and the Katonah Pharmacy.
“I take no credit for this,” said Ayo Hart, noting that her husband first had the idea for mass production. But as the couple dove headfirst into business development, she found herself handling more of the day-to-day operations, eventually becoming partners with Nigel, who has run a hedge fund for the last ten years.
When asked why they focused on children’s products specifically, she replied that it was most important for younger bodies.
“Their skin is much more permeable,” said Hart, adding that they may expand into other age groups. “We also found from a marketing and business standpoint it made the most sense—people seem willing to go organic and natural and not cut corners with their children. It’s a fast-growing industry.”
And how do consumers differentiate from the bewildering number of products lining store shelves these days claiming to be “all-natural” and organic?
“That’s why we did our label that lays it out clearly,” said Hart. “We wanted moms to see the ingredients—if you can’t pronounce something maybe it’s not great for your skin. But even some of the natural oils are a mouthful and good for you.” Their label (pictured here) delineates ingredients into “organic,” “natural” and an “artificial” column, in order of volume.
At $11.49 for an 8 oz. Bottle of baby lotion, the products may be pricey. But Hart says natural ingredients are more expensive. “For example, many products are water-based—we start ours in aloe vera; with our lotion, you don’t need a lot and a little goes a long way. It’s very rich it’s not going to leave a greasy feeling,” she said.
The company has grown to six employees in under a year, including a few student interns from Fox Lane over the summer. They’re busy traveling to trade shows incuding the upcoming Natural Products Expo in Baltimore, MD.
But it was attending BlogHer in San Diego last month that was particularly meaningful for Hart, whose mother-in-law is now a breast cancer survivor. The annual gathering drew about 3,000 mommy bloggers from across the country, many of whom sampled Dolphin Organics’ products and wrote reviews.
“It was great exposure. I was so excited, I met about 300 moms, who are the end users of our product,” she said. “If these moms like it and write about it and share the information with other moms—that’s great. It’s how I have always worked—sharing information with other moms.”