Skin Deep

Simple solutions are often the best solutions. This problem-solving principle is at the heart of a creative collaboration between enterprising husband and wife Jermaine and Rachel Pearson and the basis of their burgeoning business venture Oneness Essentials.

Necessity is the mother of invention, apparently even when it comes to soap.

“Eczema runs in my family but until I was 28, I had never experienced it myself. Then one day my eyelids started to itch,” reveals Jermaine Pearson, now 43 and a fraud investigator with Hartford Insurance Group’s Ocala office. “My doctor told me I had developed adult-onset dermatitis, a form of eczema. I was recommended all kinds of over-the-counter soaps, body washes and lotions. I would smell good after a shower, but my skin was still always dry and itchy.”

For the next seven years, Jermaine dealt with his eczema, which developed on other areas on his body, the best he could. But relief was elusive. By the time he and Rachel married in 2013, the eczema discomfort was worse, not better.

“I started thinking that there had to be something better than the products I was using. All of them were made of chemical ingredients that I couldn’t even pronounce. And other things, like slathering on coconut or baby oil after a shower, didn’t work either,” notes Jermaine. “Then I remembered learning as a kid that people used to make their own soap with simple ingredients. I went to YouTube and watched a few videos about soapmaking. Then I ordered everything I needed and by that weekend had already made my first batch in our kitchen.”

Then came the waiting.

“The soap has to cure for four weeks before you can use it,” says Jermaine, who made that very first batch in 2014. “When the soap was ready to use, Rachel and I showered with it. Within a few days, I noticed that my itchy eczema skin felt better.”

And Rachel liked the way the soap made her skin feel too. So much so that she soon sensed its business potential.

“While I don’t have eczema, I’ve always had dry skin. And the more I showered with the soap, the better my skin felt,” says Rachel, 36, who has an associate applied science degree in paralegal law and worked in a corporate staffing agency’s legal department.

When Jermaine made that initial batch of soap, the couple had just become parents to Hannah. Less than a year later, another baby was on the way.

“I had been thinking about needing and wanting to stay home with Hannah, who was 1 at the time. And with a new baby on the way, paying for childcare so I could go back to work just didn’t seem like a feasible financial decision,” recalls Rachel, who adds with a soft laugh, “And like they say, all good ideas come in the shower. I asked Jermaine if he’d be willing to sell the soap and he said no. So I told him to teach me how to make the soap and I would sell it. And that was the beginning of Oneness Essentials.”

A Natural Path

The Pearsons were still living in Rachel’s hometown of Richmond, Virginia when she set her plan in motion in 2016.

“Our son Aiden had been born by the time I started seriously making the soap. I really fell in love with the whole process,” says Rachel. “Our motto from the beginning is that simple ingredients like coconut oil, olive oil, palm oil and beeswax are the foundation of our soap. For scents, we use all-natural essential oils. And we also make an unscented soap for those sensitive to any scents.”

Those initial soap batches were sold to friends, family members and others by word of mouth. Etsy was soon added as a sales outlet. And then Jermaine, a self-described mad scientist, went back to the kitchen and created their beeswax-based body butter.

“Once you open the door with making soap, you can use the same ingredients in varying percentages for other products, like body butter,” says Jermaine, quickly adding, “And we always know when a product is good when my skin doesn’t break out.”

Following that stage, Jermaine explains that Rachel takes over and refines each product, adding her own signature.

“She’s the true entrepreneur in the family,” he asserts. “I am very proud of her and what she’s done since that first batch of soap.”

A Fresh Start

In 2017, thanks to a job change for Jermaine, the Pearsons moved from Richmond to Ocala, growing both their family and Oneness Essentials. Jermaine and Rachel are now parents to Hannah (6), Aiden (4) and Amie (2), who have all inherited their father’s eczema.

Oneness Essentials LLC, a fully licensed home-based business, has expanded to a dozen products and counting. While still primarily an online business, Oneness Essentials products have been sold at area farmers markets, including the Ocala Downtown Market and O’Steen’s Produce Market in neighboring Summerfield. Ocala-based CP Fredricks Hair Designs & Wellness Center also carries Oneness Essentials products.

Levi and Corissa O’Steen explain that at one time they carried several local soap brands at the market, but once they saw how popular the Oneness Essentials products were with their customers, they decided to exclusively carry the Pearson’s products. “The others just didn’t sell,” Corissa recalls. “But their products developed a following right away. We have customers who drive from the north end of the county in the Citra area and purchase around 10 bars a trip. People love them!”

A Promising Future

“The sunroom of our house has become my office and our inventory room for products. I have cubbyhole cabinets there and in the kitchen for the ingredients we use,” notes Rachel. “While we have expanded our product line, our soap remains the foundation of our business. And because of the four-week curing time, I’m always making soap in the kitchen, usually early mornings while the kids are still asleep and it’s quiet. Other times, if I get busy, I’ll get a babysitter.”

The soap is made in loaves, up to eight every other day, which are then hand cut into 19 pounds of soap bars. Each bar is stamped and individually wrapped. Rachel then rotates in the making of the other products, from whipped body butter to lotions to salt scrubs, in between the soapmaking, depending on demand. And Jermaine continues to mix up new concoctions.

“I’ll let you in on a secret,” says Jermaine, who claims the soaps and whipped body butter are his favorites. “If you were to go to our shower stall, you would see soap slivers all over the place. We’re always testing and trying out new combinations.”

Rachel interjects, “Jermaine is very creative and experimental. I’m very creative and practical. And, yes, we do test and use everything we make on ourselves and the kids before we add it to our product line.”

When she looks ahead to the future of Oneness Essentials, continuing to expand and maybe even a brick-and-mortar store, Rachel also looks back.

“I was raised by a single mother in an inner city, so I’m not sure where my entrepreneur nature comes from,” she says. “But I remember when I was about 9, I drew a picture of me in a business suit and carrying a briefcase. While running a business now looks a little different than I imagined as a 9-year-old, I am doing exactly what I envisioned while providing something of value to people.”

And it’s all thanks to something as simple and essential as soap.    

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