July 5, 2011
From rashes to riches
Neva Talladen, entrepreneur, poet, freelance writer
For any young girl, rashes and acne are dreaded biological occurrences that can bring on distress, anxiety and the need for indefinite hibernation—sometimes in that order.
But for Neva Talladen, a once aspiring makeup artist who spent a great deal of her time and money adding to her own personal makeup arsenal, she thought skin rashes put an end to her more than occasional dalliance and experimentation with makeup.
You see, back then, when she wasn't buying makeup, the twentysomething Neva was reading about it, its variations, product composition—anything. "My weekly spend on makeup was unbelievable," she says.
She complemented her product know-how with hands-on research, meticulously testing different skin care brands, something incredibly interesting and fun to her.
All that changed "almost overnight"—when quite suddenly— Neva started developing skin care problems. "I had skin asthma, contact dermatitis, ezcema all at once," says Neva who recalls how forlorn this made her, not only because of aesthetic reasons, but because of how fond she was of makeup.
Finding nothing readily available over the counter that would address her skin problems, Neva became desperate and decided to try to put her product knowledge to the test by mixing and making her own products.
"I attended local workshops about product-making, and one that offered to teach about making organic products. But they were all lacking information on how to make products from scratch—which was what I was looking for," says Neva.
Neva later met a biochemist from California who taught her the basics and pretty soon, Neva was mixing her own homemade recipes of skin care products and reading up even more on product formulation of organic skin care. Of course, the ulterior motive and self-interest didn't hurt either.
"I was desperate to relieve her itching and tame my skin asthma!" Neva says, laughing now at the memory.
The itching and scratching ended with the creation of the first products of Leyende: No Rumple Silk Skin Butter, followed by sulfate-free Clear and Present shampoo.
A business accident
Neva never thought about making a business out of her creations, thinking that she would just mostly use it for herself. A former public relations executive and freelance writer, Neva describes herself as being more creative, rather than entrepreneurial.
She started giving them out as Christmas gifts to friends and relatives who pleaded with her to make more for their own personal consumption.
It was her mother who knocked some business sense into her.
"My mother immediately said it was a good opportunity for business and it came at just the right time. I was at a stage in my life when I was frustrated with my freelance writing career and I didn't know what I wanted to do. I just wanted to work on something that will help me become financially independent," Neva shares.
It was her gut that told her to take the plunge.
"It just felt right. This sounds so unacademic, but it's true. A lot of it was pure gut-feel. I wouldn't have done it if I didn't believe it was going to work out somehow. I knew if I didn't make this happen, I'm not sure if I could've recovered enough to make another breakthrough with my life."
And this gave Neva an inexorable drive to build the skin care line that is now known as Leyende.
From trying to cure her itches and rashes with the first two products she ever made: Clear and Present and No Rumple Silk Skin Butter, Leyende is now a full skin care line that consists of eye cream, sun cleansers and even shaving oil (yes, oil!) for men.
Just like her initial products, all the products bear the signature whimsical names of books and characters.
"Leyende" means story or legend. So our product names are tweaked versions of book, film and song titles, and famous lines or expressions," explains Neva who says her writing background came in handy when it came to branding and product conceptualization.
From her kitchen, Leyende now has a solid reputation for being "organic" and "eco-cert" [eco-certified] both locally and overseas. These are titles which Neva is careful to explain and even more particular about safeguarding.
"Organic standards are not up to us. It is based on international standards developed for decades now. So there is just ONE definition of organic, and no exceptions: Organic means the ingredients were grown, harvested, produced without harmful chemicals like pesticides or herbicides that tend to remain accumulated in the plant or animal by-product. This ensures purer ingredients, the way nature intended it. Natural or botanical products simply use plants as part of their ingredients, but not necessarily from organic sources. Some ingredients in botanicals, in fact, tend to irritate skin more than help it," she says, effortlessly enumerating these distinctions.
No longer plagued by skin asthma and rashes, Neva, at 32, is the brand director and president of Leyende. It may be a big title, but Neva insists on being right where she started: trying out the products herself before she puts them out in the market, sometimes to the detriment of those in her household.
"One time, after mixing a batch of No Rumple Silk Skin Butter, I left the tub in the kitchen, and this person came in and thought it was a sandwich spread because it smelled like food. Good thing I came back because he had already slathered it on bread! That was a close call!" she laughs.
"I create and develop all Leyende products—from conceptualizing formulations, to tweaking them, if necessary and finally approving them," says Neva, with evident pride.
Leyende—and Neva's evolution from rashes to riches—is the stuff which legends are made of, or in this case, truly organic skin care products.