GERMANTOWN, MARYLAND —
Elsabeth and her husband Ansen Elvis are in their family's home kitchen, which doubles as their home laboratory. It's here they have found their recipe for success.
“We produce everything for hair, face and body,” Ansen Elvis said. "We have our coconut avocado oil. That’s number one seller. That’s hair, face and body oil. We have our Dead Sea mud. We have bar soaps. We have bathroom massage oil, shaving oil. We have hot oil treatments. We have our gold avocado hot hair butter.”
As with a lot of small businesses, the family got their start making products exclusively for their kids who have sensitive skin.
“We can’t find anything that works for their skin,” Elsabeth Elvis explained. “So we started looking up and searching. So we come up with the natural ingredients, which are coconut and avocado and butter.”
And that led to them starting their own company Elsen Oils, in 2012,
Elsabeth learned to use only natural ingredients in everything she ate or put on her body, as a child growing up in Ethiopia.
“If you don’t trust to put it in your mouth [meaning: eat it], you’re not supposed to use it for your skin,” she said.
Birth of Elsen Oils
That simple idea became the ethos behind Elsen Oils.
And it is literally a family business. Nathanael, one of the Elvis’ four kids, said he’s proud of his parents having their own business. He loves to help out whenever he has time.
“I go to the flea markets with them. I help make the labeled boxes, and help with moving the boxes to the car and from the car to the retail stores.” said Nathanael.
Moving the products to the market, Elsabeth said, was the challenging part. She began working with stores that wanted to sell locally made products. And their marketing strategy was basically word of mouth.
Shannon Jones is a writer who lives in the area. She explained how she’s become a customer.
“Our children go to the same school,” she said. “I would see Ms. Elsa walking her children to school. She’s always had a nice glow on her face. One day I had to stop and ask her what type of products that she uses for her face. That’s when she told me she and her husband have their oil products.”
Over the last two years Johns’ interest in natural products has grown tremendously.
“Before, I wouldn’t really look at the ingredients generally of any product,” she said. “I would just purchase. But I’ve been more conscious of what I buy, making sure that I purchase more natural products especially in food and most definitely in skin care.”
Listening carefully to what their customers say and suggest is another secret behind their success, said Ansen Elvis.
“We love feedback; positive, negative, it doesn’t matter because it helps us to adjust and put better products,” he said.
“The majority of our product line is customer requested. When we started out, we just had the coconut oil and the Lip balm. The rest of the products came because consumers said what else do you have? What you have for this? What you have for that? That’s when we learned if you listen to your customers and you try to give them what they’re looking for, you can grow your business,” said Ansen Elvis.
Elsen Oils products are now sold in 19 stores across the Washington area. One day, the family hopes their products will be sold all across the country.