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Laundry. For many, if it’s clean, it’s got to be a skin-focused and highly effective detergent, which happens to be plant-based.
This is true for a growing number of consumers including Augie and Greenville native Sylvia Emuwa, who curated “precious ingredients for precious skin” to create Dinobi Detergent.
Why would a wife, who’s a former accountant and husband, who’s a former education administrator, dedicate time to formulating such a product?
According to the National Eczema Association, 31.6 million (10.1%) people in the U.S. have some form of eczema. One in 10 individuals will develop eczema in their lifetime, with prevalence peaking at childhood.
“My husband has eczema and my children have eczema. I wasn’t really familiar with it because I didn’t have that issue, but from there we were buying all of these different detergents and buying all these different medicines,” said Sylvia. “I’m living in Chicago and it just seemed like we were trying to find all these different ways and trying to figure out ‘how do we combat this one thing?’”
However, it wasn’t actually just “one” thing the Emuwas were trying to navigate.
It was the eczema issue, efficiently cleaning diapers with the children’s health in mind and being conscious about the environment.
“We have four kids between us so it’s kind of hard to keep buying a bunch of products. I said, ‘What’s a way that I can do this all in one?’ And that’s when it clicked — to find a need and fill it and the need was for something that was an eco-friendly solution,” she recalled. “At that time, eco-friendly was not synonymous with effective and clean — it was just kind of a “feel good” thing, but I said we’ve got to be able to do it all in one and we’ve been able to do that through a lot of creativity and finding the right help when it comes to chemistry and here we are.”
Sylvia, the leader of the company, said when she was growing up her father, Dr. Paul Jackson, instructed his children to find a need and fill it.
“Growing up in Greenville, you learn to work as a community and you learn to make where you are the best you possibly can even if you have to seek opportunity outside of there. You kind of carry that with you — to just always find a need and fill it and be a part of a community and make it flourish because you will never know where life takes you,” she said. “That was really the inspiration — doing something that would fill a need for people.”
The inspiration behind the name “Dinobi” came from the West African heritage of Sylvia’s husband, who also goes by ‘Augie.’
He highlighted “Dinobi” means “precious” in Igbo.
Augie has dealt with eczema pretty much his entire life.
Coming from what he called “humble beginnings” as a third culture child in the urban neighborhoods of Chicago, different types of household products and what they were made of wasn’t exactly at the forefront of his mind.
“My younger experience with taking care of any type of household things was more passive. It was like, ‘Well, what’s the cheapest thing?’ and unfortunately, that didn’t put me on a path to really be critical of the marketplace and scrutinize ingredients and try to figure out what’s really important in terms of my true self care,” he said.
However, after a friend noticed the presence of several spots on Augie’s legs because of so many different things scraping against his skin, in addition to the eczema flare-ups he experienced as a “stressed out” school principal, it was clear to Sylvia something had to change.
Augie pointed out that while a lot of skin issues are complicated and come from a variety of environmental factors including diet, the undesired chemical agents certain products and supplies yield can aggravate the epidermis.
“We can do some lifestyle changes, but we can also minimize the chance of a reaction from something going on our skin that’s not supposed to go on our skin,” he said.
Four ingredients make up Dinobi Detergent — water, plant based surfactant, vegetable fatty alcohol and 100% essential oils.
When Augie and Sylvia met at Jackson State University, “green-living” was a concept they both needed clarity on as there are extremes that may cause people to be either receptive or somewhat reluctant to it.
They weren’t sure if formulating a plant-based detergent meant they would have to be in the throes of nature as they did consider some artisan markets for their product which meant a very hands-on approach.
But their aim was to find a way to disrupt the industry standard by producing something that is good for the environment and the skin and, as Augie noted, “takes only a little formulation and a little bit of tweaking in terms of the process with how we pull together these plant-powered chemical agents.”
The Emuwas wanted to design a product with plant-based everyday living in mind.
From the push-cap packaging especially helpful for spot-treatment and the occasional “ring-around-the-collar” for small stains, to the four-ingredient composition so heavy-handers won’t have to worry about whether they poured too much or not, Dinobi Detergent leaves a wide margin of error for those who may not have the first clue about doing laundry.
“When I do laundry, I forget that I am doing anything that is good for the environment…it’s got to be convenient for people and we’ve got to make sure that green living evolves in a way that is accessible in terms of price point, but also palatable as far as what they can actually do and handle,” Augie added. “It’s kind of the thing that helps you to be eco-friendly but you’re still taking care of yourself and your skin at the same time.”
Not just their love for family and community, but Sylvia and Augie’s desire to make sure green living is accessible to everyone and uncomplicated is what keeps them motivated.
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