– Written by Lisa Kinoshita
“Di mwen sa ou renmen, epi mwen ap di ou ki moun ou ye” is a Haitian proverb that means, “Tell me what you love, and I will tell you who you are.” This gem of wisdom is infused into every item of Scents By Skybox, a line of organic bath products handcrafted locally by Spaceworks alumni, Marika and Darion Thomas. And, it’s waiting to be unlocked by you.
For Darion and Marika, their first business venture together has been one of entrepreneurial chutzpah spurred by necessity. “We started our business out of love for our children,” says Marika. As struggling young parents of three, the couple were seriously challenged when their kids developed skin sensitivities that left their skin raw and irritated by off-the-shelf soaps. Prescription lotions were prohibitively expensive, and in desperation they turned to researching natural remedies, taking dermatology and herbalism courses, and combining with holistic treatments well-known to Marika’s relatives of Haitian descent.
“We had this gross concoction at the end of it,” she admits, laughing. Undeterred, the process of refinement – of creating clean fragrances; regulating lotion and bar consistency; locking down melting points, baking times, and more – evolved into the aromatic array of products they sell today. “It’s the perfect combination of art and science,” she explains. The kids’ skin cleared up. Soon, friends and family began to request the products, too.
This company sells their spa essentials online through a website (scentsbyskybox.com) and on social media (@scentsbyskybox), with plans for live popups in the future. A top-selling line of soaps includes the Lavender-and-Vanilla Bar, handcarved in the form of quartz crystals; and Midnight for Men, a generous hunk the color of red-and-black obsidian with a complex aroma of sandalwood, cedar and whiskey. In addition to soaps, Skybox offers unique bath salts and sugar scrubs, whipped body butters, bath bombs, lip-softening chapsticks, and soy wax “candle tarts”. This all-natural collection is the perfect go-to at a time when people are spending more time at home, and giving extra attention to self-care. Skybox also creates giftbox samplers for the lather lover, and will ship orders or arrange for local pickup or delivery.
Pure, organic ingredients are at the core of the Skybox line. Ninety percent of their floral botanicals are homegrown. Seasonal fruit such as cherries, nectarines and green tomatoes come from eastern Washington. Special ingredients such as mica colorants lend clean skin a luminous glow. The family’s herd of nine Nigerian dwarf goats produces the milk for their skin-pampering products. Yet, for an all-natural collection, Skybox prices remain surprisingly affordable. Accessibility is key to their business ethic, says Marika. When the opportunity arose to sell to a local organic market chain, the couple turned it down because the retail price point would have been higher than they deemed necessary.
The Thomases had been making soaps for years when they enrolled in the Spaceworks program in 2020. The comprehensive business course touches on all aspects of financing, marketing and product development, while helping participants set goals. “Going to Spaceworks is where it all came together,” says Marika. “I think when we started out, we didn’t know what a price breakdown was,” she laughs. “We were making too much, we weren’t charging enough, we weren’t accountable….We basically stretched ourselves so thin we were no longer who we wanted to be. We knew we wanted to serve the community but we didn’t know how. If we aren’t sustainable, are we really serving the community?
“That’s where Spaceworks helped the most. When you put pen to paper you get accountable…They wanted a financial statement,” she smiles, wide-eyed. “I was a governmental accountant – you’d think I’d have this down – but it’s very different applying it to your passion.” Indeed, the dream vs. the reality of owning a business is a checkpoint every small business owner soon arrives at. To their plan, Darion and Marika added one non-negotiable – they wanted to give 10% of profits back to their community. While they maintain day jobs – she as an accountant, he as the dock coordinator for a large company – they donate 10% to local women’s shelters, and their business model successfully supports that giving. A visitor asks where this courage to share during the pandemic comes from: “My family was like that. My husband’s family was like that. Living in an extended family with lots of family members, you learn very early, ‘it takes a village’, and you’re only as good as the least one. We’ve always been very cognizant about the way things are around us,” says Marika. Now, through a fabulous product, a solid business plan and vital connections to the community, Skybox is shooting for the stars.