By Cassandra Day The Middletown Press, Conn.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Brenda Mierzejewski's cosmetics are sold at 450 national retailers across the country. But for the time being, she is converting her lip balm lab into one that will produce hand sanitizers for nursing homes, police, and fire departments.
Brenda S. Mierzejewski, founder and CEO of Mizzi Cosmetics, is part of a movement increasing in popularity as more people are confined to home than ever before to avoid spreading the coronavirus.
Six years ago, Mierzejewski began selling her vegan and handmade lip balms, scrubs, lip liners, masques and more from her kitchen to remedy her family's dry lips. At the time, she was in the pharmaceutical industry, and had seen a shift toward nonpetroleum and natural, clean bases for products.
"When I realized what was in most lip care products, I was horrified. Not only did learning about the negative effects of petroleum make me feel sick that I was putting it on my kids' lips, but I couldn't believe the amount of petroleum most of us ingest in our lifetime," she told the Press.
Fast-forward six years and Mierzejewski's products have been in national magazines, such as People, Allure and InStyle; on "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show," mentioned by the likes of model Kylie Jenner, and even found their way into swag bags at the 2015 Academy Awards. Her beauty items are sold at 450 national retailers, including Neiman Marcus.
In November, she added a second 1,500-square-foot production-only center behind her other production center, laboratory and small retail shop at 529 Glastonbury Turnpike, expanding it to 3,000 square feet.
About three weeks ago, the businesswoman learned of the nationwide shortage of hand sanitizers, an essential part of keeping hands and surfaces germs-free during the coronavirus pandemic.
After investigating the possibilities, she introduced two new products to her line: Healthy Hands sanitizer and salve. The salve is a complementary product which can prevent dryness and cracked skin due to overwashing one's hands.
"As a small business, this is going to help us stay afloat, but it's also going to help the community in need in Connecticut. I want to do anything I can to get on that," she explained.
The all-natural sanitizer is made from isopropyl alcohol, aloe leaf juice and lavender oil. "We put our own spin on it, because we believe in clean beauty. Everything we do is holistic, so we are adding lavender to it, because we want to stay true to who we are," Mierzejewski said.
That particular essential oil helps soothe inflammation, and allows the aloe to repair damage from frequent hand-washing and products containing alcohol.
"A lot of people are asking if they can use our products on their hands. The short answer is yes, but it does have a sweetener in it, so technically, you don't want to put that on your hands. A lot of people are looking for hand salves that don't have essential oils in them. They want something clean and vegan," which Mierzejewski has created.
"I have the capability as a cosmetic manufacturer, and have a facility to do this type of work. Nobody is buying anything except hand sanitizers, toilet paper, food -- all the necessities. It's hurting a lot of businesses, and people are still surprisingly buying lip balm and our lip products," she explained.
"Everyone has taken a big shift in what they're doing."
Medical spas and aestheticians have been contacting her for help. "They are purchasing from us, because they want customers to protect the investment they just made in lip injections or facials," Mierzejewski said.
She very soon realized, with a son with congenital heart disease, elderly parents, a husband with asthma, and daughter, making hand sanitizers for friends and family was very important -- and within her capabilities.
Initially, Mierzejewski wondered whether it was possible to convert her lip balm facility into one that could handle producing hand cleaner. "There's not much we have to do to switch it around, except clear our area of our lip brand, and make it an area where it's going to be mixing, filling, pouring and labeling of the product."
So, the entrepreneur worked with her vendors, who allowed her to purchase hundreds of gallons of 99 percent alcohol and 100 percent pure aloe vera. By the middle of next week, she'll be turning out products to supply nursing homes, police departments and fire protection services throughout Connecticut.
Also, Portland first responders, emergency medical technicians and firefighters will soon receive a free supply.
It took a lot of effort and networking to move her idea from concept to reality.
"You've got to dig for the right people, and you can't just go online and say, 'there's no alcohol available.' You've got to pick up the phone and call, and get to the right person. You've got to know the right things to say," Mierzejewski explained.
"If you're going to price gouge, no one is going to sell it to you. If you have a good reputation, which I've try my best to uphold for the last six years, people are going to work with you," she said.
Her first delivery will be 10,000 mixed-variety units.
"It's not all going to be done in a day. We are small, but we plan on filling all of those and keep going from there," said Mierzejewski, who may need to add a night shift so employees can fill orders around the clock. "I may even have to hire people. That's a good thing. I'm trying to make lemonade out of lemons right now, and do anything we can do to help.
"I'm the lip lady. But, desperate times ... and people need it. I almost feel choked up. I'm actually helping people and they're helping me. It's a great thing. It's a rollercoaster, that's for sure," she said.
The entrepreneur quickly realized those who have had neurotoxin injections, plastic surgery and other cosmetic modifications recently could be in a bind, worried they may not be able to maintain work they've gotten done.
"The population that uses Botox fillers, lip fillers, facials, all the stuff that is done to their face, they're spending thousands of dollars a month to keep it up. Imagine these people not going for however long [without follow-up appointments]," Mierzejewski said.
"There has to be a way to at least try to protect their investment. That's what a lot of these aestheticians are doing right now: purchasing products from us. We are housing it for them, and we are shipping all the orders out via Mizzi Cosmetics," she added.
She's tapped into a market of consumers being faced with mostly staying home, who may be unable to keep up their normal beauty routine. "People want to take care of themselves right now," Mierzejewski said.
Mierzejewski hopes everything will be set up online some time this weekend and customers will be able to prepay to secure their orders. For information, visit mizzicosmetics.com, Mizzi Cosmetics on Facebook, ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.