KAHINA™ turns 10, episode three

 In Blog, Katharine's Journal, Morocco

With a little help from my friends…

One month after my return from touring the argan forests and placing my first order for argan oil, I received a notice from the Post Office that a strange package with an incomplete address had arrived which they somehow determined might be for us. My husband went to retrieve it and discovered a heavy wooden crate on which my name was scrawled in magic marker, with Moroccan postage stamps, no street address listed, and requiring a hammer to pry open. With no packing slip, and with the Arabic writing on the outside, we were truly impressed that the mysterious liquid in the wooden crate ever made it through customs and was delivered to us.

I easily secured the domaine name ArganOrganics.com (no one was interested in argan oil at that point) and designed and built a simple website via Yahoo Small Business.  A good friend who worked as a designer at Apple designed a logo and label for my amber glass apothecary bottles. (Shout out to Andy Dreyfus!)

These were our original Argan Oil labels and logo, circa 2008.

This is the volumetric flask we used to fill our bottles of ArganOrganics bottles in our apartment.  It still lives in our living room as a design piece now that our production and fill methods are quite a bit more sophisticated.


I was taking orders from family and friends when an article appeared in the New York Times describing argan oil as “liquid gold”.  Recognizing the potential this publicity had unleashed, I hastened my decision to create a line of skincare products based on argan oil.  My idea was simple, I thought at the time. Create a simple and beautiful line of organic skincare with argan oil at its core that would give back to the Berber women of Morocco. Of course the products would be all-natural and use only the highest quality ingredients. My company would be environmentally responsible, using organic ingredients whenever possible, and recycled or recyclable materials in its packaging. I knew nothing of cosmetics chemistry, organic certification, cosmetics regulations, or labeling requirements, but I had a belief that I could figure everything out as I went along with the help of some knowledgeable advisors – and Google. I did know that what I wanted to create did not exist in the marketplace – and if I wanted it, other people would want it, too.

With what I thought was a reliable source for my argan oil, but no knowledge of how to formulate a skincare product, I began the process of searching for a cosmetics chemist to make my vision a reality. Little did I know how challenging it would be to find an independent chemist who actually knew how to formulate! I joined ICMAD (International Cosmetics Manufacturers Association) as this seemed a good place to start. They offered a registry of their member chemists, which I methodically combed through and cold-called. My criteria seemed simple enough, a cosmetics chemist who understood organic formulations and ingredients and who would create simple formulas using my argan oil, preferably a woman. Surprisingly, most of the “chemists” I reached were consultants instead of chemists, male, wanted to sell me private label formulas, and/or worked for major cosmetics corporations such as Estée Lauder. Eventually, I discovered a woman in Canada, Marilyn Patterson, who worked independently and who would help me to develop my first products to take to market.  Marilyn taught me about organic formulating, regulations and manufacturing, and held my hand through the process of developing my brand.  For this, I thank her.

Stay tuned for more…