Collier and Lee Counties Edition

The Entrepreneurial Journey of Melanie and Ken Nickels

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from a safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." Although this quote from Mark Twain can inspire an entrepreneur to take action, it doesn’t remotely hint at the long and arduous journey from birthing an idea to reaping financial rewards.

Melanie Nickels’ concept for 100 percent eco-friendly Raw Hair Organics products was the result of her husband’s cancer diagnosis in 2004. “That’s when I first became aware of the dangers of exposing myself and my clients to toxic chemicals. At home, my husband and I acknowledged that we immediately needed to change our lifestyle. I knew that I also needed to change my salon environment so that I could be toxin-free at work,” says the owner of Raw Hair Organic Salon, in Naples.

Frustrated at the lack of organic products available locally, Nickels recognized that she would have to make her own. That realization was the beginning of a very complicated process. “It would have been far less difficult if I had wanted to make regular shampoo and conditioner. However, to make healthy hair care products, I needed to find the right ingredients, locate a formulator to develop the recipe, test it on people, correctly estimate how much product to produce and find a manufacturing plant that would produce my products in smaller quantities, as well as develop a marketing plan and find retail outlets that would sell our first line of Raw Hair Organics products for all types of hair,” explains Nickels.

“My husband Ken and I self-funded every step of the very expensive Raw Hair Organics process, as well as the process for Rodz Hair and Grooming products for men. Now with Raw Paws, our newest line of hand-formulated natural and organic pet products, we have a small investor. Many times we have been hanging by our nails and worried about making it through. Fortunately, we have a lot of faith and keep pushing forward, knowing that somehow we’ll make it,” says Nickels.

For several years, people haven’t seen much of Melanie or Ken. “I work 10 to 12 hours at the salon five days a week and Ken works 24/7 on social media to promote and sell our products. Although he and I are workaholics, we both know when we need to take time out to recharge. With his cancer scare and four years of treatment, we’re sensitive to knowing when we need to step back, recharge and regroup,” advises Nickels.

When the Nickels begin to wonder if all their hard work to make four product lines—Raw Hair Organics, Raw Curls, Rodz Grooming for Men and Raw Paws—is worth it, they pause to remember and appreciate the messages and phone calls they get from satisfied customers. “Thankfully, we hear from people who tell us how our products have improved their lives, as well as their pet’s health. It’s music to our ears and just what we need to inspire us to keep making a difference,” enthuses Nickels.

Raw Hair Organics is located at 2940 Immokalee Rd., Unit 4, in Naples. For more information call 239-597-0939 or visit RawHairOrganics.com.

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