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Charise Cowan-Leroy started 4Elements Bath on a dare.
It originally started with Cowan-Leroy’s struggle to find skin products that were suitable for her and her son. She searched for years to find products that would not worsen their skin allergies, picking out ointments, balms, and lotions from around the world. The last straw was a box of products made in the Amazon with supposedly organic ingredients—two days later, she tossed the entire box in frustration. Her skin was worse than before.
Her husband reminded her of her years in a research lab and suggested she try and make skin products herself.
“He said, ‘I double dog dare you to make your own products and see what happens,’” retells Cowan-Leroy. “And I’m from Chicago. So, if someone lays a double dog dare on you—as long as it’s not dangerous—you totally have to do it.”
Cowan-Leroy borrowed every book from the library on soap, soap-making, and chemistry to learn how to make products that would nurture the skin. After some trial and error, she sent out an email to friends and family, and 25 signed up to try her new creations.
“Everybody hated the products,” she says, laughing. “Which was a good thing now because their input was amazing.”
She reformulated the products and sent out a second batch. This time, the feedback was incredible.
"I started getting envelopes from my family,” Cowan-Leroy says. “I had these envelopes with hundred dollar bills that say, ‘can I have two number fives and three number fours and let me know if I owe you more.’”
Excited by the response, she and her husband incorporated, created logos, and found packaging for their new personal care business. For Cowan-Leroy, it was a dream come true.
“I had always dreamed of doing something like this, but I didn’t think I’d ever have the time; I didn’t know if there was going to be a need because there’s a lot of stuff like this already out there,” she says. “I didn’t know how I could be different.”
Eight years later, 4Elements continues to stand out among the rest with their artisan-crafted and environmentally responsible luxury skin care products. They have expanded with a successful men’s line of beard oils, balms, and shaving soap, among others. Cowan-Leroy keeps a close relationship with her customers and listens to their input on all her products.
“It’s nice to be able to meet people and talk to them—they’ll tell you what they love,” she says. “At the end of the year, we look at all the suggestions that we’ve gotten from customers to see what we want to make or what changes we need to make to existing products.”
“It’s all about the customer, for sure,” she adds.
4Elements newest creation is their line of shampoo bars. For now, the shampoo bars are Cowan-Leroy’s favorite because they create satisfying suds without harsh chemicals and have no plastic packaging.
4Elements is a certified Green Business Network member at Green America, meaning they have met rigorous standards for social and environmental responsibility. Shop 4Elements Bath on the Green Pages Online and find more personal care products on their website. If you are in the Chicago area, you can meet the Cowan-Leroy team in-person at a farmer’s market or browse their displays in one of several stores—see their website for updated location information.