INDIANAPOLIS — LaKeisha Meriel was sick of getting fired from jobs because she couldn't get childcare in 2016.
"So, at one point, I'm just like, 'I'm not getting a job anymore,'" Meriel told WRTV.
Instead of putting her energy into finding a job that was compatible for her as a mother, Meriel decided to find a way to make her own schedule.
At that time, Meriel found the thing that made her happiest was the body scrub she created from scratch for herself. From designing it to using it, Meriel said, "when my world is crazy, it's my heaven on earth."
One day, she gave her natural and chemical-free body scrub to a friend who wanted to try it out.
"And I gave it to her in a plastic baggy!" Meriel remembered, laughing.
It turns out, her friend loved the scrub, and with a single Facebook post and traditional word of mouth, her business was founded.
"Once you see how the customer reacts, how your skin feels, it's like Heaven on Earth because it makes your skin feel really smooth," Meriel explained.
Soon thereafter, Meriel's natural skin care business was founded. So, naturally, she titled her business "Heaven on Earth Organics."
Six years later, Meriel has grown from making all Heaven on Earth products in her kitchen to having two store locations. One in Griffith, in northwest Indiana, and another in Indianapolis, inside the SheXperience at the Circle Centre Mall.
"I actually did the footwork. You know, that's why my customers that are here with me now — that's why they support me because they've seen where I started; they've seen the process; they've seen all of that. So I adore my customers," Meriel said.
Pushing through hard times
Although Meriel made the most money she's ever made in her life during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the last three years have been some of the toughest of her life.
In 2018, two years after starting her business outside of her Indianapolis home, Meriel's family came on hard times.
"We lost everything. Our houses, our cars, and I had to move back home," Meriel, a Gary native, explained of what she was going through while juggling her business in 2018 and 2019.
"And so I moved in with my mom," Meriel said. But she didn't close her business. "I had boxes of product like stacked up to her ceiling in the kitchen."
A year later, in 2019, a woman gave Meriel a solid deal on a building in downtown Griffith that allotted her the chance to keep business going while she picked up the pieces of her personal life.
"I started just kind of, you know, grinding," Meriel said of that time. "I'm just like, it's my mines! I'm gonna invest in my business. I got it. And from there, I just never looked back."
Meriel went from not having a website and barely being active on social media to doing a complete 180. Her and a friend traveled to different cities for vendor events and spa parties, became more virtually social and, as Meriel explains it, "we made money (by being) broke."
Heaven on Earth Organics began to take off in 2020. But at the turn of the year, tragedy struck the owner's family again.
"The family has a lot of healing to do," Meriel said. She explained further that her family is "just trying to heal and to shine and love on each other."
Heaven on Earth Organics pulled her through the last three years of loss and tragedy, Meriel said. It also allotted her a creative outlet and the time to be with family as needed.
"Having the time ... and the freedom to do whatever I need to, whatever I want, and to provide for my children is a win for me."
A Jar of Gold
Heaven on Earth Organics' homemade skin care line includes body scrubs, face scrubs, soaps, body mists, body butter, and oils. In addition, patrons can get an assortment of specially-made products, such as scrubs for those with eczema or even a CBD-infused body oil.
And now, Meriel, with the help of a small team, is making merchandise for three wholesale businesses based in Alabama and both Indiana store locations.
But, because of the three-hour commute between stores and wanting to maintain a hands-on approach to her business, Meriel says she will soon be closing her Griffith location next year to move back to Indianapolis officially.
"My Indianapolis customers (are) my largest customer base because that's where I started," Meriel said. "Indianapolis has been supporting me in so much of my business."
For a business that had been almost exclusively surviving from word of mouth for the first five years of its existence, Meriel says her all-natural approach to production is what keeps her customers coming back.
Meriel explained that she has two separate categories of customers. "I have the fun customer base, and then I have my very earthy customer base," Meriel said.
Meriel says she loves catering to her customers that are all about being natural. But she enjoys getting to customize scrubs and scents for people the most.
"Me allowing you to come in and customize and create and say what you want in skincare is such a big thing. And it separates me from somebody else that does skin care," Meriel says.
To her point, Heaven on Earth Organics' top-seller is something she has dubbed a "Jar of Gold."
"So when I'm in the kitchen, if I have something leftover, guess where it goes? In that Jar of Gold. And so every Jar of Gold is different; it's never ever the same."
WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.