Interview by Lauren Ash. Photography by Jordan Bentley.
What started as a graphic design thesis project blossomed into a beautiful 100% all natural, all vegan, skincare and candle brand handmade by Jasmine Onya'e Kelley herself. Onya'e Naturals products don't just look good, with minimalist, modern packaging and earth tones, but they are good for you. From Jasmine's personal Instagram account (@Jassyonyae), I picked up on the frequency of the beautiful spirit behind the brand and was curious to learn more about her journey as a creator, business owner, and wellness-oriented woman of color. I'm also excited to partner with Jassy on an upcoming Onya'e Naturals product giveaway at our June 12th Happy Hour. Enjoy our conversation!
LA: I’d love to hear you speak more about the origins as well as the growth of Onya’e Naturals. I know it started as a school project that has now blossomed into a business and strong wellness brand.
JK: For my thesis project, I created a booklet of photographs and how-to grid’s. Then, I created products completely made from ingredients found in my kitchen. At my thesis show, people told me I should turn it into something. I continued to do research, educated myself, and came back to that encouragement. I told myself "I can turn this into something because I’m sick of wearing these expensive and harmful products." I started making my own products and turned it into Onya’e Naturals! I remember being really nervous. I chose the name Onya’e Naturals because I wanted the name and the brand to be personal. Onya’e is my middle name.
LA: I really like how with each of your products, you offer a little bit of information about its healing properties. How much of this knowledge was derived from your formal study versus your own curiosity?
JK: I studied graphic design, so I learned about various ingredients and their healing properties on my own. I’m very big on researching ingredients for myself. When I first got into this, I knew I didn’t want to be the person who jams information down your throat every time that you speak to them. I want to truly educate people as to why this, in general, is good for you. I research a ton, but it’s so easy. Looking up shea butter? Oh, I get lost in the Internet! I ask all kinds of questions: What essential oils work best for you? Does the oil smell good? What else?
I have a friend who loves lavender, but she’s allergic to it. It’s not for everyone. Not every essential oil is for everyone. So I always advise people to do their personal research, as well.
LA: Yes! Sometimes you buy a product and it smells good, but you’re not always mindful of the deeper benefits or harms behind it. So, I really appreciate that you educate your supporters and clients! You recently told me that you practice yoga! There are some clear ways that your brand relates to spirituality. Through incorporating essential oils, for example, and how some of them literally uplift your spirit or ground you in certain ways. What ways do you personally cultivate your spirit?
JK: So, I was raised Seventh-Day Adventist. My Mom converted before I was born. As I got older, I realized I needed to do more research into spirituality for myself, not just because I was born into it. So, I started to learn about the stars, energy, and more and I found it so interesting how good energy and your own spirituality and personal moments with God can arise from yoga, for example. When I practice yoga I’m at peace. My mind is calm. I meditate and feel no burdens. Nothing negative.
I also surround myself with positive people. I don’t want to sound cliche, but it helps with my spirituality. Who you surround yourself, and who you hang out with, with really matters. I had to really take away negative people in my life. Not because I was better than them, but it was bringing me down. I was becoming angry. I would ask God what was going on and would feel mad toward God. So, I took up yoga because of this and my Mom was against it at first because it wasn’t Christian…
LA: I went through that same thing! And now my Mom comes to yoga [laughs]...
JK: [Chuckles] Yes, and that's cherry-picking! Picking certain things over other things, it wasn’t right to me. So, I learned about things myself. I find that when I practice yoga, I’m stretching my body, I’m feeling good about myself, I’m happy with the people next to me. I have my moments with God, when I’m literally at peace, when I’m quiet. And not just with yoga, but when I wake up, I have my morning rituals: I have my tea or coffee; I read. I do everything I can to find stillness before I start my day by opening my laptop. [Laughs]
Reading self-help books helps me a lot, as well. Sometimes reading my Bible, even though it’s so boring [laughs] helps, as well. When you’re a better person you help others more. All of these things come back to spirituality. When I exercise, treat others better, eat right, cultivate my garden,...
LA: You garden?
JK: Yes, seeing nature do its thing is beautiful!
LA: Absolutely. So, do you have anything on the horizon that you’re excited about? It seems that you don’t limit yourself. You have deodorant, mist, body butters...what else are you interested in exploring?
JK: When I first started, I just had body butter and lip balm. And then it grew really fast. I’m adding candles now. I learn so much. I’ve met different businesses with the candles alone. I’ve been contacted by a lot of different companies, which I didn’t expect. I’m also making a magazine focused on creatives. Whatever doesn’t work, I’ll put it on hold. It’s always a learning process. I’ve made some things that didn’t do well and I simply took it away. It’s fun.
Also, I’m an open book. When people have an idea or a question, I want people to contact me! People are helping me grow.
LA: Is there anything else that you want to share?
One thing that I struggle with is patience. Being an entrepreneur, it’s important to be patient. Nothing happens overnight. My business helps me take my time and let things flow. It goes without saying, but I think we forget sometimes. Let things be. Be patient with your spiritual life, as well. As you’re learning things about yourself, be patient.