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Meet Nneji and Chinonye Akunne of ILERA Apothecary in Woodland Hills

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nneji and Chinonye Akunne.

Nneji and Chinonye, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Chinonye: ILERA Apothecary has been in the works for pretty much our entire lives, it just didn’t have a name or LLC behind it. As children, we were always experimenting with various products for our skin and hair, and often times sharing it with friends and family to use. My sister, Nneji, had always had a knack for storytelling and a strong desire to tell each person she met about our unique upbringings as first-generation Nigerian-Americans.

When our youngest brother went vegan in 2014, he made the decision to not only change the food he consumed but, also the products who used on his skin. At the time, there was a lack of effective aluminum-free deodorants on the market so, he made his own. After I realized how great the product was, I refined it and started using it myself. One year for my birthday party, I created travel-sized deodorants as party favors and they were a hit! From there, I decided that I wanted to make the deodorants into a business and ILERA Apothecary was born.

Has it been a smooth road?
To be quite honest, our road to business has been pretty stress-free. Going into business as sisters, we knew that we’d disagree a lot because of our differences in opinions but, that has also helped us along the way. Nneji and I have always lived in different cities/countries so, communication has been the key to our business growth.

From determining the name of our company to set up the brand direction, we always felt that our resilience has enabled us to see the success we’ve seen over the years.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
ILERA Apothecary was founded by myself & my sister, with the mission of bringing transparency to the beauty industry by creating vegan and organic skincare products. Handmade in Detroit, Michigan with ingredients sustainably sourced in West Africa, ILERA Apothecary creates skin-enhancing products that make you feel confident knowing you are using the best ingredients on your skin and for the environment.

We traveled to our parent’s hometown of Awo-Idemili, in southeastern Nigeria to source the initial ingredients for our first batch of products.

The majority of the ILERA Apothecary product line includes “Okwuma”, the Igbo term for Shea Butter. Shea butter is a natural plant-based oil that has been used in their family for generations, keeping their skin soft, vibrant and youthful. Each product and scent is formulated in-house using simple ingredients by the ILERA Apothecary team.

Our storytelling is what sets us apart from other brands. Because we have a direct link to our Igbo heritage, we release campaigns showcasing where we’re from and where our ingredients are sourced.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Nneji: Los Angeles is an excellent place for ILERA Apothecary. Because LA is known as one of the top vegan cities in America, with a large number of people committed to living healthy lifestyles, our brand fits right in.

If someone was just starting out, I’d recommend going to as many meetups centered around your business as possible. It not only shows you what’s out there but, also provides a deeper insight into the community that you’re about to join. One of my favorite things about LA is that there’s always something going on. There was a really cool event called “MoreJuice” that I attended a few times while I was there and it really stood out to me because it forced me to think deeper about the power I would give to my excuses.

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