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Evanston resident and businesswoman Georgia Parker knows something about both growing hair and growing a business. This September she will celebrate 13 years as the founder of Ashley Lauren Natural Products – and nearly 13 years of having a healthy head of hair again after a troubling bout with alopecia. Her store and salon at 1102 Davis St. in downtown Evanston are testimony to determination and a belief that she could help other people with hair loss problems.
The company began when Georgia Parker lost her own hair shortly before becoming pregnant with her daughter and store namesake, Lauren Ashley.
Ms. Parker, a graduate of Loyola University with a degree in chemistry, decided to transfer her chemistry knowledge and research findings about hair loss to the pursuit of a hair product that would regenerate hair cells and stimulate new hair growth. She began experimenting in her kitchen with undiluted natural ingredients and happily arrived at a formula that restored her own hair cells. Initially, word of mouth in her church and neighborhood generated enough interest in her Jojoba hair treatment oil and scalp treatment formula that she was motivated in 2001 to move out of her Evanston kitchen lab and into a storefront shop on Davis Street. Her first store location was just a few doors west of her current shop.
Today Ashley Lauren Natural Products has a full line of hair and skin care products, none of them using petroleum, artificial colorants or synthetic fragrances. Ms. Parker, who is a chemist/aesthetician, has formulated products for different hair textures and skin types.
“Our clientele is diverse,” said Ms. Parker, “and includes people with very different skin tones and hair textures. Part of the reason for the success of the business is that I custom the product to the client.” She noted that her clientele has become even more diverse in the last year.
In February, during Black History Month, an NBC television feature about her and the business spawned a huge growth in both inquiries and customers. “We’ve been swamped since then,” she said, “and that television piece with NBC’s LeeAnn Trotter has brought in people from all walks of life.”
Currently Laurence Parker, Ms. Parker’s husband, also works in the business that employs eight to 10 people in both the store and manufacturing lab. Mr. Parker gave up his-full time job to play a role in the growth of Ashley Lauren Natural Products.
The skin-care product line, sold in the same indigo blue bottles as the hair products, includes facial cleaner, skin toner, moisturizer, facial masks, mud and butter formulas and anti-aging cream. None has parabens, the increasingly controversial chemicals widely used as preservatives and stabilizers in cosmetics and shampoos. Both the Ashley Lauren hair and skin products are used in the salon treatments Mrs. Parker offers on Fridays and Saturdays.
Georgia Parker is proud of owning a small successful business that knows its customers. In contrast to customers who buy Estee Lauder – the owner of more than 25 brands sold worldwide (brands such as Aveda, Bobbi Brown, Smashbox and Donna Karan) – customers of Ashley Lauren Natural Products might meet the whole Parker family when they come to the Davis Street shop.