Spurred by worries about looking older, Trinidad native hits it big with skin care line
Andres Roban noticed wrinkles starting to form on his face. He bought 12 anti-aging products and tried them all, with no results. He dumped them all into a beaker and forgot about it. “A month later, I dipped into the muck, put it on my forehead and almost jumped out of my skin with joy about the results.”
“Once you’re an entrepreneur, you’re always an entrepreneur … the drive never disappears. It’s always there.”
BY ALYSON DUTCH
Days before 2020 arrived, a front-page Wall Street Journal story examined the power of the “negativity effect” as a fundamental aspect of our psychology. The article said that our brains’ “bad-news bias” is a built-in survival mechanism that evolved from our days as hunter-gatherers.
Though the story made resolution recommendations for a “low-bad diet,” this news was very validating for inventors—who, despite every adversity, are often motivated by fear nipping at their heels.
Most inventors bring things to life to solve a personal problem— whether it’s a fireman who needs a life-saving door wedge that doesn’t melt or an aging actress who created a bra that smooths back fat. In the case of Andres Roban, his fear of aging sprouted a revolutionary skincare line called Ounce of Nature. His all-natural, essential oils serum ignited a wellspring of fandom in Brooklyn in late 2019.
Paying his dues
The beauty line wasn’t his first stab at inventordom. Earlier, he brought to market a pillow that made breathing easier, a locker key/credit card-holding gym towel and a dating social site for Boomers. His wildly creative idea to attract people to his trade show booth by spritzing irresistible fragrances grew into a fifth invention—an air freshener line.
“I’ve never seen limits to what I can achieve, because I grew up in a place where everyone from political leaders to bankers looked like me,” the native Trinidadian entrepreneur explains. “So, when I got to New York and started bringing my ideas to life, it never occurred to me that I could be anything but successful.”
Roban’s immigration from the Caribbean to the largest, most competitive city in the United States was no cakewalk. Discouragement and even eviction from his home didn’t keep him down.
In Los Angeles, it’s no surprise that restaurant waitstaff are really budding actors in disguise holding down the fort with a steady job. Likewise, while bringing his dreams to reality in the Big Apple, Roban kept his bills paid for more than 20 years by working in the culinary industry.
This was more than a blessing for him: He met some of his most influential investors while on a restaurant floor. He learned the meaning of supreme tenacity and physical hard work, skills he uses every day now as a full-time entrepreneur.
“I can always right my wrongs,” the cheery Roban explains, “get up, dust myself off and keep grinding.”
True grit, and fortune
His greatest sensation is really the chart-topping skincare line, which he’s now rolled all his attention toward as it moves into the national landscape.
As every inventor knows, serendipity is one’s friend. Moreso than someone with a high-level education would understand, success rolls out precisely in the way it does.
Not many would have the audacity to consciously plan a move from a Caribbean island to one of the most sharky environments in the largest country in the world. It was a combination of a little luck and a lot of grit that spurred the young Roban to unpack his dreams in Brooklyn.
Now almost 40 (and looking younger, thanks to his skincare line), he runs his business with an open fist, accepting mind and kind heart. He admits that even today, scary things happen—from investors who have sudden changes of heart to his own heart palpitations about meeting payroll and rent obligations.
But it’s times like late at night when he sits in his artisan batch clean room—ensuring that his serums, hydrators, masques and cleansers are packaged perfectly—that calmness overcomes him.
“Fear is momentary,” he explains. “When it subsides and you realize that you’re OK, your employees have shown up, the shipping has gone out and the bills are paid, the elation is worth it all.”
The inventor community knows the agony and the ecstasy of creation. Each member has muddled through personal journeys; the ones with the most tenacity, the ability to overcome obstacles, are often the ones who win.
Roban spent all those years toiling in a restaurant to make it happen, but it’s that quality that makes learning possible. His own great story about his fears, which hatched his skincare line, should serve as an inspiration to future inventors.
“I noticed wrinkles starting to form on my face,” he says with a laugh. “I went to the store and purchased 12 anti-aging products and tried them all. I followed the instructions. Nothing happened.
“Exasperated, I dumped them all into a beaker and forgot about it. A month later, I dipped into the muck, put it on my forehead and almost jumped out of my skin with joy about the results. It worked!
“I then went about the process of deconstructing all the natural ingredients in those products, which together numbered about 110. I sourced the best of each and put them together into my own formula.
“Quite by accident, I then came across a new blending technology that activated the mélange of essential oils to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in only 30 minutes”—something that natural products usually don’t do.
In addition to the anti-aging serum, the skincare line includes these products available at ounceofnature.com: the Antioxidant Hydrating Cleansing Mousse; Green Tea Facial Toner; Wildflower Honey, Aloe and Oatmeal Anti-aging Face Mask; Hyaluronic Acid Facial Hydrator with Retinol, and Activated Charcoal Bar Soap.
Customers flow in
Another fluke, and a seeming state of commonality among inventors: What began as a need for Roban to find a formulating, packaging and fulfillment center turned into an anti-aging spa.
“I never expected to be in the service business,” he says with a shrug.
But when he went to sign lease papers, he discovered that the square footage and lease price included a street-level retail space that begged to be used. Today, he cannot stop the flow of Brooklyn beauty seekers at his door for treatments—and now his line of products.
Even more ironically, the spa attracted three famous hip-hop performers who sing the praises of his product. This started with a loitering patron in his foyer who turned out to be well connected in the entertainment business.
Roban says that “Once you’re an entrepreneur, you’re always an entrepreneur … the drive never disappears. It’s always there.
“When you go through real hardships, rock-bottom difficulties, any other troubles become insignificant. You realize you are unstoppable, and that any seeming calamity will be short-lived.”