Urban Indulgence was birthed out of necessity and grown through love after Elaine and Andre Muhammad noticed that their daughter, Nikela, was suffering with eczema, acne and other skin issues.
They believe it was a long-term side effect of two and half years of chemotherapy that Nikela endured when she was four years old. Nikela is now cancer-free in her mid-20s and works with her mother at Urban Indulgence.
Elaine’s first creation was simple, a body cream loaded with whipped shea butter to help treat her daughter’s dry skin.
Nearly a decade later, not only does Andre and Nikela use Elaine’s product, but so do hundreds of other men and women around the city.
“It’s funny. I never thought I would be doing anything like this. It became a passion and now that passion has become a business,” Elaine said.
Urban Indulgence grew from the Muhammads’ kitchen to a warehouse downtown. Andre, a police officer, would help sell the soaps and oils to friends and family.
In May 2017, they opened a storefront at 3314 Poplar Ave.
Elaine was inspired to name her business Urban Indulgence because of her love of downtown and Midtown living.
“We have probably been in the downtown/Midtown area for about 15 years. I just love urban living and to me, urban is somewhat modern, so I wanted the name to be something modern yet urban and earthy,” Elaine said.
“Indulgence because I wanted something that spoke to the product. It is not something that you have to have, but you would consider it an indulgence to take a bath bomb, drop it in the water, soak in the tub for hours and take in the aroma.”
When customers enter the fragrant store, they are greeted with a faux, freestanding tub filled with bubbles and rubber ducks. In a large room to the left, the source of the many sweet and musky smells come in the form of hand-cut soaps, deodorant, oils, bath bombs, body butters, sugar scrubs and more.
There are more than 25 original scents offered at Urban Indulgence, many by customer request.
Original is a coconut cream mixture, Lemon Delight smells like a lemon pound cake and Mango Papaya speaks for itself. As Elaine developed more scents, men wanted in too. Smells like Five O’clock Shadow, Blue Steele, and Suit and Tie were created.
Each product is hand-produced by the Muhammads and each is safe to use on eczema-prone skin and the face. Nothing is priced more than $11, with soaps selling for $5 each and body soufflés priced at $10.50 each.
“One of the things that I strive for and of my brand is to be affordable because we use good ingredients in our products. Because I buy many ingredients in bulk, I am able to sell it to my customers at a good price,” Elaine said.
“You are not going to get the full benefit of a product like this if you use it once a month. When soaps are expensive and pretty, we tend to savor it, hold on to them or use them for decoration because it smells good and it is so expensive.”
By making her products affordable, Elaine said customers get quality soaps they can benefit from by actually using them.
Elaine, her family and ladies from their mosque also package Urban Indulgence soaps for the homeless and for schools. She wants to collaborate with women-led organizations and develop more products, including a beard balm for men and more shampoo bars.
Aside from challenges with time management and marketing, Elaine said she loves being an entrepreneur.
“I call it freedom and I cannot imagine doing anything other than working for myself. It is a lot of hard work,” she said.
“You have to work sometimes when you do not want to. I get to watch social media and look at all of these events that I miss going to. But would I trade it in? No. I would not trade it for anything.”
(Urban Indulgence is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)