FLINT, Michigan—On any given day you’ll find La’Asia Johnson, founder of Elle Jae Essentials, alongside her employees at Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills presenting her hand-made body care creations. But it’s not just about the products. It’s a hands-on education. Any customer can walk up and mix up their own special concoction of body scrub, oil, or perfume.
For Johnson, it all started with a mysterious swollen knee and a diagnosis that would change her life.
When she was 14, Johnson noticed a large bump on her knee. That bump was later paired with a boil the size of a golf ball on her ankle, and from there it spread like wildfire. It went from a quarter size to covering half of her leg, and it wouldn’t heal. Even with numerous doctors visits the cause of her skin eruptions were inconclusive until she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2008.
The process was extremely painful and worrying, said Johnson. She remembers going back and forth with her mom from Rollingwood Apartment home to various local doctors until she was referred to the University of Michigan Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor.
“I remember being in the office and literally hearing my doctor tell my mom, ‘If we don’t figure out what’s going on, she’s going to die,’ ” said Johnson.
In just two days she received her diagnosis but it would be years util she found a solutions for her skin.
Despite having a diagnosis, none of the prescribed medications did anything to alleviate her skin complications. She found herself covered with more hives and rashes than before. After years of no improvement, Johnson said she decided to take matters into her own hands.
“I was literally that person in the ethnic hair care aisle at Walmart, reading every single ingredient on a container, realizing that many of the products we use aren’t safe, aren’t good, and contain toxic chemicals and other things we shouldn’t really be taking.” From there, she started mixing.
After much trial, error, and research, she created her first product in 2017, the body butter. Her creation was her skin’s saving grace, and with her mother and boyfriend’s added enthusiasm it became a necessary find for others early on.
“It really spread through word-of-mouth,” explains Johnson. “My mom and my boyfriend were telling people to try my stuff and all of a sudden I had orders coming in before my product had a set price or even a name.”
Johnson started posting about her product on Facebook and Instagram. Then she became a full hustler, said Johnson, and pushed herself to create an Etsy store while working full time as a mental health specialist with Genesee County Health Systems.
Having left her previous position this past May, Johnson has immersed herself in all-natural skin care full time, educating customers about natural ingredients and the magic that can happen when you mix them all together.
“What you put on your skin ultimately seeps into your body, so be mindful of what products you’re using and what’s Elle Jae Essentials' beard kit features a beard wash, beard growth oil, beard butter, and body body butter all for $26.99.in them.” Johnson said. “I want as many people as possible to have access to stuff that’s safe, clean, and healthy for them.”
Always looking for new ways to impact her community, Johnson is trying to rework her business model so she can go into schools and teach children what she learned through her own skin condition. It's a core part of her mission and it’s one she plans to stick to no matter what.
“I’m bringing Flint with me,” said Johnson. Johnson employs at least four people from Flint.
“I hire people locally. I have people who are young and up-and-coming and I hire people who are older and want to get back into the workforce,” said Johnson. “So you’re seeing money go back in and you’re seeing a community affected in a positive way and it just benefits everyone.”
In the end Johnson wants to see her largest investment go toward a Flint Elle Jae Essentials storefront.
“My vision has always been to bring it back to Flint, that’s always been my end goal, as we transition out of the mall experience I want to be here. Flint will always have my heart.”
For more information or to purchase Elle Jae Essentials body care online visit their website or Etsy shop. Or visit in person at Shift boutique downtown and Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills during their regular store hours.