Two years ago, Susanne Norwitz sat in her Daniel Island home eating some chia seeds and started reading the package.
"It had all these wonderful things that it could do nutritionally," she said. "I wondered what it could do for the largest organ of your body - your skin."
Norwitz, 41, began doing some research, teamed up with her now-fiance, Paul Enck, 48, and began looking into creating a skin-care product.
In December, they launched Maya Chia Beauty, a product they say is made from the best chia seeds they could find, mainly those grown within 5 degrees of the equator.
"It needs a certain amount of sunlight to have a high concentration of oil," Norwitz said. "We worked very hard to find the best farms, the best dried seeds."
That was the most significant challenge, Enck added.
"Our product imparts an immediate radiance," Norwitz said. "Moisturizers in the past sat on top of the skin. They didn't get into the epidermal layer. Our product is meant to nourish the skin. It seeps in pretty immediately, and it's a lasting moisturizer. It has eight times more omegas than salmon and three times the antioxidants of blueberries. People who use it say their skin perks up and comes alive."
Several skin-care product lines on the market incorporate chia, but the couple say theirs is different because of the quality of the chia seeds.
Norwitz said face oils have experienced a surge in popularity in the beauty industry in the past few years.
"The trend is more natural and getting away from all the chemicals," Enck said. "Most lotions are like putting a plastic bag on your hand. They put a barrier there so you can't sweat out moisture. This soaks in."
Norwitz adds, "This doesn't look greasy. It provides a dewiness and a radiance that lasts. When you ingest omegas, it's good for you. This is the topical application of that."
The product is made in the U.S., though for proprietary reasons, Norwitz and Enck declined to disclose where. They package it themselves in Moncks Corner.
The oil, made from 100 percent chia seeds, comes in a 1.67-ounce glass bottle and sells for $59. The balm, a combination of different products along with the extract of chia, comes in a 3.4-ounce container and sells for $34. The smaller size is more expensive because it is pure chia oil made from a super critical extraction process.
"We sold through almost all the starting inventory," said Pink Dot shop owner Meghan Wood. "I love the science behind it. It's at a great price point, and it's very effective. They brought me some to try out, and I let my mother-in-law try it and she wouldn't give it back. It's fantastic, and we love having a product in the store that's local."
Wood recently ordered a second shipment for her shop that specializes in conscious beauty with organic products and all-natural skin care and makeup offerings.
The product is good for at least two years, and the more expensive bottled oil is placed in a dark glass container to keep out sunlight. Both products are free of chemicals and solvents, Norwitz said.
Ten percent of all proceeds from the company will go to Mayan charities in Guatemala. That's where Norwitz's father, now a retired plastic surgeon, helped children with cleft palates for 20 years and she became familiar with the Maya culture.
Enck has a Central American connection as well. He adopted two boys, now ages 10 and 12, from Guatemala in 2005.
Norwitz and Enck met just over three years ago. At the time, she was living in Savannah.
Norwitz graduated from Cornell University in 1995 and became a speech writer for then-New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. She later received her master's in public administration from Harvard, worked for Dunkin Brands, Kellogg Co. and then the Savannah College of Art and Design before starting her own communications consulting firm, Inventive Communications. There, she worked directly with the chief human resource officer at Illinois-based Walgreens drugstores.
For the past four months, she has focused mainly on launching Maya Chia.
Enck, originally from Pennsylvania, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1993 with a degree in business. He went to work in Washington, D.C., as a stockbroker and financial adviser. In 2001, he moved to Charleston for its quality of life and slower pace, concentrating more on estate planning and other services for the aging population.
His company, Planning Solutions, is based on Daniel Island. It offers family asset protection strategies.
Working together, Norwitz and Enck believe they have found the right product at the right time to bring to the marketplace
"We are excited about our new venture," Norwitz said. "We believe this is a winning product."
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.