Detroit Skin Care Brand, ILERA Apothecary, Finds Commercial Success

They offer products made with ingredients found naturally on earth, manufactured locally in Detroit, and sourced from West Africa.

Chinonye Akunne founded ILERA Apothecary, a Detroit health and beauty brand.

Chinonye Akunne, founder of ILERA Apothecary, was working as a chemist for an automotive company when her brother asked her to create a specially formulated deodorant that he could use. But when Akunne looked at the required ingredients, she realized that many of the ingredients in deodorant were toxic and potentially carcinogenic.

The experience was a life changing moment that led Akunne to pursue entrepreneurship and created her company, to make safe, natural products for use in daily life. In 2015, Akunne founded the plant-based skin care brand that she based on her Nigerian heritage and pharmaceutical expertise. In a nod to her heritage, Akunne used the word “ilera” as it means “health” in Nigerian. 

ILERA Apothecary products are made with sustainable ingredients found naturally on earth and manufactured locally in Detroit. Most of the ingredients offered are sourced from West Africa — including “okwuma” (the Igbo term for shea butter) and coconut oil, are suitable for all skin types.

As her business has grown, Akunne has remained very active in her community. Whether she is donating proceeds to nonprofit Jasper House Haiti or offering internships to students in the Grow Detroit Youth Program, giving back to the community that she loves, lives and works goes hand-in-hand with ILERA Apothecary’s operations. 

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Most of Akunne’s business relies on word-of-mouth, sponsorships as well as collaborations with other businesses, both locally and around the globe. But to take ILERA Apothecary to the next level, Akunne knew that she needed a media push to reach a larger demographic. After hearing about the Comcast RISE program on LinkedIn and through the Detroit-based organization, TechTown, she applied. 

“I could not be more excited to see our commercial on the ILERA Apothecary website and social channels,” said Akunne. “I am so proud of this business, and I am grateful that Comcast RISE has allowed me to take another step toward the success I have been working for.”

Looking ahead, Akunne wants to see her products on shelves around the world. She also plans to release new products, some of which will soon be released for the holiday season. She encourages women business owners in particular to collaborate with one another, share tools and resources, and be vulnerable enough to ask questions. Additionally, she says resources offered by the city of Detroit — like the Buy Detroit program, TechTown and the Build Institute — can be helpful supports. 

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