Dawn Fitch is the founder of Pooka Pure and Simple, a handmade bath and body company. She received her B.A. in design from William Paterson University and worked for Sony Music for 6 years. After battling illness and feeling the need to adopt a healthier lifestyle, she began exploring holistic therapies and aromatherapy. While reading the labels on many of her cosmetic products and becoming increasingly aware of the dangerous chemicals in them, she began making and selling her own products. The response was tremendous. That’s when the realization hit that she had an incredible business idea and Pooka was born!
She knew she couldn’t achieve her Pooka dream alone, so she enlisted the help of those closes and dearest to her, Donna Lynn, April Reeves-Mathis and Tricia Akinwande. Together they formed Pooka Pure & Simple and today the 4 Pookalitas manage every aspect of Pooka from sales and marketing to finance.
Creating products that were “good for your skin to eat” became a passion in September 2000. The company has grown from Dawn making products on her stove in her apartment to a Flagship Boutique in Orange, NJ. The products are currently sold in 35 Whole Food supermarkets, online and through various wholesale distributors.
In March 2012, Dawn was blessed to be on the cover of the technology issue of Black Enterprise Magazine! Pooka has also been featured on The Today Show, CBS Evening News, Essence Magazine, The Network Journal, Michael Baisden Radio and various media outlets. Dawn was the recipient of the Influencer Award for Entrepreneurship given by the Urban League, the Black Executive Award given by the African American Chambers of Commerce, and an Agent of Change award from the National Council of Negro Women and Pooka Pure and Simple was named a Local Hero by Whole Foods Markets.
Dawn focuses on educating our community on healthier living and the benefits of entrepreneurship and in 2005 wrote her book entitled, “Moving Through Opened Doors”. The book details the blessings that she has received and the journey of starting a business. She uses the book as a motivational tool for seminars that she gives at juvenile detention centers and schools to educate the youth about alternative career routes and using their talents to create their own entrepreneurial endeavors.
In 2002, PookaGiveBack was created. A division of Pooka that focuses on donating products to worthy causes including Planned Parenthood, Children’s Restoration Network, Hudson Perinatal Consortium and Emergency Shelters for Battered Women and Children. Pooka also developed a “Relaxation Seminar” teaching the health benefits of relaxation and aromatherapy, which they have taught to the elderly at various senior citizen homes and women’s conferences. Accepting an invitation from Cathy Hughes, founder of Radio One, Dawn recently taught a seminar on Organic and Healthy Living for the 2009 Women’s Empowerment Day in Raleigh, N.C. and was a speaker for the National Black MBA Associations’ 2010 National Conference. She has also been a panelist for many workshops including the “Economics of Success” hosted by Shon Gables, host of Black Enterprise Business Report and Ladies First!-Elevating Women in the 21st Century with Dr. Roxanne Shante.
In addition to carrying wonderful Pooka products, the Pooka Body Boutique hosts groups of teen girls, giving them a look at the inner workings of a beauty business and in 2011 Dawn co-created Beauty that Cares (BTC)! BTC Workshops are geared towards teaching young girls about the empowerment of starting their own beauty businesses and hands-on creation of their own natural products. After each workshop a portion of the handmade products are donated to various women’s shelters. Beauty That Cares workshops were incorporated into the 2011 Girl Scouts curriculum.
Q&A with Dawn Fitch:
BS: Sometimes it is frightening to know what exactly companies put into products that we use everyday. What was it that peaked your interest to take a look at the ingredients and helped you decide that there must be a healthier way?
Dawn Fitch: I had gotten sick and went to so many doctors, who said there was nothing wrong with me, but I knew my body and I was feeling bad. I decided to make a change and start being a little healthier. I changed my diet and started reading all of the ingredients of anything I ate. I always loved bath and body products so one day I turned the bottle over and read the label. I was amazed at all of the stuff that was in there that was bad for you, so I decided to start making my own things.
BS: Your Company has grown, is part of a popular health food supermarket and has received much recognition and awards. To what do you owe your company’s success?
Dawn Fitch: We always give thanks to GOD! I know that HE has me on a great path. We’ve worked hard and persevered through some tough times!
BS: Who has impacted you most in your career and how?
Dawn Fitch: There have been so many people along the way who have helped us through every part of our journey. I can honestly say my parents are the ones who have supported me and always inspired me to never be afraid to try!
BS: What is your favorite product from your line and why?
Dawn Fitch: I love the cocoa baby! (actually it changes from week to week. This week I’m in love with the cocoa baby. I love how it makes my skin feel and I have really dry skin. I also love that it’s fragrance free so I can put on whatever scent I’m in the mood for. I even use it on my face!
BS: What were some difficulties that you faced starting your business? How did you overcome those challenges?
Dawn Fitch: Ooooh money is always a struggle for small businesses. It’s hard to go to the bank and ask for a loan for a brand new business. We had to put in our own money and grow the business slowly. We would purchase supplies, make products, go to a festival and sell products and use that money to buy more suppliers. It was a tough process. After we had been in business for a few years we were finally able to secure a small line of credit.
BS: BTC is an awesome way of giving back to the community. What would be the best advice you have for young women that are aspiring to be entrepreneurs?
Dawn Fitch: Don’t be afraid to jump in and start. So many times we put road blocks up for ourselves and talk ourselves out of a great idea. We have to try! It’s okay to start small, with friends and family. They are usually your first audience/customer, plus they give you great honest feedback. Most of all if it’s important to you and you believe in what you’re doing persevere, the road may not always be easy but if you stick with it you’ll get where you want to be.
BS: Where do you see Pooka Pure and Simple in 5 years? What projects are you currently working on?
Dawn Fitch: This was the first year of our first retail location. We are having such a great time with the beautiful space. We’re able to sell our products and we also sell other local beauty entrepreneurs products too, we call ourselves a beauty farmers market. We also have space to have hold workshops for women to come in and make their own products. We’d love to open up the same type of retail locations in other states.
BS: Do you have a philosophy? If so, what is it?
Dawn Fitch: We say that Pooka is a lifestyle, not just something good for your skin to eat. We want to share the blessings we’ve been given and it’s important to us. We know that what you put out there is what you receive in return!
BS: What is one of the most important lessons that you have learned since creating your organization? What motivates you to keep going?
Dawn Fitch: Everyday is a lesson! I’ve learned what goes into running a company, from trademarking, to taxes, there’s never a dull moment. It’s very important to reach out and get help when you need it. You’re not going to know everything and to save yourself some heartache, get help. There are so many organizations that can help when you need it from the SBA to your local colleges and universities.
I’m excited to see where Pooka is going to go and I love the people that I’ve met, it’s inspiring!
BS: What are you most proud of?
Dawn Fitch: Actually getting a business off the ground. I worked in corporate America for years and never really thought I’d be doing what I’m doing. Last w eek we got an order online from Paris, France and I’m always blown away, somebody in France ordered the products I started making on my stove!