When her husband's work relocated their family to Connecticut, Ada Rios' primary job was raising her toddler. Shortly after she began to develop the skin condition eczema. It forced her to rethink her entire beauty regimen.
"I started checking the ingredients. That's very important with sensitive skin. I couldn't even use a toner in my face 'cause it would get irritated." She had an idea to create her own skin care products with herbs from her native Guatemala. The same herbs used for centuries by Mayan healers in alternative medicine. But it wasn't until she attended Hartford's Latinas & Power Symposium in 2006 that she got the confidence to start her business. "When you go there they really inspire you. You see a lot of women who, in any place of their lives, they have started something. So, that really made me want to start something." Small business owner Marilyn Alverio founded Latinas and Power precisely because she was concerned that women like her, who lived in two worlds – one Spanish- and one English-speaking – weren't exposed to success strategies and weren't getting help at home either. "Within our families and cultures, some of us are still getting messages that it's OK to go out there and work, but don't look better than the man. Don't make more money than the man." And when Rios approached Alverio with the idea for her skincare line: "I said, 'Oh my gosh! That is a phenomenal idea.' Totally organic. And then she got all excited and I said, 'You must do it.'" So she did. Rios was back the next year with four products. Now, in 2013 she's been honored by Latinas & Power as its entrepreneur of the year, and self-titled products are on shelves at Whole Foods markets in West Hartford's Bishops Corner, Glastonbury, Darien, and in parts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Providence. The stores feature four to six items. As a way to showcase her entire line, she's now opened a storefront on Park Street in West Hartford. Her products are free of animal fat and lye. She uses fruits and berries for scrubs, lotions and hair products. She travels annually to Guatemala and claims the nutrients from her products boast health benefits. "For example, in my eye serum, I actually found collagen in a plant." Lucky for Rios, her godfather directed the Mayan Institute in Guatemala and speaks about 20 native dialects. He interviewed the region's native people about natural remedies. And collected the findings in a book that was passed down to Rios. She uses it as a starting point for products. "I always say to people, it's like cooking. you have all these ingredients and then you have to make the perfect cake or the perfect recipe." It took a year-and-a-half of relentless effort to get into Whole Foods. Rios says her next big challenge will likely be finding a production site. For now, she's still cooking up products in her home. But she's running out of space.