How two friends turned a childhood passion into a bubbling business.
Shantaw Bloise-Murphy and Bianca Brown are self-proclaimed “naturalista sistahs.” For the last three years, these Nantucket residents have been churning out a popular line of skin care products that regularly sell out at the Nantucket Farmers and Artisans Market. All handmade on the island, their Supple Sirens Bath & Body soaps come in such luscious scents as cucumber melon, citrus and agave, French vanilla, milk and honey, and candy apple. While their homegrown business is thriving on the island, Supple Sirens has all the ingredients for the booming all-natural skin care market.
As with many great startups, the idea for Supple Sirens began bubbling in a college dormroom. After becoming friends on Nantucket High School’s cheerleading squad, Bloise-Murphy and Brown roomed together at Bridgewater State University where they talked about starting a business. Nothing gelled until Bloise-Murphy’s senior year when she broke out in hives so severe that she couldn’t attend classes for four days.
A nurse blamed a product she was using on her skin. Suddenly the pair’s entrepreneurial yearnings had a focus: all-natural skin care that was good for your skin, unlike versions rife with allergens, preservatives and chemical emulsifiers. “As I started looking into ingredients, I realized how harmful each one is,” Bloise-Murphy says. “Even when it says ‘organic’ and ‘all natural,’ it isn’t. It’s just something they put on the container.”
Both women had been introduced to soap-making as children. Bloise-Murphy’s grandmother in Jamaica made body butter, soaps and salves with ingredients from the family garden. Brown’s first soap creation was a red-and-white-swirled glycerin bar she made with her older sister. However, their first iterations together three years ago weren’t exactly ready to go to market. They melted coconut butter in a double boiler in their kitchen, then stirred in straw-colored shea butter and let the mixture cool. The result made your skin so slick, Bloise-Murphy laughed, you’d slide off anything you touched.
Today, working in “The Siren’s Cove,” a den-workspace in Bloise-Murphy’s home off Bartlett Road, the pair have come a long way since their first botched attempt at body butter. Besides body butters that smooth and moisturize, their repertoire includes salves, soaps, tonics, serums, toners, bath soaks, shave butter and after shave, many infused with essential oils and locally sourced products, such as cucumbers grown in Bloise-Murphy’s garden and salts from Ambrosia Spice Shop, once on Centre Street and now online. Their turmeric and charcoal cleansing soap is a swirl of soothing gray and beige; the soy-wax candles glisten in white-washed wooden bowls and gilded oyster shells.
It always sounds like a party in the Siren’s Cove, Bloise-Murphy says. “Being able to work with my best friend and doing what we enjoy—creating these new products—is just so exciting,” she says. “And people are as excited about using it as we are making it.” Brown says, “You look at what you created and see how beautiful that is, all your hard work come to life. And being able to share that with people at the farmers market is so special. People are always coming up to us saying, ‘Oh, I just love you guys!’ Brown smiles. “It’s just humbling every time.”
With Bloise-Murphy serving as membership director for the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce, and Brown as the classifieds and circulation manager for The Inquirer and Mirror, Supple Sirens is still very much a side hustle for the ladies. They initially envisioned having a brick-and-mortar storefront. “We were going to be the next Lush,” says Brown, referring to the British cosmetics retailer with mall locations around the United States. Instead, the Supple Sirens duo has decided to keep their operation online and on-island where their passion is continually fueled by meeting the many people their products touch. Yet with the magic of Nantucket, Supple Sirens Bath & Body might only need to touch the right person to make their homegrown business a household name.