By the time LouAnn Brandjes was finally diagnosed with Lupus, she’d had enough.
The chronic inflammatory disease that affects various body parts, especially the skin, joints, blood and kidneys, was taking a toll and she was ready to fight back.
“I was one of those people who was not OK with it,” she said of the diagnosis that came years after she graduated from Enumclaw High School in 1985. “It was not an optimistic scenario. I figured I made myself sick, I can make myself better.”
She threw her pile of prescription pills in the garbage and vowed to find a better way.
What she discovered was the wellness oils she created to make her life more enjoyable also worked for others and in 2002 she launched Nature’s Inventory.
The mission at Nature’s Inventory is to provide natural options in health and wellbeing without pills.
“Everything is topical,” Brandjes said of the oils. The research is clinical, most used by Brandjes and her staff. Brandjes, a certified herbalist, hand selects the all natural, certified organic and certified vegan ingredients. Manufacturing is not farmed out.
“I’m real careful about where I get my ingredients,” she said. “I feel pretty good about what we create is going to work.”
It all started with her own restless legs.
Brandjes previously owned a successful natural cleaning products company, but sold it to concentrate on her health.
Unable to sleep one night, she put together an oil product and rubbed it into her lower back. It worked so well, she began sharing it with others. Pretty soon it was in demand.
“I wasn’t really trying to create a business,” she said. “But I couldn’t really ignore what was happening.
“I had no intention of starting a new company.”
But she couldn’t ignore the response.
“From the moment I started it, it took off,” she said. “I didn’t want to answer the phones, I thought they were going to be people complaining. Instead they were people who were crying, for a good reason. They were saying I haven’t slept in 10, 20, 30, 40 years. The first time I put it on my back I slept.”
Those customers, cheerleaders, Brandjes likes to call them, led to more products for men, women, children and pets covering ailments like headaches, diaper rash, back ache, cholesterol, menopause and even “Makin’ Babies.”
Nature’s Inventory was booming in its Mount Lake Terrace location with 12 employees. There was national recognition in magazines, international sales and negotiations with big-name pharmacies for store placement.
Then the recession hit.
“The recession was hard. I had to lay off a lot of people who were my friends,” she said.
But it gave her the opportunity to re-evaluate the company and life.
She and her family had moved back to Enumclaw 12 years ago. In June, she moved Nature’s Inventory here and employs four.
“I love Enumclaw. This is the only place I wanted to live,” she said. “This is a good phase, a happy phase.”
Smaller, perhaps, but growing again.
Nature’s Inventory has an strong online presence, www.naturesinventory.com, and is available in 300 retail outlets. Products can also be found in catalogs like the Vermont Country Store and Brandjes and staff have been hitting trade and consumer shows lately.
She said the company isn’t about the money, it’s about the product and customer satisfaction.
“I had to re-evaluate what I wanted from the business and how I wanted to run the business,” she said. “I’m happy with being small and we will grow differently this time.
“I’m OK with it growing, but I want it to grow organically.”
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “Everyday we get calls from customers that make me cry.”