ArXotica, a natural bath and beauty company, was founded by triplets Michelle, Cika and Amy Sparck in Bethel, Alaska. The sisters grew up in Chevak, a small Alaskan village surrounded by the Arctic tundra near Kokecheck Bay, which leads to the Bering Sea. The area known as Kashunak, is a vast, treeless land mass that is only accessible via small plane, boat or barge. This area is home to the Quissunamuit Tribe.
For decades, natives in the area lived off the land and the sea, foraging wild plants and berries, fishing for salmon and freshwater fish, and hunting waterfowl and land and sea mammals. This land, “nunataat,” along with the knowledge the sisters gained growing up in the area near the sea “imarpik,” was the inspiration for their company.
The triplets always knew they wanted to use that knowledge to share the fruits of the land with others. It wasn’t until after college, careers and marriages that they were able to achieve that dream.
In 2006, they won the Alaska Federation of Natives Alaska Marketplace Competition, which was launched to foster economic development in rural Alaska by seeking creative ideas from local entrepreneurs. The triplets won a combined high five figures in seed money over the years to help launch their business and survive the start-up years.
The Sparck sisters’ goal was to bring economic stability and self-sufficiency back to their region, and to bring awareness to the success of the program. Now, the sisters run a full-fledged bath and beauty company, using incredible tundra and sea ingredients from their homelands.
The three hand-gather their materials in the spongy tundra and then haul it all back to a storage facility to be dried for processing, sourcing their own bath and beauty materials. They use a variety of natural plant materials in their products.
One of the most popular materials they use is Arctic Sage, which is named “Ciaggluk” in the Quissunamuit language. The literal translation of the word is “nothing bad about it,” pointing to the many benefits and uses of the plant throughout history.
Packed with antioxidants and nutrients, Arctic Sage can be used in steam baths to soothe sore muscles, as a skin moisturizer, and applied on minor burns, scrapes and wounds. Some research even suggests it may help reduce blood sugar levels and support memory and brain health.
“Ciaggluk, by nature having “nothing bad about it,” was an obvious superfood ingredient we wanted in our line up,” Michelle (Macuar) Sparck said. “It’s powerfully medicinal, and it has a pleasing fragrance.”
When the business first launched, the sisters hired an ethnobotanist to work with them to catalogue all their plants, berries, and flowers. After the plant materials are harvested and dried in a special low-temperature storage site, it is ready to be made into the various products ArXotica offers including serums, moisturizers, creams, lip balms, soaps and more. Michelle said she and her sisters are happy to make these products accessible to a mass market and to work with companies like SweetGrass that support Tribes.
“If we had known SweetGrass then (in our early days,) as we know now, our future and trajectory could have been very different,” Michelle said. “We went through a lot of growing pains on our own, and having mature outlets like SweetGrass may be a game changer for a modest little company with little reach like ours.”
ArXotica just finished paying off their first Bureau of Indian Affairs Guaranteed Loan that paid for the roll out of their signature product, Quyung-lii (The Potent One,) an Anti-Aging Skin Serum. Being free from a mortgage sized payment, their plans for growth, expansion, and scale-up to meet a SweetGrass volume of production and demand is an attractive prospect, Michelle said.
ArXotica would love to be able to build subterranean cold storage facilities in a number of villages, while providing low energy cold and ambient storage options for those communities that often lack such facilities. Collaborative projects like that, along with tourist-oriented adventure/work experiences, as well as rugged in-nature spas may be next in development.
“That saying, ‘The World is our Oyster, just may be true in this great discovery between ArXotica and SweetGrass,” Michelle said. ”We may be able to make some pearls to go with these great skincare products!”