Photos by JOSHUA JACOBS
Olivia Mercado Ortiz
Olivia Mercado Ortiz likes to cook and bake, but her sweet concoctions are not for consumption. The owner of a home-based business called Shoogie Company, started the journey with a health scare in 2007, after a mysterious lump appeared in the breast tissue under her armpit. “I was freaked out,” she said. “It was a pretty good scare, but it ended up being a buildup of aluminum.”
Her doctor advised against conventional deodorants, which contain aluminum and other potentially harmful chemicals. Ortiz was horrified. “I grew up with hippies. My mom was a real patchouli burner, and I just thought about all the natural products I already tried that didn’t work,” she said. “I thought, ‘Am I going to walk around smelling like onions now?’”
After searching, she found a natural deodorant that worked but was incredibly expensive.
When her mom suggested she try making it herself, Ortiz took to the task, researching the ingredients, then measuring and mixing like a mad scientist in her Ocala, Florida kitchen.
“Lots of experiments,” she said. “I had some very unsuccessful batches — even peeled my armpits off, but around four months later, I had it. I started making the recipe for my mom and some friends.”
A Weekend Getaway Leads to Life Changes
On a girls’ trip one weekend, Ortiz loaned a friend her homemade deodorant. “She was like, ‘I need this. I want this for my shop.’”
By then, Ortiz was making lip balms and other natural products exclusively for herself and her family. But her friend prodded. She said, ‘You have to do this—sell this.’ So, the business started by accident.”
Shoogie Company focuses on natural products to support a healthier, chemical-free lifestyle. “Everything is handmade in batches, and it’s all food-grade, including clays and diatomaceous earth. The shea butter I use in almost every recipe is from Ghana and Burkina Faso, Africa and gives jobs to over four million women who gather in the village, singing songs while they smash, roast, and grind the nuts into the butter we use.”
Ortiz notes that, right now, her small company is a one-woman show, and she spends full days in her kitchen, hand-making the luxurious products — charcoal, aloe, or rose-infused face soaps, scrubs, clay masks, moisturizers, and more. “On cooking day, oh my word — melting, stirring, pouring. It’s a lot of work,” she said.
Each item is a result of extreme trial and error, so the final products are as good as they sound — “Miss Your Face facial kits” and “Naughty Bits and Pits” balm, anti-chafing balm that works on your sensitive areas and can even heal a baby’s diaper rash or quell an itchy bug bite.
Personalized Products – A Signature Touch
Reflecting her joy for baking and desire to feel clean and feel fresh, Ortiz is proud that Shoogie products have a sumptuous scent. “I can customize any of my products to a customer’s favorite scent blend, if they’re interested in creating their own beauty and personal care products that smell unique,” she said.
Her family clearly approves, and they fully enjoy using everything she creates. In a social media video, her daughter GiGi slathers the Shoogie Mask of The Month on her daddy’s face. “It looks like I’m putting peanut butter on your face…or honey mustard,” GiGi says.
“It tickles,” her daddy replies. He angles his cheek toward her little hand so she can stroke the side of his face with her brush.
A New Spin on Spa Services
Just before the pandemic hit, Ortiz made another accidental business move that would, quite literally, drive her company forward in a fun, new way. She purchased a vintage RV, the Shoogie Shack Mobile Spa. “I didn’t intend to get the Shoogie Shack, not for another five years,” she said. “But I was late-night browsing on the internet and I saw it — the silver bullet. I was like, ‘Oh no.’ It was one of those moments, and it was in my price range. I drove two hours to see it and told the lady immediately, ‘I’ll take it.’”
When COVID-19 hit shortly after, Ortiz was grateful she had made the purchase, because she was able to bring spa services directly to customers and many women were desperate for a bit of pampering. “It really was a godsend,” she said. “I’m a firm believer that timing is everything. When I stepped out in faith, I knew it was supposed to happen the way it did.”
That is not to say it did not come without effort. It took a year and a half to transform the grimy, outdated unit into a chic and stylish space. Ortiz documented the renovations in videos, which show the dilapidated walls, flooring, and fixtures. In the latest footage, the stunning mobile spa is in pristine shape — with cushy sofas and textured throw pillows, tassel rugs, scented candles, potted plants, and a vibe that says: Let’s chill.
Ortiz is psyched about the future of her business, the new natural products on her menu and the massages and full-service facials. No longer sporting poison on her pits or using store-bought products on her skin, she is convinced that going natural was the best possible path. And with her sleek vintage ride, driving business forward is a whole lot of fun.