Surlena is cleaning up
Hell is going through a Bermuda summer with a deodorant that doesn’t work. Surlena Smith has a solution for smelly, sweaty armpits.
She offered her natural deodorant, PondaPits, to construction workers before she started selling it four years ago.
“My husband is blue collar,” she said. “His friends are all mostly construction workers or people who work out in the hot sun. They really helped me test what I was doing.”
One construction worker told her he worked in the sun for three days without bathing, but smelled great — thanks to her. “If that isn’t a testament to the product, I don’t know what is,” she said. “Another friend who is a school custodian said he had a little bit of PondaPits left over in a container. He just took a fingertip of it, used it, and it lasted him all day.
“When people come to me and tell me how great it works for them I am really amazed and so very happy because I really thought it would work for people who live ‘clean’.
“But these people aren’t vegans and they aren’t particularly interested in natural products. I found out you don’t have to have a certain lifestyle to use my product.”
She’s also received positive reviews from business experts. The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation named her the Pitch Green Winner in its annual Rocket Pitch competition last year.
The win made her a finalist in the Future Agro Challenge. She headed to Turkey for it in April. She didn’t place, but was able to participate in business workshops while there.
“That was a global competition for people with start-up businesses from all over the world,” she said. “I was the only product that was personal care. Most stuff was about farming and agriculture and things, but I made them change the title going forward. It is not just going to be about agriculture any more; it will be about ecosystems or making things in a more reusable way.”
The 45-year-old created PondaPits after she had surgery to remove an inflamed sweat gland from under one arm.
“Recovery from that was so painful, I decided I really didn’t want to go through that again with my other arm,” she said.
Because the deodorant she was using aggravated the lumps, she went online to find an alternative. Eventually, she decided to make her own using natural ingredients such as coconut oil and vegetable wax.
“It worked great,” she said.
Her lumps disappeared, which convinced her the chemicals in her store-bought deodorant had clogged her glands.
Family and friends, including her husband Marcellus, begged to try PondaPits — and loved it.
The name however, a humorous nod to reggae singer Elephant Man’s Pon de River, Pon de Bank, received mixed reviews.
Ms Smith thinks it’s because people don’t like anything related to body functions.
“The name made it light-hearted instead of things being so serious,” said the former financial consultant, who quit her job to work on her business full time in April. “But I received a lot of flak for using the word pit in the name.
“We all have to guard against odour. Some feel as though it is too much information, but if no one speaks about these issues, innovation is inhibited.”
She’s thrilled the product is catching on.
PondaPits is available at the Par-la-Ville Pharmacy, Genet Lure Salon and Spa and Inspired Fitness. It comes in three fragrances and is available in either a solid or spray.
Her hope is to start selling in the United States, but at the moment, “that’s just not cost effective”.
“Right now, it costs me $80 to mail a $14 stick of deodorant,” she said.