When Marisa Alonso felt her creative self aching to be expressed in November, she melded her artistic and scientific experiences to create a clear, unisex lip conditioner flavored in tequila lime.
It is the first foray into entrepreneurship by the ArcelorMittal employee who established Besos LLC in March and operates it out of the rural Lowell home she shares with her husband, Julio Alonso.
"I love lipstick. This is perfect for me," Alonso said. "People love it, and to my biggest surprise it's becoming very popular with the guys."
Besos comes with a wand applicator in a container of Alonso's design. It promotes moisturizing and has an SPF of 15. Other flavors in the offing are spicy mango and rum cherry, she said.
Alonso works full-time in order fullfillment and management for the steel giant's sales and marketing department in East Chicago.
"I have a desk job, but it's not creative. It was time to use my training, my education. I've loved every minute of it," Alonso said of the product development and marketing process.
Alonso estimates she has sold 200 of her product through networking and word-of-mouth.
Recently, Laura-Cantu Brunn, owner of Gaia Salon & Spa in Schererville, decided to offer Besos to her clientele.
"I like that it's a small company and an innovation. I support small businesses because I am one," Cantu-Brunn said.
Beyond that, however, Cantu-Brunn said it is a good product. "Personally, I like it. ... I'm happy to find one I want to go back to. ... It has a kind of addictive flavor."
Besos, which means kisses in Spanish, also is being sold at The Gold Depot in Crown Point by owners Alan and Jackie Goodman. It also can be found on eBay.
Marisa Alonso began as a student at the American Academy of Art in Chicago at the young age of 5. She went on to graduate from Bishop Noll Institute, then returned to the Academy before majoring in medical illustration at Loyola University in Chicago, where she later worked with physicians as a medical artist.
After marriage and raising her now-grown children, Alonso enjoyed freelancing, pointing proudly to her medical illustration which graced the cover of Indiana University Northwest's alumni magazine.
While Alonso designed her product packaging and developed the flavor, it was formulated by Northstar Lab in Utah.
"I tweaked it adding beeswax, so it's not so shiny for guys. The flavors make me happy," she said.
Alonso is working to develop additional partnerships that will give her product more exposure as she believes it will sell itself.
Recently, Alonso secured two commission-based sales representatives charged with marketing to salons. She said as former Munster and Dyer salon owners, they have contacts in the industry as well as in the Latino community.
"I'd like to develop this and grow it," Alonso said.