– Tribute to Moms –
By Valerie Hardy
Cooking at the Ruiz family’s charming Dutch Colonial home in Downers Grove, you would never guess that their garage was filled with 75 50-pound bags of citric acid or that their basement is the creation lab and warehouse for handmade skincare products carried at over 150 boutiques and spas across the nation. However, as any delivery person or guest to the Ruiz home can attest, once the front door opens, your nose knows. “Everyone says our house smells amazing,” Annemarie Ruiz, Humble Organics and Humble Botanics founder, said. “We don’t light any candles in our house – our house already smells like something all the time.” Ruiz explained that her business was born out of both necessity and desire. From the time her daughter (and now business partner) – Liliana – was a baby, she had eczema. “A hippie at heart, I went to look for products that were more natural for her, but I was disheartened at what I found on the shelf,” Ruiz said.
So, Ruiz started researching and experimenting, and she ultimately formulated a topical treatment that alleviated Liliana’s eczema. She also gifted some to friends and family, and they gave it rave reviews. Ruiz found that the topical blend she developed worked not just for eczema but for any skin type. She thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to start a business with this?” Ruiz was working as a full-time food photographer and director of food photography for an advertising agency while also caring for her three young children at the time, though. Besides Liliana, her firstborn who is now 10 years old, Ruiz also has two sons: Luca and Nolan. Ruiz absolutely loved being a food photographer and mentor within the food photography industry, and she cherished many of her colleagues, but “the demand of that career was really impeding on [her] home life,” she said.
In 2018, Ruiz left her photography position, took the concept that was “a twinkle in [her] eye years before,” and officially launched Humble Organics. Its sister line, Humble Botanics, was added later. Not only did her newly minted business allow her to “make a product that was good for people and good for the environment,” Ruiz said, but it also provided a platform through which to give back to the community. Liliana explained that they donate five percent of all of their profits to LYDIA Home, a non-profit organization that functions as a safe haven for children. Ruiz also benefits from being able to work from home and arrange her workdays around her children’s schedules. The business, which is mother-daughter run, also lends to Ruiz and Liliana spending much meaningful and productive time together. “Liliana has always been my helper.
This is something we could do together…and it teaches her a lot about the business side of things,” Ruiz said. Liliana – who primarily helps with production of bath bombs, body butters, lip balms, and a 3-in-1 pouched gift set, along with fulfilling orders – said she has been working with her mom “since the beginning” and loves it. Besides getting to spend quality time with her mom, one of Liliana’s favorite aspects of the business is “making boxes and creating packaging – it’s kind of like art.” While Ruiz and Liliana are most involved in the business, it is a full family effort. Ruiz’s husband, Jeremy, helped generate the brand’s name. When brainstorming adjectives to go before “Organics,” he said “Humble,” and Ruiz thought it was perfect. “That’s us…from humble beginnings. We aren’t coming into this business with millions of dollars… we just work hard as a family and put every ounce of everything into it,” Ruiz said.
Jeremy designs the packaging for all of the products, and he was the one who proposed the idea of making bath bombs, now Humble Botanics’ bestselling product. The Ruiz’s’ sons help with various tasks like taking the stickers off the labels and fulfilling orders. The boys and Liliana also get frequent visits from “the lotion fairy,” as Ruiz jokingly refers to herself. She often lathers Liliana up with body butter or puts lip balm on the boys while they are sleeping. Though the Ruiz family truly enjoys running the business, it requires significant time and effort. Ruiz works 60-80 hours per week. At the beginning, in addition to hand-making the products, she would walk into various shops in order to get them on shelves. Ruiz is grateful to some of the earliest local vendors to carry Humble Organics and Humble Botanics products, including Adorn 512 (Downers Grove), Vintage Charm (Clarendon Hills, Hinsdale, La Grange), and The Collective (Lisle). The business’s big break, however, came when Social Sparkling Wine – another woman-owned, Chicago based company – asked to include the Humble brand’s bath bombs within its rose-inspired box sets. These sets are carried at select Meijer and Whole Foods locations.
Ruiz learned how to scale up when the Social Sparkling Wine opportunity arose. She brought on help from additional family members, friends, and teens from the neighborhood to produce over 12,000 bath bombs in five and a half weeks. Now her focus is on “getting in these [big box] retailers with [just her own] brand – instead of within another brand’s box set.” For 2021, Ruiz has already taken a giant step toward achieving this goal. Humble products will begin being carried at numerous Whole Foods stores in the Midwest region later this year. A number of new products are also coming soon, including a Humble Botanics kids’ bath bomb line, “which is going to be a game-changer,” Ruiz said. “We’re also working on new body butter scents and a cinnamon-scented lip balm.” Ruiz already recently reached one of her other major goals: getting the Humble Organics brand USDA certified. Ruiz also secured Leaping Bunny certification for her products, all of which are cruelty-free. For more information, visit