Just Neem

Taking care of yourself with JustNeem products means you’re taking care of others too. The small business based in downtown Cary started as a mission to help the people of Mauritania, Africa, develop economic opportunities by using their natural resources, and continues to do so today.

Neem, the company’s namesake tree and reported super herb, grows abundantly in the West African country, which company founders Peter and Magda Radtke first visited on a famine relief mission. Struck with compassion for the Mauritanian natives, the Radtkes established JustNeem, which purchases neem leaves direct from a village orchard in southern Mauritania and produces and sells natural body care products in the United States with the unique ingredient.

Relatively unknown as a therapeutic and herbal remedy, neem deserves a place in every in every medicine cabinet, the Radtkes say, and JustNeem is poised to make it a household name.


What Is Neem?

Highly  regarded in traditional Indian cultures, neem leaves, and the oil derived from them, provide extensive health benefits, especially for skin care. (already stated above)

“I think it was a really well-kept secret,” said Leslie Huffman, public relations and marketing representative for JustNeem. “(In India) each home would have a neem tree outside their door. … They wanted to keep it as an Indian cure-all.” 

The health properties of neem are extensive, the Radtkes say. It is antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory, as well as full of antioxidants and moisturizing vitamin E. The uses are just as varied. Most commonly, neem is used topically to treat skin conditions from dry skin to acne, and more serious conditions like eczema, psoriasis and rosacea can be soothed by neem’s healing touch.

“Neem treats bacteria-based, fungus-based or virus-based conditions,” said Antje Radtke, daughter of Magda and one of the company’s four full-time employees. Neem’s unique combination of germ-fighting and skin-calming properties allows it to effectively soothe a variety of conditions without any harsh or drying side effects.

“You don’t know how many times I’ve heard, ‘I’ve tried everything and this stuff actually works,’” Antje said.

All JustNeem products, which include soaps, lotions, lips balm, salts, scrubs and more, feature the superstar addition — procured from Mauritania at a fair trade price.

“We feel like we’re in a great position, being one of very few companies that offer neem products,” said Huffman. Though small, the 6-year-old company is growing. Products can be purchased at Whole Foods, various local boutiques and online via the company’s website.

This spring JustNeem moved into a new office space in downtown Cary that is more than three times the size of its previous home on Dry Avenue — thanks in part to a great and powerful proponent.


The Wizard, Dr. Oz

Educating people about neem’s benefits is one of the challenges facing JustNeem. Huffman often searches the Internet for new writing or research about neem. In January, she came across a post on The Oz Blog highlighting neem as the herb of the month. The article was authored by Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary, a frequent contributor to The Oz Blog and Dr. Oz Show, and a neuroscientist and proponent of ayurvedic (a traditional Indian) medicine.

Chaudhary called neem a “super-herb,” and Huffman immediately contacted her to introduce JustNeem and offered to send product samples.

Dr. Chaudhary expressed her admiration for the products, but not much more was exchanged until Huffman again reached out to the doctor’s office to further their relationship. On that call, Huffman learned that Dr. Chaudhary had just that week taped a Dr. Oz Show segment featuring neem.

“I found out the day the show was airing that there would be a segment on neem and (Dr. Chaudhary) brought two of our products,” said Huffman. “She was able to bring (neem) to a national audience. We’re hoping that conversation continues.”

The resulting explosion was “crazy,” said Huffman. “The show started and Google analytics went through the roof.”

The Dr. Oz Show segment extolled the benefits of neem and highlighted JustNeem’s Tub Tea and Clay Mask as examples of products available.

“At first we were excited, then we started to worry,” she said. “Our little teeny company was not prepared for that.”

In three days the company did several years’ worth of online sales.

“Literally 24/7, all of us were manufacturing, wrapping, labeling and packing. We had volunteers come in to help us,” Huffman said. The chaos has since settled, but leveled off to a rate that is well above the company’s previous sales averages.

“Our hope is to keep expanding and growing,” said Huffman.


Growing Good

JustNeem is part of an increasing number of for-profit companies with a social mission, known as B Corporations, which means growth for JustNeem increases its ability to help its partners in Mauritania. According to the company’s  website, certified B Corps use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems, and include well-known companies like Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia, Etsy and Seventh Generation.

JustNeem’s mission is to empower the people of Mauritania. In addition to assisting the cultivation of their collaborative neem orchard, on frequent trips to the country Magda teaches soap-making workshops to local women. The company also donates 10 percent of its profits back to the orchard. The donations have funded a well with solar-powered water pump and added fruits and vegetables, for consumption and sale at local markets, to the neem orchard.

“I have been given so much, and I want to pass it on,” said co-founder Madga Radtke. “Once you do that joy comes back again and again.”

JustNeem was named one of the Best for the World companies in 2012, an honor earned by only the top 10 percent of all B Corps. Staff are currently developing a new product line specifically for the face, and are working on a continued partnership with Dr. Chaudhary. Despite the excitement and notoriety resulting from the Dr. Oz Show, the company has remained grounded in its  mission.
who named the company the best for the world?

“The blessing of it all is that now people are learning about us,” said Huffman. And the more people who know, the more people JustNeem can help.

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