Our Story

Catalina Vargas has been a go-getter from day one. With entrepreneurism in her blood at a mere seven years of age, she launched her first company, recruited her brother as an employee and set off through her neighborhood peddling teddy bears and knick knacks. Some of her earliest childhood memories include trips in the wee morning hours to Southern California’s famous LA Flower Mart, then back to Pomona, where she worked behind the scenes at her parent’s flower shop. She has always loved the daily challenge of cultivating and running a successful business, learning everything she could from payroll and reporting sales taxes to flower design. By the age of 13 she was helping organize holiday Bazaars and open houses at the flower shop and actively participating in local craft fairs with her own hand made goodies.

Years later, as a young wife and mother raising two boys, Catalina branched out on her own and decided to pursue her dream of running her own business doing what she loved best - making bath and body products. Striving to provide customers with the finest quality possible, she sought out a local laboratory, owned and operated by Thomas Hassapis, one of the founding chemists for Neutrogena, and began a mutually beneficial relationship. With his fabulous formulas as the foundation for her growing product line, and her husband’s programming savvy, they launched the website, EssentialsbyCatalina.com in 1995.

The website grew organically, with no outside sales force or marketing campaigns, and as she and her husband worked diligently during those early years to fill orders out of their garage, their online venture was garnering quite a following. Through it all, Catalina imagined a time when she would be able to create jobs and opportunity for those around her; when the bustle of forklifts loading and unloading semi-trucks would be a daily occurrence. Little did she know that her vision would come to fruition several years later when Thomas, finally ready to retire and pass the torch , began searching for an entity willing to take over his manufacturing facility and uphold his high industry standards. Scraping funds from wherever they could, Catalina and her husband jumped at the opportunity and purchased Maki Creations, moving the entire operation to Corona, California. Less than three years later the business outgrew its building and moved again to its current facility, where it continues to thrive and grow.

When she is not working, Catalina’s passion is travel. And we are not talking sipping cocktails on beaches at five-star resorts. Catalina loves to immerse herself in the diversity of other cultures. She has trekked with Sherpas in Peru to deliver medicines to the indigenous people of remote Andean villages, swam with whale sharks in the Gulf of Mexico, bathed elephants in Thailand, explored remote Guatemalan ruins, camped in the Costa Rican rainforest, hiked the jungles of Cambodia and navigated Norwegian Fjords in search of the glaciers and elusive puffins. She’s been lost at sea between Cuba and Mexico and thankfully found her way home.

In an industry that relies so heavily on natural materials, Catalina’s most recent venture was a land purchase dedicated solely to practicing sustainable farming of many of the raw materials we carry, allowing us deeper control of the quality. Currently this project is in its infancy and the gophers and bunnies are winning the land battle, but the challenge does not diminish the vision and we hope to one day cultivate a variety of our own ingredients.

Our Mission

Starting as a young company was not easy. Whether it be the fancy fragrance houses or raw material vendors, the little guy runs into plenty of rejection and slammed doors. It took years to grow into an entity large enough to gain vendor’s respect and approval, and the sting of being turned away for being “too small” is never forgotten. This is why Essentials by Catalina feels it is so important to be approachable to our customers. Living our core values means we are ready to share our knowledge and give advice. It doesn’t matter if you are making soaps in your kitchen sink, running a chain of successful salons, or growing a worldwide hair care brand, we are here for you when you need us.

Acting as a sounding board for your ideas is not the only way we are dedicated to helping you grow. Here in our California facility we manufacture our products in large batches in order to spread out the cost of labor and pass those savings on to you.

Product performance is priority one, and the reason your customers will come back for more. We formulate using the highest quality ingredients available, including natural whenever possible, and try to strike a balance between the two.

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