Story By: Noel Nicholas
Photo By: Kyle Rothenborg
They say motherhood changes you—but they don’t always say how. Shortly after her second child was born, Mele Kalama-Kingma noticed that her scent had changed. Friends assured her this was common among women who’ve recently had a child, but Kalama-Kingma wasn’t willing to wait for her old self to return. The health conscious Kalama-Kingma, who was working as a dietitian at the Waimanalo Health Center, didn’t want the aluminum and preservatives found in run-of-the-mill deodorants on her skin. So she took her aroma into her own hands and decided to create an all-natural alternative. While brainstorming the recipe, she had a memory of her late grandmother Kekauilani “Mama Lani” Kalama lovingly bathing and powdering her as a child. Today, four years later, Kalama-Kingma produces a line of certified organic powder deodorants and body products named Mamalani.
Mama Lani’s portrait smiles down on the sunny workshop Kalama-Kingma built in her home in Kailua, O‘ahu, where she mixes, pours and packages all of her products by hand. Her signature body powders are a soft, silky blend of aluminum-free baking soda, organic pia (Polynesian arrowroot) powder and kaolin clay. She adds essential oils—patchouli, lemongrass, lavender and others—to produce five scents, each named for a traditional Hawaiian value. Lokahi (unity) with its blend of lavender, clary sage and grapefruit essential oils, is the best seller. Kalama-Kingma recently expanded her product line to include a deodorant stick made with coconut oil and Manoa valley beeswax, a sleeping aid powder made with Kailua-grown ‘awa root and chamomile, a roll-on perfume made with Ocean Vodka from Maui and a moisturizing body balm made with shea butter.
Once Kalama-Kingma makes the product, her children, husband and parents are likely to pitch in, packaging and labeling together around the dining room table. The products make their way to retailers across the state, as well as boutiques and health food stores in Washington, California, New York, Japan and Germany. “Growth has come primarily through word of mouth and luckily at the perfect pace for us,” says Kalama-Kingma. “I love making the products by hand, working from home and balancing time with my family. I designed our labels to say ‘Handmade by Hawaiians’ and my hope is they always will be.”
(Mama Lani on the left, Mele, owner and maker, on the right)
From the Owner ---
My name is Mele Kalama-Kingma, I am from Ka'elepulu, in the ahupua'a of Kailua, Oahu. I started my company, Mamalani, out of both concern for my health and the health of my community. I worked as a dietitian for three years prior and had learned about harmful chemicals, preservatives and additives in food. I had just given birth to my second child and was surprised to find out all of the harmful products that were available to moms and baby. It was at this time two of my aunties were diagnosed with breast cancer, and I decided to not only create healthy products for my baby, but also for myself and anyone else wanting to live a healthier life. My research, experimentation and enlightenment process began, and Mamalani was born in July 2012.
When deciding on the name of my company I only had to think of the single most influential person in my early life who is my grandmother, Mama Lani. She taught me hula, oli and pule as a young girl as well as the true meaning of Aloha.
(My grandmother - Kekauilani K. Correa Kalama, Kumu Hula)
My grandmother and grandpa both had a love for God, the land and sea and people. In my products I blend the values of my family with the best ingredients available in eco-friendly packaging.
(Walking the beach in Waipio, Hawaii - a place my ohana goes to grow food)
It is my passion that not only does our products benefit your health but also benefits the community and earth as well. It is my goal that you feel the essence of who we are as people of Hawaii -- full of the aloha spirit. Mahalo nui, Mele