Entrepreneurs Margaret Screen-Stokes and Desiree Watson, friends for more than 30 years, opened BLU Luxe Island selling handcrafted bath and body products made from natural ingredients. BLU Luxe is located at 657 Central Ave., St. Pete.
BY KARIN DAVIS-THOMPSON, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Margaret Screen-Stokes and Desiree Watson, friends for nearly 30 years, realized that the products they used for years on their skin didn’t produce the same results. They noticed their skin seemed drier and more easily irritated as they got older.
But it was a visit to a soapery while on vacation that changed everything.
“It was the quality of the soaps,” Screen-Stokes said. “They included ingredients that we could pronounce.”
After that visit, the entrepreneurial spirit took over. The dynamic duo knew what they had to do – open a store of their own, selling all-natural products that are better for the skin.
Together, Screen-Stokes and Watson opened what is now known as BLU (which stands for Brown Like Us) Luxe Island. Along with all-natural soaps, the storefront offers candles, sugar scrubs, linen sprays, lotions, and bath bombs. Their motto is that if you can’t go to a luxurious island for vacation, you can at least visit BLU Luxe and take the spa experience home with you.
Watson said they love the ability to control and eliminate the impurities in their products, and they can add more all-natural ingredients such as the local honey they use in many of their soaps. They said taking care of the skin is an integral part of self-care.
“The skin is the largest organ on the body,” Watson said. “We have to take care of it.”
Along with the luxury items for sale, the team hopes to one day hold soap-making classes and provide networking opportunities for businesses and organizations.
Screen-Stokes and Watson know about the power of networking and the desire to find something more than a 9 to 5.
“For me, I knew I was destined for something more than my corporate job,” Watson asserted. “Even though it was a good job, I knew I wanted more. So, when this opportunity presented itself, it was my a-ha moment. I knew it was time to bet on me and do something gratifying for myself.”
Screen-Stokes left a career in utilization management nursing, and Watson left behind her career in the insurance industry for a chance to have something they could call their own.
Both women said they love the chance to be hands-on and make critical decisions like working directly with their local soap maker to determine the best ingredients for their products or working with vendors of color.
Their attention to detail has paid off, with their best-sellers like the lemon poppy soap and the products containing activated charcoal to exfoliate the skin.
The shop even offers scents and products for men, including natural soaps with their signature Kentucky Bourbon fragrance.
While their soaps may be top sellers, the duo wants people to know they are much more than just great soap.
“There are so many other amazing items here,” Watson said. “We want people to come in and experience all that BLU Luxe has to offer.”
BLU Luxe is located at 657 Central Ave., St. Pete. To find out more about the store, call 727-289-8931.