We had the good fortune of connecting with Aja Walker-Rice and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Aja, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
My thought process was simple, I wanted to provide clean products and education to people who look like me so that they would not have to go through what I went through.

Many moons ago, at the young age of 17, I was underwent surgery to remove multiple, abnormal cysts in both of my breasts; thankfully they were benign.

I was fortunate enough to have a great surgeon, who happened to believe in healing-the Natural Way. She would later become the catalyst for what I call my “Natural State of Mind”.
After this experience, I was encouraged to start looking at things with more detail; specifically my personal care products. Most people don’t think about the ingredients that are going into and on to their bodies.
At that time, I didn’t know that certain ingredients within my deodorants and perfumes could have been the main culprits that were responsible for the cysts.

Like many people, I didn’t look at my skin as an organ. You know, when we think of organs it’s usually the heart and brain; powerhouses within our bodies that if something went wrong, it could be devastating. It took this experience for me to learn more & change my outlook about my skin and how I cared for it.

Since then, I have dedicated myself to living a healthier lifestyle and being very selective about what goes into and onto my body.
It is that amount of selectivity which gave birth to AJA Naturals™. I’m doing what I love, and that love is transferred to my products.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Ever since I was young I knew I wanted to study and work within the scientific community. I attended NJIT and pursued a degree in Biomedical Engineering with a concentration in Tissue Engineering. I had big plans, and was set in seeing them come to fruition. But, as the saying goes, “We plan, GOD laughs.” I did graduate from NJIT, but with a Business degree, and Immediately upon graduation I was hired by the Department of Defense as a Supply Systems Analyst. Not too shabby, right? I wasn’t mad at this new direction, but it definitely did not match up with all of the plans that I had made. Still, I set out to embrace it. Four years in to my new career, and moving up the ladder quickly, I became pregnant with my oldest child. It was a major blessing, which helped me to feel even more comfortable with the trajectory of my life. I had a beautiful, natural, home birth. The moment I heard his cry and saw his face, I knew that I could not be apart from him. A few months later, I resigned, and instantly became a full time stay-at-home Mom, with a side hustle.

With the exception of the actual decision to care for my child full time, NOTHING about any of it was easy.
Doubt crept in on a regular basis. My notebook with all of my dreams & aspirations starred back at me, not at all resembling the picture I had painted for myself. But, still, through it all I remained grateful, determined & did my best to go with the flow.
I spent my days caring for & teaching my son, but my evenings were reserved for pouring in to AJA Naturals.

It was hectic, and soo not IG worthy. But, it was my story. My chance to “live the dream”. I could be the natural, homeschooling mama I had grown into being, and have a successful business.

This all came with plenty of challenges. I don’t have a degree in education, how would I teach my son all he needed to know, while growing a business? Only time, support and confidence could show me just how strong I really am.

During all of these phases & stages of life, I’ve learned that sometimes you’ve just got to bet on yourself. Period. We take so many risks in life, but one of the greatest is those that we take on ourselves.

Although very difficult at times, it wasn’t my education, career or parenting that kept me on my path. It was my belief that the Universe has allows had & will forever have my back, that allowed me to keep pushing forward.

I will that my story empowers those faced with health concerns; inspires those who see life moving in a different direction; and, demonstrates to everyone that the ability to pivot and go with the flow is necessary.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m a Jersey girl through and through! Being born and raised on the shore has definitely given me a deep appreciation & adoration for the Ocean. So, visiting the beach, no matter the season, is paramount. I’m a laid back person, and my little piece of Jersey offers a laid back vibe. Other than being a beach bum, I’m in love with our local restaurants & shops. Downtown Asbury Park, and the surrounding area is where it’s at! If we’re hanging out then Brunch at ‘Toast’ is a must! Their Bella Nutella French Toast with fresh strawberries is everything. It’s always nice to take a walk, especially after eating so well. Next stop is a stroll on the west side of Asbury; the side that was once booming with successful black businesses, and famous for being an important stop for the Top musicians of that time. There are so many stories that this square mile has to share, and there are more brewing as history repeats itself with new, black businesses rising to the occasion. Among them is a black owned & operated, Vegan-friendly spot right on the corner of Springwood Avenue, Macrobites. Great place to buy a smoothie, and check out other local, black owned brands. Right next door is a community garden, where one can volunteer their time and learn more.
The Asbury Park Bazaar, hosted on the pier in Long Branch, always has an exciting medley of small brands to support. On any given weekend, you can shop for well made clothes, accessories, metaphysical wears & more.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I definitely couldn’t have done ANY of this alone. It truly does take a village, so here’s a loving shoutout to them!

+My mother & Father for always supporting me, and taking the leap into healthier living with me.

+My husband for providing time, as well as the emotional & financial support necessary to keep a growing business afloat, and a learning CEO grounded.

+My Aces, The Fab5 & Rainere, for actually listening to my business rants, lifting me up when I wanted to quit, and for ALWAYS paying full price.

+The ELEVATE small business incubator, The Village Market ATL, and Dr. Key Hallmon. This group of amazing individuals took a chance on me, and invited me into their village. Offering more assistance and resources than I had ever received. They have been part of my story for only a year, but in that time have made such an incredible impact. I’m truly grateful.

Website: www.ajanaturals.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ajanaturals/?hl=en

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aja-walker-rice-b583605a

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AjaNaturals

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/AJANaturals/

Image Credits
Yvel Clovis

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