by Kate Branum • photography by Two Eagles Marcus
California is notorious for earthquakes; however, one in particular will stick with Natalie Bauss, CEO and founder of Keeki Pure and Simple for the rest of her life.
The year was 1987 and Bauss was selling high-end cosmetic products at Nordstrom when a large earthquake hit. Vibrations rippled across the floor, sending items shimmying off the shelves.
After heading to the stock room to replenish products, Bauss noticed a popular mainstream cosmetic splattered across the carpet. As she moved closer, she was horrified to discover the contents had eaten through the carpet and the carpet padding, exposing the cement subfloor beneath.
“As you can imagine, I was completely shocked,” Bauss recalled. “Here I am, putting this product on my own skin and selling it to other people, telling them how wonderful it is. I couldn’t even believe it had the capability of eating through not only the carpet but the padding!”
Bauss, knowing she would no longer be able to sell these chemical-ridden cosmetics to the public, left her place at the cosmetics counter and vowed to live a healthier, more natural lifestyle.
She became a certified esthetician in 1989, accumulating knowledge on proper skin care, learning what lengthy chemical names printed on product labels meant and researching natural alternatives for harmful preservatives.
In 2000, Bauss and her family moved to an organic farm in West Michigan. Here she raised her two young children, along with several alpacas, cows, a coupe full of chickens and a goat.
Despite their natural lifestyle, Bauss’ daughter Keeki loved to paint her nails.
“She was seven at the time, and I said, ‘Wait a minute, Keeki, you just went out and collected eggs from the chickens and got vegetables from the garden, and now you want to paint your nails?’ It didn’t match our lifestyle,” Bauss said.
Bauss wanted Keeki to have the freedom of experimenting with colorful polishes, but couldn’t let her daughter use products laced with harsh chemicals. She began to hunt for a healthier alternative. After browsing the aisles of Whole Foods for organic beauty items, Bauss discovered there were no eco-friendly cosmetics or polishes on the market. She decided to take matters into her own capable hands.
“I literally started experimenting in my own kitchen at the farm,” Bauss explained. “I had my own cow, so I figured if I can make butter, then I can make my own body lotions and sunscreens.”
What began as home-based project soon blossomed into a full-fledged business. At the end of 2009, Bauss launched Keeki Pure and Simple, an eco-friendly, all organic product line consisting of three body lotions and sunscreens, 32 nail polishes, food-grade lip balms, shimmer sticks and a day-and-night rejuvenating serum.
All Keeki Pure and Simple products are gluten and soy-free, devoid of acetone and never tested on animals. Each item boasts a blend of safe, natural ingredients, including jojoba seed and coconut oil, cocoa and shea butter, sunflower seed oil, aloe vera and vitamin E.
Keeki products have since reached the mainstream, occupying shelf space at large grocery stores, health food markets and local boutiques.
In 2012, Bauss’ life switched gears once again. In the midst of a divorce, she and her two children left the farm and settled in Grand Rapids. Little did she know, her career was about to take another turn—this time, it would involve a happy accident and a rocket scientist.
Ron Webb, a resident of Huntington Beach, California was no stranger to West Michigan. As a rocket scientist for Boeing, he flew to Grand Rapids each week to work on GE Navigation.
A few months after moving to Grand Rapids, Bauss spontaneously met Webb at a local bar. She quickly learned that he shared her interest in skin care, and was in the process of developing a line of his own. They joined forces, and together launched KPS Essentials in August 2016.
“I really wanted to create a product that had a lot of ethicacy, but I wanted it to be completely on an organic level,” Bauss said. “That’s how KPS Essentials was born.”
KPS Essentials is a luxury, organic line comprised of 18 health-conscious products that serve as must-haves for high-end boutiques, spas and hotels. The series is clinically validated, cruelty-free and utilizes DermaNu technology.
“Many of the skincare products on the market right now are advertising the importance of using peptides, collagen and stem cells in their ingredients,” Bauss emphasized. “What most people don’t realize is that these ingredients are far too large to go through the skin. At KPS, we take an entirely different approach.”
All KPS Essentials products are made of proprietary plant-based ingredients, which easily penetrate deep within the skin, mending imperfections, soothing irritations and producing a healthy glow.
“When your skin begins to look healthy, it’s because it is,” Bauss laughed. “In this case, it DID take a rocket scientist to figure it out! When you’re feeding your skin what it needs, it goes to work immediately.”
Though each KPS product has lasting benefits, the Renu face cream is by far the crowd favorite. Each batch of this miracle moisturizer is infused with a botanical blend of healing herbs and natural oils, including argan, jojoba, coconut and olive. After steeping for months at a time, Co Enzyme Q10 and vitamin E are folded into the mixture.
“Co Enzyme Q10 sends energy into your skin and tells it to start producing its own collagen,” Bauss explained.
With a buttery texture and bright yellow color to match, Renu face cream glides over the skin, leaving a refreshing, smooth finish, restoring skin elasticity and filling in unwelcome fine lines. Most clients who use Renu face cream notice drastic skin improvements in just a few days.
“There’s a stigma around organic products,” Bauss beamed. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh, it smells good, but will it do anything?’ People end up so pleasantly surprised when they try our products.”
Bauss’ passion for helping others reaches beyond cosmetics and creams. She is heavily involved in the Spirit of Compassion, a nonprofit organization created by KPS aimed to provide assistance for those in need. Bauss spends hours mentoring a group of teens, pushing them to follow their goals and keeping them off of the streets. She also devotes her time to a circle of homeless women, teaching them empowering self-care and self-love.
“Another part of the Spirit of Compassion is to train people in healing their bodies in a holistic way rather than finding mainstream ways, because those ways don’t always work,” Bauss pointed out. “I want to help people to not be overwhelmed by switching to organic ways of living. It’s simple if you have the tools.”
KPS is working hard to expand its fan base, and plans to add a few more products to the line. Though KPS is quickly spreading to new locations across the United States (including Whole Foods), Bauss wants to make sure the company remains family-owned and operated.
She and Webb remain optimistic about the future of the company and are excited to see where it takes them.
Find Keeki Pure and Simple at Grand Rapids Natural Health, Harvest Health, Clothing Matters, Schuler Books and Music, Forest Hills Foods, Natures Market, select Meijer Stores or locate a retailer at keekipureandsimple.com.