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Start-Ups: Mother’s ‘skin-credible’ quest to tackle eczema

HAMILTON – In a heartwarming journey that demonstrates motherly love and determination, Joana Marie Co, a Filipina mother based in Hamilton, has transformed a challenging diagnosis into a flourishing wellness products business. This is a story of hope, resilience and entrepreneurship, all sparked by a diagnosis of eczema.

It all began when Joana’s daughter, Ariana, was just one month old. She was diagnosed with eczema, a skin condition that would change the course of their lives. Joana, a first-time mother, embarked on a quest to find a solution for her child’s discomfort. She recounts. “I’ve been seeing GPs and dermatologists to help her, but nothing’s actually working. It’s not a long-term solution.”

Determined to alleviate her daughter’s suffering, Joanna explored a wide array of products, both over the counter and internationally sourced. “I even asked my family in Canada and the US to find something that could help with eczema,” she shares. But the solutions were temporary and often contained ingredients that weren’t suitable for her child’s sensitive skin.

One day, a friend recommended a product made in the Philippines, a natural solution that was both effective and safe for Ariana’s skin. “I used it right away and I was amazed at how well it worked,” Joana recalls. This pivotal moment ignited a spark in her and her husband, Martin.

Joana and Martin’s entrepreneurial journey started when they decided to import the product to New Zealand and Australia. “We have a great opportunity to build a brand now,” Joana excitedly expressed.

The couple chose the name ‘AJ and MJ Co Ltd‘ to honour their family’s initials, with Joana explaining. “A is for Ariana, who is my eldest. J is for Johan, who is my youngest. M is for Martin, my husband and J is for me. It’s a meaningful name for us and we love it.”

Listening to their customers, who come from diverse backgrounds with varying needs, the couple expanded their product range. In addition to the initial moisturizing cream, the NaturaCoco range now includes sunscreen, body wash, and a recently released lip balm. The products have received positive reviews from a broad customer base.

Not content with merely helping their own family, Joana and Martin have also empowered individuals in the Philippines by providing job opportunities. “We have a full-time life here, so we hired admins from the Philippines to manage our social media and customer inquiries,” Joanna says. It’s a testament to their mission to help others.

Joana’s story is an account of a mother’s unwavering love and determination to find a solution for her child. She reflects on her journey. “I started this in November last year and now it’s become a part of our lives. Our main goal is to help people who are in the same situation as we were. We understand how skin conditions can be stressful. This is why we launched the NaturaCoco brand of products.”

The journey from a challenging diagnosis to entrepreneurship is not just a business success story; it’s a heartwarming tale of a mother’s love and resilience.

NaturaCoco, born out of necessity and a mother’s love, continues to make a positive impact in the lives of those facing skin conditions in New Zealand.

BACKSTORY: The rapid increase of Filipino migrants settling in New Zealand, a shade over 100,000 according to the Philippine Embassy, has created a corresponding increase in business opportunities catering for this market.

A new generation of start-ups are getting their opportunity to crack into the Filipino and mainstream markets via community events like the trail blazing Halo Halo NZ (previously Fiesta Filipinas) and other Filipino events. (

Small business heavyweights who have been honoured with the Business Excellence Award at the annual Filipino-Kiwi Hero Awards over the years have included: Lito Banal of Kiwi Roofing Ltd, Oscar and Mercy Catoto of Tres Marias Trading, Edith Carpenter of Planet Earth Travel, Jeths Lacson of Epiphany Donuts and Marjorie Bennett of Boracay Garden Restaurant. (

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