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Colorado Springs couple's DIY deodorant spawns growing business

November 19, 2013 Updated: November 19, 2013 at 8:05 pm
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As it often goes in matters of real estate, the true problem with the armpit is location, location, location.

Or so Kris Renfro learned after giving birth to her daughter Chloe five years ago. When Kris breast-fed, one of the baby's hands usually ended up tucked against the bare skin of her underarm - the "perfect little handwarmer," Kris said.

That spurred Kris and her husband, Mike, to start thinking about their hygiene products through the critical safety goggles of new parenthood. They didn't like what they saw. In addition to odor-masking perfumes and alcohol, antiperspirants contain an aluminum-based compound that plugs sweat glands to stop the flow of moisture.

"The FDA regulates (antiperspirants) like a drug," said Mike Renfro, 39. "It's a drug you use all day, every day. It boggles the mind."

"I just about died when I thought about my daughter putting her hand under my arm, getting antiperspirant on it and then putting it in her mouth," said Kris, 36.

So the couple tried commercially available organic deodorants, made to address the bacterial growth that leads to body odor while still allowing the body to perspire naturally.

"Nothing worked. You would always stink at the end of the day," said Kris, whose family at the time was living in hot and humid Florida, where sweating isn't merely a seasonal concern.

The Renfros then turned to the Web and do-it-yourself body odor remedies, ranging from the simple - a lemon peel scrubbed under the arm - to more complicated concoctions requiring cooking time. Kris and Mike began experimenting at home to find the most effective, longest-lasting preparation.

"We tried maybe a half-dozen different things over the course of six months," Kris said. "You would be amazed at the recipes that are out there."

By the time the couple moved to Colorado Springs in 2010, they'd found what seemed to be a "Goldilocks" concoction - a mix of natural ingredients including tea tree and coconut oils, arrowroot and baking soda - that effectively battled armpit odor all day long.

"You could have bought this in Old Colorado City 200 years ago or 2,000 years ago," Mike said. "All those ingredients have been around forever."

After the birth of the couple's second child, daughter Aurora, in June 2012, the DIY deodorant for family and friends took on new potential.

"We started wondering who else cares about what's happening in their pits," Kris said.

Plus, added Mike, "we needed a car."

Mike spent weeks at the kitchen table with a note pad and candy thermometer in the "Flubberistic" pursuit of a heartier blend that wouldn't melt in ambient temperatures over 75 degrees. The problem finally was solved by the addition of beeswax.

"That was the aha moment," Kris said. "It worked like magic."

The couple packaged the natural deodorant in a 3-ounce tin and called it Colorado handcrafted PitStik. They started talking it up to anyone who'd listen and distributing samples wherever they could. Full-sized tins are now available locally at Buffalo Ridge Trading Post and Phenix Salon Suites on Briargate Boulevard.

"It is slightly ridiculous because you have to talk to people on the street about deodorant," said Mike, who test-marketed the product on his co-workers at Costco. "It's a great ice breaker: 'Here, have some deodorant.'"

Business began to increase last summer and continues to grow steadily thanks to word of mouth and sales through the company's website, Facebook page and, Kris said.

PitStik fans, such as Summer Curry, have left rave reviews on Facebook:

"I got it as a free sample at the park near my house ... needless to say I will never use any other! Love it!"

The Renfros' dream, long-term plans are to build an Earthship-style workshop beside their Village Seven home. For now, though, the couple still whips up batches of PitStik in the kitchen and packages and ships them the old-school way.

PitStik's biggest hurdle, post-development, appears to be a conceptual one.

"Our biggest fight is getting people to stick their finger in their pit," Kris said.


Contact Stephanie Earls: 636-0364

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