UT business students develop, create skincare line

Catherine Cardenas

Upon learning their mothers were looking for new skincare regimens but unable to find something close to home, Michael Neiswander and Albion Zogaj decided to take matters into their own hands.

Manda’s Garden is a skincare company developed by Neiswander, a business honors sophomore, and Zogaj, a marketing sophomore, in February 2019. It is based around the use of the Golden Osmanthus flower, which is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits and is native to Eastern Asia. 

Neiswander’s mother was looking for an eye mask that would reduce puffiness, while Zogaj’s mother wanted a product that used the Golden Osmanthus flower. The duo decided to satisfy both needs by curating their first product, a cold-activated Golden Osmanthus eye mask.

“We kind of just put two and two together,” Neiswander said. “It would kind of be the best of both worlds in that regard.”

After the initial idea was formed, the next step for the pair was to create a prototype and test it on consumers. 

“When we got feedback that (the eye mask) was really successful for reducing under-eye puffiness, that’s when it clicked that we should really be focusing on this,” Zogaj said. 

Once the eye mask was fully developed and a strong relationship with a manufacturer was formed, the pair decided to branch out and develop new products, Neiswander said. 

“We decided to create our brand around the Golden Osmanthus flower and the cold activations,” Neiswander said. “We had a face mask, and then we got an essential oil lotion and it kind of all just like started from that eye mask.”

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The pair decided to partner with a charity based in China called Pandas International, which cares for the endangered Giant Panda, Zogaj said. After every quarter, a percentage of their revenue goes to Pandas International.

“We figured that a percentage of our proceeds going to a cause like that essentially gives back to the communities that we get our products from,” Neiswander said. “We thought that was just a good way to conduct business.” 

Microbiology sophomore Aaliyah Francois worked as a brand representative in the beginning stages of production. The charity aspect of the company was part of the reason she chose to work with the pair.  

“Since they’re kind of still a startup company, I thought it was pretty interesting that even though they’re still in the beginning phases, they’re already giving back,” Francois said.

The pair has had to shift their focus from internships and summer jobs to Manda’s Garden exclusively, making it very important that the project goes well, Neiswander said. 

“A lot of people at this time are out, you know, getting internships, planning … to get their jobs after college, and we definitely sacrifice a lot of that because over the summers we’ll be working on our own business,” Neiswander said. 

As the company progresses, the duo has high hopes that running Manda’s Garden will turn into a full-time job.

“Our big goal for Manda’s Garden is to have it sustain us post-college,” Neiswander said. “It’s terrifying sometimes, but … it’s also exciting. It’s some adrenaline, you know, because it’s kind of like we’re setting ourselves up in such a way that it kind of has to work — it’s high stakes now.