Journal Record Staff Reporter
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you diabetes, make products for diabetics. That's what Anastasia Marie Chehak did.
A characteristic of diabetes is dry, cracked skin, especially on the feet, caused by changes in the blood vessels that supply skin with nutrients. It's easy for bacteria and fungi to get into damaged skin, and diabetics run a greater risk of infection and, ultimately, of losing their feet.
Diabetics are supposed to monitor their blood sugar several times a day. They repeatedly prick their fingers with a tiny lancet, which can irritate and harden their fingertips. Then it hurts worse to stick their fingers, because the skin thickens and toughens itself in defense.
A diabetic herself, Chehak thought there must be solutions to those problems, and she dedicated herself to finding them. Now, she's got a company, Anastasia Marie Inc. Laboratories, which markets a line of skin-care products especially for diabetics, although non-diabetics use them too.
Begun in 1990, Anastasia Marie Inc. has increased sales by 53 percent from its first year of business, and has customers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The company also exports products to Canada, South America and Saudi Arabia. Some 80 percent of sales are to repeat customers, according to Chehak's mother and business partner, Tomme Chehak.
The Chehaks have managed to accomplish all of it from their offices, located at 6520 N. Western Ave., using contract employees. They figure sales would be greater if they pumped more money into promotion, but they prefer to spend their money on product ingredients and research.
"People who buy our products are paying for value, not promotion," Tomme Chehak said, adding that 80 percent of the cost of most skin-care products goes toward advertising and promotion.
The product line includes Hand Body Cream, "Diapedic" Foot Cream _ a trademark coined and registered by Anastasia Chehak _ Day Protection Formula facial moisturizer, Night Repair Formula facial moisturizer, Aqua Mist Bath Body Oil and Diapedic Foot Oil. Prices range from $10 to $21.
"They were the first products developed exclusively for diabetics," Tomme Chehak said, although competitors are following suit.
"We're still the only company that has done research," Anastasia Chehak said. "We've been recognized by our customers for our excellence in product quality and customer service."
Anastasia Chehak is a certified diabetes educator by the American Association of Diabetes Educators. "That's equivalent to a master's degree," she said. Part of the certification requirements are 2,000 hours of direct patient education in counseling, plus endorsement by a professional person who has seen the candidate's work, she said. Diabetes educators also are required to pass an examination every five years.
Chehak has a bachelor's degree in therapeutic nutrition and clinical dietetics from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and she is a licensed dietitian and clinical nutritionist. That differs from most certified diabetes educators, who tend to be nurses, she said.
"I also am a medical provider for Rehabilitative Services in the (Oklahoma) Department of Human Services," she said.
Anastasia Marie Inc. Laboratories specializes in diabetes skin research.
Unlike typical dry skin problems, the dryness reaches deeper into a diabetic's skin, to the inner lining, she said. "We lack nutrients being supplied by the blood, because our circulation is not as good. A typical skin care product on the market …