Brothers establish essential men’s care
In 2020, Jacob Fernandez ’23 was in flight school until he was grounded by a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. With only 50 hours left to earn his private pilot license, the California native made, what he described, “as a spontaneous decision” to fly in a completely different direction—towards Hawaii.
“I had a friend who was going to Chaminade, and he told me it was a great school,” Fernandez says. “So, I decided to do my due diligence, and I looked into the nursing program, which I’ve always been interested in. Ironically, my friend decided he didn’t like nursing so he dropped out, but here I am in my final year.”
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic took higher education into unprecedented times. The necessary pivot from in-person to online teaching and learning proved to be difficult for many students, educators and administrators. Undergraduate nursing programs faced an even more complex decision because large portions of the curriculum rely on hands-on clinical experience. Ultimately, most programs completed the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester remotely, while the Fall 2020 semester looked different for many programs, some moving forward with in-person learning, others virtual.
On a positive note, there were opportunities for students to develop interventions and improve their experience, including changing the environment, learning via virtual gatherings, responding to the flexibility of faculty, undertaking supplemental learning and pursuing intentional self-care.
That last point of self-care resonated with Fernandez and his older brother, Chris Fernandez. “Growing up, our mother would make natural, personal care products, which made us more conscious of what we used on our bodies,” says Jacob Fernandez. “So, my brother and I started a company that focuses on men’s personal care, and called it Brossentia.”
A portmanteau of brother and essential, Brossentia officially launched online on May 17, 2020, offering a line of natural, handcrafted bar soaps, which are made with a base of olive, coconut, jojoba or sustainable palm oil.
In between his nursing studies and starting an online business, Fernandez decided to enroll in the one-year Hogan Entrepreneurial Program, which he now credits for teaching him some valuable business skills.
“The Hogan Program has provided insightful experiences through listening to entrepreneurs and hearing their journeys towards success,” Fernandez says. “It was inspiring to hear them speak about how they overcame their diversities and challenges.”
At the April 2023 Hogan Entrepreneurial Leadership Program Induction/Graduation Ceremony, Fernandez was honored with this year’s “In the Arena” Award for outstanding entrepreneurship. It was a well-deserved recognition, according to Hogan Entrepreneurial Program Director Roy Panzarella, Ph.D.
“Jacob will be a senior in the nursing program, which is one of the toughest and most demanding programs we have at Chaminade today,’” Panzarella says. “He’s also the first nursing major to be a Hogan Entrepreneur.”
Along with the objective to create a business and a product, the brothers conducted market research, which ranged from consumer type and market size to earth-friendly packaging and trends. Unlike commercial brands, Jacob and Chris Fernandez handcraft each bar in-house—literally, in their mom’s Hermosa, Calif., kitchen—to ensure the highest quality control. They also developed their own molds, using material that they bought from Home Depot.
Their cold-process soap is made by combining oils and sodium hydroxide lye, which causes a chemical reaction called saponification. In the process, they get to choose the oils, scents, colorants and any other ingredients. Their line of soaps includes Bay Citrus, Black Moss, Crisp Mint and the popular Goated, which is made with oatmeal, a combination of oils, shea butter, essential oils of spearmint and eucalyptus and, yes, goat’s milk.
“Our competitors use drop-ship soap, which means they buy their soaps from a manufacturer and brand it as their own,” Jacob Fernandez explains. “Our cold-process soap is tedious, and it takes about a month for our soaps to cure.”
As Brossentia business takes off, Jacob Fernandez remains grounded, following the Hogan Entrepreneurial Program’s motto, “Doing business things that make social sense. Doing social things that make business sense.”
“I would say that our business aligns with the Marianist value of family spirit,” the 22-year-old says. “Through shared experiences, we plan to partner with grassroot organizations that promote and expand quality mental healthcare for men, donating one percent of our sales to nonprofits.
“Chaminade has put me in a better position to become a registered nurse,” Jacob Fernandez continues. “Balancing life, studies, clinical hours, a part-time job and Brossentia can be demanding. Going into my fourth year, I feel like I need to fit a few more pieces into the puzzle before graduating, but I am excited for the future.”
As Brossentia’s tagline goes: Sudisfaction Guaranteed.