After living with some Rastafarians during a 1999 anthropological study in Jamaica, Nathan Morin decided to become a vegan and use only organic body care products – except he couldn't find a deodorant he liked so he stopped wearing any.
“No one really complained at all,” Morin said. “Maybe they were just being polite.”
While living in Chicago and riding his bike for exercise and transportation, the Snider High School graduate rode 10 miles through the August heat for a first-time date.
“The date went amazingly well. She was very polite, but I got ghosted as the kids would say,” he said. “I realized I was really ripe.”
That disappointment was nine years ago, and Morin, now 40, used it to spark a business and become the self-proclaimed “Deodorant King of Chicago.” He's about to solidify his brand's presence on a national level as late last month Morin's North Coast Organics company announced a partnership with Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band The Grateful Dead to produce a line of vegan deodorants.
“It led to me working with the Grateful Dead so all is well that ends well,” Morin said.
North Coast products are available in more than 2,000 stores across the country through three major distributors, but Morin expects the partnership with The Grateful Dead will quadruple that over the next few years by taking advantage of the brand's ability to get into the national store chains. The products with six scents are available at the 3 Rivers Co-op Natural Grocery and Deli, 1612 Sherman Blvd.
Morin said he's been working on a marketing agreement with The Grateful Dead for almost two years.
“North Coast Organics lives and functions as we do, with an awareness that the future's here, we are it, and we need to take care of the planet and ourselves,” Grateful Dead Legacy manager and archivist David Lemiuex said in a release.
Morin may sound like a bit of a quirky kook, but he actually has two degrees from Ball State University and thought he'd end up as an anthropology professor. He's traveled the world, developed an incredible contact list of friends and an ability to compile market research, which led to an amazing story.
“Nate has always thought outside the box,” said his mother, Debbie Morin. “If you just met him in a bar, you'd probably think this is a longtime hippie, but once you get talking business with him, he knows facts, figures and everything. He can tell you an email from five years ago. Nate has always had big ideas, and I've learned to trust him.”
He also had the courage to take a chance on founding his unique business in July 2012, starting in his Chicago condo until zoning laws forced him to find somewhere else to manufacture. That meant he set up in his mother's Fort Wayne garage in the Georgetown area for six months where she'd make the mixture, label it and ship it to Nate in Chicago. He would then go out and make the sales calls.
“This is not an accident,” Nate Morin said. “It combined at that time 12 years of experience being an organic product consumer, anthropology taught me to identify great opportunities and I had a lot of great friends who helped out. It was a perfect storm of identifying an opportunity and I was able to take advantage of it right away.”
The business kept getting bigger so he moved back to Fort Wayne in 2014 and the company moved to the old Bunn Candy Factory on East Berry Street for three years. The last four years, it's been at 629 E. Washington Blvd., with a diverse staff of 10 employees.
Morin used the $10,000 that he had saved for an anthropological adventure in New Zealand, Australia and parts of Asia as an investment in the business. But it appears to have paid off, as his company is now considered the No. 1 organic, vegan and socially aware deodorant on the market.