skincare

016, Funlayo Alabi, Shea Radiance | Women’s Gold

You may have seen shea butter as an ingredient, especially in high-end beauty products. But did you know that in Africa, shea butter is called “women’s gold”?

Funlayo Alabi and her husband share a common problem, dry skin. They have a son who had kidney problems, and he also had very dry skin. Their second son had a severe case of eczema. After trying several over the counter and prescription remedies, they found no relief. So, they thought back to their childhood in Nigeria and remembered their parents and grandparents using shea butter to remedy dry skin. Funlayo’s husband experimented with different formulations over a two-year period until they developed their first product.

Eventually Funlayo and her husband traveled to Nigeria, where they partnered with women’s cooperatives, an NGO and the Nigerian government to create a supply chain of shea butter. Funlayo’s company, Shea Radiance, provided equipment and training.

By the middle of 2012, Shea Radiance had acquired more than 12 metric tons of shea butter from these women. Funlayo’s small team was trying to do everything from sourcing to logistics to branding to sales & marketing. In 2012, Shea Radiance had a tremendous opportunity to sell their product in a big-box store in the US. They tried bootstrapping this opportunity, and did not have the right resources to weather a slow start in the retailer and to market the brand correctly. The retailer pulled back, severely impacting Funlayo’s business.

At this point, Funlayo and her husband seriously considered quitting, except for two factors. They had a product that consumers loved and they had a group of women in Nigeria and Ghana depending on them to market shea butter. They knew that they could not quit. It was at this time that they met Jeff Cherry of the Conscious Venture Lab, an impact-company accelerator.

In the Conscious Venture Lab, Funlayo was able to narrow their focus, improve their branding and find better ways to tell their story. Today, Shea Radiance continues to grow as a strong brand. They are using convertible debt to fund the company.

In this episode of the Social Entrepreneur podcast, we discuss:

  • The power of shea butter as community development tool
  • The importance of supporting women
  • The power of naivety
  • The Business model canvas
  • How Shea Radiance turned around their company after a severe setback
  • Lessons learned

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