Funyalo Alabi may be a new to the $121 billion skin care industry, but there's no denying she's taking it by storm thanks to a new product line featuring an ingredient that has been the secret of Black women for generations: shea butter.
Her company, Shea Radiance, incorporates the African staple into creams, balms and salves for the body and hair. Alabi credits her West African roots and being chased around by her mother and slathered with shea butter whenever she had any kind of ailment for sparking the idea for Shea Radiance.
“Mother’s love it, kids hate it,” Alabi joked to Inc.com as she told the story of her decision to try the natural healing powers of shea butter when her son suffered from severe eczema. Alabi asked her mother to bring shea butter on her next visit to the US, and shortly after, the entire family noticed their skin looking and feeling better than it ever had.
In 2008, Alabi realized that she had a miracle product on her hand. “I have always had a business mind and knew that we could develop high-quality shea butter products and sell them,” she recounted.
She got to work developing different mixtures of shea butter in her own kitchen. She created the company and what started as giving out samples to friends and family turned into sales at pop-up shops at her office and eventually at a booth at local farmers markets. “I was running out of inventory so fast and we knew that we really needed a steady supply chain to keep growing.”
That is when Alabi and her husband traveled to Nigeria to try and find a source of consistent product. What they found was something even more impressive. “We found women. We came to realize that every product that had shea butter in it involved one woman, often with a baby strapped to her back, walking through the fields and collecting each fruit on the ground, one by one,” she recounts.
It was then that Alabi realized, “If we can do a good job marketing and selling our shea butter products, we can have an impact on communities — even if it is just one or two. We can buy from these women. We can support their economies and can give these women the economic access they need to support their families.” Suddenly, Shea Radiance had a mission statement: to empower the women they worked with through economic independence.
Alabi made good on her goal, and in 2010 the women produced 22,000 pounds that was shipped to the U.S., allowing Shea Radiance to really tackle the competitive market of skin care. Since then, Shea Radiance has launched more than 20 hair and skin products and is sold in over 7,000 stores throughout the US.
Based on current growth, the company that started in Alabi's home kitchen, and in the fields of Nigeria, will gross tens of millions by 2020.
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(Photo: Shea Radiance)
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