By Megan Sayles
In the past, Funlayo Alabi and her family consistently struggled to find skin care products that would adequately moisturize their skin. She and her husband have particularly dry skin, and their kids are prone to dry eczema. Alabi would make trips to the store, buying products that were advertised as extra moisturizing, but nothing seemed to work.
“We were really frustrated at the lack of lotions and creams in big-box stores and drugstores that could address our bone-dry skin problems,” said Alabi.
The Nigerian native figured that if her family was experiencing this issue other African Americans and people of color were probably encountering the same problems. She took it upon herself to fill the gap in the market and began experimenting in her kitchen with mixing her own skincare products.
Alabi’s mother would visit from Nigeria and bring raw shea butter to use in the products, which solved all of their skin problems. `
In 2009, Alabi resigned from her job at an insurance company and jumped into entrepreneurship. She and her husband co-founded Shea Radiance, a natural beauty brand that helps women achieve glowing skin.
“The name Shea Radiance came from two things: the beauty that we felt would be revealed in women’s skin when they started using our products and also the radiance that comes from the African Savanna where the Shea trees grow,” said Alabi.
Shea Radiance picked up various retail accounts, and in 2012, Target approached Alabi about selling her new line of hair care products in their store. While the venture was exciting, their business started struggling a year into being on the shelves because Shea Radiance did not have the capital to support marketing efforts and general operations. The brand’s opportunity for growth almost destroyed their business.
Alabi decided that she would not declare bankruptcy and instead, she would focus on obtaining smaller accounts and organically expanding the brand with the resources at her disposal.
Now, Shea Radiance has a successful nationwide e-commerce business and sells its products in 70 Giant Food stores across the East coast, 450 Whole Foods Markets and about 300 natural beauty stores.
Its best-selling products include an African black soap body wash and a whipped shea body butter with colloidal oatmeal, and many of the products’ ingredients, including the shea butter, are directly-sourced from women-run cooperatives in Africa.
“As we expand and prosper, they prosper, so it gives us the chance to change the narrative economically,” said Alabi. “What African women want is an opportunity to be able to find the right business partners who will work with them and pay them a fair price for their products.”
In the near future, Shea Radiance plans to roll out a rebranded natural hair care line with eight products and a brightening body cream to help women of color with hyperpigmentation.
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