By: Sakita Holley (@MissSuccess)
Funlayo Alabi is the co-founder of natural hair and body care product company Shea Radiance. After seven years of hard work and persistence, the company she created with her husband will have its products sold in Target stores nationwide. Last month, the couple celebrated their Target launch in a Maryland mansion, which could have easily served as an emblem of their increasing success.
As one of the company’s that was an early champion of curlBOX, it’s fitting that we kick off our ‘Beyond the Box’ series with this inspiring entrepreneur.
We caught up with Funlayo to learn more about her business philosophy, get her thoughts on curlBOX and to take a deeper look at the woman behind Shea Radiance’s success.
curlBOXBLOG: What year did you officially launch Shea Radiance?
Funlayo Alabi: We launched in 2005.
cBB: How many employees do you have?
FA: 4 full-time and one part-time.
cBB: Before launching Shea Radiance, did you have any experience in the beauty industry?
FA: No, we started with very basic Shea butter-based products and just learned from there.
cBB: What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned since launching Shea Radiance?
FA: Not a surprise but a revelation, that I have something of value to offer the world. When we started making basic Shea butter balms to manage our kids’ dry skin problems, we never realized it could lead to this. When people tell me how much our products have helped alleviate some skin or hair care problem, I am filled with great joy.
cBB: Shea Radiance is very upfront about its social mission in Africa, why is your work there so important and how can the natural hair community help?
FA: If you ever get a chance to visit a Shea production village anywhere in Africa, you are going to fall in love with the women and be completely moved by some of the challenges they face. We are not a charity organization and these women are not looking for pity or handouts. What we want to create, with God’s help, is a thriving business relationship with the women by training, providing equipment and providing a market for their raw Shea butter. If we do our job well, by creating products people love, we will make a profit, we can then turn around and invest that into the community in a meaningful way. The natural hair community can help by buying our products and telling their friends about us.
cBB: After seven years in business, your brand is expanding to Target. How will this impact your business? And is this something you’ve been working toward for awhile or did it come as a pleasant surprise?
FA: Expanding to Target has definitely raised the stakes for our business. We have had to scale up our production and establish processes that will enable us to continue producing the high quality products we are known for.
Getting our hair products in Target has been a goal of ours because we love Target and always felt that the Target guest would love the Shea Radiance brand. It’s always a pleasant surprise when you accomplish a goal that seemed like a dream.
cBB: What is your most popular product?
FA: It’s a toss up between the Moisturizing Hair Milk and the Nourishing Hair Repair Cream
cBB: What effect do you think natural hair bloggers and enthusiasts have on the market? Your company?
FA: An incredible impact. The woman with natural hair gets her information, not from flashy ad campaigns or hyped up media events, but from bloggers who sample and give their honest opinions about the product. Natural hair bloggers can make a brand if they love your products.
cBB: What was your first impression of curlBOX?
FA: [I thought it was] beautiful and elegant, definitely upscale. I was definitely drawn to it the moment I saw it.
cBB: What was the impact of including Shea Radiance products in the curlBOX?
FA: We saw videos and reviews raving about the Nourishing Hair Cream that was sampled. We also noticed that the Nourishing Hair Cream is now one of our best selling items.
cBB: Would you recommend curlBOX to other natural hair/body care companies?
FA: Absolutely. curlBOX has successfully identified and tapped into the demographic that hair manufacturers want to reach. The demographic is educated, product-savvy and creative women who want to try things out before they invest.
cBB: Do you have any mentors in the beauty/natural hair industry?
FA: I really look up to Lisa Price from Carol’s Daughter. She started creating beautiful products in her kitchen and look at where she is today. After I read her book, I completely related to her as woman entrepreneur following her dream and doing something out of the box. I don’t know her personally but from what I can tell she seems like a very down to earth and humble woman even with her accomplishments.
cBB: Who or what else inspires you?
FA: The bible. There is always something in there to address every challenge I face as a wife, mother and entrepreneur.
cBB: Much like Lisa Price, you’ve also attained a certain amount of success. What advice would you have for someone who wanted to start a natural hair/body care product company?
FA: Start with what you know. Invest in building your brand.
cBB: What is the best business advice you’ve ever been given?
FA: Build your brand.
cBB: What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to get to where you are today?
cBB: That’s a powerful statement. Have there been moments when you’ve wanted to give up?
FA: Absolutely. But, I have no Plan B so I have to make this work.
cBB: What’s next for Shea Radiance?
FA: Our plan is to continue creating beautiful, innovative hair and body care products.
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Sakita Holley is a lifestyle writer and the founder of House of Success, a New York-based lifestyle PR firm. You can tweet your thoughts about this story directly to the writer, @MissSuccess.