CEO of Shea Radiance, Mrs Funlayo Alabi currently runs a multi-million dollar skin care company from her kitchen, one she started by chance. Her son was suffering from severe eczema, so she sought a more natural alternative to deal with it. “We had him on steroids. I thought to myself, “This boy is going to live on steroids if I don’t find a more natural alternative,” she told Inc. Alabi who hadn’t been a fan of shea butter as a kid, reluctantly called her mother and asked her to bring some on her next visit to the States.
In just seven years, business owner Funlayo Alabi has made a significant mark on the billion-dollar skincare and hair care industries.
And she is well on her way to contributing to the already rapidly growing world of cosmetics, while dramatically changing the lives of women in Africa.
The skincare industry accounted for nearly 35.3 percent of the global market in 2014, and the products in the global skincare segment create a $121 billion industry. Hair care products represent a large segment of the beauty market, too, with sales reaching $11.6 billion in the United States in 2014, according to MarketResearch.com.
Alabi grew tired of using medicine for her sons’ severe eczema.
“This boy is going to live on steroids if I don’t find a more natural alternative,” Alabi told Inc.com.
So she turned to shea butter, a product that her mother frequently used on her in West Africa. Not only did it greatly improve her sons’ skin, but it also improved her own skin’s dryness and gave it a glow.
It was 2008 when the Maryland resident started mixing shea butter lotions and shampoos in her own kitchen. Inc.com says that she would often experiment and get creative with the ingredient, sometimes including lavender to soothe breakouts or baobab oil to stimulate collagen. Thus her company Shea Radiance, was born.
After getting amazing reviews from family and friends, Alabi began to sell in pop-up shops at her office and eventually, at farmers markets.
“I was running out of inventory so fast, and we knew that we really needed a steady supply chain to keep growing,” she told Inc.com. “I have always had a business mind and knew that we could develop high-quality shea butter products and sell them.”
Alabi said her products have a significant amount of shea butter in them, while many other shea butter lotions contain less than 1 percent of shea in them.
“For the best results, a shea butter lotion or cream should have no less than 5 percent of shea in the formula. The most effective shea creams and lotions will have upwards of 20 percent of shea,” Alabi told Biconi.com.
To conduct additional research, Alabi visited shea communities in northern Nigeria to understand the harvesting and production process. But when she and her husband arrived, they were disappointed to discover that the women working in the shea communities were still poor.
“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,” Alabi told Inc.com. “We can support their economies and we can give these women the economic access they need to support their families.”
The business savvy CEO calls shea butter ‘women’s gold’ because the proceeds from gathering the nuts and processing them into butter yield the women an income they use to feed, clothe and educate their children.
“They also use this money to supplement the family income in other ways; but most importantly, this is income women get to keep and use at their own discretion. Women feel empowered when they can make an income from their own businesses,” Alabi told Biconi.com.
“We have an impact in our supply chain as they are our partners. They harvest and process the shea nuts into butter, and we work closely with them to make sure that their businesses grow.” Alabi said in one of her marketing videos.
Today, Shea Radiance has more than 20 different hair and skin products and is a multi-million dollar company. In addition to the brick-and-mortar sales, the company is ramping up e-commerce and international channels, especially in Europe and the Gulf States that are desperate for her products. Inc.com reports that based on current growth, sales for Shea Radiance products will gross tens of millions by 2020.
“Our goal is to make them [women] feel beautiful. When your hair and skin feel great, you can accomplish anything.” Alabi said. “I believe that when a woman feels beautiful, she can change the world.”
Not yet satisfied, Funlayo Alabi wishes she could do more –
“I would like to be freed up to do more work with women in agricultural societies in West Africa. I really do believe that a jar of cream is not just a jar of cream. It can change the world. When women are economically empowered, it affects the family. And once you can affect the quality of life of a family, you can effect the community.” she said.