How did the idea for your business come about?
In 2014, I gave birth to a beautiful set of twins! One of my twins, Joshua, was covered in eczema from birth and I spent months combining lotions, creams, emollients, teas – you name it – to stop his ‘scratch until drawing blood’ dilemma. I tapped into my African heritage and started to mix raw, ingredients from Africa – the scientist in me took over, experimenting and testing. Using these natural ingredients and once I stumbled on the right formula, it miraculously only took three days for Joshua’s skin to become what it should have been at birth. Naturally Tribal Skincare was born out of this personal experience and experimenting. Through the combination of my African heritage mixed with an English twist, I solved my child’s skincare problem naturally WITHOUT CHEMICALS and felt like a ‘hero’ mum.
Today, we use Mother Nature’s gifts to create natural products, manufactured and tested in the UK with our ingredients ethically sourced, while supporting and empowering African women. We are supporting infrastructure to ensure quality and working conditions, particularly for the women of Essan, Niger State in Nigeria!
How did you hear about the CWF programme and what made you apply?
In April 2017, The Naturally Tribal Skincare Ltd Research & logistics Coordinator, Zantie O’Connell was sent an email from Royal Mail’s ‘Click & Drop Support’ team which was titled ‘Become a CommonwealthFirst Export Champion with Royal Mail’. We have outstanding innovative products and a great story to tell plus the benefits we would gain as an SME such as mentoring, training, profiling and branding to help our company access the 52 Commonwealth countries was too good to miss. Seeing this as a programme which aligns with our vision for the company, the team agreed to move forward with our application and we are certainly glad that we did!
What are you hoping to get out of the CWF programme?
Our success to date has largely been due to making good contacts, learning and developing our brand and knowledge. The CWF programme we are hoping will take us to the next level, give us exposure as well as enable us be recognised as a great UK brand from whom others can learn from and tap into in the future.
What difficulties have you encountered setting up your business?
Funding, time and raising awareness (marketing) are 3 bottlenecks for most start-ups, for most entrepreneurs.
Funding can be the difference between success and failure. Yes we’ve had to raise finance to get to where we are but it has all been self-funded to date. There does not seem to be enough time in the day and no matter how great ones product or service is, of no one knows about it, it’s pointless.
What are the biggest trade and export challenges you face?
Access to the right contacts, markets and the right information. In addition, being prepared and skilled to identify real opportunities.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow and develop your business?
Our People/ Team: Built a great team of people who believe in what we are trying to achieve, see the potential growth, who share the short to long term vision and see this company as not just a local UK based organisation but one that has the potential to reach customers across the globe.
Beyond aesthetic beauty, why is looking after your skin important?
As our natural human blanket and protector, our skin is our natural barrier to external elements. As the body’s largest organ, it protects, keeps us at the right temperature, fights infection and allows our sense of touch, so it goes without saying that our skin is worth giving the tender loving care it deserves.
Hermione Lawson of the British Skin Foundation says: “If you look after your skin, it will be able to do its job better. There are a number of ways you can protect your skin to maintain health.”
Every day we wash our skin to prevent smell and infection, however, too much washing or the use of harsh products can wash away the natural oils we need to keep our skin nice and healthy.
This is where the Naturally Tribal Skincare range come in!
We formulate and develop skincare products based on naturally sourced ingredients that will gently moisturise and deliver benefits our customers will come to expect.
Beauty to us is more than skin deep! On average we wash, lather, rub and spray ten different skin care products on our bodies daily. This means that our skin absorbs the multitude of chemicals we expose it to. Our goal is to use Mother Nature to minimise this increase in skin chemical exposure, go back to basics, back to our roots by developing safe, natural, effective and beneficial products for the entire family. Natural, clean, raw, unadulterated body goodness is what we are about.
We are different! We have products made from edible ingredients, so the term ‘Body Food’ made sense. If it is good enough to eat then it’s good enough for your skin – that simple.
How do you ensure your products are both sustainable and ethical?
Shea Butter is one of the main ingredients of our product range. Our Shea Butter is currently ethically sourced from a local community of women in Essan, Niger State, in Nigeria.
These women are a strong motivation for us and form a huge part of why we do what we do. We journeyed to meet them at the start of our venture and when asked what they wanted, they cited their need to be valued and recognized for what they do.
As such we formed a win-win partnership with them and have adopted a ‘Trade, Not Aid’ ethos with the community. We are currently working with the community to develop a Shea production and processing factory which will ensure quality products/ ingredients by simplifying processes, increasing productivity, educate and empower the local community. With regards to sustainability, most of our ingredients by virtue of the way they are grown and processed would comfortably tick the box for being sustainable.
Our main ingredient, Shea butter is wild crop and is free growing thus minimising land use consumption in its growth. All our ingredients are grown using renewable sources of energy and actually are manually cultivated as such the environmental impact is drastically reduced.
Millet for example, which is one of our ingredients, is a wonder crop which thrives where other plants struggle. It requires minimal quantities of water to grow as such preserving water and it thrives on non-chemical agronomic practices (grows without fertilizer). Most of our ingredients are also not prone to infestation so do not require the use of pesticides that are not environmentally friendly.
To ensure that the sustainability or our ingredient production continues, we would educate the locals on the environmental impact of using fossil fuel and bad cultivation practices and ensure we put the necessary support in place to encourage clean practices.
Do you have any exciting products/projects in the pipeline?
The skincare market is mega saturated……..that’s a fact without question. It therefore goes without saying that new/ start-up companies embarking on a ‘new skincare’ venture MUST stand out and have something unique, something different and special.
We think we have that ‘something’, that slight ‘edge’. Today, we have eight (8) products on the market however, with over thirty (30) formulations in our pipeline, we have so much more to offer.
We believe in using nature as a catalyst to being kind to our skin which is why our product range is chemical free and produced with a variety of seeds, nuts and other natural ingredients that have amazing properties and benefits to the skin. Majority of our raw materials which are personally and individually sourced from Africa in their raw and unadulterated forms include exotic ingredients unknown in the western world.
In addition, our solution is simply to source our ingredients from the Kingdom of Essan, Nigeria in an ethical and sustainable manner. We will support with infrastructure to ensure quality and training through education and capability building. Our focus is particularly on the women of Essan – empowerment of a kingdom of amazing women! Trade boosts development by enabling people to use resources, their skills and expertise to help themselves and improve their own future. Naturally Tribal Skincare has these values at its heart. We are collaborating with Essan on infrastructure and trade that goes way beyond our business, a portal through which this rich cultural identity can be accessed by the UK and the world through our products.
What is a typical working day for you?
There is no typical working day for us at Naturally Tribal. Each day brings its own crazy uncertainties which make it busy, challenging but so much fun
Where would you like your business to be in 5 years time?
The UK is not known for manufacturing Shea Butter based skincare products with majority used here imported from the USA and other countries. In 5 years’ time, Naturally Tribal will have made a great impact in UK skincare sector. We would be market leaders, the number 1 natural skincare company in the UK with a strong presence locally as well as globally, known for bringing ancient remedies to life for today’s families.
What advice would you give to anybody looking to set up an SME?
I would say 3 things:
View Naturally Tribal’s CWF Profile