In this brand new Issues series, we speak to entrepreneurs about the barriers they faced in business, and what kept them focussed on success.
Up first is Shalom Lloyd, Founder of Naturally Tribal Skincare, a company whose goal it is to provide natural remedies to manage skin conditions like dry skin and eczema. Turning to her ancestral roots, she sources natural remedies using raw, 100% natural and sustainable ingredients from Africa. Naturally Tribal Skincare now employs local women in the Kingdom of Essan, Nigeria, with an ethos of ‘trade not aid’.
Shalom is also Director at JE Oils, a Nigeria-based manufacturer of agriculturally derived oils, which delivers ethical and sustainable products locally, as well as to customers around the globe. In addition, she is the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Emerging Markets Quality Trials (EMQT), an organisation focused on the inclusion of patients of African descent into clinical trials.
Driven by a desire to create a more sustainable, inclusive and diverse business landscape, this is what motivates Shalom – in her own words.
Owning and operating a business is far from easy. I think I have always had that so-called ‘entrepreneurial spirit’, but what actually prepared me was working for other people; learning, absorbing and understanding what I would do differently if it was my own business.
I had to set my priorities and ask myself: What problem are you solving? Is there a market for it? Can you afford it? Do you know or have the right people?
Failure is the first step to success; multiple failures are multiple steps towards success and if there is a glass ceiling, as they say, then I put it there myself.
‘If you build it, they will come!”
I never intended to start a company. I’m a pharmacist, I’ve worked in drug development. So entering the beauty industry felt like a big leap. When my son was born covered in eczema, I blamed myself, thinking: is it the chemicals, or the IVF? I live in a world where science and nature collide. I believe in the power of medicines and chemicals, but I wanted to find a natural remedy for my child.
Entering the beauty industry wasn’t necessarily something I planned to do. I was just a mum, but also a woman who had gone through four cycles of IVF and finally had my twins. After pumping myself with chemicals to conceive him, I wanted to find something natural to soothe his eczema. As a mother, you’re going through the internet joining focus groups, and you realise – oh my God – there’s so many people with this same issue, the same problem that could write the same concerning stories you have.
When I did find the solution, it would have been a crime not to share it. Naturally Tribal is a journey and the success we have achieved to date is definitely down to our values, our principles and our ethos to do what’s right. If you build it, they will come!
I also co-founded EMQT to advocate for racial diversity in clinical trials. Black people make up 17% of the world’s population, yet less than 3% of us are involved in clinical trials. When my father passed away from cancer, he lived in Africa. I wonder if he was involved in the clinical trial process, maybe he’d still be with me today. I’m always driven by trying to create a solution.
When you are starting out, you don’t realise that people can make or break your business. They are your greatest assets and can be your biggest downfall.
There will always be barriers and obstacles throughout our life journey. My life experiences have not only nurtured the scientist in me, they have also given me confidence, determination, tenacity, the will to succeed, the ability to adapt, and an understanding that my success or failure is down to me.
When I was 16, I was fortunate enough to be given a full scholarship to study pharmacy in the former Soviet Union. I arrived in Moscow, and within 24 hours was on a train to a small town in the Ukraine – Vinnitsa, which became my home for my one year intensive Russian language programme. Six years after living and studying in a country to which I arrived without knowing anyone, or speaking a single word of Russian, I returned back home to the UK with a BSc and MSc in pharmacy. In addition to the language barrier, I faced challenges in the former Soviet Union being a Black woman.
However, my experience in Ukraine not only nurtured the scientist in me, it also gave me confidence. It gave me determination, tenacity, the will to succeed, the ability to adapt, and most importantly the understanding that my success, or my failure is down to me. In Africa, it’s still very much a man’s world. But we women are learning to stand up, and we need to shout out and be heard. And I love that we’re doing that professionally and with power. A woman building a factory and employing people in Africa is not something you see every day.
I never embark on a journey expecting it to be easy. I go in knowing that there will always be things that get in the way. I am also very fortunate to be one of those people who sees opportunities in everything I do, believing that ‘failure’ is an option! Failure is the first step to success; multiple failures are multiple steps towards success and if there is a glass ceiling, as they say, then I put it there myself.
Reminding myself of my ‘why’ has always helped me to stay motivated and focussed.
Finance was of course a big challenge when launching Naturally Tribal Skincare. I had to remortgage my home to start this business. It has been worth it, but cashflow is a killer!
Building the factory in Essan required investment and I am honoured to be working with investors who are also colleagues and friends. When you are starting out, you don’t realise that people can make or break your business. They are your greatest assets and can be your biggest downfall.
Then there was the challenge of the industry itself! The beauty industry is so saturated, hence you have to be bringing something special, unique and innovative to the table. I have learned that I deserve my place at this table and never to sell myself or my products short.
Diversifying and advocating for fairness
The Shea industry supports and provides income to over 16 million women across the African continent, but around 8 million Shea trees are lost every year across West Africa. Our job is to do what we can to support that supply chain; we can’t just consume.
With the help and support of the leaders like the King of Essan, we’re taking baby steps towards putting Shea producing communities on the map.
Reminding myself of my ‘why’ has always helped me to stay motivated and focussed. This so-called entrepreneurial journey is a lonely and hard one! However, it is really true what they say about doing what you love and loving what you do.
I have sacrificed time with my family, my children; I have invested way too much, and I have so many people relying on me – I cannot give up now. The confidence my family has in me keeps me going, and the fact that the businesses I am involved with impacts and touches lives every day keeps me focused. My focus is now to ensure that we are commercially viable and profitable!
How these businesses make me feel gets me through those times when I feel as though the odds are stacked up against me.
“Be genuine, surround yourself with a great team and remember that failure is always a possibility”
Follow your passion
My advice to budding entrepreneurs would be to do something you are passionate about – because the journey is tough! Never let a lack of finance stop you. Be genuine, surround yourself with a great team and remember that failure is always a possibility – and even a necessary step towards success.
When you start out, particularly in a sector you are somewhat unfamiliar with, there is a tendency to assume that everyone knows more than you do, which simply isn’t true. Always listen to your gut and have confidence in your product or service.
Involving and working with the right people from the start would have saved me a lot of pain, too – but going through this process and journey has taught me some very valuable life lessons! If I could go back, I would tell myself: “It will be OK. Just take your time, don’t succumb to the pressure and surround yourself with the right people. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ and place more value on your time.”
Finally, know your numbers and know the value you bring. If you are going to do it, do it well and don’t cut corners!
Top five tips to succeed in business
1. Pursue something you’re passionate about. The business journey is tough, so you need to really care about the company you’re building.
2. Always have confidence in your product or service. ‘Imposter syndrome’ can affect even the most confident people, but don’t assume the business world is full of people who know more than you do.
3. Remind yourself of your ‘why’! This will help to motivate you and sharpen your focus when running your business seems overwhelming.
4. Surround yourself with the right people.
5. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. Your time is valuable and it’s up to you how you want to spend it – especially when you’re trying to build a business.
What the Shea industry is
Shea butter is a natural vegetable fat containing saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins E, A, F, and carotene. It’s used to soothe and moisturise skin and provides an appropriate basis for hair and skin hydrating products.
A product of the nuts of karité trees that grow in the Sahel region, which extends from West to East Africa, Shea has been described as “women’s gold” for centuries. This is due to both its golden colour and the employment opportunities it provides to millions of women across the continent.
According to GMI Insights, the global shea butter market is estimated to reach $2.9 billion by 2025. Europe accounts for more than a quarter share of the global market. Data from the Global Shea Alliance shows that the majority (90%) of processed shea butter goes to the food industry, while the rest is used in personal care products, such as hair and skin treatments.