In preparation for the Beauty & Money conference in New York, Benedict H. Auld, CEO and Founder of Lapidarius, caught up with founder Yve-Car Momperousse. Kreyol Essence was one of the independent beauty brands hand-picked to share their business and product in a quick-fire round of presentations at Beauty & Money New York.
What is the unique value proposition your brand or product brings to the category?
Kreyol Essence’s ability to serve people who are dealing with dry hair and dry skin and to serve a much-ignored segment: textured hair. Our formulas are both natural and highly effective, and that immediately makes Kreyol Essence different.
Second, we have a hybrid model where we are vertically integrated while also working with small holder farmers and producers. We manufacture straight out of Haiti. Our signature product is Haitian Black Castor Oil. An unrefined castor oil, the processing is significantly different—it’s handmade in Haiti, not machine refined. This allows the multitasking oil to retain higher levels of fatty acids, in particular the fatty acid ricinoleic acid, which helps to promote hair growth and moisture for the skin. It treats the hair shaft and the follicle and the scalp. It protects and nourishes for those with textured hair/ different curl types whose hair tends to be drier. We have also recently launched a second signature ingredient, Haitian Moringa Oil, that is now part of our best sellers for healthy, glowing, and firmer-looking skin.
Tell me about that woman.
That woman, specifically our tribe, is a woman who is on a wellness journey. Often that starts off with skincare and moves to hair. She is learning that her scalp is part of her biggest organ—her skin. She is between 28 and 45 years old. She wants brands that are going to be honest and give her ingredients that will work for her (not someone else with different hair or skin type). She wants to enjoy the product, and our packaging and our natural fragrances smell absolutely amazing. That’s where prestige has ignored her most—often nobody combines these things. We also have a number of customers concerned with hair growth whether it be dealing with alopecia, chemotherapy, or a hair catastrophe from the hairdresser the way I had.
Scent is extremely important—when you’re washing your hair and using styling products you do it from daily to weekly. That is, often. So, being able to enjoy the experience makes you excited to get through the grooming process, that ritual. Whether it’s 5 minutes or 30 minutes, our woman wants to enjoy it. Scent and aroma is evocative of memory, so it links the brand, her positive memories, and her day.
We are passing down the rituals of self-care and beauty to our tribe. And we are creating work for other women. I am very surprised at how well women know this—and they remind me of it all the time. In social media we love it when our tribe begins to answer and help each other, along the values of our company. Naturalness, self-care, and being ethical.
It's an honor to serve her.
What journey is the brand on today in terms of challenges and big opportunities?
If you Venn-diagramed our challenges and opportunities, they would intersect a lot. We are known for our haircare. Being selected for Sephora’s next-generation beauty leader—a huge honor—and looking at industry forecasts, this is a big open space. Prestige haircare for textured hair. Which most people infer as “black” hair. But this is not about ethnicity—it’s about hair types, and textured hair spans lots of different ethnicities and groups (Jewish women, Latina women, Mixed race women, etc.). Women of color outspend their white sisters by 8 or 9X. They are considered the most loyal customers. And we don’t have a voice, yet, as a market segment in wellness or prestige/masstige. So the big opportunity, as usual, is a challenge, as we have to educate.
I’m very much about taking business approaches to solving social problems. And there are some great case studies happening, for example, Unilever’s venture fund that invests in businesses founded by people of color; that’s smart. Because textured hair is the future.
The biggest challenge right now is continuing to educate the buyers. They’re right there, but there’s fear and doubt as with any new idea that has been burgeoning for 20 years for the consumer 😊.
What would your ideal investor look like?
I imagine it in terms of skill sets. An investor that is super-skilled in beauty. So we can speak the same language. One that has dealt with natural, prestige, green beauty. So they get the opportunity and the challenge. Smart money, as they say.
It’s new for beauty investors to think about social impact. It would be nice to have impact investors on board, because we are working in Haiti, which is blessed to have one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the Caribbean with over 5,600 species of plants living in nine life zones from sea level to mountain tops, but where it isn’t easy to do business if you are not from the country. We are determined to change lives, and that is part of our DNA and a considerable component of our ROI. We don’t believe in doing charity. Our customers are job creators and are setting the blueprint for how ethical brands can have tangible change in the lives of others.
I am adamant about making money because we need to do well to do the good we are committed to. I am equally adamant that our business ROI connects directly to our social ROI. In order to have a lasting change on people we have to be successful.
What is your vision for the brand? Where do you see the brand in 5 years?
I envision a company that is at the 10 million+ dollar mark, employing thousands of farmers and women in Haiti and in the USA, that has redefined what beauty looks like in the prestige and the wellness space, and that makes every woman with dry hair, dry skin feel beautiful and confident. In the textured hair space, we aim to be the most health-oriented and refined brand in textured hair. We also envision a Caribbean-based holding company that acts as an incubator and umbrella for smaller brands native to the region.
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