During Black History Month, Shalom was contacted by Grant Thornton to share her experiences and talk all things #Tribal. This week’s blog is written by a new Triber from Grant Thornton, sharing the journey that Shalom and Naturally Tribal have been on.
Shalom Lloyd is a multiple award-winning entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, mentor and pharmaceutical professional. An advocate of science and the natural world, Shalom founded Naturally Tribal Skincare, creating products for all skin types that are natural, vegan, and cruelty and chemical free.
LOOKING AFTER YOUR NEWBORNS CAN BE A LIFE CHANGING BUSINESS VENTURE
The conception of Shalom’s skincare company arose from another birth; Shalom’s twins. Shalom gave birth to fraternal twins Joshua and Amara in 2014 following four cycles of IVF. Both twins were healthy, but Joshua had severe eczema and would scratch his skin raw. Aware of the impact that IVF can have on the body in terms of its chemical processes, Shalom was determined to find a solution for her son’s skin that was as natural as possible.
Shalom then spent the first six to eight months with her young twins researching natural remedies to look after Joshua’s skin. It wasn’t until Shalom looked back to her Nigerian heritage that the answer presented itself: “Black Africans, black people in general take for granted the traditions and heritage of natural remedies and care [we grow up with]”; think of your grandmother’s homemade cure for whatever ails, and you get the idea. Shalom’s kitchen became a laboratory where she researched and mixed the right balance of natural products that were used in her family through the generations. It took a while, but she hit upon the correct chemical balance and mix of ingredients that worked wonders to clear up Joshua’s skin.
Shalom kept mixing and using her blend for Joshua and it kept working. Pots for family and friends followed. It was in these moments that Shalom started to realise that she might have a business proposition. The confidence built from the good results being repeatedly reported back started more conversations in her toddler and baby groups, at work, to anyone willing to try and to listen: “those little steps and stories gave me the confidence to go bigger”
Naturally Tribal Skincare Ltd was incorporated in 2016. The first Naturally Tribal product was the Yara Body Food (called food because Shalom believes that nourishing products are food for the skin), the product range has since grown to eight products (Body Foods, Scrubs and Polish) for adults and children. The names of the product ranges pay homage to Shalom’s British / Nigerian heritage. ‘Yara’ is Hausa for children, though Shalom is quick to confirm that Yara products are for sensitive skin types of all ages. ‘Iya’ is mother or queen in Yoruba (Shalom says the queens in her tribe come in all races and genders) and ‘Agu’ is the name of the men’s range and means lion (or Leopard) in Igbo. People can use all and any products across the ranges.
THE COMPANY’S ORIGINAL NAME WAS NATURALLY NUTS
This was the perfect name because the main ingredients in her products were shea butter, coconut oil and kola; all derived from nuts. It was only on reflecting on some feedback from another mother that Shalom would decide on a name change; the name was off putting to anyone with nut allergies. Shalom realised that the name might alienate a group of people unnecessarily as the nut ingredients in her products (classified as “tree nuts”) are not the same as the common allergy causing proteins found in peanuts, a different nut type altogether (absolutely accepting of course that people need to seek and follow their own allergy advice).
The ‘Naturally’ would stay because the natural and clean nature of the product was fundamental, but what else? Shalom was looking for something, an inclusive call to action that would bring people in together. A word that represented a shared vision for those who would believe in and use the product, almost like members of a collective, a tribe.
The name Naturally Tribal is significant: as Shalom says it is “diversity in itself”. Historically, people associate the word tribe with negativity, segregation, and otherness. Shalom wanted to use her organisation’s name to flip this narrative by building a tribe of people of all backgrounds connected by their love of nature and natural products.
When we meet online, the Jo Malone (the brand not the person) and John Boyega story is still in the news. I ask Shalom whether she was ever tempted to name the company after herself. Shalom explains that she never felt that Naturally Tribal should bear her name. While the company was founded by her, Shalom clearly sees it as something far bigger; something for people who have gone through experiences like hers, who need solutions for their skin conditions.
NATURALLY TRIBAL’S BUSINESS PRINCIPLES ARE CLEAR AND ENDURING
This company is built on three strong pillars and people join the tribe for all and any of the following three company values:
1. Ethical products that work. Shalom proudly stands by what she produces and the testimonials and pictures from the results her happy customers share on her website and social media.
2. Environmental responsibility to look after the planet. Naturally, Tribal products are made of all natural ingredients and are packaged in recyclable and reusable containers – the company brands this pillar, ‘Planet Hugging’.
3. Empowerment and sustainable sourcing. Customers know where the ingredients come from and become part of the journey that supports the right and fair way of doing business.
Naturally Tribal’s shea nut supply chain is an impressive demonstration of the third principle in action. When mixing her product in the early ‘kitchen’ days Shalom ran out of shea butter. Being unimpressed with the end results from making a rush purchase, Shalom realised that she needed a reliable source of the original raw product. Shalom followed her roots back to Nigeria, aka the biggest producer of the raw shea nut. Around 60% of the world’s shea butter originates from Nigeria (although it is not commonly known as an exporter, when compared to Ghana, Mali or Burkina Faso). The shea industry supports and provides income to over 16 million women across the African continent.
Shalom’s research into potential supply sources led her to the Northern states of Nigeria and an introduction to the King of Essan. Shalom describes Essan as a beautiful, lush oasis in North West Nigeria (I can only agree when Shalom shows me drone footage of the site: 16 acres of rolling green hills dotted with shea trees and reams of shea nuts drying naturally in the open). Shea is the main source of income for the women of this region. What Shalom thought would be merely a new supplier of raw material, has blossomed into a purpose led commercial partnership.
Shalom “fell in love” with the Essan women when meeting them and watching their work. They take pride in their processes of creating the shea butter from the raw shea nut and work together as a family supporting each other. The women shared with Shalom their processes and in return Shalom promised to “put them on the map” and made the shea producers of Essan commercial partners with Naturally Tribal.
Today, Essan has a factory facility (with creche and worship rooms) that harvests and processes the shea directly in the region, employing 18 people with plans to employ up to 70. This has created an ecologically sound and sustainable infrastructure, jobs, training and more commercial co-operative opportunities to market and sell their products. Shalom stresses the importance of incorporating culture with the commercial; of using local builders and architects to bring “her mission” to life. Shalom also notes that in those early discussions of what was possible with the King of Essan, his foresight was instrumental in sharing the vision and seeing the potential that everyone in the area would be uplifted and empowered through this work with the Essan women.
THERE ARE SOME EXCITING TIMES AHEAD FOR THE BUSINESS
Coronavirus has brought its challenges to Naturally Tribal as with most businesses, but Shalom has used this as an opportunity for reflection: “Covid has presented an opportunity to review our company and realise what our strengths are, and mitigate any perceived weaknesses”. Leaning into Naturally Tribal’s strengths has meant collaborations with local Nigerian distributors of PPE and donating products to NHS workers, the anti-bacterial and healing nature of the products have become an asset in this new world context.
Sustainability is still high on the agenda with funding and partnerships in place for the Essan facility to become a self-sufficient entity that produces zero waste. The shea manufacturing process can produce up to 70% waste: plans are afoot that will see the discarded shea nut husks used for firewood, and the shea butter residue (called shea cake) used to make animal feed and fertiliser. Natural Tribal will also be rebranding before the end of this year; the jars and packaging are changing (though the products will stay the same). The company will switch to ultraviolet glass jars to help maintain product shelf life and freshness. They will also screen print labels onto their new jars which removes even more plastic from their packaging
Naturally Tribal is always looking for new tribe members: more distributors and stockists to get the products out there. Key target markets are the UK, Scandinavia, Germany and the USA. And Africa too: “it’s an amazing feeling to make skin care products from the kola nut and millet, which are eaten on a regular basis in African countries. To show people that we can do so much more with the wonderful stable nourishing ingredients we have around us.”
A New Triber