Big interview – Shalom Lloyd of Naturally Tribal Skincare
Ahead of her speaking slot at our Retail Customer Marketing Webinar next week, here we interview Shalom Lloyd, founder and managing director of the Naturally Tribal Skincare brand.
What was your background before starting the business?
I was awarded a full scholarship to study pharmacy in the former Soviet Union and arrived in Moscow aged 16 without knowing anyone or a single word of Russian. After six years of living and studying in the country, I returned home to the UK with a BSc and MSc in Pharmacy.
Although being a young black woman in Russia presented many challenges, my experience in the country not only nurtured the scientist in me, but gave me the confidence, determination and will to succeed, as well as an understanding that my success or failure was entirely down to me.
On arrival back in the UK, I embarked on a career in the pharmaceutical industry. Building a career in the drug development arena enabled me work from the ground up into leadership roles where I led teams locally and across six countries. My work involved managing significant budgets and leading innovation projects and strategic focus areas.
During that time, I also became a proud mother of five, a wife and a self-certified workaholic! I launched Naturally Tribal Skincare when I was still working in my pharmaceuticals job, then in 2018 decided to follow my passion and focus on growing the business.
Naturally Tribal Skincare is quite a unique business. How did you come up with the idea?
The business was born from a need, a problem and personal experience. After four cycles of IVF, I was blessed with the birth of my twins in 2014. My boy, Joshua, had miserable eczema – scratch ‘till you bleed’ irritation and I could not bear the idea of smothering his sensitive baby skin with chemical emollients and steroids. My love and appreciation of the pharmaceutical industry meant that I understood the enormous value of medical treatments; however, our skin is a huge exchange organ which absorbs a lot of what we put on it. So when you think about it, what we put on ourselves and our family’s skin should be just as important as what we eat.
I looked to my African heritage for inspiration, recalling recipes containing all-natural ingredients that have been used in Africa for generations. I started to experiment in my kitchen using high quality shea butter as a main base then stumbled across the right formulation. Within three days of application, Joshua’s skin became what it should have been from birth.
What people sometimes do not understand is that skin diseases remain a major cause of disability worldwide and as many as 15 million people are living with an infuriating skin condition in the UK alone. One in every five children in the UK are affected by eczema at some stage.
Tell us more about how you developed the business?
I realised very quickly that sourcing the right high-quality natural ingredients is the key to product efficacy. I also knew that traditional remedies that use raw, natural ingredients have worked extremely well in Africa for thousands of years. These remedies are now under threat and could potentially be lost if we do not pass the ancestry baton onto future generations.
Being a control freak by nature, I needed to understand the ‘ingredient journey’ and in some way control my end-to-end supply chain. Our main ingredient is unrefined shea butter and I also discovered that the shea industry has women at its core with over 16 million rural African women collecting and processing shea kernels as a main source of income.
The search for my key ingredients led me to the Kingdom of Essan in Nigeria’s Niger State, from where our high-grade ingredients are sourced. Expertise and heritage are integral to the Naturally Tribal brand, so our collaboration with the people of Essan goes way beyond making ‘just another shea-based skincare product’. Our ingredients and products pay homage to a rich African cultural identity and provide an opportunity for everyone to recognise the significance of the women of Africa.
We are currently supporting the Kingdom of Essan with infrastructure, employment and giving back to communities – this underpins our mission and vision. We aim to provide sustainable, fair and enjoyable sources of income for local producers and their families, villages and communities, thereby empowering women who are the main workforce.
However, Naturally Tribal Skincare is a proudly British company, using only Mother Nature’s gifts to create natural skincare products for the whole family without the use of synthetic chemicals. We import personally selected natural ingredients from Africa for research, testing, formulation and manufacture in the UK. Once products are manufactured, they are beautifully packaged for global distribution and export.
It is important to me to build a company that respects nature’s ability to support clean beauty and wellbeing. Our brand ethos is built on valuing healthy, ethical and sustainable living, simplicity and transparency whilst maintaining luxury.
Can you tell us more about your marketing strategies and activities to keep customers engaged?
Across industries and markets internationally, ethical conscientiousness and traceability have become buzzwords and even requirements for consumers. And shoppers are more well informed and savvier than ever before. Provenance, authenticity and heritage appeal to shoppers and are becoming an increasing priority. The health, beauty and cosmetic industries are no different, with retailers and consumers wanting to know where their products come from. In fact, some retailers are now taking it a step further by specifying origins, regions and sometimes specific suppliers or farmers. Our key pillar of traceabilit allows us to meet this challenge.
Naturally Tribal Skincare is a unique indie skincare brand built on efficacy, sustainability, ethical sourcing, giving back value and love for our planet. We pride ourselves in tailoring our messaging to meet customers personal needs.
It is all about values. So, whether shoppers are looking for efficacy, are vegan, want products that are not tested on animals, have love for our planet, or just want a quality brand with a conscience – we engage and speak their language.
Today, my business goes beyond the Naturally Tribal range of skincare products and now gives us the chance to make a real difference, add value and improve the lives of women in Africa. We call our customers #Tribers and encourage them to take this journey with us and engage. Our marketing strategies underpin all of this. Customer engagement is at the core of everything we do and is something that I personally love.
I have appeared on the TJC shopping Channel for nearly two years and it is a joy to speak directly to and interact with customers – good, bad or ugly. Their feedback shapes everything we do.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your business? And what are your thoughts on Brexit?
In addition to hitting sales, Covid- 19 has presented many unforeseen challenges including impacting the supply chain, halting production and delaying our women shea collectors in Africa. We were on an upward trajectory with our John Lewis pop-up shops just starting to take off. We were also planning to launch into 10 new health stores in Nigeria in April.
During the pandemic, we have been supporting NHS frontline workers by donating products which help nourish skin due to excessive hand washing. We have also been supplying PPE to our Essan women, launched a new shop website in Nigeria, and increased our investment in ecommerce. This period has given us the opportunity to revisit our SWOT analysis and given us the time to maximise our strengths, build on our weaknesses, tackle any threats and hone in on new opportunities.
A friend asked me a question recently – “Given the current situation with Covid-19 and the impact on your business, what would you do differently?” The answer came surprisingly easy to me – “Not much! If anything, this has shown me that we were doing the right things. Our foundation, our journey, our business model, our products – are all built on sustainability, ethical sourcing, giving back value, loving our planet, efficacy, robust value chain and love for what we do”.
Regarding Brexit, we see it as opportunity especially for exporting. In June 2017, Naturally Tribal Skincare became a Commonwealth Export Champion for the Third Cohort of the Commonwealth First programme. We became one of the 100 outstanding British businesses selected for the scheme. This gives us confidence looking ahead to Brexit as being a Commonwealth Export Champion opens doors to a reputable and prestigious organisation giving us access over two billion potential customers across 54 countries. For a relatively new business like ours, the opportunities for international trade and business networking are limitless.
Earlier this year, we also became one of the Department of International Trade Export champions and this adds to our credibility and makes us attractive to businesses both within and outside the commonwealth.
How do you see the business developing in the future, especially with regard to new products and expansion?
We have so many exciting things happening. We are rebranding and are due to launch our new look in the last quarter of this year. In addition, we are adding a body wash to our range which will complete our ‘Exfoliate/Wash/ Moisturise’ regimen and are also kicking off the formulation stage for our hair care line this month.
Other plans include building even stronger relationships with our current stockists, looking to grow and expand into the hospitality industry, partnering with luxury spas, and making inroads into being stocked into airline duty free luxury goods sector.
Our aim over the next five years is to become a sustainable business built on ethical sourcing, innovation, empowerment and our love for our planet. We are on a mission to become the leading indie skincare brand that inspires everyone to love their skin, naturally.
We also want ensure that we work in line with our values and deliver on our mission and vision, providing best in class premium natural products while using strong leadership and management expertise to ensure profitability and year–on–year growth.
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