21 Sep, 2021
Most people have heard the saying: ‘Grandma knows best’. But, in the case of Jamaican entrepreneur Javin Williams, CEO at organic cosmetics company ‘Herboo Botanicals’, this old adage has more than proven to be true.
Nearly 10 years ago, when Javin was suffering from dandruff, he asked his grandmother for advice on what herbs he could use to relieve the condition. She passed on her wisdom about herbal remedies and Javin started to experiment in his mother’s kitchen.
He recalls: “When I was in college in 2012, I had really bad dandruff, and the products I used never really worked or they only worked for a short time.
“I went to my grandmother and she recommended rosemary and peppermint and when I used those herbs on my head they got rid of the dandruff within two weeks. A lightbulb went off, and I thought, ‘why don’t we use the herbs we have in Jamaica to make organic products, rather than importing synthetic products?’
“It was a problem I identified and it thrust me into entrepreneurship.”
Javin’s idea centred around blending natural ingredients like coconut oil, sorrel, peppermint, sage oil, lemon grass, and rosemary to make a ‘2-in-1’ shampoo and conditioner to relieve dandruff and an itchy scalp.
But he admits it took a while to get the initial formula right.
“The first prototype wasn’t something to talk about,” Javin recounts. “The formula was so off. It was watery and every time I made it the colour came out different. So, a lot of research went into it. Then we tested it with friends and family and after their feedback we modified it quite a bit.”
• The organic hair care market value will total $9 billion (US) in 2021 (Fact MR).
• From 2021-2031, the organic hair care market’s projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is 7% (Fact MR).
• Shampoo holds the largest market share in the haircare segment and is estimated to grow to $30 billion (US) by 2023 (Statista.com).
• In 2019, Europe dominated the market for natural hair care products and accounted for 38.2% share of the global revenue (Vision Research).
• Hair industry statistics show that 52% of consumers prefer to buy natural or organic shampoo (Statista.com).
Javin came up with the company name Herboo which combines ‘herbal’ with ‘shampoo’ and involved his sister Kamla to assist with marketing the brand. He also enlisted help from the Jamaican Scientific Research Council, along with the Ministry of Health, to further standardise the formulation for his debut product.
He states: “The biggest challenge I faced at the start was a lack of knowledge. I had very little science knowledge and I didn’t study business at all, so in the beginning I didn’t really know what I was doing. I just knew that the product worked and I wanted to get it to as many people as possible.
“Then I did some entrepreneurship training and I learned how to come up with a plan so I could set up and run a profitable business.”
Javin was a quick learner. Herboo has since evolved from a small business into an export-ready company and has benefitted from financial and mentoring support from local institutions including five angel investors through First Angels Jamaica.
He also received an Investment Readiness Grant, a Co-investment Grant, and a Direct Assistance Grant from the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) and describes the organisation’s assistance as “phenomenal”.
“The first time I pitched for investment with Caribbean Export, they pointed out a number of areas that I was weak in and needed to fix,” Javin states.
“They wanted me to get a financial plan, to work on the packaging, logo, and labels, and to secure a distributor. So, I fixed those issues with the Investment Readiness Grant. And the Co-investment Grant helped me to buy more raw materials and get into more retail stores.”
Shortly after winning the ‘’Mogul in the Making’ competition in 2015, Herboo outsourced its bottling to local factory Orion Manufacturing and production levels jumped drastically from 50 to 2,000 bottles a day.
In 2018, Jamaican pharmaceutical distributor Cari-Med also came onboard. This strategic partnership led to a substantial increase in sales.
Javin has also added a protective moisturising hair oil and a body and face oil to the Herboo product range. Later this year, he wants to introduce a separate shampoo and conditioner along with an eczema body wash and hair moisturiser.
Javin describes Herboo as a “farm-to-hair” operation and believes its success is primarily based on its proven scientific benefits and organic ingredients. Most of the herbs used are grown on the family farm in Manchester or supplied by other farms on the island. The bottles and some oils are sourced from the US.
“Our shampoos offer five unique health benefits in one,” Javin explains. “Our product doesn’t just treat dandruff, it also treats eczema, it will grow your hair, and it will keep your scalp clean and healthy.
“Our list of ingredients is also easy to understand so you won’t see anything that you don’t know. In Jamaica, all of these natural ingredients can be found in your backyard.”
The Herboo line is currently available in 201 stores in Jamaica, five outlets in the Cayman Islands, some shops in the US, and was recently launched on Amazon.com. It is also sold online through the company’s website herboobotanicals.com.
Herboo’s customers come from around the world with 60% of sales in Jamaica and 40% worldwide.
Javin says: ‘We started off in Jamaica but now we have customers ordering our products from about 12 different locations including Trinidad, Barbados, Germany and the UK. So, it’s spiralled around the world and our products are going to countries we’ve never even been too.
“What we’re trying to do now is to find distributors in the markets where we have a high demand from customers.”
Javin is passionate and ambitious and one of his other major long-term goals is to have Herboo listed as a public company on the stock exchange.
“I would love Jamaicans and other individuals to participate in the company because it’s such an amazing brand,” Javin says.
“We came from humble beginnings, so to be able to offer shares for the public to buy into it would be amazing. We’re currently putting things in place to work our way up to that milestone as part of our 10-year plan.”