Jamaica’s cosmetics industry is emerging as one of the island’s notable sectors, as the demand for natural alternatives to well-known skin and haircare products grows both locally and internationally. For HoneyVera Limited CEO Christal-Ann Thompson, this industry was not only an opportunity to use locally made natural products, it provided the chance to explore her creativity, and launch her own product line, which would transform her life.
Speaking about her innate creative ability, she said, “I have always enjoyed building, making things and being an artist; I love to experiment.” Thompson used this natural creativity and her entrepreneurial skills to put herself through university, selling confections at events held at Northern Caribbean University, as well as working as a student assistant and selling paintings. She realised however, that she was still having financial struggles, and in a light bulb moment, Thompson decided to use her natural inclination to experiment to create natural products that would take care of her skin and hair, without chemical additives.
She said, “I tried making hair products for myself and was constantly asked what I used, so I decided to use the opportunity to turn my creativity into a business. I wanted a better life for myself and my family.”
The HoneyVera CEO then launched her company in December 2015, and she decided to focus on manufacturing a wide array of natural skin and haircare products.
Her product line would include hair treatments, facial cleansers, body soaps, hemp products, black castor oil, masks, and other natural products.
She faced challenges like most small businesses, but the company eventually grew to become a success, moving on to exporting to international markets. Thompson said, “HoneyVera has grown significantly. We distribute to over 100 retailers islandwide, most of whom contacted us to carry our products.
“The good thing about our experience is that people are talking about the products, they [the products] have been working for them, and they have been spreading the word. We have now crossed another milestone, exporting to the United States and the United Kingdom, which are our most successful international markets.”
Reaching international markets
Exporting to international markets can often be a challenge for many small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs). Markets have different standards for labelling, quality and other considerations, that may hinder the SMEs’ ability to expand their brands internationally. To navigate her exporting journey, Thompson attended workshops and participated in various business development programmes to ensure that she started on the right foot.
HoneyVera also sought support from Jamaica’s export and investment promotions agency, JAMPRO. Most notably, she participated in last year’s staging of the Bronner Brothers International Beauty Show (BBIBS) and Expo Jamaica, where she had great success.
Thompson said, “I participated in the BBIBs 2018 and it was successful. I also liaised with JAMPRO on how we can get Jamaica’s cosmetics brands to the world through the agency.
“ Their workshops have helped me to gain a better understanding of the industry, and because of these activities, I have relabelled my products for an international appeal. I acquired distribution in Atlanta, and more distribution across the island.”
The HoneyVera CEO is currently on another export promotion mission with JAMPRO at BBIBS 2019, where she hopes to improve on last year’s success by increasing distribution in the United States and boosting the company’s brand awareness.
She would also like to expand the company’s export portfolio and reach more international markets.
Cosmetics manufacturing – An exciting industry
While the challenges in owning a business can sometimes be discouraging, Thompson relishes being a manufacturer in the cosmetics industry. She said, “The experience has been wonderful. I have learnt a lot, especially in workshops and exhibitions, and by interacting with people who can help the business to grow in all aspects.
“We have experienced challenges, for example, with getting containers from local suppliers, but we respond to challenges by finding alternatives.”
Reflecting on her business, Thompson went on to say, “It feels good to know that I provide employment for people, and it feels even more satisfying to have individuals spreading the love by just sharing their great experiences using the products.
“We’ve even received kudos from the minister of tourism! I want this business to grow and reach the world, and I have faith that with God’s help, it will.”
The company is now focused on achieving specific long-term goals by December 2025, including penetrating markets in Africa, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, Canada, United States and Australia in the short to medium terms. Thompson also aspires to employ at least 15 to 30 persons, and generate $100 million in profits annually.
She would like other companies to join the natural beauty revolution, and build Jamaica’s brand and economy. She said, “There is enough sunshine in the cosmetic industry to shine on everyone; be creative and innovative, find out what people need and fill that need. There will be struggles, but brace yourself, be disciplined and believe in your dream, and, most importantly, believe in yourself.”