Charlene Cumberbatch also known as ‘Miss Hairipy’, founded her vegan hair care business out of disappointment at the lack of organic African hair care products. Like most businesses, it started out as hobby but as family and friends kept pleading for more Hairipy products, she realised she had a brand worth developing. In this journal, Charlene lets us into her day to day routine and explains the inspiration behind her fascinating name.
I got the name Hairipy by playing with words. Hairipy is a new word that is supposed to represent Hair Happy. I use a bright yellow colour in my logo and uniform to represent bright, sun-kissed hair products. I hope people associate this brand with positive feel good thoughts surrounding natural curly afro hair instead of the negative portrayals in the media that African hair is unprofessional and unruly (for more positive conversations about black beauty see http://diversitybusinesspromotes.uk/antonia-opiah/). Hairipy is here to educate and transform how natural hair is perceived.
Coffee and Catch Up
Before getting into business, I used to make natural hair and skin products at home for myself and my son. I wanted healthy products with less unnecessary harsh ingredients to apply on sensitive skin. I found this hobby fun and creative so I expanded and was soon creating products for family and friends. I was introduced to the Princes Trust and they helped me transform my hobby into a business. I still have support from my mentor from the Princes Trust whom they linked me with. We meet now and again for coffee and catch up. I share my ideas with him and he encourages me and offers suggestions.
Before I launched Hairipy I went on a few courses to learn all the necessary legal matters on retailing and manufacturing cosmetics. I learnt the correct way to list ingredients on products. I learnt that all my products need to be cosmetically tested to ensure the right amount of ingredients are used and I adhere to correct shelf life and stability. There is a lot to pick up but once you’ve learnt it, the knowledge stays with you.
On the ‘formulating the cosmetics’ course, I did some mixing and learnt about new product ideas. The course taught me the fundamental procedures and then I went and experimented adding different ingredients and trialling my new creations on my family for feedback.
Hairipy is still a home based business which means there are still a few perks I enjoy such as waking up around 6am and checking my emails, messages and notifications from the comfort of my bed. I am a sole trader and it’s not often I get assistance. The best way for me to work is to respond to queries and orders ASAP so I don’t create a backlog for myself and then have trouble clearing it.
After completing basic admin duties I get ready to start the day. My son leaves the house at around 8am so from then onwards I have no distractions. I have a glass of orange juice mixed with a tea spoon of Moringa powder every morning. I mix Moringa oil and powder in my hair & skin products to keep hair strong, shiny and healthy. It comes from a plant in Africa and it is truly wonderful. It is packed with fibre, iron, vitamins, potassium and so much more, it gives me so much energy and keeps me alert.
Off the Kitchen Table!
All my products are handmade by myself. I work in my kitchen and dining room. My dining room is completely taken over by Hairipy. It’s where I keep Hairipy equipment in drawers and shelves.
I can make a batch of 30 products within 1.5 hours. To make a batch I start by measuring out the ingredients. I use a digital scale, jugs and bowls. I use my cooker hobs to heat the ingredients to the correct temperature and then I mix and blend to form the products. Once the mixture has cooled down, I pour it into bottles and add the labels. It’s all manual labour and hard work but I enjoy it and I love producing top quality products.
The No Parabens Pledge
My products have zero to minimum chemicals and no parabens nor sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). SLS is a common foaming agent used in shampoos and cleaning products. Most people are used to having products that foam but it’s a harsh chemical that negatively effects the eco system as it’s acidic. SLS can cause harsh reactions to sensitive skin.
It can take a while to adjust from using commercial products with harsh chemicals to natural products which are so much better for the whole family. Parabens are used to preserve cosmetics so they last longer. They stop bacteria growing in water based products. A lot more cosmetic companies are being cautious about including parabens in their products. We at Hairipy products have pledged never to use parabens as there are alternative ways to preserve the products.
Beards and Best-sellers
My biggest challenge is that the natural hair care market has now become very competitive with loads of products. I pitch to businesses so that they stock my products in their shops and hairdressers. I often get turned down but I don’t let that deter me. I believe in Hairipy and that it is a good, quality product so I will continue to market it.
I have expanded into creating a men’s range which includes a beard cream that soothes the skin and moisturises beards. I have a hibiscus conditioner that helps stimulate scalp follicles to encourage hair growth. It has a protein that strengthens the hair strands and stops hair breakage.
I also created a lemongrass hair and skin balm. It smells amazing and is definitely my best seller. It deters mosquitos and other insects in hot climates and keeps the skin soft and nourished. The ingredients I use are known to have vitamins, cancer fighting properties and other health benefits. Using ingredients like aloe vera, shea butter and coconut oil which are derived from plants grown in hot climates, is much better for you than using laboratory made artificial ingredients. Natural products like Hairipy can help prevent health problems such as eczema and alopecia.
My biggest achievement is the fact that a shop called bjou bjou in Florida USA is actually stocking my products. This company has really stood by Hairipy and supported the hard work I put into it. They stock my products at their distribution centre and promote my business on their website.
Mind, Body and Soul
To relax, me and my son go to parent and child meditation classes once a week. We enjoy yoga, painting and meditation. It’s fun to be around like minded people and take time to appreciate the mind, body and soul. My son gets a weekly journal to take home and we work together completing it during the week. There is a colouring in section and a page to log how he gets on which helps him to explore his feelings.
My business is only in its second year of trading so I still work part time to sustain my standard of living. When I finish work and come home I package any orders that have come through in order to dispatch them by the next day. I use yellow mail bags to represent my business branding. By 8pm, Hairipy work is done for the day. I still get emails come through and I respond from my phone in the morning.
With hard work and support, my business will be more available around the world. I market my brand on online markets and platforms such as Diversity Business Magazine and retail outlets and hairdressers. The support on social media has been great.
I have a website: Charelene’s Hairipy where you can view my products. You can find me on facebook, twitter and instagram. I am very active online. Feel free to contact me with any questions. This business journey is new to me. I’m learning as I go along and I’ve met many like-minded entrepreneurs who are inspirational and encouraging. I look forward to our conversations.
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