The Business of Personal Care: The Honey Pot Drama
This lab shit is my jam. I have applied the knowledge I gained from earning my degree in Medical Laboratory Science and experience I have from manufacturing blood products to manufacturing personal care products. For now, I see myself in the lab, creating new formulas and improving the existing ones, for a long long time. I do see myself tiring of the CEO role though. I'm just being honest. LOL! Which means I will have to hire someone to oversee Fancy Free Hair & Skin. When I do hire a CEO, it will be someone who understands the vision of my company and the "why". Why we do what we do how we do it without compromise but understanding there is always room for improvement.
Once I realized that I had a great product, my first big goal was to position Fancy Free Hair & Skin to be sold worldwide in big box stores like Target, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, etc. So I sought out mentorship and got a rude awakening. Those stores are about the bottom line, the dollar sign, and not about selling quality products. Which means that in order to obtain large distribution deals, you need to be able to move tens of thousands of units of product at once. We do that with food. We generate expirations dates, deliver it in climate controlled transport vehicles, and store it in refrigerators and freezers. I've seen it done for pet food as well. Why can't we do that for personal care products?
There has been some uproar about changes to some of The Honey Pot's feminine hygiene product formulas. Mainly, the addition of some preservatives that are known to have higher risk of causing chronic diseases. Essentially, the preservatives used in the formulas went from low/no risk to moderate health risk. Why would they do that?
- Extend shelf life to decrease waste
- Allow a wider range of transport and storage conditions
- Decrease costs to increase net profit
- Under the guise of "improvement"
But if we treat some personal care products the same way we handle food, I don't think we would need to change the formula. Yes, it may increase the overall cost. There may also be some limitation on the manufacturing capacity but that's when we go back to the "why" we're doing this in the first place.
Whenever I develop a formula, I start with market research. I look at products already on the market. I notate what I like about them and how I want the formula working on to be similar. I also notate what I don't like about them and how I want what I formulate to be different. Then I make a note of each ingredient and the health risks they possibly may have, eliminating any ingredient that has been banned for use in other countries. I also consider the concentration of the ingredient in the product. For example, I avoid phenoxyethanol as a preservative. It's use has been banned in other countries and does not have harmful effects if used in dosage of less than 1%. Ok. But I don't think that we are considering that a harmful thing in small doses is still harmful. My philosophy is that if you can't eat it or find it in food, you shouldn't be putting it on your skin. This should hold even more true for feminine care products because the vagina is a mucous membrane and soaks up EVERYTHING!
My research has shown that number of chemicals that African-American women are exposed to in personal care and beauty products is so high that it's not even listed but higher than the 168 chemicals other women use. It's the layering of products that have a cumulative effect on the end user. Not good. In an effort to help women across the country and globe, we make changes that end up not being so helpful after all.
As we scale and grow our business, the processes we were using to produce and distribute 10,000 products per year are not going to work for producing and distributing 10,000 products per day. However, it's very important to take a look at innovative ways to preserve the authenticity of the original product. The product that built the brand loyalty we have today. Yes, hire experts and people with years of experience and doing exactly what you want to be done. But also seek counsel from those who don't always think in along the lines of "standard practice" and want to preserving the original formula that is most healthy for the women who use it. Because, in all honesty, I am 90% sure that the formulators who suggested the use of some of these ingredients are not black women. So, there's that.
NOTE: I tried to find which manufacturer The Honey Pot, Co. uses but I found nothing. Which makes me feel like the same labs that manufacture for Proctor & Gamble and other large companies make The Honey Pot too. If we find the manufacturing facility we would have more answers.
As for Fancy Free Hair & Skin and The Fancy Factory, we will open up more points of manufacturing and distribution before we incorporate increased risk ingredients into our formulas. Let's discuss how we're changing the way our products are distributed instead of changing the formula for the sake of moving units....
The Whipped Shea Butter Dilemma - Summer Time Edition
A true whipped shea butter is whipped with just butters and oils. We add a stabilizing ingredient is xanthan gum to ensure that it stays light and fluffy while sitting on our shelves and in your closet. Xanthan gum is also used in food as a thickener and stabilizer. Shipping our Whipped Shea Butter in the summer and to warmer climates is a logistical nightmare because it melts in extreme temperatures. It's not simple. It's not easy to train an employee to do. And we can't control how the package is handled once it's in the hands of the mail carrier. But it remains our best selling product, even in the summer. So we give the people what they want.
There are a plethora of changes I could make in the formula for the sake of easing the "cost" of shipping whipped shea butter in the summer, but then it wouldn't be whipped shea butter, it would be something else. LOL! Like Milk for Hair & Skin or "body butter". I'll spare you the science-y details of what an emulsion is, why it requires a preservative and whipped shea butter does not. But instead of making changes to the formula of a Fancy Friend Favorite that has been the staple product since inception, I have a very intricate shipping practice - that still fails on occasion - and I educate my customers on how to care for their product in warmer weather.
Sometimes a simple solution can be difficult to execute but the end result is worth the effort. I wish more businesses would consider all viable options when scaling their businesses. Yes, they make more money but the customers pay the price in the end.