Ayo Ogun-McCants had always been fascinated by natural do-it-yourself beauty treatments. Ogun-McCants’ thinking was ahead of the curve as there has been a beauty industry revival of all things natural–from natural beauty products to natural hair. And Ogun-McCants’ Soultanicals, launched last November, offers both. It’s a fast-growing, toxin-free, vegan hair and body product company.
Ogun-McCants, 34, tells TNJ.com how she went from idea to the marketplace:
TNJ.com: What inspired Soultanicals?
Ayo Ogun-McCants: Soultanicals is inspired by my love for different cultures, traditions and the natural richness of African design, spirit and lifestyle because it is my heritage (and “hairitage”) and who I am. I am a playful spirit, so my products are a reflection of all things that are complimentary of me- earthy, fun, natural and afro-original and are designed to produce contagious bouts of goodness and joy!
TNJ.com: How would you describe Soultanicals?
Ogun-McCants: Soultanicals is an Afro-vegan, hair, body, soul lovin’ brand. Our goodies are not just another body lotion or hair cream in the marketplace; we’re all about producing handmade products that awaken the spirit.
TNJ.com: How did you fund the startup?
Ogun-McCants: I funded Soultanicals with a couple hundred dollars and a dream! I knew what I had would be immediately receptive because I believed in my brand, my time-tested formula, and gave it my all from the start!
TNJ.com: What has the response been?
Ogun-McCants: Exactly what I imagined…Phenomenal!
TNJ.com: What makes Soultanicals different?
Ogun-McCants: Soultanicals brings a new, “soulistic” concept to the marketplace. A fresh, new approach with a distinct earthy flavor. We do not just plan to deliver just another body lotion or hair cream to the marketplace; we strive to produce goodies that awaken the spirit.
We know how much fun it is to receive a package full of fresh, handmade goodies, so we follow a 4-step love process: 1) Light a deliciously scented soy candle (preferably our Nag Champa soy candle from our Glowtanicals line); 2) Prepare with love; 3) Sprinkle “love juice” all over every package; 4) Celebrate with a dance march on over to the post office, where the entire borough of Brooklyn waves “bon voyage” to our packages, on its way to our customers.
Overall, our handmade goodies are mixed and soul-stirred with 100 percent Afro Botanical ingredients such as Shea Butter, Marula Oil, Ximenia Oil, Mafura Butter, indigenous African plants and other “self-lovin’-ingredients” that will make Mama proud (Mama Earth, that is!). We do not include any phthalates, parabens, sulfates, petroleums, glycols–and other yucky stuff.
TNJ.com: How do you market Soultanicals?
Ogun-McCants: I market Soultanicals as a soulistic brand that creates products geared toward all “Fly Girls with Motherland Curls.” In other words, for Kinks that Shrink!
TNJ.com: You are the mother of four. How do you juggle motherhood and entrepreneurship?
Ogun-McCants: Ahhh! This part is an ongoing juggling act for me. Not only am I a “Mompreneur,” I am a homeschooling Mompreneur! Organization, a schedule, a supportive husband, time out and a pat on the back especially on those days when I don’t feel fully accomplished, are what keeps me focused.
TNJ.com: What has been your biggest challenge?
Ogun-McCants: My biggest challenge was being caught unprepared by the overwhelming amount of holiday season orders that came in last November. We underestimated the amount of interest that Soultanicals garnered in our first year of business and we paid dearly for it.
We experienced a month-long shipment delay and let a lot of our customers down and even received some unsatisfactory reviews for it. Nonetheless, we took our responsibilities — and the trust our customers placed in us — very seriously and made significant changes to the way we do business.
This year, we’ve streamlined our operations, brought in new staff, offered loyalty rewards and we are steadily making changes to the business in order to decrease our shipping time-frames. The continuous support and patience of our most loyal customers allow us to thrive during this tremendous growth stage and I am utterly humbled and appreciative.
TNJ.com: What has been the most important business lesson you have learned?
Ogun-McCants: As we all move through this journey in life, we should always be teachable and ready to learn. Mistakes happen in our personal lives and in business. The way to correct is through acknowledgment. I value all of my mistakes and successes as teachable moments and will never take my eyes off of my vision.
TNJ.com: What are your 2014 goals?
Ogun-McCants: My 2014 goals are to increase Soultanicals’ presence throughout the U.S. and internationally. We’ve surpassed our goals already this year, adding seven new retailers in our first quarter. We also intend to increase our brand’s awareness through multiple media platforms.
TNJ.com: What are your long-term goals?
Ogun-McCants: My long-term goals for Soultanicals are to be at the forefront in hair, skin, and body care that fulfills beauty and soul needs everywhere, becoming the world’s first truly “Soultanical” brand; to be in every major retailer across the globe and to continuously show up as purposeful goodness in our customers’ lives.
TNJ.com: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Ogun-McCants: Like my ancestors, I believe that we can achieve holistic well-being if we speak to our soul and it has not been lost with me. I love mixing, stirring and formulating botanical ingredients that nourishes the body, while making room for the soul to take care of itself! As a result, I enjoy receiving the reciprocal energy and thoughtful testimonies from our wonderful customers. It is of great joy to me to know that I am doing something to make a difference and to be a part of their lives.