Mom Turns Home Remedy Into Successful Skin Care Product
In 2000, Jennifer Jones, nee Bragg, 26, was desperate to protect Bianca, her 3-month old daughter, from the pain of a severe case of eczema. Nothing the doctor suggested was enough. The prescription drugs had ingredients that Jennifer could not pronounce and were harsh on her baby’s skin. She had to find a better solution.
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes patches of skin to become inflamed, red, cracked, and rough. When people use the word eczema, they are referring a type of dermatitis known as atopic dermatitis. For some, this can lead to the urge to itch the affected area and often leads to blisters.
“Bianca was born with extreme eczema. It started with a dry patch over her eye and then continued to show up on two-thirds of her body.” Jennifer took Bianca to the doctor in January 2000 and was given steroids. While the topical steroids were a temporary salve for her precious baby, Jennifer was uneasy about the hard-to-pronounce ingredients that were seeping into her baby’s body.
The steroids burned so badly that Bianca would scream when she saw the tube. The doctors told her to keep her daughter out of the sun because “it’s going to leave white spots,” which didn’t sit well with Jennifer. She wanted a natural, gentler solution.
I woke up, I had this formula of shea butter, cocoa butter, and coconut oil, just dancing around in my head.
Refusing to let the status quo rule the day, or to be overwhelmed with the challenge ahead, Jennifer began researching alternatives. She scoured the streets of Philadelphia, where she lived at the time, for an all-natural product. Her search proved to be a dead end.
Then something magical happened. Jennifer says with excitement, when “I woke up, I had this formula of shea butter, cocoa butter, and coconut oil, just dancing around in my head.” She went to West Philly, to the African store, and bought shea butter. “I went to the hair store and got those old-school cocoa butter sticks. And I went to the grocery store and got coconut oil—today, I use premium ingredients shipped in from Ghana.”
“I have a gift to understand the human body,” says Jennifer. “I understand skin. I understand chemicals and the absence of chemicals. I understand melting points and temperatures of different products and how you mix them together.” Jennifer blended the natural ingredients and named the product CocoButtery.
She began substituting her product for the prescription topicals. The CocoButtery concocted in her apartment led to Bianca’s skin improving. And today, her eczema is manageable.
Black Women Start Businesses
Jennifer hit two fast-moving trends: 1) natural skin care products and 2) Black women starting businesses. Verified Market Research reports that the U.S. skin care market was estimated at nearly $27 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow to $37.17 billion by 2026. The market is dominated by larger multinational players such as Estee Lauder Companies, L’Oréal, Revlon, Proctor & Gamble, Coty Urban Decay, Maybelline, MAC, and Clinique.
Consumers are becoming more sophisticated about what they put on, and in, their bodies. They are taking an active role by reading ingredient labels. The big companies have noticed and are looking for organic, natural, and animal cruelty-free products.
In the United States, an astounding 17% of Black women are in the process of starting or running new businesses.
Black women want to grow their businesses. In May 2021, a Harvard Business Review (HBR) story titled “Black Women Are More Likely to Start a Business than White Men” stated, “In the United States, an astounding 17% of Black women are in the process of starting or running new businesses. That’s compared to just 10% of white women, and 15% of white men.”
But the HBR report shows that only 3% of Black women are running mature businesses—a sign all is not well. One of the explanations could be that Black women start businesses in the “retail/wholesale or the health, education, government or social services sectors.” These businesses are small, often in crowded and competitive industries, and tend to have low margins and prove difficult to sustain over time.
Black women also have a difficult time raising capital. In 2020, the ProjectDiane report found only 93 Black women had raised at least $1 million from investors. Combined, from 2018 to 2019, Black and Latinx women received barely more than one-half of one percent of the total venture capital investment of $3.1 billion. Axios reported that In 2021, venture capital raised $128.3 billion.
Jennifer’s vision is to a lease a manufacturing space, with a retail space for walk-in sales. “I want to have a place in 2022 where I can make it, store it, and sell it.” She is outgrowing her home space. Jennifer states, “I have been self-funded. Now I’m at a stage where I need other people’s money, so I can expand to the next steps of my journey.”
At four years old, Bianca begged, “Make it not brown, Mama.
Build the Brand
Jennifer pursued a nursing degree in the mid-90s at Hampton University, in Virginia, a private and historically Black research university founded in 1868. She carefully selects her words to construct impactful sentences. With nearly 20 years of experience in corporate America, she knows how important it is to be perceived an as authority.
Jennifer is the CocoButtery expert. When asked about the formulation process, she says, “Oh, that took years. I used to put Vaseline in it, but learned that Vaseline would just sit on top of the skin. I used to grow aloe plants. Aloe would make it turn brown. At four years old, Bianca begged, “Make it not brown, Mama.”
CocoButtery was in a never-ending research and development phase reserved for only family and friends. They used it for stretchmarks and to soothe skin. Then it happened. She was on social media one night while making CocoButtery. “At that time, I had been making it for 17 years. I was on the app, Convoz. Someone said, ‘It’s Friday night, ya’ll. Turn it up.’ My response was, ‘I’m turning this butter.’ She received 20 DMs (direct messages) asking could they buy it.
Her husband said, “Don’t you sell a jar to a stranger before you incorporate a business!” She heeded his advice. Then she went back on Convoz to announce that CocoButtery, the product she had tested for years on family and friends, was a business. But she didn’t quit her job just yet.
When I walked away, I walked away feeling like this is why God made me. This formula has always been with me.
In October of 2020, her father and she were talking about how his cancer had returned for the fourth time. When he had gone through chemotherapy in the past, he had used CocoButtery to prevent the peeling and chafing of his skin. His skin was peeling in sheets on his leg. It looked like someone with sunburn. He asked her to make him a large jar of it.
“At the end of that conversation, he was telling me that life is too short. ”Everything is numbered down to the hairs on your head. Your days are numbered. And my expectation, young lady, is for you to live the rest of your days in your purpose.“ Jennifer said the following day, “I saw example, after example, after example that corporate America was not where I was supposed to be.”
“When I walked away, I walked away feeling like this is why God made me. This formula has always been with me. I have had this formula 22 of my 49 years on this planet. It comes to me so easy, and it gives me so much joy, and I can make money from it.”
The Next Chapter
When it comes to family, she’s all in. “I’m surrounded by an incredible group of people. I don’t fall into that category, which is typical of our culture, of don’t do business with your family and friends. I am surrounded by an extremely supportive and talented family and an extremely talented circle of friends.”
“The support that I received from the people to whom I say, ‘I love you’ was extraordinary.”
“My marketing team is my sister and my niece. My street team is my daughter and her friend. My promotional team to tell everyone about it is my close group of girlfriends.”
She gives the following advice: “Show up for your business every single day, no matter what. For a Black woman, there are going to be a lot of other competing priorities, and within those priorities, you have to show up for your business, every single day. And present yourself with a level of professionalism that can’t be denied by anyone who comes in contact with you.”
Jennifer solved one of the biggest problems of her life when she created the formula for CocoButtery in her apartment in Philadelphia. She sees a bright future, one in which CocoButtery is available in retail locations throughout the country.
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