Did you know that Irie Essentialz is owned and run by a musician/singer/songwriter married couple?
That’s one of the tidbits you’ll read in this interview I did last week online on Facebook.
I’m part of a group on FB (Boulevard Baptist Church Youth Fellowship, or BBCYF) that’s essentially a reunion of a church youth group from WAYYYYY back in the day when I was growing up in Kingston, Jamaica. They decided to feature me and Irie Essentialz in May, as the first in a monthly ‘what are they doing now’ kinda series.
Have you ever wondered about the story of how and WHY the handmade soaps at Irie Essentialz came into being?
Well… read on and get a sneak peak into our Irie Essentialz history! Enjoy!
BBCYF Welcome to all those tuning in for this interview and thanks to you Nicolé for agreeing to be in focus for the month of May.
Nicolé Happy to be here!
BBCYF I think, if anything, you are mostly remembered as the song writer, singer & musician during our BBCYF years. We have, however been hearing a lot about your Irie Essentialz. What have you been up to over the past approx 30 years since YF days? When did you decide to start Irie Essentialz and does this mean that music is out the door?
Nicolé Lots of questions! Let’s start with the last and work backwards. Music is DEFINITELY NOT ‘out the door’!!! I’m involved in music on a professional level as a singer/songwriter, and as a harmony vocalist. I’m the worship & creative arts director at my church, Genesis Christian Center in Tamarac, FL, USA. I’ve been teaching voice as well since 2006, and I was an adjudicator for the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) for their music competitions, up to the time I migrated to the USA last summer.
Nicolé So that pretty much summarizes the past 30 years – moving towards full-time music involvment. Irie Essentialz was never a part of the plan.
Nicolé Irie Essentialz was born in December 2011.
BBCYF A very interesting concept I must admit. How did you get into this, what motivated the creation of Irie Essentialz?
Nicolé My husband encouraged me to start this business as a result of a product I had developed for my own hair… then he started using it in his… then his barber liked it and asked for bottles of it to sell to his customers… then my friends and colleagues liked it and asked me what was the price… So we did some homework, registered the business, and that started me on the road of being a handmade soap & cosmetics entrepreneur.
Nicolé The deeper backstory: for most of 2009 into 2010 I was trying to find a maintenance product for my hair, which is locked (locs, locks, whatever lol). I stumbled on a whole bunch of info on the net about using natural plant oils, including essential oils, for hair and skin care…
Nicolé …for some reason it just resonated with me. I read everything I could get my hands on about coconut oil, lavender essential oil, etc. and began dreaming up a concoction for my hair. I eventually bought ingredients and put together my first formulation. When I saw great results in my hair I introduced it to my husband… who then encouraged me very strongly to keep testing it with friends with a view to starting a business.
BBCYF Your gift made room for you. I am a believer in such a natural, ‘organic’ way to come into your business. Your business came to you, you did not go looking for it. Do you only distribute for the US or do you have franchises in other countries?
Nicolé Homer, I LOVE that question because it describes exactly the scope of growth I dream about for Irie Essentialz! Our customers are primarily in the USA. We have someone reselling for us in Kingston, Jamaica as well. We’ve also had orders from the UK and the Netherlands! That’s been very exciting.
Nicolé However we are taking it slow with international orders because the whole shipping/tracking/customs/costing issue becomes a whole other animal once it’s no longer domestic.
BBCYF How many products are presently in your range and are you adding more products as you go along or will you be sticking with a specific set of products?
Nicolé We currently have 8 soaps, and we’ve also formulated the Hair & Scalp Oil and a Body Oil. We want Irie Essentialz to eventually be a line of natural soaps, hair & body oils, and 3 other cosmetic/personal care products I’m beginning to work on. We’re not in a rush though – we’re a small handcrafting company, taking the bootstrapping approach, learning the biz as we go along, and it’s important to me that we establish a core line of product (and income!) before spreading into other products.
BBCYF It is indeed a good plan to get the core solid and not rush and end up spreading yourself too thin. Over your 2 years of operation what have your clients feedback been like and tell us why we should use your product?
Nicolé The response from customers has been amazing from the get-go. They love the hair & scalp oil and the body oil, which were my first 2 products. When I started doing soaps I was kinda cautious, but again, the response has been very positive.
Nicolé Irie Essentialz is about creating soaps and cosmetics using natural plant oils and extracts. We’re also about what I call ‘affordable luxury’.
Nicolé When you get home after a long day out and you need to relax, and you have a warm shower with a bar of Simply Lavender soap or our Herbal Bliss, TRUST ME: you’re in aromatherapy heaven.
Nicolé People who use our products tell us that they see it as treating themselves to something fabulous. When they use our soaps they simply FEEL good.
Nicolé And that’s a deliberate aim on our part. So for instance we use essential oils ONLY to scent our soap, instead of artificial fragrance.
Nicolé Why? Because not only do essential oils smell wonderful: they also have wonderful benefits for skin, hair and even mood.
Nicolé Our soaps are detergent-free, so people who are concerned about reducing the number of artificial chemicals in their everyday life will be drawn to our natural products.
BBCYF I really am for the benefits of your natural products. One of the things I do cherish is a relaxing bath after a hard day, and most days are hard in these trying times.
BBCYF Thank you Nicolé for taking the time out and sharing with us today. Kindly remind us how to order and give us an idea of delivery time.