After a scuffle with dandruff, a frustrated Javin Williams found that available hair products brought no permanent solution. Luckily, his grandmother shared with him the powers of natural herbs that gave him the relief he craved.
“When I was younger, if I had a rash or anything my grandmother would know what plant to use to get rid of it,” said Williams. It was her wise counsel that gave birth to his idea to create Herboo Corporation Limited, a company that produces organic personal care products.
From his mother’s kitchen he started to formulate a deep cleansing dual shampoo and conditioner mix, made from natural herbs like sorrel, rosemary, peppermint and lemongrass. He also created a hair and body oil from a unique blend of virgin coconut oil, Jamaican castor oil, jojoba oil and vitamins.
Although these products would soon become game changers, it was no easy feat to get them on the shelves. To raise start-up capital, Javin and his sister Kamila, would beat the pavements of Northern Caribbean University (NCU), where he studies finance and she social work. The duo would ask schoolmates for a charitable donation to their venture and promised in exchange a sample of the product when it hit the market.
Since those struggling days, Herboo has won several awards, including the local National Business Model Competition and the Jamaica Observer Mogul in the Making Competition in 2015. In 2016, the Development Bank of Jamaica awarded Herboo J$2.5 million through its Innovative Grant for New Ideas (IGNITE) Programme.
“IGNITE came just in time to push us to the next level,” said Williams, now the CEO of Herboo, whose production grew from two hundred units in 2016 to one thousand units in 2017. He expanded distribution to nine additional local outlets and now exports Herboo products to the United States and Cayman Islands. Because of IGNITE, he was also able to import raw materials in bulk. That kind of support and the entrepreneurial training sessions at the Jamaica Manufacturers Association, a Business Service Intermediary that partnered with the DBJ on IGNITE, helped Williams to succeed holistically.
Now the Herboo Corporation is exceedingly action oriented, and its focus is on dominating the Caribbean market in organic personal care products. Earlier this year, Javin secured a deal with Cari-Med to retail Herboo products locally and across the Caribbean. “It is a fantastic feeling to know that a company like Cari-Med, the leading retail distributor in Caribbean, believes in us,” said Williams.
The idea to partner with the distribution company evolved from a failed pitch in 2017, where Williams tried to secure private equity from Alpha Angels. They advised Herboo to partner with a company like Cari-Med that had the tools to expand their reach. Alpha Angels also advised him to rebrand product packaging to something that could sell itself on the shelves.
Herboo’s packaging now reflects the vibrancy of the Caribbean and nature. Williams believes it will help to increase the brand’s exposure in local and international markets. The company also opted to make functional changes to their products, adding a pump to the dual shampoo and conditioner and separating the hair and body oil.
Williams was ready to seek funding again, and successfully pitched to First Angels Jamaica. As a result, Herboo is now set to move operations from Mandeville to Kingston where its head office will be established. Also, this investment has enabled the company to secure larger quantities of raw materials at a reduced cost for production. Herboo will also implement corporate governance structures that includes the development of an accountable board to oversee the operations of the company.
June 6, 2018