UNLIKE some people who prefer to complain about the lack of certain products on the Jamaican market, Yolande Kumea Rhoden Gooden and Kevin Tai identified the gap and implemented the means to fill it. The two formed their own production and manufacturing company for hair care products — Kumea's Hair Perspective.
The company started in 2009 when Gooden began her journey to healthy hair.
"The middle of my hair was gone from just the relaxer, the braiding and overall... I just decided that since the relaxer is a chemical, let me see if I can get some organic chemicals," Gooden said.
This led her to the realisation that there were no organic hair care products offered on the Jamaican market at the time. So she started research on raw materials and natural products that were helpful in hair growth and hair care. Having done this, Gooden said she experimented with the products, combining them, observing and testing the results before she would bottle and label them for commercial purposes.
Kumea's Hair Perspective distributes 16 products, 12 of which are in the adult line and the remaining four in the kid's line, which was launched earlier this year. The ingredients include coconut oil, castor oil, mango butter, shea butter, avocado butter, almond oil, aloe vera and tea tree oil. The entrepreneurs said they source the aloe vera, coconut, tea tree and rosemary oils in Jamaica and import the rest, as they are not available locally.
The products in the adult line include moisturising shampoos and conditioners, natural hair oils, hair butter, dandruff and dry scalp applications, reconstuctive formulae, hair smoothies, and protein treatments. In the children's line, a shampoo, a detangling conditioner, moisture retaining hair butter and a moisturising and detangling hair lotion are on offer.
Gooden and Tai make the products themselves, leaving their day jobs each afternoon at 4:30 and rushing home to the production facility.
"We come up with everything...we come up with our formulae, the raw materials that we want to use, the ingredients, the fragrances for the products, the labelling, the feel of the product, the look of the product, everything," Gooden and Tai told the Jamaica Observer.
"We are confident in our brand, and we are confident in what we produce," added Gooden.
But it took some time for Jamaican consumers to warm to the brand. Gooden said when the products were launched, people were sceptical. She said, however, that as time passed "the interest groups grew [and] the reception to date has been good".
Asked what hair type her products target, Gooden said they are for "all types of hair: relaxed, natural [or] locked.
"A lot of people, when they hear natural products they think natural hair, but it's really organic products for healthy hair rather than a specific hair type," she explained.
Starting the business was not easy for the proprietors, who said one of their biggest challenges was funding. Another challenge has been the sourcing of raw materials both locally and abroad.
"I find that we really need more support from either the JMA [Jamaica Manufacturer's Association] or the JBDC [Jamaica Business Development Corporation] or whatever corporate entities there are, that can really [have] an influence on the society," Gooden told the Observer in a passionate one, referring to the woes of small businesses in Jamaica.
"I think they are trying... [but] to me it has to be ongoing so people will recognise that we are really talking about Jamaican-made products, [so] lets all support. Instead of having one out of every five, lets try to have three out of five buy Jamaican products so we can employ more Jamaicans," Gooden appealed.
Further, she said store owners can be more accomodating to small manufacturers. she said when they try to get the products on the shelves.
"That is the biggest area in my opinion that small manufacturers need to do something [about]: to have retail outlets to open up... [and] we want store owners to support the Jamaican brands," Gooden said.
"If they don't have the products in the stores the customers can't see them, and you can do so much and no more from Facebook and newspaper ads," Gooden said, sounding annoyed.
Tai believes that if store owners support local brands, production costs would be cheaper because they would not have to be purchasing US currency in order to import goods.
Despite exporting to individual clients in the Caribbean and the United States, the proprietors said their dream is to one day export a large amount of their products to stores and retailers overseas.
Products from Kumea's Hair Perspective range from $600 to $1,300 and are available across the island in Fontana pharmacies, Mega Mart in Portmore, UWI bookshop, Nettle and Moss, and Portmore Beauty Supermarket.