Real Botanics: A natural skincare line
Toni-Ann Haywood displays some of the products made by Real Botanics.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has spawned many new businesses and among them is Real Botanics, a small producer of luxury handcrafted skincare and haircare products founded by Toni-Ann Haywood at her base in Old Harbour, St Catherine.

“We are a small business, for now,” she told the Jamaica Observer with a hint in her voice that she doesn’t plan on remaining that way long term. “Everything we sell is manufactured here in Jamaica. We do some amount of imports of raw materials, but we try to source most of those locally as best as we can.”

Haywood said she started the business in 2020 at the height of the pandemic as strict enforcement against social gatherings forced her to find creative ways to pass her time because “I was a bit bored and kinda wanted to pick up a new hobby”.

Haywood says much of her initial interest was driven by watching videos of product development on media platform YouTube. She also subscribed to a blog which teaches about creating personal care products.

Real Botanics wild vanilla sugar hand-made shower gel and lotion (Photos: Garfield Robinson)

“As I learnt more and more, I decided to order a few ingredients. The first thing I ever made was a face cream. It was suppose to be a moisturiser, and while I followed the tutorial on YouTube, it didn’t come out as it should,” said the young woman who is a chemical engineer.

She said then she realised there’s more to producing personal care products than she knew. But bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and a desire to succeed, Haywood said she spent more money to learn how to refine the craft.

“After that I ordered some stuff and I tried to make lotion and that came out really, really good,” she said, adding that she got good reviews from people who she asked to try the product.

She said that, at the time, creating the products was a hobby for her. She continued: “When I did the lotion and it was good, I decided to make different variations of it. I did a lot of reading, casual reading about cosmetic chemistry and stuff like that, and as a chemical engineer, I found the learning curve to not be as steep as I had learnt some of the stuff in school.”

Real Botanics black castor oil moisturising conditioner

However, she said developing the products took months.

“It was like trial and error,” she told Sunday Finance. It was also part of her quest to find suitable products for her sensitive skin.

“For me, personally, I have sensitive skin. So the regular store-bought lotions would make my skin itch. So when I was formulating my lotion, which is now my flagship product, I ensured that I only used natural oils — oils like shea butter and coconut oil and stuff like that. I stayed away from petroleum-based oils and others that can irritate your skin. Also, because I have dry skin as well, so I also use ingredients which causes your skin to hold moisture longer.”

Lotions apart, Real Botanics also produces shower gels, black castor oil shampoo, black castor oil hair conditioner, and candles.

A fragrance free daily moisturising lotion produced by Real Botanics

“We don’t do the face cream as a product for sale, but the lotions are really popular. I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but people who use the lotion introduce it to others because they find it to be good. I’ve known people who suffer from eczema, people with itchy skin, people with dry skin who tell me that they get less irritation when they use it.”

“The majority of 2020 was the period of trial and error in developing the products. I registered the business at that time, but I wasn’t pushing sales, and every now and then I made a batch and would give the products away and sell a small amount as well. But, at least since late 2021 coming into this year, I’ve been trying to push the business out and promote the brand, Real Botanics. I’ve joined the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association [JMEA]. That was done recently, and I was selected for Christmas in July so I have that trade show next month, and I am in the process of getting a website developed,” Haywood beamed.

Christmas in July is a collaborative effort of the Tourism Linkages Network and its partners, Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), JMEA, Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), and Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA). It gives an opportunity for local producers of gifts and souvenir items to promote their products to alternative market segments.

“For Christmas in July, it is our first year, so my main thing is to really get the brand out there in front of people. So my aim is to do some networking and attract some distributors because this year I want to get the products into a few stores.”

Dark chocolate coffee moisturising lotion by Real Botanics

Haywood said she has already approached chain pharmacy Fontana and has gone to the Bureau of Standards to get the necessary approvals.

“We have an Instagram page @realbotanics and we are also going to do some more social media ads. We have some things planned out. But most of the sales are direct to consumers who, for the most part, introduce the product to other people by word of mouth. We usually deliver using Knutsford Express or Zipmail.”

But is the young woman planning on quitting her full-time job if she finds success?

“Well, I actually like my career, I like my job, but as you know, in this day and age, it’s all about freedom, not just financial freedom but freedom to do what you want to do. So, in the future, at some point, it would be great to be a full-time business owner.”

Haywood said she sources castor oil for her black castor oil shampoo and conditioner locally. Coconut oil is also sourced locally. Packaging and printing are done locally.

She added that she secured a grant recently to develop her website and is in the process of seeking a contractor developer to build out the platform. She also plans to use YouTube to promote the products.

“Also, we are going to launch one new product this year, which is the sugar scrub,” she concluded.

Real Botanics dark chocolate coffee moisturising lotion and fresh coffee-scented candle.
Toni-Ann Haywood, founder Real Botanics
Toni-Ann Haywood savours the smell of the coffee scented candles produced by Real Botanics.
HAYWOOD...for Christmas in July, it is our first year, so my main thing is to really get the brand out there in front of people
Some of the products made by Real Botanics on display
Haywood poses with some of the products made by Real Botanics
BY DASHAN HENDRICKS Business content manager hendricksd@jamaicaobserver.com

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