Shalom, on the other hand, was stunned: “It seemed unreal. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, I just do what I do, run my businesses and get on with it, so I couldn’t believe it when they announced we’d won the overall award. I didn’t really know what to say or think, but it is amazing to know that the community sees what we are doing and they are acknowledging what we are doing.”
Earlier in the evening, Shalom had picked up the Entrepreneur of the Year Award for her company Naturally Tribal Skincare and her second enterprise, Emerging Markets Quality Trials (EMQT) took the New Business Award. EMQT was founded to provide a bridge between the pharmaceutical industry and Africa to increase the number of people taking part in clinical research and so improve outcomes and treatments for African patients.
Naturally Tribal Skincare was established in 2016 and launched its first range of products in 2018 and came about after Shalom’s desperate search for a remedy for her baby son’s severe eczema. A scientist with years of experience in pharmaceuticals, Shalom began combining natural products with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties until she found something that eased her son’s condition.
At its base was shea butter, which grows wild in her native Nigeria and which Shalom remembers having applied liberally by her mother as she was growing up. Rather than find a bulk supplier, Shalom approached the women in the Kingdom of Essan in her home country and promised her support to them on a ‘trade not aid’ basis.
In 2021 her purpose-built production plant finally opened in Nigeria, offering the capacity to produce 20 metric tons of shea butter every month. From there, a second facility has opened in Abuja and that produces shea butter for sale to customers in the beauty and food industries.
“Shea butter is the basis for all our products and 16 million rural African women depend on it to make a living, so it was natural for me to build a relationship with the women of Essan to source my main product,” said Shalom.
“For me, science and nature sit side by side. My products are all natural, and ethically sourced, but I’m a scientist and take a scientific approach to combining ingredients to get the results I want. I started off as a desperate mother wanting to help my baby, and from there developed beautiful, luxury products that everyone can enjoy.”
The Naturally Tribal Skincare range began with Yara Body Food, what Shalom describes as the firm’s hero product. It was formulated with the most sensitive skin in mind, it nourishes, protects and smooths skin and is so natural it can be used on babies from birth, and to ease skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.
Developing further products led to shea butter butter being infused with essential oils such as ylang ylang, bergamot, geranium, orange, cinnamon and nutmeg. Every added ingredient is there for a specific purpose, whether that is to soothe, heal, relieve inflammation or exfoliate. The newest range is Mimo, which is specifically designed for use on the face and neck and is a lighter formulation.
Shalom sees Naturally Tribal Skincare customers falling into three categories: firstly, those that want natural products, to know about the provenance of the ingredients, that they are sustainable etc; secondly, those who want luxury products in beautiful packaging; and
thirdly, those who need efficacy in treating skin conditions or who can’t or don’t want to use chemicals on their skin.
She said: “It feels like we have all of those bases covered and our products are for everyone. Now that we’ve got the foundations right, it’s time to scale. We’ll be in profit for the first time this year and so our focus is on sales and marketing and getting into stores where we feel the products deserve to be. By that I mean high street retailers and beauty counters. We are Export Champions with the Department of International Trade and they have been incredibly supportive, helping me get seen in international markets I otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach, but we want to further our reach in Britain, too.
“This is an industry that is saturated but if you have something unique, there’s a place for it. From given a couple of shelves in one small shop in Newbury, we have seen amazing growth, including getting products into Harrods just over a year ago. Our Harrods anniversary event in Milton Keynes in May saw us virtually sell out. People have been incredibly supportive and we have to build on that. I really feel now that what I am doing matters.