Most companies start out selling one product, but this can be tricky when trying to grow a business.
There are positives, however, to having one main product. You really focus in and create a great and superior product.
“You have the ability to be incredibly niche, and instead of building a product that serves all, you can build a product that is serving an underserved market exceptionally well. Targeting the long tail of the market can lead to great success because you will be able to easily capture most of those who feel underserved,” reports ReadWrite.
This is what Jill Riley is hoping to do with her line of beauty products. She opened her company Alapure Cosmetics in 2013, and the products are centered around one unique ingredient, Marula oil. Marula oil has been used by African women for thousands of years for healing and as a sunscreen. It is extracted from the kernels of the Marula tree. The protein-rich oil is also an antioxidant, has anti-aging properties, and can reduce the appearance of scars.
Riley actually discovered Marula oil while on vacation in South Africa.
“We travel a lot, been to around 35 countries. And I am always checking out the beauty secrets in each place we visit,” Riley tells MadameNoire over the phone. “In 2012 we were in South Africa and it was my husband who actually discovered the Marula oil. It was in the hotel soap. He came running out of the bathroom so excited by this soap, you know. And I thought this was strange. He’s a man who doesn’t usually notice such things, but he was like ‘You have to try this soap!’”
That she did and was impressed as well. So impressed they started researching Marula oil on the Internet.
“We found that this stuff was amazing, It was packed with nutrients, fatty acids, and in doing research we realized it wasn’t common in the U.S. at the time so we came back and decided to start this company using Marula oil,” says Riley, who has always been intrigued by beauty, inspired by her extensive travels and her days as a model in Trinidad.
Alapure Cosmetics, an all natural skincare and cosmetics company, offers a variety of products, all based on Marula oil. The products are sold online.
Riley is hoping Marula oil will take off like Shea butter did. And a quick Google search will show more products popping up with Marula oil than when Riley first started her company. “I feel the same will happen with Marula oil as did with Shea butter,” she says.
Riley might be on to the next “must-have” ingredient. Oils from nuts such as the Marula nut and coconut have become a new craze. “As of late, it seems everyone is obsessed with coconut oil!” Nikki Brown, Assistant Beauty Editor at MadameNoire sister site StyleBlazer, points out. “I’ve been to several fall previews in recent weeks and I recall seeing coconut oil-infused shampoo/conditioner, primer and even foundation. Understandably so. It’s one of those miracle kitchen products that is beneficial for the body, both inside and out. I’m happy to see more natural ingredients being used in cosmetics.”
Still, it will take a lot of marketing to get Marula oil into the same realm as Shea butter products. “Despite coconut oil being the new ‘it’ ingredient, Shea butter remains the old faithful and for good reason. It packs a lot of the same benefits, especially for gals who are transitioning to natural hair. It has a way of getting rid of frizz without weighing down the tresses,” explains Brown. “Although Marula oil is quite expensive, I see beauty brands taking its ‘luxurious’ appeal and infusing it with more affordable products. Hair and makeup junkies love nothing more than finding something that feels ‘designer’ for cheap.”
While Riley may have centered her business thus far around one ingredient, she has found other ways to expand her brand. She has created the “Alapure Lifestyle,” which promoted a healthy living mind, body and spirit as well as uplifting and empowering women to be not only beautiful but confident. This lifestyle, according to Riley, is achieved by using Alapure products, from body lotions, body butter to botanical hand-made soaps, all infused with Marula and other essential oils. “There are a lot of oils and ingredients in Africa that have not been tapped, so there are many more avenues for us,” says Riley, who self-funded her startup and still works a full-time IT job.
She also partners with women’s cooperatives in Africa, where the Marula fruit is harvested, as a way to help empower local women and their families. “We are looking to expand our efforts on this end. In October we are planning to go to Namibia to meet with a women’s cooperative and maybe Botswana,” says Riley.