Kreyol Essence: Building An Eco-Luxury Brand with Haitian Farmers
(Caribbean&Co) The natural hair care market is estimated to be worth upwards of a billion dollars, and one of the emerging brands in this sector with Caribbean roots is Kreyol Essence.
Launched in 2013 by Yve-Car Momperousse and partner Stéphane Jean-Baptiste who are both of Haitian heritage, Kreyol Essence is an agribusiness that works with Haitian farmers to cultivate Ricinus communis the castor oil plant and other cash crops. Once harvested, they then produce a range of natural hair, skin, and body products which are marketed to those with dry hair and dry skin.
Kreyol Essence’s signature product is Haitian Black Castor Oil. Momperousse remembered this century-old beauty and medicinal wonder cure from her childhood and she went searching for it in natural and Afro-Caribbean stores in Philadelphia after a hair catastrophe in 2008. Specifically, Momperousse’s natural hair got heat damaged and fell out after being straightened at a local beauty salon with a pressing comb that was way too hot.
Not finding a bottle of Haitian Black Castor Oil known by Haitians as lwil Maskriti (also Palma Chrisiti or l’huile de ricin) in her local stores, Momperousse ended up getting one from her mother which led to a conversation about the benefits of starting a business to import the product to the United States. These benefits included women no longer having to sneak the oil into their bag coming back from Haiti or other Caribbean islands and the opportunity to employ Haitian farmers and producers for exporting the product out of the country.
Thus Momperousse started seriously researching the feasibility of manufacturing and exporting Haitian Black Castor Oil to the United States in 2009 while working at Cornell University as the Director of Diversity Alumni Programming. As there was no established infrastructure for manufacturing and exporting the product from Haiti, research and planning to launch the company continued until 2010. She spent time in the Haitian mountains developing relationships with farmers and also with older Haitian women talking through their recipes that would provide the foundation for the range of Kreyol Essence products.
Then the magnitude 7.0 earthquake happened in Haiti which caused widespread devastation. Momperousse and Jean-Baptiste who were both active in the Haitian community diverted efforts to help raise over half a million dollars for medicine and other supplies. After this tremendous accomplishment, Momperousse’s mother encouraged her to get back to setting up the business by saying,
“It’s nice that you’re doing all this relief effort work, but when the cameras are gone, and no one cares about Haiti anymore, these ladies that you started working with, what happens to them? A job is going to do much more for them than any aid that you are raising.”
Read more at: Caribbean & Co.