Thu | Feb 20, 2020

Herboo going after more overseas markets

Published:Wednesday | February 12, 2020 | 12:13 AMHuntley Medley/Senior Business Writer
Javin Williams, CEO of Herboo Corporation.
Javin Williams, CEO of Herboo Corporation.

Herboo Corporation, which launched into business with a single product but has since grown to three lines of cosmetics, is preparing to take on more foreign markets.

The Mandeville, Manchester-based small business is already in almost 200 stores and pharmacies in Jamaica; is stocked by a few retailers in Florida, United States, and has online customers as far away as Denmark.

Now Herboo CEO Javin Williams is looking to Germany, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, other parts of the US, and several countries of the Caribbean for new markets.

Williams, his sister Kamala Williams, and Kamal Smith are the principals of the business that began with a shampoo and conditioner specially formulated to treat conditions such as damaged hair, dandruff, dry scalp and eczema as its sole product.

Since then, the line has grown to include a moisturiser, a body oil and a face oil that is said to remove make-up easily, tighten the skin and remove blemishes.

The principals of Herboo Corporation describe their business as a “sustainable organic cosmetics company” that utilises Jamaican herbs and oils including sorrel, rosemary, peppermint, lemon grass, castor oil, coconut oil and sage oil bought from local farmers or grown at their farm at Cedar Grove in Manchester.

The farm is run by Javin’s father, Fred Williams. Raw materials from the manufacturing process goes back into the soil as fertiliser.

The business idea grew out of Williams’ own experience with dandruff and the relief he got from using a home-grown herbal remedy recommended by his grandmother.

The young entrepreneur, who is now studying business and finance, returned recently from Germany, where he is said to be in talks with a potential distributor. Other distribution deals are also said to be in the works for the UK, The Bahamas and Trinidad.

Williams is building out the overseas market, having wrapped up in 2018, a deal with local pharmaceutical distributor Cari-Med, which now handles all local distribution for Herboo.

CARI-MED ARRANGEMENT

“To have a company as big as Cari-Med on board with us shows that we have serious products,” Williams said in an interview with the Financial Gleaner. “Cari-Med was a big deal for us. We had been trying to bet them since 2015. They also helped us with new packaging and a new logo to be able to stand up against the major competition,” he said.

The Cari-Med arrangement has helped to propel sales 500 times over 2015 levels, Williams says, while guarding his turnover numbers.

From modest beginnings in the kitchen of the Mandeville home of Javin’s parents, the manufacturing of Herboo products is now outsourced to Orion Manufacturing, which does production at its plant in Yallahs, St Thomas. This has increased output from 50 bottles per day to 2,000 bottles per day, according to the Herboo CEO.

Standardisation of the formulation for the products was achieved with the help of the state-run Scientific Research Council.

“It involved a lot of research and development. We started out with a lot of bold claims that needed scientific verification,” said Williams, who has had a long-standing interest in plants and their beneficial properties.

With banks said to have closed the door to loans to the business on account of insufficient capital, funding for the enterprise has been from reinvestment, grant funding, including a further $2.5 million in venture capital from Development Bank of Jamaica, DBJ, and US$20,000 from the Caribbean Export Development Agency to get the business ready for private equity funding.

Thereafter came the infusion of an undisclosed amount of equity by five angel investors through First Angels Jamaica, which the entrepreneur says has also assisted with strengthening the company’s board and other aspects of good corporate governance.

First Angels chairman and head of the ICD Group, Joseph Matalon, numbers among the investors and is described by Williams as one of Herboo’s top customers. Matalon is featured in a video testimonial on the website of the small business.

Williams eventually wants to grow the business, which has three full-time employees and five part-timers who concentrate on sales. The current focus is on growing sales, but Williams harbours long-term ambitions of building out Herboo’s own manufacturing capabilities and preparing the company for a possible stock marketing listing.

“We have a very good relationship with our investors so we would talk to them before going back to the market for more equity,” Williams said.

huntley.medley@gleanerjm.com