Beauties, we’re passionate about supporting female-founded brands from across the world. Recently, we reached out to Valerie, R&R Luxury’s Founder to talk about her sustainable beauty brand from Ghana in our latest Founders Talk interview… let’s get started!
Here’s a little intro to the founder…
Valerie Obaze, beauty entrepreneur, mother, wife and philanthropist, founded the award-winning skincare brand R&R Luxury in 2010, following the birth of her first daughter. Her inspiration to create the brand arose from the life changing experience of motherhood and a deep desire to nurture and nourish both her child and herself with the purest, natural beauty products, derived from the African soil.
What inspired you to create R&R Luxury?
I started R&R Luxury in 2010, just after the birth of my first daughter – the brand is actually named after her (R&R are her initials). As I was becoming a mother for the first time, I wanted to use only natural products on my newborn and looked for a natural solution that was available locally to me at the time, in Nigeria, so that I didn’t have to import products and also to patronize the wonderful botanical ingredients available.
Shea Butter was the obvious answer for an effective, locally sourced moisturiser however, I wasn’t a fan of the format that raw shea was presented in as it can be difficult to apply to your skin. When I found out that shea could be processed into a liquid/ oil format, my life was changed for ever and that is how R&R Luxury was born.
As the brand developed, my daughters (I now have 3) are still the inspiration behind everything that I do. Creating a legacy for them is important to me. I have enjoyed teaching them about our heritage and explaining that shea butter was not only used by myself growing up, or by their grandparents, but also their ancestors – just showing the longevity and effectiveness of this star ingredient which is exclusive to our beautiful continent and has women at the heart of its production.
What is in your wellbeing toolkit?
A good book, a cup of coffee, alone time, scented candles and beautiful surroundings – I am most relaxed close to the sea, there’s something about the sound of the waves.
What advice would you give to other (and aspiring) fempreneurs?
- Do your research! Research is the most important step in starting any business and most of the time, it is free to conduct research – Google is my best friend!
- Always stay up to date with the latest industry news and trends. The beauty industry is huge and there are changes every single day – be sure to read blogs, articles, listen to podcasts and follow the relevant people on social media
- Invest in yourself! There are great courses online which you can do whilst juggling your 9-5
- Find your niche and believe in yourself!
What are your favourite products from your range and why?
It is always so hard for me to answer this question, it’s like picking a favourite child! I will say that our first product, our hero product, shea oil is a moisturiser that I (and my whole family) use daily. I love our serenity scent – it is a blend of essential oils that I made myself after taking a short course on aromatherapy when I first started the brand and is something that I am very proud of. As part of my skincare routine, I use our Liquid Black Soap to cleanse my face (and wash my hair) and then moisturise my face with our Baobab Oil – it absorbs so quickly and keeps my skin hydrated, plump, glowing and youthful.
Has the pandemic impacted your brand?
During the height of the pandemic, our retail stores in Lagos, Nigeria and Accra Kotoka Airport had to be closed along with our factory and head office due to lockdowns and the airport closure. The closure of borders in Ghana also affected the importing of our packaging and exporting of our products due to increased costs and delays. However, myself and my management team used the lockdown time to really focus on what was next for the brand and shifted our focus to ecommerce and digital marketing and I am glad to say that we have come out of the pandemic stronger!
You are one of the few companies that source, manufacture, sell and export in Africa… how has this impacted the communities you work with?
R&R is truly an African heritage brand, and that is something I am proud of. Being an African woman, creating this brand on the African continent, allows me to share the story of shea with the world in a truly authentic way, whilst hiring talented Africans locally to help in the process and show the world that luxury, high-quality goods can be made here.
The base ingredient in most of our product’s formulations, handcrafted Shea Butter, is exclusively farmed and processed by women and at R&R Luxury, we do all we can to support these amazing women through our NGO, WSDP (Women of the Savannah Development Project). WSDP was created to empower the women in shea and lift them out of the poverty cycle by providing training and equipment to help them with their work.
We pay these women above market rate for their raw material processing and have so far provided over 3,000 women in the north with skills and safety training and protective equipment to help them when they go into the shea parklands to collect nuts. We also handed over 4 warehouses to these ladies for them to store the raw shea nuts they collect before selling them to various buyers. More recently, we officially commissioned the WSDP Village, our shea butter processing centre in the rural Savannah region which will provide more employment opportunities for these women and now means that as a brand, R&R is in control of its entire supply chain which is a massive milestone for us and means we now have full control over the quality of the shea butter that we use in our formulations.
Love your approach to sustainability… tell us about your refill pouches and what else you’re doing to make your brand more eco-friendly?
Many of our practices have been sustainable since the inception of the brand, in particular, our sourcing. When we celebrated our 10th birthday last year, we made a commitment to becoming more sustainable in all areas of the business and have made progress in the following areas:
- Supply chain: We strive to keep our supply chain as local as possible to circulate wealth within local communities and decrease our carbon footprint. As part of this, female empowerment plays a big role and we will continue to support the women that we work with through WSDP.
- Packaging: We are constantly re-evaluating our packaging and are taking steps to eliminate single use plastics. Just last year we launched our eco-friendly range where we replaced plastic packaging on 4 key products, replacing it with paper and tin packaging. More recently, we launched our Refill Pouches, which means that customers no longer need to purchase more plastic bottles and can simply refill their favourite R&R oil or soap using these paper pouches!
- Parkland development: As a brand, we are 100% committed to preserving the environment from which we receive our precious ingredients. During the construction of the WSDP Village, not one shea tree was cut down and I enjoyed planting my first Shea tree in the north of Ghana last year to celebrate Chapter 10.
What’s next for you and your brand?
My ultimate goal is for R&R to turn into a completely global business sharing Africa’s amazing natural ingredients, and the talent of African people, with the rest of the world. I would love for R&R to open doors for other indigenous beauty brands from the continent and provide a blueprint as to how other African brands can have their entire supply chain here in Ghana.
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