This edition of Industry Voices features Jillian Baker of TAMA Cosmetics. TAMA Cosmetics is unique because of the high percentage of natural shea butter in its products. They invest in natural and affordable shea-based bath and beauty products sourced through an ethical and environmentally friendly supply chain.
1. How did you get into the cosmetic industry? Tell us your story.
A bit unconventionally, I started out distributing TAMA Cosmetics because of the social empowerment story. My day job brought me to Ghana a couple of times a year. I became friends with the TAMA team in Tamale and was always stuffing my suitcases full of their amazing shea butter products for friends, family and colleagues back home. One day, they were ready to enter the Canadian market, and suddenly I was on board to lead the way! Since then, I’ve become more passionate about helping Canadians deal with the dry winter air—it’s the worst! Shea butter is a great salve for most things in life.
2. What were the challenges in starting your cosmetic business?
The main challenge has been finding our market niche in an already saturated industry. As a start-up and social enterprise, TAMA Cosmetics was lucky in that we secured funding to do some market research, which was a big help. However, it’s a constant push to secure the market: both e-commerce and retail. We were devastated in 2020 not only dealing with the pandemic disruptions but also with the closure of Ten Thousand Villages here in Canada. Luckily Ghana is faring pretty well, all things considered. The second challenge is shipping: air freight is exorbitant and sea freight takes a long time.
3. What was the experience of importing raw materials into Canada?
Once the market is secured, it’s an easy adventure! Some challenges pop up, but rewarding to see the supply chain grow. Our women shea collectors are paid a fair price as well as the other employees of the the Shea Butter Village. Once you are assured of the quality of the product, the process becomes more simple.
4. Did you experience more hardships with import during Covid-19?
Yes. Ghana closed its commercial air and sea traffic for the summer of 2020. The impact of this was was tough as we were scarily low on inventory. Luckily, the borders opened things up again in September. We were able to resume importing our products. Prices have also gone in up the past year.
5. How do you connect with clients? Is it hard to have an online presence?
Social media is a great connector, so we’ve pushed that a tiny bit and are planning more there. We send out emails to our subscribers. We are on Shopify , a platform that makes engagements and fulfillment very simple. We are looking to tell more of the TAMA story on Instagram and our website.
6. What is one innovation that you would bring to the cosmetic industry if you could?
Paper packaging for oils and lotions would be great! We value sustainability, and I’d love to see more options for green packaging. At TAMA we reuse as much as we can with shipping. For our wonderful cosmetics that are processed up in the north of Ghana, it would be great to contribute to a world that will work for the next generations.
Canadian Cosmetic Cluster Team
Uniting Canadian Cosmetics and Bringing it to the World