12 September 2011
Women of color know their skin is a little different and many mainstream products don’t seem to address the issues they typically have. For 20 years, one man has been catering to the skin needs of women, men and even babies. Iheatu Obioha started Bluefield, a skin-care manufacturing company, in 1989. But his business was primarily in Africa. After winning a large customer base on the continent, he decided to expand his line of products in the States, establishing the Clear Essence skin care and cosmetics line.
Cheri Pettiford, director of marketing, has seen the company grow. She says Obioha had diversity in mind when he created his line of skin care and cosmetic products, because he understood the unique needs of different complexions.
“The goal is to get the products in the hands of as many people of color as possible,” she said. “We are in different continents and countries, including Asia because we are addressing the needs of many people of color.”
Obioha thought about almost everything, from soaps and washes to oils and creams. Clear Essence products help relieve acne, stretch marks, skin discoloration and saggy skin.
From the start, Obioha has practiced self-reliance, especially when banks didn’t believe in him or his product. Loans weren’t always available to keep his business going, but he was patient and trudged through the tough times.
“Banks do not lend money without a collateral and there are three types of collateral readily acceptable to banks: guarantee from a rich uncle, equity in real estate, bonds and stocks, all of the value of the required loan amount, “Obioha said. “Since Black folk are not major players in all these three areas, Black business will find it difficult to borrow funds from banks.”
And that was Obioha’s problem, too, despite his strong following and promising product.
Now his company operates its own manufacturing facility in Ontario, Calif., and distributes to stores worldwide. But with his success over the years, he’s had bouts of temptation to sell the company.
According to his right-hand woman, Obioha has been approached by other businesses that have expressed an interest in buying him out, but nothing ever came to fruition.
In the meantime, while business continues to flourish, the company is currently implementing an African American youth international internship program.
In the summer of 2012, Clear Essence will send a group of students from historically Black colleges to Africa to participate in month-long internships in various fields, including banking, business and manufacturing.
Obioha is practicing the principles the late Marcus Garvey practiced, teaching self-sufficiency and helping Black people get back to Africa.
In this pursuit, the company will also launch a sweepstakes in January 2012 to send someone to the Motherland. The winner will indulge at the Clear Essence California Spa and Wellness Resort in Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria. The spa features 18 luxury suites and is considered one of the finest hotels in the region. The drawing will take place in February. For more information, visit clearessence.com or call 1-800-423-0306.