Beauty Idol: Alicia Thornthwaite

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Alicia Thornthwaite is the co-founder of AfroDeity, an online store that features and retails natural Caribbean Inspired hair and skin products. She started the brand with her mother, Joliette Sutherland and their goal is to help grow the agricultural market in the Caribbean by introducing their products to a worldwide market. Alicia took time out to tell me about AfroDeity and Joilette which is another brand they have started. What made you decide to set up your own beauty business? I have never been someone who was that interested in the beauty industry. I always felt it didn't really apply to me. My entire life I felt ugly and no amount of beauty product was going to help make that ugliness go away. As a scientist working in a laboratory for nearly 10 years I didn't need to get dressed up for work and I never wore makeup. Years later when I lost large chunks of my hair, I felt incredibly ugly. I lost my self esteem. As a researcher I did what I always did I started researching the reasons for the hair loss and what I could do about it. I found very few resources and started blogging about it myself. Blogging was a new concept at the time and I thought no one would read or be interested in what I had to say about beauty.

Other women joined me on my journey and I slowly discovered the natural hair community and the psychological battle many women have with hair loss. My mother suggested several old Caribbean remedies for hair care and hair loss and I became even more fascinated about the world of Caribbean plants, a world I had a glimpse into when I was at boarding school in Jamaica. I had always wanted to start my own business, and after my daughter, was born, this gave me the kick that I very much needed. So my blog beauty blog added on a small beauty business and my mother Joliette supported and joined me on the journey to start AfroDeity and regain my confidence.

What is the concept behind AfroDeity? AfroDeity sources, promotes and retails, Caribbean and Caribbean Inspired products. We do this with the aim of reinvigorating the declining agricultural industry in many Caribbean countries. We understand the ingredients used by our ancestors for healthier hair and softer skin are just as effective now as they ever were. We actively support Farm Up Jamaica, an initiative which encourages local crop growing and stops a dependence on importation of local food stuffs. My mother and I both have a personal connection to this, me because of my time spent at school in Jamaica and her as a headmistress there, we saw first hand how the success of a crop could affect the success of a child's education.

What sort of research did you do to find out what sort of products your customers wanted to buy? Having a blog was the perfect way to validate the business model we had planned for AfroDeity. We mainly talked to people; the people who would become our potential customers. We asked very basic questions for example: What product is missing from your beauty regime? What type of product do you want but doesn't currently exist? And in many cases got the same answers. We took what we knew about Caribbean oils and butters and created two products we felt would best solve these problems or fill these gaps.

How did you decide on the look and feel of the brand? With AfroDeity I had a very definite idea of what I wanted to express in the logo and the feel of the blog and store. I wanted something that said African goddess and I have always loved the image of The Birth of Venus by Botticelli. Combining that with the idea that all life came from Africa, the image in our logo was born from a lotus flower, kinky Afro and all. The blue in our logo represents the blue of the Caribbean sea.

In terms of Joliette, there is no one that I respect more in the world than my mother and what we wanted to convey with this brand was the story of our bond and the bond between all mothers and daughters, so the brand was named after my own mother. We also wanted something that just expresses pure luxury and decadence and our simple gold and white theme came about.

What are your future plans for AfroDeity? In the future AfroDeity may become more of a blog and the Joliette brand may take over our store. We have so many ideas for new products and discover new amazing Caribbean plants daily. Our 'Caribbean Radiance' Facial range is due to be released soon and many people will have tried our first 'Caribbean Body' products. More hair products on the way too.

What are your favourite beauty products? I would of course say that I love all my own products but apart from these I am mad for Mac's Candy Yum Yum lipstick and Curlformers which I use with the Joliette Curl Me Soft.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to set up their own beauty business? Validate your business idea and research thoroughly what you will need, licenses, regulatory paperwork, assessments etc. Stick to what you know and enjoy, something you are passionate about. Ask for help with the things you have no idea about. Don't be afraid to fail. It is not the failure that is important, it is what you learn from it and your attitude to it. That is the difference between those entrepreneurs that make it and those that don't, their attitude to failure.

For more information about AfroDeity please visit their website.