Melissa and Geren Albury started selling skin care products over two years ago. Their company, Shead LLC, was inspired by shea butter—something Melissa’s family has been using for three generations to help rejuvenate in an arid African climate. “I grew up in Ivory Coast,” Melissa explains. “There’s such dry temperatures there—we use shea butter for everything.”
Geren grew up in the Bahamas, with a notably different climate than West Africa. However, when Melissa and Geren began dating and were later married, they found a common need for having a versatile product for both skin and hair. Geren convinced his wife of shea butter base product’s prolific qualities, and the need to take it beyond their family.
Thus, the two began working on a plan to start a business. They started offering the product to friends and family, and eventually built a growing base of customers.
Finding a couple more well-suited for operating Shead would be a challenge. Melissa’s mother is a biochemist by trade. She helped the two formulate a precise mixture that would make the product incredibly versatile. Their level of product knowledge stems from generations of familiarity, as well as experimentation under a variety of climate conditions and skin types. The couple encourages their customers to experiment, using it for everything from deodorant to a natural bug repellent.
Wanting to take the concept further and extend the reach of their business, Melissa and Geren sought training through SpringGR, a local partner of Partners Worldwide in Grand Rapids. Once there, they worked with a business coach on pricing and quantity, two things that both admit were difficult elements to tackle. Through the training, the Albury’s developed a practice of making keen observations, like noting that customers with larger containers would manage to stretch out use over several months. Such observations allowed them to better tailor and market their product specifically for their clientele.
“Changing our sizing allowed us to adapt,” Geren says. “We figured out how customers use the product depending on their different needs.”
The two enjoy dreaming about the future while taking note of the hurdles to overcome, including the stigma that immigrants often face as aspiring business owners. Yet Melissa sees her stance as a female minority and a foreigner as uniquely shaping her determination as an entrepreneur. She says God continually reminds her that she is on this journey for a greater purpose. Melissa and Geren hope to eventually turn Shead into a corporation with many subsidiaries and numerous offerings—all operating with a focus on environmental sustainability.
“The term Shead offers this idea of shade and protection," says Melissa. “But it’s also an umbrella under which we can bring other like-minded individuals to lead toward a more renewable future.”