Charmaine highlighted by Essence magazine
When Sandys entrepreneur Charmaine Russell received an Instagram message asking to feature her in Essence magazine, she thought that it was a hoax.
The message claimed to be from Jill Dill, public relations projects manager at the Bermuda Tourism Authority.
It read, in part: “I have secured a story in Essence magazine about Bermuda’s beauty products and the Black entrepreneurs behind them and I need to connect you to their Beauty Director for an interview.”
“I thought, this does not seem real,” Ms Russell said. She runs the Charmaine Nicole Hair Loft, on Hook and Ladder Lane in Sandys, and a natural beauty product business, Surishae + Co.
She ignored the message, until her daughter got on her case.
“She said, ‘You have an e-mail in your inbox that you haven’t replied to, and it is big’,” Ms Russell said. “Ms Dill contacted her when she could not reach me.”
The e-mail was real. Essence was doing a spread and wanted to include her story.
“I don’t know how they heard about me,” Ms Russell said. “I had sold some products to Jill Dill. Maybe that was how.”
Then she thought, wow, this is pretty big. She is a fan of Essence.
“I said I better respond because it may not happen again,” she said. “So I did respond, and accepted the request.”
The interview was part of a collaboration with the BTA to put Bermuda on the map when it comes to local entrepreneurs in the beauty care business.
“I think it was to get Bermuda more out there,” Ms Russell said.
Some other businesses featured include Pink Lotus Hair and Skin Essentials, The Sweet Place, Salt Spray Salt Co and Dove & Butterfly.
Essence journalist Blake Newby flew to Bermuda a month ago and Ms Russell had an interview with her.
“I am a little introverted,” Ms Russell said. “I thought, I don’t know if I can do this, but it went well. The feature mainly seemed to be about running a small business in Bermuda and about how we collaborate with other female brands so that we can get our brands out there together.”
Essence asked her what it was like running a business on the island. The journalist seemed surprised that Ms Russell regularly ships products to customers overseas.
She had a good following in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom until the pandemic hit. With the world health crisis raging, overseas orders dipped. Now she is hoping that the article will help her to regain her international clientele.
At one point, an entrepreneur in South Africa even asked if she could sell Ms Russell’s products in her store. But at that time Ms Russell was not equipped to ship large quantities of her items overseas. Now she is ready to do that.
She was grateful to Ms Dill for organising the feature.
“Small businesses in Bermuda need more help,” she said.
Ms Russell said that there are challenges to running a small business in Bermuda.
“I was paying 25 per cent duty on each ingredient I brought in,” she said. “Then my shipper Sea Venture said, ‘Charmaine did you know you guys are now offered 10 per cent and less on things like bottles and ingredients?’ That has helped us keep our product pricing down a bit. I would like to get it out there but I need resources and help.”
Ms Russell started her salon in 2009 and Surishae nine years ago when her son was three years old.
“His skin was really dry and cracked,” she said. “He had alligator skin on his legs.”
She tried different products from the drugstore but they did not work.
So she started making her own whipped body cream, using shea butter, unrefined coconut oil, almond oil and organic lavender essential oil.
“It wasn’t until then that I saw improvement in his skin,” Ms Russell said. “No commercial product worked.”
She started selling the whipped body cream and created a brand, Surishae + Co.
“I only had that one product for the first three to five years,” she said.
Then, she started expanding, adding other skin-care products and also hair-care items to sell in her salon.
Soon she had nine or ten different products. Now she is trying to ease up on creating new products to focus more on what is selling well. Her whipped body cream is still popular but people also like her shampoo, conditioner and hair oil.
Ms Russell now works part time in the salon and dedicates two days out of the week to making her skincare line. She also gets some outside help in manufacturing a small portion of her products.
In 2018, she won a Best of Bermuda award from The Bermudian Magazine in the Products and Services category.
For more information see @surishaeco on Facebook and Instagram www.surishae.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org