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Isis and Gina on target for business success

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Mother and daughter team Isis Benjamin, left, and Gina Spence, right with some of their House of Isis products (Photograph supplied)
Products offered by House of Isis (Photograph supplied)

A Bermudian mother-daughter duo could soon see their vegan hair care products on shelves at Target, one of the largest big box stores in the US.

But Gina Spence, and her daughter, Isis Benjamin, need $450,000 to ramp up manufacture and marketing for their Florida-based business House of Isis.

“To raise the money, we have been entering business pitch competitions,” Ms Benjamin said. “We have also been applying for grants. There is a lot of grant money available to Black-owned businesses in the US, particularly to female-owned businesses.”

In September, Ms Spence, and Ms Benjamin, who are both American citizens, were accepted into the Target Forward Founders programme.

“This is a business accelerator programme for Black and Brown businesses and minority businesses that would not normally have access to retail partnerships,” Ms Benjamin said.

The two-year programme involves workshops, classes, mentorship and networking opportunities designed to get entrepreneurs ready to sell at Target.

“Only 30 businesses were accepted,” Ms Spence said. “When we entered I just prayed that we would be 29th or something. And we got in. Once my products were recognised by Target I started looking at them differently. I stepped back and said, ‘Gina, you knew your stuff.’”

Ms Spence and her daughter moved to Florida in 2006 after Ms Spence married an American.

Soon after moving, Ms Spence started hair salon Healing House of Isis in West Palm Beach, Florida.

In Bermuda she had always been concerned about a possible connection between the chemicals in beauty products and breast cancer, hair loss, fibroids and other hormonal diseases in women.

“I thought things would be better in America,” she said. “I was wrong.”

After some research, she started creating her own vegan hair care products to use at Healing House of Isis.

For a long time Ms Benjamin was uninterested in following her mother into the family business.

“I thought I wanted a 9 to 5, easy money and benefits,” Ms Benjamin said.

But while studying political science at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, she took some internships and realised she wanted to work for herself. She also took an entrepreneurial course that inspired her. She started selling her mother’s products to her classmates while still at Spelman.

“When the pandemic broke in 2020, I was in Jamaica,” she said. “That’s when I found out I would not be going back to college.”

She finished up her degree at home, graduating in May 2020 summa cum laude.

But after graduation she was a little unsure what to do in the middle of a global health crisis.

“I graduated without going into debt,” she said “I thought I do not want to get into debt now. So I said to my mother, it is time to take your business to the next level.”

Ms Spence was really proud to see her daughter using her education to help them get ahead.

“We Spences have always believed in education,” she said.

In July 2020, they put the last of their savings together, $4,000, and rebranded. Healing House of Isis became House of Isis.

They redesigned their product labels, got a new logo and changed their bottles. The result was an immediate 600 per cent increase in sales and revenue.

“We have seen nothing but success since then,” Ms Benjamin said. “It really worked in our favour and took off.”

They now have 14 products, from clarifying shampoos to products for locks to supportive oils and shea butters. One of their newest products is a lavender body wash.

“Our products are only scented with essential oils,” Ms Benjamin said. “We are big on holistic health. Our true mission is to provide clean beauty products to women of colour specifically, but to everyone really. Our customer base is so diverse. Now we are seeing men who are taking their health more seriously.”

They are also shipping their products to 13 different countries including the United Arab Emirates, Norway and Australia. These faraway customers hear about them through YouTube brand ambassadors such as TP Locks and Dynasty TV.

“We will continue to use brand ambassadors because that is the biggest driver for us,” Ms Benjamin said.

The plan is to have a manufacturing plant, soon.

They recently moved House of Isis from West Palm Beach an hour north to Port St Lucie, Florida, to spread out a little more. Port St Lucie is a busy port with many manufacturing buildings.

Ms Spence is grateful to Target for the information, knowledge and opportunity they have provided.

Products offered by House of Isis (Photograph supplied)

For more information see www.houseofisis.co. House of Isis products are available in Bermuda through online business Bermuda Beauty Supplies. See bdabeautysupplies.com or call 705-5580, or through Imperial Cuts Barber Shop, 599-0288.

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Published February 24, 2022 at 7:59 am (Updated February 24, 2022 at 8:00 am)

Isis and Gina on target for business success

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