While many businesses around the world have either downsized or closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Bahamian entrepreneur living in the United States (US) has seen her business grow 40 percent after landing her product on the shelves of Target stores in the US.
Born and raised in New Providence, Sherrel Fountain-Sampson, the founder of scalp care brand Canviiy (pronounced /kan-vē/), has secured expansion into 195 Target stores throughout the US as well as on Target.com.
Fountain-Sampson, who called Golden Gates her stomping grounds growing up, now lives in Tampa, Florida, where she manages her company’s expansion even in the midst of a pandemic.
She told Guardian Business that since her product was launched in 2015, she’s only seen growth.
“It’s been a great journey where we’ve been able to grow our domestic and international customer base, where we have customers in Canada, Denmark, France, Germany and the UK, just to name a few. We’ve also been able to develop relationships with retailers and with other sectors such as healthcare and travel, so it’s been an interesting ride,” she said.
“We’ve probably experienced 40 percent growth, year over year, compared to last year. We are doing very well.”
The products, derived from organic, plant-based ingredients, were developed after Fountain-Sampson’s own struggle with itchy scalp – a segment of the beauty trade she found was lacking. So, she jumped on the opportunity.
“Women and men who both have scalp conditions are looking for a healthier solution. Women who currently color their hair or dye their hair also experience itchy sensations from applying hair products. So, that really opened my eyes that this could be a really special opportunity,” Fountain-Sampson said.
“Initially, the idea was to develop a long lasting anti-itch, itch-calming serum. I am my own customer, so I said hey, I want this to be extremely long lasting, I want this to have great ingredients, be non-greasy, non-running and be super lightweight. So, that’s the journey we took. I partnered with an organic chemist and it took us 14-16 months to develop our product that was launched November 2015.”
With natural botanicals including aloe vera, lavender, witch hazel, manuka honey and jojoba, Canviiy has even gotten the seal of approval from the Moffitt Cancer Center and USF Health.
Fountain-Sampson’s products were also featured as an HSN/Good Housekeeping Entrepreneurs’ Competition semifinalist.
“I think it’s because we’re true to our core and we really drive our business. There are a lot of different dynamics as to why businesses succeed and why they fail,” Fountain-Sampson said when asked why she believes her business is thriving at a time when so many others are not.
“Number one, is because they’re reliant on a business credit or a business loan or investment dollars and when that dries up, you can no longer move your business. So, we’ve been strategic from the very beginning since launching our brand, so that we can really own the business and make the decisions, which keep the company healthy in terms of its cash flow. But I think, too, we’re organically developing a really strong customer base that gives us repeatable sales, that gives us repeat orders and not only that, they’ve become brand advocates for us.”
With her roots still deeply tied to her homeland, Fountain-Sampson said it’s her life’s mission to be able to return to The Bahamas to share with the business community and the government ways to diversify from the country’s reliance on tourism.
“Canviiy is a scalp care, natural-based brand. We think about economic development. This is my life’s mission. But what I would love to do long term as the brand grows and becomes more prominent, is really come back and help local entrepreneurs, help the government, help business leaders think about how we can become a sustainable country, a surviving economy without tourism,” she said.
“It’s that there wasn’t really a plan or a structure of how to do that. So, my hope is that the brand and the company can grow to a standpoint where we can drive influence and drive conversation. And more importantly, hopefully have an opportunity to build economic development in the lives of everyday people. Whether that’s providing jobs, helping with education, looking at how the disenfranchised or disabled individuals have opportunities as well. So, long term, that’s definitely the direction I’d like to take.”
And while her product has expanded internationally and throughout the United States, Fountain-Sampson said she has yet to strike a deal with a local distributor, although it is high on her list of priorities.
“Today, we do not have a relationship with a Bahamian distributor, but it is one we would definitely like to revisit,” she said.
“We’ve had a couple conversations but it was very early in the brand, which I understand. So, I would love to bridge some relationships there.”
The Canviiy Collection at Target includes Fountain-Sampson’s ScalpBliss Itch-Calming Organic-Based Serum, ScalpBliss Sea Mineral & Organic Herb Infusion Restorative Growth Serum, and ScalpBliss Soothing Scalp-Purifying Foam Treatment.