Laila Ali is known for her brawn (she is, after all, the women’s super middle-weight boxing champ) and beauty, glamorously strutting her stuff on last season’s Dancing with the Stars. But with the launch of her new eponymous line of beauty projects, Ali boldly enters a whole new arena.
Ali teamed up with International Beauty Brands to launch the Laila Ali line of eco-friendly ethnic beauty and haircare products that will be sold at drugstores, beauty supply outlets and other major retailers nationwide. With 21 sulfate-free products for men and women, this new project is just the beginning of her vision to build a lifestyle brand to include health and beauty products for infants, as well as cosmetics and home goods.
Having been a nail technician at age 16, and later, a salon owner, Ali says she took a hands-on approach to product development, trying them out herself until she felt the formula was just right.
BlackEnterprise.com talked with the sports champion about her inspiration for her products and how to approach the challenge of getting them on the shelves.
BlackEnterprise.com: Why did you decide to launch your own line of beauty products?
[With a background in the beauty industry], I thought this was the right time, not only because I have a recognizable name, but I saw a need in the ethnic haircare market. You see the same products that have been repackaged and put on the shelves for African Americans. We needed something new and something better–that is non-toxic and eco-friendly. I made sure I came out with a product that gives people the results they want as well.
Why was it important to you that your products were free of sulfates and other chemicals?
I think you have to be responsible when you do make a product [about] what effect it will have on the environment … When I partnered with International Beauty Brands, they knew it was important for me to make products that are both not harmful to the environment and are healthy for your hair … I wanted natural ingredients included, such as wheat proteins and oils, that are good for the hair, and not so much focus on man-made chemicals … made for African-American consumers.
The beauty and cosmetics market is saturated with new products and the African-American market is tight. What would you say is the best way to capture this market?
The company I partnered with has a relationship with the retailers and can position my product. So, I’d say, partner with the right people to get in the door.
It’s a challenging market, especially for someone who doesn’t have a big marketing push. You could have the greatest product in the world, but you have to get the shelf space and the market share. Stores only have but so much space on the shelf for products, so getting that shelf space can be a challenge.
I think entrepreneurs should start small with a plan to grow big. There are so many ways to start, especially online, where you can build that foundation, and then you can get more attention and possibly get some shelf space on that alone.