At the moment, many of us are unable to physically travel due to Covid-19, so we have become creative. We explore destinations virtually, cook ‘foreign’ cuisine or maybe even journey via aromas. After all, scents are a big part of our life experiences. On the wisp of a wind a familiar smell can transport us back to a certain time and place. I was meant to be in Trinidad this summer, but corona had other plans. I took to Instagram for ‘tastes’ of Trinidad. I found De Jeunésse. It’s fitting because when I think of home (Trinidad) I remember my youth. It’s where my love of nature began. De Jeunésse is a Trinidad based bath and body brand established by Shenelle Hills-Fife, five years ago. They are passionate about caring for environment. This is Shenelle’s interview.
About Shenelle and De Jeunésse
Tell us a bit about yourself and how the idea for the De Jeunésse come to about?
In 2011, I began my degree programme in Literature in English at the University of the West Indies. As, the first person in my family to pursue a higher education, I’m proud of that achievement.
During my second year at university, I attended an event which hosted self-taught artisans. One of the artisans made natural products from her kitchen. It was there that my passion for the business was born.
I researched extensively. YouTube became my first husband (don’t tell my husband that by the way). Then, I began experimenting with butters, oils and fragrances. Alongside my degree, I also took spa and candle making courses. It was difficult doing them both.
The first line of soaps was conceptualized in 2015. They were basic, one was called “Smooth Operator”. I am sure you know the song. It’s was cheesy I know. Currently, I have a Caribbean Fusion line which comprises of Hibiscus and Noni, Caribbean Spice, Turmeric and Lemon, Morning Brew, Meek and Mild, Aloecado (made with aloes and avocado) and Activated Charcoal with pink Rose clay. Each soap has many benefits for the skin.
By 2017, I was a full-time entrepreneur. My husband, sister, and myself manufacture and distribute natural soaps to Excellent Stores, Mt. Ivirne Spa in Tobago and CODECC Pharmacy just to name a few.
We also sell a range of body butters and candles at UpMarket in Maraval and several other local markets. Beside our retail and whole aspect of De Jeunesse we also work with brands on creating their own skincare line by formulate each recipe with specific benefits for their clientele or target market.
Ingredients Selection For De Jeunésse
What inspires your formulations, in terms of ingredient selection and fragrances?
I’m inspired by the flora and fauna of sweet Trinbago. Our best seller “Exotic Paradise”, smells like the ultimate Caribbean Paradise, while “Hibiscus and Noni” utilizes the island’s fruit and flowers. They tantalize the senses.
Our slogan in “Maintaining Youthfulness the Natural way” and the best way to do this is by utilizing what nature has to offer. Our body butters are Caribbean Seduction, Citrus Soufflé, Lavender Lust and Exotic Paradise.
We have two soap ranges. The Caribbean Fusion line comprises of local herbs and spices infused in Olive oil. While in the second line Spa Bar collection, the soaps are larger and more luxurious. Our innovative bars called Aloecado is made with Aloes and Avocados (or as we call it in Trinidad, Zaboca).
The Caribbean Beauty Industry
What obstacles have you faced as young Black women in the Caribbean beauty industry?
The challenge I had was trying to have a good work-life balance, as wife, mother and business woman. Competition is fierce in the local beauty industry. There are other brands with similar products and claims. So, I focus on innovation.
My sister and I came up with a seed paper initiative. As children we were taught to grow our own food; with that in mind we wanted to inspire our customers to love nature. In each packaging, there’s seed paper inside the box. We use recycled paper and embed seeds inside them. When planted they can get a variety of micro greens such as kale and radish.
How has Covid-19 impacted your business and the way you work?
Covid-19 has been challenging, more mentally. I had to step outside my comfort zone of selling at markets. In May, I began to build my own website and focus on growing internationally.
What has been the most rewarding feedback you’ve received to date.
The most rewarding feedback was from a customer who had severe acne. She told me she had tried many products but nothing was working for her. After using my Charcoal and Rose clay bar, her acne started to clear up.
My customer reviews make me feel fulfilled.
Finish the sentence ‘yuh is ah true trini if…’
‘yuh is ah true trini if yuh know the saying… Buying scrap Iron or Battery Buying.
For more information on De Jeunésse and their product range, visit the website. If you are overseas fear not, they ship internationally. Now, even expats can have a slice/jar of home (Trinbago) in their hands. You can also get social and follow De Jeunésse on Instagram and Twitter.
I hope you enjoyed the interview with Shenelle Hills-Fife. Please comment below. I would love to hear from you.
If you have missed any of the previous entrepreneurs’ interviews click HERE.