Interview with Tammie Umbel, Creator of Shea Terra Organics
My love for Shea Terra Organics is extremely visible to anyone who has ever been inside my house – my bathroom is consistently peppered with the brand’s products, and Shea Terra’s cleansers and oils are mainstays in my skincare routine, even when I am testing other lines. Shea Terra Organics is a skincare company dedicated to sharing the rare, indigenous, healing ingredients of African countries with the world, while bringing income and awareness to remote communities that might otherwise be destroyed. My devotion to the brand doesn’t end with the product line though – I’ve had a fascination with Tammie Umbel, the mind behind Shea Terra Organics, ever since I discovered Shea Terra back in 2011. In addition to Tammie’s website bio, which is intriguing on its own, I’ve also enjoyed scores of photos over the years from her African travels and ingredient scouting missions, which are sometimes shared through the company’s social media channels.
I am ecstatic to have had the opportunity to do this interview with Tammie Umbel. She covers a multitude of topics ranging from her creative process, her dedication to the communities she’s helping to preserve, to details about the skincare routine that gives her such a luminous glow. Here’s what Tammie had to say:
What inspired you to create Shea Terra Organics?
I have a natural knack for business. When I was a little girl I made a promise to one day create jobs for people in third world countries. I didn’t understand why organizations spent so much to feed people but never talked about job creation. I was also fascinated by international cultures, languages and traditions. I loved wildlife and understood the importance of preserving habitats. When it came time to create a company for my expanding family I knew just what to do – create sustainable jobs by sharing traditional beauty secrets.
What are Shea Terra Organics’ all time best sellers?
Although we started out by selling the highest quality shea butter formulas, our top sellers for the past few years have been our Moroccan Argan Oil (when we started selling it ten years ago we could barely sell a bottle), the African Black Soap Collection, Madagascar Tamanu Oil and our Moroccan Rose Water products.
How do you go about discovering new ingredients? What qualities does an ingredient need to have for it to pique your interest?
In addition to my trips which I scour open bazaars in search of beauty secrets, I also have a large network of suppliers throughout Africa. I work with women’s cooperatives, community projects, university projects and wildlife conservation groups to identify local indigenous ingredients that are sustainable. In order to pique my interest an ingredient must be unique, mostly indigenous to a particular region, used by locals for skincare issues, and marketable.
What factors go into your decision to create a new product?
I don’t create a typical skincare line. Instead of saying, “now I need to make a toner,” “now I need to develop a SPF cream,” or “papaya masks are really hot, I need to develop one,” it is the rare ingredients themselves that inspire the products that I create.
What is a typical day like for you?
Tackling one challenge after another. Trying to keep 100% of our customers happy, happy, happy. I work from my home office during the day while I homeschool. I go out for a late lunch and then do factory inspections in the late afternoon. Back at home I write business materials, answer emails and work on marketing plans with our retailers.
What is your current skincare routine?
Our Rose Hips Black Soap Face Wash made with real African black soap is a daily must. I can’t live without the soap. It keeps my skin clear and wrinkle free. I follow this up with one of our African oils like Argan & Rose Serum. Once a week or so I use one of our Moroccan Lava Clay masks.
You lead such an interesting life – when you were young, is this what you dreamed you’d be doing now?
It is sort of what I thought I would be doing. I wanted to join the Peace Corp so I could make a difference in third world countries. I also wanted to create jobs for people who had no way of supporting themselves.
Are there any new products in the works right now? Can we get some hints about what they might be?
I always have new products in the works. There are many hidden beauty gems still to be discovered. And there are new environmental and community projects popping up which are really exciting. I do have some new oils and serums coming out, they are relatively unknown outside of Africa.
What are you looking forward to?
I am looking for increased retailership of Shea Terra Organics. I am also looking forward to several of these new projects starting up to provide the world with amazing beauty secrets that will help sustain communities and conservation efforts.
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Are you a Shea Terra Organics fan? If you’ve been interested in discovering this skincare line, you can purchase products through the Shea Terra Organics website. My personal recommendations include the Argan, Zafron & Camel’s Milk Brightening Lait Cre’me (read my full review here), Argan Oil, Baobob Oil, Rose Hips Black Soap Facial Wash, Moroccan Lava & Camel’s Milk Softening Nomad’s Secret Facial Masque, and the Cape Aloe Topical Healing Gel. If you sign up for the email newsletter, you’ll receive a big 30% coupon code every month, which is good for your entire purchase. This month’s code is JAN2014.