MoringaConnect is unlocking the potential of agriculture in Africa by working with smallholder farmers to bring nature’s finest cosmetic oil- Moringa - to a global market. They recently launched its hair & skin care line, True Moringa. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook.
Moringa is truly a miracle tree. The tree’s oil seeds, rich in antioxidants and anti-aging moisturizing agents can be processed into valuable cosmetic oil for hair and skin care. The leaves of the same tree - rich in iron, calcium, protein, and vitamins - can be used by farming families locally to prevent malnutrition. MoringaConnect is working to harness the potential of this rare food and cash crop to lift smallholder farmers in rural Ghana out of poverty.
When we set out to eliminate poverty and malnutrition for smallholder farmers, scouring the internet for YouTube’s trendiest beauty bloggers was not exactly part of our vision. Yet, two and a half years after we were introduced to nature’s miracle tree, we knew that the key to supporting our 400 farmers and scaling to millions more lay in understanding our market as much as it lay in understanding agriculture or appropriate technology.
In our first few months of full operations, a network of 400 farmers is promising scale, but it does not address the burgeoning interest in Moringa from smallholder farmers worldwide. We have received requests from all over Africa and the Caribbean to teach the cultivation and extraction techniques we use. One of the great questions we’ve wrestled with over the past few months is how to empower smallholders everywhere to cultivate Moringa while ensuring the sustainability of our business - and that the market isn’t flooded with low-quality oil.
It has become increasingly clear that the solution lies in building a strong brand based on quality and ethical sourcing. In this way, as we grow, we can franchise and adopt new sources into the MoringaConnect family from all over the world. We can dictate both the quality and social impact standards needed to market under our brand, ultimately insuring greater scale, higher quality, and more powerful social impact across the growing Moringa industry.
We’ve been fortunate enough over the past few months to receive an Echoing Green Fellowship and a place in the MassChallenge accelerator. Together with some incredible mentors within these programs, the Scale-Ups team, and elsewhere, we have worked to build and perfect our brand as we approach new retail channels and attract new customers. Here are some key learnings we’ve gleaned in preparation for our retail launch:
Messaging: Being intentional in the way we sell not just our product, but the experience of using our product, has been key. Our brand does more than make our customers’ hair shiny - it empowers them to stay true to their natural beauty and frees them from the harmful ingredients and unethical sourcing of the conventional cosmetic industry.
Packaging: We’ve spent almost as much time perfecting our packaging as we have our processing technologies. This has meant scouting out boutiques and understanding how we can “pop” off the shelf and pique the interest of a new customer, consulting with dozens of designers to perfect seemingly innocuous details, and working with numerous manufacturers before settling on the final presentation.
Inbound Marketing: People are weary of being marketed at and are constantly finding ways to block and tune out paid advertisements. Creating genuinely helpful and interesting content for our blog and social media channels - from hair tips to stories from our work in the field - has built us a dedicated following of customers and supporters.
Commitment to Quality: Though the shiny exterior may attract the customer initially, the ultimate test of any product’s sustainability in the marketplace is “does it work?” We will continue to dedicate time and resources to perfecting our product, which means improving cultivation and extraction techniques and developing new derivative products based on customer feedback.
Often times the day-to-day grind of keeping up with hashtags and hair tips seems far removed from what we envisioned when we started MoringaConnect. When this happens, however, we look toward that larger vision of supporting a brand that can truly lift smallholders out of poverty – in Ghana and across the world.