Flo + Theo is an all natural vegan skin care line created by sisters Ebony and Mayowa. Born in Nigeria and raised in England and Ireland, the sisters are currently based in Queens, New York where they produce a collection of soaps, body butters, body polishes and lip balms. With healthy skin, as their top priority, they make all of their products in small batches using only the good stuff: essential oils, vitamins, cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil, cane sugar and herbal essences. A far cry from their previous lives as a lawyer and software engineer, Ebony and Mayowa are building their business their products and their business organically.
On our recent trip to NYC, we met with these lovely ladies to talk beauty and business.ODE: What prompted you to create FLO + THEO?
Ebony: I always had really sensitive skin (I am literally allergic to everything), so I had been making my own skin care products for years. I also had always wanted to start my own business and all through my academic career, whilst studying to be a lawyer, I was also looking up possible business ideas, attending business courses and interning at local businesses. After I finished law school, I thought it was prime time to take a leap of faith and start a business on what I already knew and loved, natural skin care.
Mayowa: I have always been a product junkie, constantly looking for the newest and best products on the market. I started using Ebony’s formulations after she moved to New York. I found that, even though I have very dry skin the products worked very well for me. I knew there was an opportunity to bring these remedies to the masses and due to my background [in software engineering and e-commerce], I was able to execute the technical aspects of the business.
ODE: What is your product development process?
E&M: We only use pure essential oils, never any artificial fragrances, so that narrows down the scents we can create. The great thing however with essential oils is that they have therapeutic properties, so to create a scent, we firstly decide how we want to feel and go from there. For example our Lavender Flower is relaxing and calming whilst our Wild Mint and Lemon Orchard scent has the opposite effect and makes you feel energized and invigorated.
ODE: From where do you draw your inspiration?
E&M: Personally our mum has been our biggest inspiration, and she is actually the FLO (short for Florence) in FLO + THEO. She is the definition of a strong African woman and we definitely strive to emulate her.
In relation to FLO+THEO, we are inspired by our surroundings, nature and most importantly our ingredients. Once our imagination is sparked, we come together and brainstorm formulations and recipes using the best raw materials. After weeks, sometimes months of experimentation on our selves, friends and family, if we find something that we love, we take steps to introduce it to FLO+THEO customers.
ODE: Has your Nigerian background played a role in how you developed or run your business?
E&M: Nigerians are known for their entrepreneurial spirits and this fact has been instilled in us since childhood. We have also had the privilege to live not only in Nigeria but also to live and be submersed in other cultures ( English, Irish and American), this allows us to to see things from different perspectives which has been advantageous in running FLO+THEO.
ODE: When was your last trip to Nigeria? When will be your next trip to Nigeria?
E&M: It has been too long since we have been home, but we do want to go back soon as FLO+THEO permits.
ODE: Have you been to any other African countries? What countries would you like to visit?
E&M: Unfortunately we haven't been to other African countries but we would love visit a lot of countries on the continent because the cultures are so fascinating. We find that African cultures can have some many similarities but they can also be so distinct and it is those differences that are really beautiful. We would also love to explore Asia for the diverse culture and the food.
ODE: What’s your most memorable experience as an entrepreneur?
E&M: The people we have meet through FLO+THEO has been by far the best part of the journey and has provided us with the most memorable experiences. It is always so awesome and rewarding when someone says they love our products, that always makes and us happy and makes it all worthwhile.
ODE: What do you enjoy most about what you do? Is there anything you dislike?
E&M: We really enjoy being able to hand-craft natural skin formulations that actually work. It is the most rewarding thing, when a customer comes up to us and tells that our products has helped them alleviate a skin issue or that they enjoy taking showers more because they look forward to using our soaps in the morning.
There isn't anything in particular that we dislike, administrative work can get a bit tedious and monotonous but of course it has to be done.
ODE: If you weren't in the beauty business, what other business would you want to do?
Ebony: I can't really see myself in any other business but that of beauty, I really love what I do.
Mayowa: I am also in love with the beauty industry but if I wasn't in that space, I probably would like to own a small boutique, with vintage and modern finds, cute gifts and a nice beauty section.
ODE: What do you think of diversity in the beauty business?
E&M: There is some representation of people of color but not definitely not enough. This without a doubt needs to change especially because of the buying power of women of color.
ODE: What's up next for FLO + THEO?
E&M: We would love to keep on making great products, growing organically and eventually see our products in stores internationally.
ODE: Do you have any favorite beauty tips you can share?
Ebony: Keep it simple with the products you use and less is more.
Mayowa: I use oils to moisturize my face, I love using Jojoba Oil, it absorbs quickly into the skin, it is not greasy, and it is full of vitamins and keeps me hydrated and protected for the whole day.
Thanks to Ebony and Mayowa for chatting with us. We're so excited to be working with them and look forward to all of their amazing products. Look for more from them in the future!