Essential 17 Hair Growth Oil is a combination of essential oils and herbs that then-college student Rochelle Graham-Campbell concocted in her small college apartment more than a decade ago. It became the foundation for a multimillion-dollar business.
Alikay Naturals produces about 1 million units per year of natural hair and beauty products out of a 6,500-square-foot facility in Fort Myers. The organic creams, lotions, conditioners and more line the shelves at major retailers such as Target and CVS worldwide.
The idea started in 2008 when the student at University of South Florida wanted hair-care products that weren’t laced with harsh chemicals. She came up with original mixtures in her kitchen, started a YouTube channel and recorded herself trying them out on her curly locks. The subscribers grew—and so did demand. She started selling online. After graduation, she moved to Fort Myers with her husband to be closer to family and dedicated herself to her brand. She caught the eye of a store broker at a trade show in Chicago who saw that she could help fill a growing market for organic hair and beauty products, particularly ones aimed at black women. Shortly after, she was in big-box stores.
In recent years, Alikay has expanded to be a more all-encompassing natural lifestyle brand with skin creams, a line for babies, candles and feminine care products. Soon, Alikay Naturals and its 25 employees plan on moving into a new 30,000-square-foot-plus facility in Fort Myers, Graham-Campbell says.
She’s also written a book—90 Days to CEO— that gives advice to up-and-coming entrepreneurs. She’s come a long way in a short time, and she’s ready to pass along any advice to those like she once was: A young woman with an idea but unsure of the route to make it real. “I want to inspire more people to start a business,” she says.