UVA Darden Grads Launch Natural Beauty Products Line, Empower Women of Color
By Jay Hodgkins
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business‘ admissions blog, Discover Darden, recently shined a spotlight on a company founded by Allison Shimamoto (MBA ’19) with a mission to “bring customers healthy hair care and skin care products using 100 percent natural raw ingredients, green and ethical sourcing, all while empowering women of color along the way.”
Shimamoto founded Oemi Botanicals, a “nutrition-forward” natural beauty product company, out of necessity. She was not satisfied with the natural hair products available in the market, and after taking matters into her own hands, realized that there was a tremendous need for natural products designed to work with Type 4 curly hair.
Since the company’s official launch in June 2019, Oemi has grown to a team of five — including Darden alumna Morolake Thompson (MBA ’20) and Cecily Sackey (MBA ’19) — and was recently named a finalist in the UVA E-Cup competition, which aims to “enrich the area’s entrepreneurial community by encouraging new ventures with the potential to address unmet needs, solve social and economic problems, and do so in an interdisciplinary way.”
Read the full story about the company and team of entrepreneurs on the Discover Darden blog and read the Oemi team’s Q&A with Discover Darden below.
What is Oemi?
We are a nutrition-forward natural beauty products company for people with Type 4 hair — that’s kinky, coily and curly! Our goal is to bring our customers healthy hair care and skin care products using 100-percent natural raw ingredients, green and ethical sourcing, all while empowering women of color along the way. Type 4 curlies deserve 100-percent natural, nontoxic hair care solutions for soft, luscious curls without compromising nutrition and product purity. Our recipes are curated, high performing, and prioritize organic, nonGMO, fair-trade and cruelty free ingredients. Our goal is to take what the food industry did for clean eating, and transform natural hair care. As the products are toxin-free and 100 percent natural, many of our customers also use them for skin care. This is an area that we are eager to explore!
Where is Oemi now?
This past year has been a whirlwind! We’ve near doubled our product offerings and have two new products on the way to launch this summer. We’re also excited to offer new scents for our top seller, Cupuacu + Kokum Cream this month. What’s next for us? We’re actively looking at financing opportunities (grants, angel investors, etc.) to fuel the next chapter of our growth and take the necessary steps to scale efficiently.
Tell Us About Giving Back.
Although we’re still a new and small company, we know the importance of giving back at whatever stage we are. That’s why over the last week, we dedicated 50 percent of proceeds from sales to Eva’s Village. Eva’s Village is a nonprofit organization in Paterson, New Jersey that combats poverty and substance abuse by providing meals, housing and health care to those in need.
We are also very deliberate in how we conduct our operations. We believe in bringing more women of color to the forefront of the business world. So, we prioritize partnerships with women of color who look like us! When we needed to find a scientist, we chose a Latinx woman cosmetic chemist. Because we focus on raw, 100-percent natural ingredients, we need to source directly from the regions where these plants grow, and why not partner with women farmers and women suppliers? For example, we get our Cupuacu directly from a woman in Brazil who owns her own farm and employs workers from a local village to harvest and process the fruit.
Our dream is to shatter that glass ceiling in the beauty industry — and create space for more women just like us.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Director of Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia