How this couple from Haiti turned a $400K deal on Shark Tank into 500% growth for their beauty brand

BY Preta Peace Namasaba July 2, 2024 7:19 AM EDT

The opportunities the United States offers for migrants can be a powerful allure. Hundreds of thousands relocate to the United States every year in pursuit of these opportunities. Among these dreamers were Yve-Car Momperousse and Stéphane Jean-Baptiste, a Haitian couple, who achieved their American dream on the business reality show Shark Tank. With a $400,000 deal, they have managed to get out of debt, increase sales by 50%, and grow their beauty brand by over 500%.

“It’s my culture. It’s my identity. It’s everything my parents sacrificed to get us here,” Jean-Baptiste said about their motivation to find success.

Like most Black entrepreneurs in the haircare industry, Momperousse was inspired by her personal challenges to start a business. While working as the director of diversity for her alma mater, University of Pennsylvania, she chemically straightened her hair for a party and woke up to find it falling out the next day. Momperousse reached out to her mother for a traditional remedy, Haitian black castor oil. Her hair was soon flourishing.

In 2013, Momperousse and her husband officially launched Kreyol Essence, an agribusiness that creates natural and ethical personal care products from Haiti. She used all her savings and taught herself about business before entering the competitive plant-based products market. Kreyol leveraged unique ingredients such as Haitian Black Castor Oil, Haitian Moringa Oil, and Vetiver to formulate hair solutions for people experiencing hair loss and those with dry hair, dry skin, and curly hair.

The company initially sold its products in bulk and hit a rough patch in 2016 after losing its top client. With sales plummetting from $135,000 to $40,000, Kreyol ended up being $300,000 in debt and almost shut down. Momperousse and Jean-Baptiste were forced to rethink their strategy. They shifted to selling directly to consumers in 2017 and earned $1 million in sales the following year. Nonetheless, they were looking to grow and expand operations even further.

The couple made an appearance on the 11th season of “Shark Tank” in 2020. They sought an investment of $400,000 in exchange for 10% equity in their company. Although the Sharks liked the delicious smell and luxurious feel of the Kreyol Essence products, they were not keen on investing their money. Momperousse and  Jean-Baptiste were told that their business was not scalable and lacked clinical or laboratory testing to back its growth claims. Of the five Sharks, only Kevin O’Leary was impressed by the growth of Kreyol Essence as shown by the business and the numbers. Momperousse and  Jean-Baptiste agreed to his final offer of $400,000 for 5% equity and 25 cents in perpetuity.

After the airing of their Shark Tank episode, all Kreyol Essence products on Amazon sold out within hours. Products from the company’s website went up by 50% and its social media following skyrocketed. Momperousse and  Jean-Baptiste secured retail partnerships with specialty and green retailers and started selling products in Ulta, Amazon, JCPenney, Sprouts Farmers Market, and more. Last year, Ulta did a national rollout of Kreyol Essence to its 1,200 stores all over the USA and on its website. The brand is currently available in 350 Whole Foods shops and 150 stores around the USA and Canada and will soon be available in Europe.

In just three years after their Shark Tank appearance, Kreyol Essence went from being deep in debt of $300,000 to increasing their sales by 50%. The business has recorded an unprecedented growth rate of 529%. Beyond profit, Momperousse and  Jean-Baptiste connect their sales to economic development and improving the environment in Haiti. Kreyol Essence provides jobs to around 300 farmers and women producers living in poverty-stricken areas where Haitian black castor beans are grown.

“It’s not just about the great products. It’s about the mission of helping to create a blueprint for poverty alleviation, which is a huge problem around the world,” Momperousse explained.