Case study: Kenyan skincare brand wins over Chinese market
The ‘four Cs’ – COVID, climate, conflict and cost-of-living – greatly tested small businesses around the world and set back the Sustainable Development Goals. This case study, from the ITC Annual Report 2022, highlights how the International Trade Centre helped entrepreneurs find new ways to prosperity through trade.
When Irene Mumo, founder of Trueways Enterprises Ltd, created her Peridot line of beeswax moisturizers, she knew her products had potential far beyond her home country, Kenya.
Made from organic beeswax, the moisturizers have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and anti-oxidative properties. But she did not know how to market those benefits in competitive overseas markets such as China.
That changed in 2018, when Mumo attended the China International Import Expo with the support of ITC. She met there with a Chinese branding agency, which resulted in a multi-year collaboration that would introduce Peridot to the Chinese market.
To reach this goal, Peridot had to improve in creative packaging, consumer research and advertising methods.
Mumo worked with her Chinese partner to combine elements of the beeswax moisturizer with aesthetics popular among Chinese consumers. The new packaging highlighted the natural sourcing of the ingredients while unifying the design. At the ITC booth of CIIE 2019, Kenya’s then ambassador to China, H.E. Sarah Serem, praised the new look, which attracted the attention of many visitors.
For customer research and to collect feedback, the company sent samples to different consumer groups across China. The findings led Peridot to target specific groups – for instance, those with special skin conditions – before gradually expanding towards the general population.
To diversify advertising methods, the company moved its marketing campaigns to social media platforms ranging from WeChat and TikTok to Xiaohongshu. As a result, Peridot has gained subscribers and increased its conversion rates (the percentage of users who take a desired action).
For traditional marketing, Mumo and her Chinese partner opened pop-up stores and joined art exhibitions in major shopping malls in Shanghai. They also established partnerships with several private hospitals, microbusinesses and cosmetics stores.
In addition to its benefits for skin, Peridot has established itself as an environmentally sustainable brand. Bees are the cornerstone of the brand, but populations of these pollinators are declining rapidly. To raise awareness around the issue, Peridot developed beeswax crayons, animated videos, storybooks and toys. These products enhance the core values and strengthen the brand image.
Demand in China has grown, and Trueways Enterprises now sources its supplies for Peridot from 10 women beekeepers in Kenya. This not only boosts their incomes, but it also makes beekeeping more popular. Trueways Enterprises has pledged to provide more jobs for women in the coming years to promote a more gender-equal work environment.
Mumo and her Chinese counterpart have expanded their alliance since they first collaborated five years ago. In 2022, they worked with Tmall International – a Chinese-language website for business-to-consumer online retail – to target a wider consumer group, especially in the northern regions of China, by leveraging its cross-border e-commerce platform. The exporting success that Peridot found by partnering with a Chinese branding agency at CIIE 2018 continues to offer a remarkable wealth of present and future opportunities.