African Secrets, LLC
No Longer a Secret
Owner: Aminata Dukuray - CEO
Company Facts: 100% Woman owned business that manufactures and wholesales organic skin and hair care products.
Location: East Orange, NJ
Business Growth Facts
- A family business that has seen sales increase 250% over the last four years
- Recently renting office, manufacturing and storage space in a commercial building in East Orange, New Jersey
- Have developed and introduced seventeen different products and recently introduced a new line of skin lotion called Ancient Formula.
- Company products are featured in nine Walmart stores throughout Northern New Jersey.
Born in Sierra Leone West Africa, Aminata Dukuray came to the United States in 1990 with dreams of a future. As immigrants, she and her husband started a family and struggled to provide for themselves in a country that often turned dreams into nightmares. Despite the challenges, Ms. Dukuray never gave up on her dreams of a better life. One day, her daughter developed An aggressive ringworm that resulted in baldness on the top of her head. Traditional physicians prescribed a myriad of topical ointments and shampoos that did nothing to eradicate the condition. Out of desperation Aminata created an ointment with shea butter and an assortment of herbs that she began using on her child. She also created a shampoo using these ingredients and a number of minerals as well. Within days Ms. Dukuray noticed significant hair growth in her daughter’s bald spot. Within days the skin condition was cleared up and within weeks the bald spot was replaced by healthy growing hair.
Aminata had always had a lifelong interest in cosmetics, therefore, after her daughter’s ringworm episode, it led her to begin making products from shea butter imported from her native land. A cream was created that friends and family found to be a very effective deterrent to dry skin. The response that she received was the catalyst for African Secrets being launched in 2004.
Desperately in need of working capital and guidance, Aminata turned to the New Jersey Small Business Development Center @ Rutgers-Newark for help. She attended the Center’s Introduction to Entrepreneurship Q&A which she says “It helped me to understand how to start a business and get registered…it really helped me a lot. They made it so easy because my English was not very good at the time.” Thereafter the Director referred her to one of the business counselors who assisted her with the development of a business plan as well as assistance in the development of additional business skills and expertise. Upon completion of the business plan, Ms. Dukuray was able to secure a micro loan from a lender. With this early success, African Secrets financed initial inventory development and product promotion. She was able to convince the buyer at one Walmart store to carry a couple of her products on a trial basis. Today she is in 9 Walmart stores in Northern New Jersey and looking to expand into the tri-state area. The NJSBDC @ Rutgers-Newark is currently working with her on developing her distribution channel in order to expand her operations.
In November 2009 Aminata also participated as a guest speaker at Center’s Women Entrepreneurs’ Networking (WEN) Business Breakfast and shared her empowering success story with other women business owners at the event. African Secrets has parlayed creativity, knowledge, working capital, quality product and perseverance into a growing and profitable business. While expansion is creating challenges, opportunities are being created as well. The dreams dreamt a few years ago are now reality for Aminata and African Secrets.