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Raw Talent Podcast S2 Episode 9 with Shirley Billot founder of organic skincare brand Kadalys

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

In Series 2, Episode 9 of Raw Talent, Shirley takes us on a personal journey inspired by her maternal family who came from mixed-race origins. Her Great Grandfather was released from slavery before slavery was abolished and her grandfather went on to become the first black meteorologist specialising in hurricane preparation. He had eleven children and paid for them all to be educated in Paris as he was passionate about the importance of education. In turn, Shirley’s mother was made a Knight of Honour and received the National Order of Merit in France, for her fight against pesticide and chemical production.

After studying in Paris age 17, Shirley joined Air France, where she was pushed to follow a greater destiny by her line manager leading to a series of corporate roles before returning to Martinique in 2008 when she had her son. In observing the very expensive cost of living and inequality that surrounded her, she considered doing nothing and accepting it or taking action and doing something. Since bananas are the main trade of the region and the power of the banana tree is well known, Shirley embarked on a research project in 2009 to explore their therapeutic potential.

Shirley didn’t want to create just another ethical beauty product, she wanted to become a world specialist in upcycling and waste recycling by using the by-products from the banana agricultural industry and extracting their undiscovered cosmetic powers. She has written two research programs in biochemistry and filed 3 patents. In summing up her discoveries she tells us that there are amazing active ingredients in all plants. Banana trees date back to the dinosaurs and contain unique molecules which act as anti-antioxidants containing amazing anti-inflammatory and rejuvenation properties.

The Kadalys website tells a wonderful story of the science, social and environmental impact of the brand. They have created a cooperative of 600 family farms in Guadeloupe and Martinique, working at the cutting edge of agricultural science, traceability and quality, preserving local employment through the generation of nearly 10,000 direct and indirect jobs. Shirley explains the main impact of this mission is to create hope and inspiration. It also shows what is possible on a small island with limited industry where tourism and bananas are the main trades, therefore, it is important to consider another economical resource that supports both the planet and livelihoods.

Shirley has some highly respected partners helping to mentor the brand, which is also part of a black funded program that helps with leadership and sales techniques. Mentors helped them launch their first digital campaign and as a female entrepreneur, Shirley shares that she has had to learn to be bold and less constrained.

We also learn that the most asked consumer question is whether the products smell bananary? From personal experience, I can say that the Huile Précieuse Radiance Banane Jaune Bio, Huile Fondante Démaquilliante Bio and Crème Jour Liftante Bio all exude an incredibly delicious fragrance that you obsessively look forward to at the beginning and end of each day. In their online consultations, people share their skin concerns with the brand, they want to know the best product for their skin and ask which skin colour the products suit? The answer to which is all of them, skin is skin! 30% of their customers are also men.

Shirley is quietly proud of receiving the Best Organic Product Award 2020 based on the results of 100 super-testers. We hear what's next to come from Kadalys in 2021 and discover Shirley's dream team which includes Priyanka Chopra and Keanu Reeves for their authenticity and commitment. Gunter Pauli author of The Blue Economy who raises awareness of environmental issues with an innovative perspective.

Stretching her imagination further, Shirley would also invite Elon Musk to develop a new product inspired by his work at Tesla and foresight of the importance of sharing his knowledge with the rest of the car industry to encourage a green revolution.

American actresses Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson would be the face of the brand and on digital, she’d have Jack Ma founder of Alibaba or Jeff Bezos of Amazon. What a team!

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