Mala Responds: AfroVeda Price Hikes

Mala has read last weekend's article by Redd and the CN community's comments. Check out her response and weigh in!

Hi Nikki,

I completely understand the feelings of many of the customers who have commented on my reasons for the price increase. I've ready many responses that suggest that the reasons I listed were untrue. Nevertheless, they are true. In March of this year, the vendor that I purchase aloe vera products from (juice, gel and oil) increased their price from $40/gallon to $70/gallon. They gave no explanation why. I decided to look for another vendor and tried 3 different companies, only to find that their quality was not what I wanted for my products. In the end, I went back with the original company and paid the additional money because I liked the fact that what they offered was pure and organic. The same thing happened with the vendor that I purchase unprocessed Fair Trade shea butter and cocoa butter from. Their price increase wasn't as drastic, but it was considerably more than I had been paying. Those are not the only items that increased in price, only the two most dramatic ones.

I made the decision, despite the recommendation of my advisor, to absorb these additional costs and as I posted on the website, am now unable to continue this process. I could have stayed with the "inferior" products (which I don't really think are inferior, they were just not the highest quality), or used much less of the more expensive products in my formulas. Either way, in my mind, it would have yielded an AfroVeda product that did not meet my own standards -- which is unacceptable to me.

It has been recommended to me on numerous occasions that I find a "lab" to reproduce my products to cut down on costs. However, when researching this option I have found that it would actually be more expensive for me, especially since I have already developed specific formulas for them to follow. What makes this option cost effective is when a person uses the already-formulated bases designed by the lab, and then only add a few additional ingredients to make it "their own". It is easy to do because there are labs everywhere, but that is not the AfroVeda way.

I am committed to making products that perform the way they are intended, and will never compromise on quality. With the help of my chemist/consultant, I have improved the formulas for the hair butters so that there are no more issues with separating. I have also switched to eco-friendly packaging, and have upgraded the bottle labels so that they are now smudge-proof and water resistant. I have added a customer service phone number (which is posted on the website) and am now offering customers the option to call in orders, which wasn't an option before. All of these things I handle (with the help of an occasional intern/contract employee) while hand-making, processing, packaging and shipping 30-40 orders per day.

This explanation may not diminish the frustration of the customers who have supported me and AfroVeda to this point, but it is the truth. It is never my intent (or any business's intent I hope) to anger the very ones who have kept me in business. I greatly appreciate the customers who have embraced AfroVeda and apologize that this business decision has left them with unfavorable emotions about the company. It is my sincere hope that they have a prosperous hair journey, and that they would reconsider AfroVeda in the future.

Thank you again Nikki, for allowing me the opportunity to respond.

In perfect peace,

Mala Rhodes
Founder and CEO of Afroveda

AfroVeda Price Hikes- An Opposing View

Redd writes:

Dear Nikki,

I just wanted to respond to the backlash of the natural community regarding the price increases of Afroveda products and get your opinion as well...

The blogosphere is on fire with commentary on the recent price hikes at Afroveda, that have in some cases, doubled the original prices of many of their most popular products.

Do I understand the aggravation, angry comments and promises to never buy this company's hair products again? Sure I do! It's disheartening to realize that 2 months ago, your favorite product was an affordable $12 and is now $24. It seems unconscionable. How could a business owner hike up prices that drastically, with no concern for their customers?

However (and you knew this was coming, right? LOL!) I don't think it's fair to question this business owner's motives without examining all the facts. Anyone who has ever ran a business knows that you often have to make decisions that are best for the business but make others unhappy. Of course, in a customer focused business, you would hope that the customer concerns come first. But we have to be realistic. No one spends their time, effort and money to ONLY make customers happy. Unless you are running a non-profit organization, your goal is to make enough money to sustain yourself and your business.

When I first saw all this noise in the blog universe about the change in Afroveda pricing, I did a Google search to see who else out there was raising a ruckus. Plenty of bloggers and forum posters were raising hell. And they all promised the same thing: to never buy the products again. Despite the product effectiveness and quality (and the fact that the quality was great enough to make people tolerate a 3-4 week turnaround on the items actually shipping), not one person was willing to accept the fact that that the Afroveda owner is entitled to do what she wants with her business (if only this amount of anger was applied to the recent teacher layoffs across the country... yeah, I went there...).

After the Google search, I went to the Afroveda website and discovered there was a letter from the owner explaining why she chose to increase prices. She said it was primarily due to the increase in her raw goods. Eh... yeah, I kind of had to call B.S. on that. Granted, I don't know where she gets her products, if she is buying wholesale, buying in bulk, etc, but I think it is safe to say that most of her ingredients such as shea butter, amla oil and aloe vera have not doubled in price suddenly across the globe. So for the people who believe they are being fed a line on that, I might have to agree.

On the other hand, when I was researching doing my own mix-tress products, what I most realized is that the packaging almost costs as much as what you are putting in the bottles and jars. When I realized that, I decided not to go ahead with my business plan. But based on that research, I can easily see where she might have determined to adjust her pricing to increase her profit margin (don't forget, this sister is running a FOR PROFIT BUSINESS, not a non-profit organization).

I also discovered during my Google search that a group of students developed a business plan for Afroveda to help address the slow turnaround fulfilling orders. The link is HERE.

After reading this, I realized that when we think of a business, we assume that is is running full-time. Turns out, this lady is working a full time job and filling her Afroveda orders at night, mixing it all up herself in her kitchen, after feeding her family at night. So those high quality products that everyone loved at $10 to $12 a pop? They really did contain that often quoted ingredient of "LOVE". Because as a wife and mother who is a full time student with a full time job, you best believe, I have nothing but respect for this sister after reading this. Shoot. I would love to hear from anyone who is doing what this lady is doing and still producing quality products while maintaining a full time job and keeping up the family.

Anyway... my final conclusion is, while I think blaming the price hike on the ingredients might not be completely true, I do think this sister wants to grow her business, dedicate herself to it full time, hire some staff and make some money. If she had said that, people would still be mad. But I don't care what you say, I cannot be mad at that. Especially since it appears she wants to maintain her high quality standards and not start switching the "good" stuff out and replacing it with cheap crap like mineral oil (*cough* Miss Jessie's *cough*) and still charge the same price.

I've never even bought Afroveda products before and yes, even though the prices are HIGH, I may buy some sample sets to support this business owner. I will always try to support small businesses. I'm not saying that everyone should do as I do but I do ask that before we stop supporting small businesses that make quality products, we look at the alternative. If we stop supporting businesses like Afroveda, we will end up at the mercy of big businesses who won't care about OUR needs or add a drop of love to their products. Remember 10 years ago when there were NO natural hair products? Yeah, don't think it couldn't happen again.

Weigh in divas!

Do you use AfroVeda products? How do you feel about the price hikes?

OMG... AfroVeda!

Hola Chicas!

My Afroveda has arrived and it smells soooooooo good :) I rubbed each product into various places on my arm and WOW, this stuff is moisturizing! Did I mention it smells like heaven?

Here's a list of my new goodies:

Shea Amla Whipped Butter Cream
Curl Define
Ashlii Amala Red Rasberry Intense Deep Conditioning Hair Mask
PUR Whipped Hair Gelly
Prana Green Tea Hair Conditioner

If you haven't been to the site, please check it out! Not only can you purchase high quality (an awesomely priced) products, you can also learn about ayurveda, and discover your body consitituion to find products designed specifically for you! Apparently I have more VATTA... they totally pegged me! What about you?

What should I use on my dry Braid-n-Curl for definition, hold, and moisture?

Later Gators,

p.s. Reviews coming soon! Leave your reviews below :)

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