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Here’s What Happened When Procter & Gamble Approached Me About Acquiring BGLH Marketplace

• May 9, 2018

First off, I’m going to assume I am free to talk about this because a. it is a part of my life story — a cool and interesting thing that happened, and b. I didn’t sign any non disclosure agreements… so…

Alright, first some background. During my former life as a hair and beauty blogger, corporate acquisition of black-owned companies was a red hot topic. On the one hand, many people argue that black companies struggle with growth because we historically lack access to capital (it’s true… read this post to get insight into how I have had to self-fund this business…), so if we have opportunities to expand we should take them — even if it means giving up ownership. On the other hand people argue that black ownership is important, also for historical reasons, and that many black companies experience a severe drop in product quality when they are acquired (Carol’s Daughter and Shea Moisture are often cited as examples of this) because profits take precedence over ingredients and process. There’s also the issue of the insensitive marketing campaigns that often follow an acquisition (see here) and a perceived distancing from the black consumer (see here.)

As a blogger who considered herself ‘woke’, it was easy for me to spout criticism at brands that were acquired. And I’ll be real maybe, just maybe, there was a tinge of jealousy in too. I mean Lisa Price (founder of Carol’s Daughter) and Richelieu Dennis (former owner of Shea Moisture) are millionaires many times over at this point. But I think, even if you take my shade out of the picture, I did have legitimate issues with the acquisition of black companies.

Fast forward to February 2018. It is a typical day in my storefront when I get a call from a lady. “Hi, can I speak to Leila?” “That’s me,” I replied. “My name is xxx, I’m from P & G and I would love to speak to you about BGLH Marketplace.” Honestly the whole conversation was a blur after that because I felt like I was levitating off the ground. I only remember bits and pieces, but the lady shared that a colleague of hers had either tried/heard about my products and thought BGLH Marketplace would be perfect to explore a partnership or acquisition. They loved my concept of focusing on whipped butters (read here why I only whip butter as opposed to creating a full hair/body line.) And asked me to pull together a massive order for the team at P & G to try.

Those first few days were unreal. Another P & G rep reached out on the Linkedin page I barely use to confirm the company was interested.

All I could see were dollar signs and acclaim. I imagined the stories: ‘Hard-Working Single Mom Becomes Big Baller’, the speaking engagements, the photoshoots on the cover of Black Enterprise magazine, the write ups in Fast Company, the Lisa Price and Richelieu Dennis money (although likely it would not have been that much.) But in all seriousness, the prospect of an immediate ease of my financial strain was incredibly tempting. I am growing an indie business and raising 3 young kids in Brooklyn at the same damn time. It’s… a bit much.

After I got off cloud 9, I started to face reality… First of all, thanks to my decade of beauty blogging I knew there is a big plagiarism issue in the beauty industry. Larger companies will buy and test indie products and replicate them (read about that here.) In mailing my products to P & G I could be handing over the BGLH Marketplace blueprint.

And there was the question of ethics. Was it fair to my customer base? Could I ensure that my butters would be the same quality after an acquisition? Each batch takes an annoyingly long time to finish, but it’s necessary for the quality my customers have come to enjoy. It wasn’t hard to imagine a multi-national company cutting out several steps in my process to churn out butter by the thousands, instead of the hundreds, as I was doing.

But the possibility of an acquisition was too tempting, so I mailed the products along with this note:

It reads…

I am so honored tthat you are interested in my company. This business is my life. I am a recently divorced single mother of a 5, 3 and 1 year old. This is my only way to support all of us. I know you work for a very powerful brand and I am entrusting you with these products because I am thrilled at the idea of partnering with P & G. I have spent the past 3 years learning about how to whip shea, cocoa and mango butter en masse. I currently whip about one metric ton of raw butter a year. My products are the best reviewed whipped butters online. If you are trying to enter the whipped butter market I am the person you want…”

I made sure the photo of my note was timestamped, and I sent the products on their way.

The next few weeks were nerve wracking. Did they like my stuff? Would they pursue a partnership, and what would it look like? I shared the news with my parents and a few friends, and researched other indie companies P & G had acquired.

I continued to have email convos with my P & G contact and it seemed my butters had gone over well. But through reflection I came to the conclusion that I wanted to retain ownership of my brand. And honestly it wasn’t for any noble reason. I just figured that if BGLH Marketplace blew up Shea Moisture style, I’d want to keep all the money to myself, LOL! But I did mention that I wanted to explore a distribution or marketing partnership and sent an email to that effect;

Here’s an excerpt;

Because I believe BGLH Marketplace contains a lot of untapped value and potential, I am not interested in selling the company at all. While I would welcome investment, I do want to retain majority ownership. Also, any investment I attract can’t come at the expense of my ingredients or my process. Coming from a beauty blogging background I have seen this happen so, so many times, where black-owned brands are acquired by larger companies and/or investors and the quality of the products immediately dips. Often larger companies are looking at what they can do to cut costs and expand production. But too often this compromises the core integrity of the product.

My products are a labor of love. As I mentioned on our call, I operate more like a bakery than a traditional stir and pour beauty business, and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way! I’m not interested in any partnerships that require me to speed up my production process at the cost of compromising my end product.”

My contact replied back that P & G had no issues exploring different types of partnerships beyond acquisition (like distribution, marketing), and I was so relieved!

So what happened next, you ask? Well… nothing. LOL!

Eventually my calls and emails stopped being returned. When I checked in to determine what was going on I was told that partnership was a ‘long process’ and they were having a discussion about my brand at a certain date, several weeks away. The date came and went, and I didn’t hear anything. I figured I was no longer on P & G’s radar, and I moved on.

What I learned from the experience
One thing I am learning is that there are few shortcuts in business (this is especially true when you are a woman, and especially, especially true when you are black.) Another huge, multi-national company could come a-knocking, but more than likely I will have to continue to grow my business guerrilla style, through smart branding on social media, regular and direct communication with my customers and, most importantly, a top quality product that solves, like, half of your skincare and hair care needs (it really does tho…)

Looking back I am mad proud of myself and, as always, motivated to keep going.

So there you have it!

Leila

P.S. — This is not the first time BGLH Marketplace has caught the attention of a big brand. Read my hilarious BET story here (it did not end well), and my YouTube Black story here.

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27 Comments on "Here’s What Happened When Procter & Gamble Approached Me About Acquiring BGLH Marketplace"

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del
Guest

Well, this went better than the BET story (I remembered that, ugghhh). lol

This is very inspiring. I’m not in the beauty biz but for anyone who is, this just shows what hard work and determination can do. I wouldn’t be surprised if P&G call you back, or if not them, someone else.

Glad you’re still indie for now, though!

Lina
Guest

I’m so proud of you and I’m glad that the biz remains in your hands! I will be blogging about your fabulous butters in the very near future! Hugs and high fives!
Lina

Curious
Guest

Question: Do you own the patent for your product? Or is it trade secret protected? Did you consider pursuing a licensing deal with P&G?

Veronica
Guest

Wow! What an experience for you! Very proud you stuck to your ‘soul’. I’m sure a bigger and better opportunity will come your way- well done you!

Jadde
Guest

I am ‘beyond the moon’ impressed with you and your integrity (and let’s not ignore enormous vision)! Their “formula” to go after your formula is all too common and I’ll refrain from explaining what the motives could be. We need more business owners such as yourself and let’s face it — more human beings with your integrity. Thank you. Happy Mothers Day!

TH
Guest

You are a warrior! Hold fast to your core values and goals. The Lord is preparing you for great things. I salute you, who you are and what you do! My hero.

Adeol
Guest

Good for you Leila! Would you have sold out if a Black-owned company approached you for a partnership?

TA
Guest

Good for you! Doesn’t shock me that you never heard back!

Celia
Guest

Good for you! I just bought my first tub of cocoa butter last week and am enjoying it. I can tell it will last a long, long time.

ChrisJf1mB
Guest

I just want to say thank you for not doing an acquisition because we all know sooner or later they would change the ingredients in your product as well as the marketing. Yes, this did end better than BET. I love supporting black owned businesses especially when it is a “true” black woman.” God Bless! FYI, my hair loves your Mango Butter.

Teezey
Guest

Beautiful article! I have recently completed formulation on my own vegan product, and I am very inspired by this article.

Building and retaining our own is the future of a sustained community.

Evans
Guest

Ur response, sharing, and committment to your clients reflective the 21st century BLACK FEMINISM without an american superbrand. U Rock!

Asia hendricks
Guest

I’m so proud and thankful for you keeping ownership of your brand. Black people are not a wholesale race, people are always coming to our community expecting to buy us off and make huge sums off of us. We are more than capable of generating that same wealth by continuing to invest in ourselves and our community. We don’t need the white man to give us no change.

Zanubia
Guest

I so appreciate your honesty about the temptation to make the millions — I know I would be, especially with a young family to take care of. Your commitment to your products and what they provide to the black community is admirable and I am grateful for entrepreneurs like you. Please keep going — your abundance is being created step by step — it will be yours. I live in the U.K. and have recently ordered some of your butters — so looking forward to using them!

Tamara Fort
Guest

Thank you for staying true to you. I was starting to panic thinking about buying a good size order as a farewell.
Your whipped butter business is produced the best way hand made!!! What you need is a clone to whip butter while you sleep. 😂😂.
You are doing just fine. Working for yourself giving your family a great role model. As a Mom myself there is nothing better to show your kids.

Shelly
Guest

Well done!
You are right, if you hand over to the big companies, your product will lose it’s quality.
I’m glad you decided to hold on to your baby.

Amanda
Guest

I’m glad you didn’t give in.

CeCe
Guest

I’m wondering if they’ll come back. It seemed they gave you the cold shoulder when they found out you weren’t going to sell. I also liked the way you “called out” the bigger companies and what happens when they buy black-owned businesses. LOL. I did a little fist pump when I read that. But good for you for staying true to you. My sister and I love your butters.

Beatrice W Irungu
Guest

Great! You did the right thing gal. If P&G were genuine, they would have agreed to request but seems they were out to buy the name and mess the product. God will reward the work of your hand!

Clinton Minus
Member

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Appreciate your candor and letting us know your thought process. We will continue to support your company.

Maria
Guest

I have enjoyed the articles on this site for years, and hope your product blows up. I think, though, that you should get someone to broker your deals for you. I agree with everything you said to P&G, but they might have gone a different way because you gave them too much detail and were too personal with the rep. A broker could speak their language and get you what you want without you having to sell your soul. Just my two cents.

A friend
Guest

These types of deals can take years to close. It took me two years to close a sponsorship deal once. So, don’t stop checking in until someone actually says they’re not interested. Even then, that might just mean going through another channel.

Christy Taylor
Guest

What a great example you are for your children. Very proud of you.

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