Two friends, Lecia Durham and Debbie Shrickker, started a body care business based on their mutual love for all things natural.
Litchi & Titch’s elegant packaging and presentation makes you want to slather it on your body. The tag line Love soft skin says it all. The pair started their small business, named after their childhood nicknames, in 2017.
They have an interesting journey. Lecia (the ‘Litchi’ in Litchi & Titch) has worked in the cosmetics retail industry, owned and ran a beauty salon, worked with her husband in a joinery business on the client liaison side, worked in sales and marketing at a natural health magazine, and, finally, running her own social media management business.
“My time at the natural health magazine opened my eyes to the natural products' world and this is where I merged my love for body products and natural health. I realised how important it was to use only natural products on one’s skin. It is astounding how many so-called ‘natural’ brands are currently on the market. Have a closer look however, and you realise these products are very far from natural when it comes to ingredients,” says Lecia.
Debbie, AKA Titch, worked in media sales, became a life coach and then a business strategist using the skills she learnt in coaching to develop a more holistic approach to sales and business development.
“After becoming increasingly disillusioned with the lack of integrity and values within the large corporate world, I decided to jump off the merry-go-round. I took a huge leap of faith and struck out as a freelance business strategist,” Debbie recalls. That allowed her to choose the projects and people she worked with.
“The universe did its thing and our shared love of beauty products led to many animated conversations about what we liked and what we didn’t like. Little did we know that those conversations would lead us on an adventurous journey that would ultimately result in the launch of Litchi & Titch,” Debbie says.
“Things started very slowly with just one product, our Paw Paw & Baobab Beauty Balm,” Lecia recalls. “We wanted to create a product for South African women similar to the iconic Paw Paw balms that European, Australian and American women had come to know and love."
Why Paw Paw?
Lecia explains that Paw Paw is renowned in natural skin care circles for its incredible healing potential. “It also contains Papain, an enzyme unique to Paw Paw, which has many health and skin benefits. Litchi & Titch gave their product the South African touch by adding Baobab, one of the Africa's most loved healing oil.
Playing to their strengths
Team Litchi & Titch split their roles very clearly. Lecia is the visionary and the brand’s custodian. In addition, she handles product and range development; marketing and advertising; social media; website and online sales, as well as packaging design. Debbie takes care of international and national sales and business development. This involves export markets; new stockists; alternative distribution channels; trade shows and promotional opportunities.
Trust your journey
When small business owners talk about their start-up story, the challenges of cash flow, distribution and reliable partners are common denominators. Litchi & Titch knows this pain.
“One of our biggest challenges was manufacturing. We outsource this side of the business and although the manufacturer we initially used was excellent at what they did, our needs and future ambitions did not align with theirs. Finding a manufacturer that suited our style of communication and desire to drive the business forward was not easy. Far too many enquiries and very little feedback,” Lecia recalls.
She highlights the importance of finding the right fit when it comes to suppliers. “Eventually, we came across our current manufacturing partner, purely by chance I might add, leading us to believe in the power of trusting your journey. Our business literally changed overnight. Working with people and businesses that empower and promote your structure and goals is key.”
As with the majority of South African businesses, the Covid-19 lockdown has had a severe negative impact on Litchi & Titch. “It affected us tremendously, particularly from a sales and distribution point of view. We can’t sell to independent stores and we can’t deliver to people through our online store.” While they’re still taking orders online, Litchi & Titch can only deliver orders once the lockdown is lifted.
While they did consider jumping on the hand-sanitiser train, they decided against producing this product. Instead, they are focusing on building their online presence, brand awareness, and developing back-end systems. They’re busy working on future promotions, getting a head start on social media content, and developing their skin care line, which will be launched in the second half of 2020. “[The skin care] project in particular needs lots of time to research. Thank you lockdown for affording us this particular opportunity!” Lecia exclaims.
“The changes in our global market may close certain doors, but also opens others. We are thinking of spreading our footprint further into Africa and Europe now more than before, with a more focused online offering, since retail outlets may not be able to accommodate us as they may have going forward.”
“Post-corona is an unknown playing field, but our primary focus remains the same: to bring the best natural plant-based ingredient body and skincare to our customers. Gorgeously fragranced and high in skin nutrition every time. People will still always want excellent quality, truly natural and non-toxic products for themselves and their loved ones,” Lecia emphasises.
Finally, a word of advice from Litchi & Titch: “Hold the ball for a while, before you decide where to throw it next. Your usual move may not be the best one currently.”
Author: Leanne Feris