After graduating from Texas A&M in May 2017, Camila Prudencio was determined to put her agribusiness skills to good use. Using her personal experience of growing up in South America, knowledge from her agribusiness entrepreneurship courses and the support of her professors and mentors, Prudencio launched her own hair care business in 2017.
Blu Babassu sells hair care products developed with babassu oil. The oil is extracted from the babassu palm, which is indigenous to the Amazon region of South America.
The oil, which is often compared to similar products such as coconut oil, has been praised by beauty gurus and skincare experts as an enriching and healthy cosmetic product that beauty blogger Maanasi Radhakrishnan called a “wonder oil.”
“We want to spoil your hair with one of Earth's most unique and fabulous oils, babassu oil,” Prudencio said. “This hidden treasure from the Amazon is packed with antioxidants, especially Vitamin E and is sustainably sourced to us by hard-working women from native communities in the Amazon region of Bolivia.”
Prudencio said the idea for babassu oil cosmetics came from her childhood in Bolivia.
“I really got inspired when I was really young in Bolivia,” Prudencio said. “Babassu oil comes from a palm tree that only grows in scattered regions of the Amazon region of Bolivia and Brazil. When I realized how good the oil is that’s when my dream started of one day being able to make like cosmetics or hair products with it.”
Prudencio said she and her company are dedicated to the sustainable sourcing of babassu oil, and to the employment and empowerment of the Bolivian women who have dedicated their lives to harvesting babassu nuts in the Amazon.
“To me, what was fascinating about it was the way babassu oil was sourced,” Prudencio said. “Because it’s sourced to us by indigenous women who live in communities along the Amazon and they live in communities of very sparse resources so they make a living out of this,and so that’s what really inspired me to start this company.”
According to the Blu Babassu website, the Bolivian women who gather babassu nuts are vital, and the business is committed to helping them.
“We buy our babassu nuts from women known as ‘quebradeiras’ who have been gathering them for a living in Bolivia for decades,” Prudencio said. “These women gather the nuts from the ground without harming the palms. Our goal is to create 400 jobs by the end of 2018 by buying babassu nuts and oil from these women. We strive to improve their living conditions, help develop their communities and promote sustainable practices.”
Merritt Weeks, assistant director of agribusiness entrepreneurship at A&M, said she can only praise Prudencio for the confidence it took to launch her own business as a recent graduate.
“She’s a social entrepreneur, so with her business ideas she thought she needed to get real world experience first,” Weeks said. “As she continued to expand and meet with her mentors, they realized that the numbers were very legitimate, and they actually encouraged her to not to wait five years. They gave her the confidence that she needed so that she could move forward.”
Weeks said an important resource for students studying agricultural entrepreneurship is the Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Mentoring Forum. The forum, which will be held on Friday, Feb. 16 and Friday, Feb. 23, will provide an opportunity for agribusiness students to connect with mentors in their fields.
“Mentors, most of whom are alumni of Texas A&M, will sit across with the students one on one,” Weeks said. “They will sit down and they will give their business pitches and receive feedback from mentors.”
Prudencio said the skills she learned at A&M helped bring her dreams of owning her own business to life by giving her the concrete steps she needed to succeed.
“It all started to make sense when I took this entrepreneurship class at A&M,” Prudencio said. “I always had the dream of one day starting this but that’s when I actually started working on the numbers, working on marketing research. Everything that I’ve been doing this past month since I’ve started this business actually began at that class.”
Prudencio said the demands of the class prepared her for real life struggles of owning a business.
“I think that what I got most value from out of that class was that physically you have to be able to keep up with that class,” Prudencio said. “That’s when you realize how you need to get organized to get things done and I think it all started, like you realize to have the life of an entrepreneur what it's like. I think that class is a very good model of how real life is.”
According to Prudencio, the mentors at A&M provided her with a myriad of opportunities when she committed to starting her own business.
“I was connected with many mentors and got the opportunity to talk to many of them and get their advice on how to start the financial projections, things to consider about the competition and marketing strategies,” Prudencio said.
Prudencio said one mentor in particular gave her important advice on how to market her unique product.
“Gary Richardson was my main mentor,” Prudencio said. “He helped me find what the value is in having a very special community around like babassu oil. He kind of like showed me how to expose that and how to make that the most valuable thing about the product that I’m selling.”
Prudencio said new opportunities for marketing on social media also gave her the inspiration to start a business, because she knew there would be a platform to sell the product just like a larger company.
“Something that also like inspired me to start this is the opportunity of like marketing through social media now, how that is growing everything that is related to online sales and how you can use, like, Instagram and Facebook to market things,” Prudencio said. “Without that, I think I wouldn’t have started this. I think that because of those new platforms there is a new opportunity for companies like mine to find a way to penetrate the market.”
For more information about Blu Babassu and their products, visit blubabassu.com