There is something unique about women born and raised in Harlem. Along with possessing an undeniable style, they are surrounded by the entrepreneurial spirit that makes this particular section of New York coveted and respected.
Enter Harlem born Makeba Guilan Lloyd ( a.k.a. Keba Guilan) and her Butter By Keba which is, in my opinion, one of the very best products that I’ve ever used, and her Lotus Nut Body Butter should be in every home to replace that tiny container of Vaseline that we all seem to have inherited.
Makeba began blending and mixing essential oils and phthalate-free fragrances with shea butter as a therapeutic way to alleviate her chronic dry skin only to discover a convenient method of moisturizing and scenting in one easy step.
A woman on a mission, Makeba was inspired by her 2006 travels through Egypt and pursued her curiosity and fascination for the fragrance world in the natural perfumery classrooms of the New York Open Center.
Determined, she furthered her education in the classrooms of the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies where she has received her certification in aromatherapy and is a member of the National Association of Holistic
Aromatherapists, as well as honing her skills in perfumery at Pratt Institute under world-renown perfumer Raymond Matts.
A woman on a mission, Makeba realized she had a passion for creating fragrances that people would love and birthed Butter By Keba—natural, phthalate & paraben-free skincare that offers classic cleaner fragrance options in one product.
Family—Butter By Keba is butter. Her line of moisturizers and synergistic fragrances are designed to give you smoother skin while uplifting and soothing your mood using the practice and process of aromatherapy and perfumery. By combining a unique combination of plant-based ingredients infused with a thoughtful application of phthalate-free fragrance and natural essential oils, Makeba has produced a dynamic line of products that appeal to every nose. They have placed luxury and wellness in the hands of the consumer with one goal—to provide a multi-purpose and memorable experience.
Here is what Makeba had to share about creating Butter By Keba.
AMSTERDAM NEWS: Why did you step into this challenge?
MAKEBA GUILAN: I was dealing with some mental stagnation at work and in my personal life. I started experimenting with oils and shea butter as a therapeutic hobby to address my dry skin issues and to just be creative. After traveling through Egypt I became hyper-inspired, almost obsessed with creating aromatic blends on my terms, using my intuition. I had been working as a real estate associate for quite some time and would bring my weekend’s creations to work to share for feedback. A colleague said to me, ‘You really should be selling this because it’s wonderful.’
AMN: Any doubts?
MG: I wasn’t sold on the idea at the time because I had just graduated from being a rental agent to a full-blown new development sales agent during the beginning of the Brooklyn condo boom in 2004. I was more excited about that at the time. However, creating fragrance through moisturizing ingredients was like therapy for me so I continued to do it for myself and as a “side hustle.” That is until 2020. So many life-changing events happened. I lost my mom (to a terminal long-fought illness), I lost my favorite great auntie (to old age), and then there was the pandemic. All of that forced me to self-reflect on how I was living and what I was doing for a living. When I realized I had something to say through fragrance creation I decided I wanted to focus my energy on that story. And while I’ll always have a hand in real estate in some capacity, Butter By Keba is an integral part of my life’s purpose.
AMN: What did you learn about starting your own business that you thought you knew?
MG: I thought running my own business would just feel like more work with more responsibility because I’m the “boss.” No, it rarely feels like work when you have passion for what you’re doing. It’s quite the opposite. Because it doesn’t feel like work I have to remind myself, almost force myself to pause, take a break and pull away from it; that’s why I volunteer in the garden and in the community when I can, among other forms of relaxation and release like travel, outdoor exercise and time with friends and family.
AMN: Why is representation in this field so important for women of color?
MG. Diverse representation in the fragrance industry hasn’t existed. Yet, much of the raw materials imported into the States and through Europe are sourced from regions where people of color originate and reside: in Africa, India, etc. And, according to Nielsen data Black consumers alone spent $151 million on women’s fragrances in 2017. So, we should take up space in this industry. And not just to provide products for our communities but to diversify product variety for the consumer so that they have a full spectrum and memorable experience. It is also important for the younger generations to see perfumers that look like them so that they will consider this industry as an option for their professional aspirations. The virtual fragrance and aromatherapy workshop I facilitate for young people is a testament to that. Our participants love the fragrance and want to learn about the process, ingredients, and how to create a fragrance for themselves. Yes, diverse representation is important for all of these reasons, it inspires new passions.
AMN: Growing up, with your mother reading the New York Amsterdam News, what sense of pride did you feel? The newspaper was started in 1909, with a $10 investment, six pieces of paper, and a pencil.
MG: One thing is for sure, my mother made sure I knew who I was and who my ancestors were, and she didn’t just refer to the history of slavery but also the history of the dynasties throughout Africa and Asia. To see prominent figures of the African diaspora on virtually every page of the publication always made me feel a sense of pride in self. It gave me something to which I could aspire. I think the thing she appreciated the most about the Amsterdam News was its commitment to telling our stories and informing our community about local, domestic and global events we may not have read about in other newspapers. I remember when we would come out of the train station where there was a newspaper stand at the top of the stairs. She would stop and say, ‘Hold on Keba, I need to pick up the Amsterdam News.’
AMN: What makes your products head-and-shoulders above the others?
MG: I build fragrance first. To me, everything we experience has an aroma and when someone uses Butter By Keba I want them to have an olfactory experience first so that they are connecting with their senses. I want them to share that experience with those around them so that they are connecting as well. There’s no greater compliment one can receive than to be told they smell amazing. Once they are present in that moment and realize how wonderfully effective the ingredients and textures are they’ll know they are using a product that someone took time and care in creating. I’m also big on elevating our line’s energetic frequency with the help of a friend who is a pranic healer. We do this with the application of a few techniques which include mindfulness, affirmation, and visualization; from the labels to the actual formula these techniques are part of the process. I want each person to feel as though the product was made just for them.
AMN: What’s next?
MG: We recently activated two installations. One is the release of The Chakra Collection, a line of plant-based aromatic essential oils and resin blends inspired by their aromatherapeutic alignment with the Chakra system, and Blends By Keba, a custom fragrance blending service for individual lovers of fragrance seeking their own unique and personal scent, as well as small indie beauty start-ups like myself looking to create a unique fragrant blend for their brand. I’m also working on the build-out of my first wellness app.
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