Urban Call Briefs

Mario de la Guardia is the founder and chief executive of Strength of Nature Global LLC, a family owned Savannah-based company focused on developing and marketing high-quality hair care products made exclusively for the hair care needs of men and women of color worldwide. He is also the Global Beauty Alliance Vice Chairman and Founding Board member. Guardia has headed up the introduction or re-launch of over 500 products since starting the family-owned company in 2000 with his father Mario Sr., a Cuban immigrant and chemist who created Magic Shave. Strength of Nature’s brands are well-known globally, with strong market share growth across both the U.S. and international markets. Popular brands include among others: African Pride, Beautiful Textures, Profectiv, MegaGrowth, Elasta QP and the newly acquired Soft & Beautiful, Pro-Line and TCB brands (recently acquired by Unilever, who acquired the brands from ProLine Corporation ). International markets rank high in the company’s overall growth strategy, with Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and the Caribbean already experiencing a significant and fast growing market for Strength of Nature, with huge potential for long term growth.



Godrej Consumer Products Limited (GCPL), an Indian consumer goods company based in Mumbai, India, announced a deal to acquire Strength of Nature in 2016. Strength of Nature’s sales company sales are estimated at approximately $350 million annually. GCPL reported that it’s a move that clearly fits the company’s objectives. “Over the past few years we have been scaling up our international presence with acquisitions that fit well in our 3×3 strategy – a presence in emerging markets in Asia, Africa and Latin America through three core categories: hair care, home care and personal care,” said GCPL Managing Director Adi Godrej via a media release.

Hair Care Company Strength of Nature Acquired
GCPL’s products include soap, hair colorants, toiletries and liquid detergents. It has bought out foreign companies such as Keyline Brands Limited (United Kingdom) in 2005, Rapidol (Pty) Limited in 2006, and Godrej Global Mid East FZE in 2007 and the joint venture with SCA Hygiene Products AB, Sweden in 2007. The company is strategically growing through its acquisitions, particularly in hair care for women of African descent, and with this latest deal, the India-based company gains market share as well as US-specific insights and product knowledge.

GCPL owned a 49 percent non-controlling share in Godrej Sara Lee Limited (GSLL), an unlisted joint venture between the Godrej Group and Sara Lee Corporation USA, as of early 2010. In May 2010, it acquired Sara Lee’s 51 percent controlling share.In 2010, Godrej made several acquisitions, including Indonesian firm Megasari and Tura. In addition, Godrej entered Latin America with the acquisition of Issue Group and Argencos in Argentina, and later acquired Cosmética Nacional, a Chilean company.
In 2015, Godrej announced it had fully acquired a 100 percent equity stake in South African hair extensions firm Frika Hair.
Godrej Consumer Products acquired Strength of Nature in 2016 and its growth in Africa is up 61 percent in the latest 2017 quarter attributed entirely to Sales of Strength of Nature in Africa.

Guardia, a graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology in Industrial Management, continues as Strength of Nature president and reports to Godrej. Gambhir notes that the company’s people are a big asset, too. “Strength of Nature has a seasoned management team with over 100 years of combined experience in the industry … Mario de la Guardia and his team have built a great business over the past 16 years. We are excited to partner with them to build a world class portfolio of hair brands.”


President and General Manager of McBride Research Laboratories (MRL)
Cornell McBride, Jr. is President and General Manager of McBride Research Laboratories (MRL), manufacturers of the Design Essentials line of hair care headquartered outside of Atlanta. He is also a Global Beauty Alliance Founding Board Member and was elected to a two-year position as Vice Chair.
While the roots and the operation of the business are a traditional story of family business, their current initiatives have launched them firmly into the realm of technology and expansion. The brand was launched by Cornell McBride Sr. who co-founded M&M Products Company when they developed a formula that eventually became Sta-Sof-Fro, the very first product designed and marketed to moisturize and soften the naturally textured style popular at the time, the Afro. By the mid-1980s, M&M Products had four national brands: Sta-Sof-Fro, Sof-N-Free, Moxie and Curly Perm. The company’s annual revenues exceeded $40 million making it one of the top Black hair care companies in the world. But in 1989, after the company soared beyond $40 million dollars in sales, McBride and the company co-owner decided to dissolve their partnership and sell the company to Chicago-based, black-owned, Johnson Products. Both Sta Sof Fro and the Sof and Free relaxer are still available in stores today.

At the time M&M Products was sold, McBride, Sr. also owned a chain of beauty supply stores in Atlanta. But McBride Sr., sold all the beauty supply stores and in 1990, decided to focus exclusively on using his talents as a registered pharmacist to develop lines of innovative products such as Therapeutics Rx, Wave by Design and Colaura.

Design Essentials began as a salon-only brand, marketed and sold through an extensive MRL distribution network that has helped establish hundreds of business owners and millionaires spanning the United States, Caribbean, United Kingdom and Africa. Part of the success of the brand stems from having ownership and leadership by the McBride family. When they came of age, all of McBride’s children, his two sons — Andre and Cornell Jr. and daughter Sholanda – joined the company to make it one of the few businesses in the hair care industry that is owned, operated and managed by an African American family. McBride Jr., remembers those days when his father first started making the products. Every day when he came home from school he would go down to the basement and fill the bottles of products his dad had made. His mom and siblings helped. They filled the bottles, packed them up and prepared the boxes for his father to take out and sell; his dad sold the products out of his car.

In 2010, his involvement in the business came full circle when McBride, Sr. passed the baton of leadership to McBride, Jr., naming him as President and General Manager of MRL.

Under McBride, Jr.’s helm, the company continued to expand. McBride, Jr. serves as General Manager, leading the day-to-day operations and providing strategic direction for the company and ensuring the fulfillment of MRL’s creative initiatives through finance, marketing and sales. For 18 years, McBride, Jr. has led the company’s expanse not only throughout the United States and the Caribbean, but also globally, including, France, Amsterdam, Guadalupe, and Portugal as well as the United Kingdom and Africa.

In 2012, Design Essentials created the Design Essentials Natural brand, which directly returned the company to its roots of providing products for curly-textured styles. “From a historical standpoint, the ‘70s had a sense of pride with the afros. . .There was a change to relaxers then curls to relaxers,” McBride Jr. continued. “And now, it’s an evolution. Women are exploring natural hair because of liberation.” With the success of this line as well as the trend of “DIY” hairstyling among women with naturally curly hair, Design Essentials launched into retail. Currently, it counts Walmart, ULTA, Sally Beauty Supply, Walgreen’s, CVS as retail partners. About 24 years after its founding, Design Essentials’ average growth rate is double digit. Sales have continued to grow and they’ve continued to expand, with distributorships in the Caribbean and Europe and Africa. With this resurgence of interest in naturally textured hair and their history providing products to consumers that cater to this texture, Design Essentials and the McBride family is poised to recreate history.



A lifelong entrepreneur, Tyrone A. Burroughs is a visionary and pioneer in the consumer products management industry. An advocate of multicultural marketing, Burroughs’ full-service sales and marketing firm, First Choice Sales & Marketing Group Inc., has evolved into the largest multicultural manufacturer’s representative agency for the 21st century. First Choice leverages its multicultural legacy, diverse talent, and deep expertise to deliver ideas that move and increase market share. The agency has the unique ability to not only reach audiences but also touch individuals.

An innovator, Burroughs has established himself as a driving force in the multicultural personal care industry by carving a name for his agency within a distinct and growing niche market and influencing the $1.7 trillion buying power of multicultural demographics. He has been instrumental in advising the world’s largest product manufacturers and retail partners in developing sales, marketing, and merchandising strategies that truly connect with their target consumer.

After graduating from Benedict College and serving a four-year stint in the United States Army, Burroughs began his sales and marketing career at Merck, Sharp & Dohne Pharmaceutical Co. before taking lead as Regional Sales Manager with Ben Sheftall Distributing Co., and then as President at Elite Distributing Co. In 1987, Burroughs fulfilled his dream and started his own agency, 1st Choice Sales & Merchandising, which he later rebranded as First Choice Sales & Marketing Group, Inc.

With offices in Bentonville, Arkansas, Atlanta, Georgia, Dallas, Texas and Memphis, Tennessee, First Choice has become one of the nation’s largest minority-owned, full-service sales, marketing and merchandising agencies. Under Burroughs’ expert leadership, First Choice was recognized as the “Broker of the Year” four years in a row by the American Health and Beauty Aids Institute (AHBAI).

Well known for his entrepreneurial spirit, his latest enterprise includes the acquisition of Brown Sales Agency, The Tom Hood Group, Real Estate Development Company, Memphis Premier Restaurant , and R.S. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home, the historic funeral home that prepared the remains of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for public viewing, under The Choice Group Inc. With Burroughs at the helm, this independent venture company seeks out real estate opportunities, strategic partnerships, and alternative businesses for First Choice clients as well as Fortune 500 companies. Burroughs is also a Founding Board Member of the Global Beauty Alliance Global (GlobalBeautyAlliance.org).

Further, to promote entrepreneurship as a career choice amongst college students, in 2010 Burroughs launched The Burroughs Foundation Inc., which awards annual scholarships to help future generations of entrepreneurs fulfill their dreams. He’s also contributed over the last five years to various organizations promoting youth education, empowerment, and development.

Burroughs has received numerous awards and recognitions for his civic, religious, and community involvement, most recently as Honorary City Councilman of Memphis, Tennessee. He also serves on the advisory boards for the NAACP Memphis Chapter, First Alliance Bank, Regional One Hospital, Memphis and Shelby County Convention and Tourism Board, and is the chairman of the board of Trustees Metropolitan Baptist Church. Burroughs earned his Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from Benedict College and currently resides in Memphis.

*provided by SegmentedMarketing.com




M.V. Roberts Distributing
Michael Roberts, a true pioneer of the business, has a CV that sparkles with the biggest names in ethnic hair care. Founder and CEO of M.V. Roberts and Company, a global based sales and marketing company which has the unique distinction of helping launch and grow two $100 million plus companies in Softsheen and Organic Roots Stimulator ORS, he was also the president of Mizani where he brokered a relationship between Redken Laboratories and Softsheen which led to the development and launch of that brand. Add to that the other brands that he has worked with, and you get a person whose life is steeped in hair care and whose knowledge is second to none. ShopTalk International spoke to him about his life and his journey in the business. Below is an excerpt from that interview:

For those who don’t know your background, tell us how you started out? I started my professional career with Deloitte & Touche, I was in finance and accounting. When I started my own company in 1978, my first client was Softsheen. I acted as a broker for them in the western regions which including Hawaii. With my experience, the Gardner’s would ask me questions about things that they should do in terms of their financial growth, and it got to the point where the things I was telling them were critical to the success of the business.
Speaking of success, what do you think contributed to Softsheen’s (success)? I think they were very successful because they had the winning formula for growth. They were strong entrepreneurs and they brought in professional management. If you look at companies like Microsoft and Apple, as the companies grew they hired professional managers. We had very smart people in sales, marketing, finance, R & D and operations that made the company grow.

Forty years and there’s been a huge amount of change in the business from production right through to marketing. What keeps a business going in this day and age?
From a personal standpoint, dealing with something near and dear to African Americans, which is their hair and skin, you have to be relevant and you’ve got to stay current. Companies have to be really consumer focused. They can’t be current but nobody thinks they’re relevant – the two go hand-in-hand.

You would have seen many trends come and go. Did you sense that the natural hair market would take off the way it has? The natural hair care market again is the natural order of things. Since I’ve been in the business we’ve gone from relaxing, kids who run wild with the curls, back to relaxer; and during that whole period of time, it’s always natural hair and natural hair care products. They became relevant recently but they’ve always been there.”




  • Global Executive Vice President Namasté Laboratories, L.L.C. (makers of Organic Root Stimulator®)
  • Chief Financial Officer for Soft Sheen Products and Senior Vice President of International Operations Soft Sheen Products

Deal Maker

  • Chief Investment Officer for Soft Sheen Products – Oversaw acquisitions and investments
  • President of Mizani® – Brokered the relationship between Redken® and Soft Sheen Products leading to development and launch of Mizani®

Business Strategist

  • Helped create and execute strategies globally – Mizani®, Soft Sheen Products, and most recently, Namasté Laboratories/ORS®

Prior and present clients represented include Ampro, Alikay Naturals, Andre Walker Hair, As I Am, As I Am Born Curly, Baby Sweet, Camille Rose Naturals, Entwine, High Time Bump Stopper, Isoplus, Murray’s, Namasté Laboratories LLC, Smoothcare, Sunny Isle Jamaican Black Castor Oil, T-Tree by Parnevu and Twisted Sista.

Excerpted from Shop Talk International – The Trade Magazine For The Ethnic Hair and Beauty Business, copyright A Hawker Consumer Publications LTD 2017 (Issue 26 ): Interview with Michael Roberts The Go To Man For Business and Brand Strategy.

OTC Beauty Magazine offers useful business tips and effective selling tools to boost revenue and customer traffic for OTC retailers. The magazine also provides invaluable product knowledge, industry news and insights for retail store owners, manufacturers, distributors and professionals in the barber and beauty supply industry. Contact us: editor@otcbeautymagazine.com

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May 2024


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