A Conversation with Colleen Malwah-Aqui of RODCO Home Essentials
Colleen Malwah-Aqui is a force of nature! As the head of her own business RODCO Home Essentials, she develops an ever-expanding line of cocoa-based skin care and beauty products. Growing up on Trinidad’s sister isle of Tobago with her grandparents, themselves entrepreneurs, Colleen seemed almost destined to work with cocoa.
In our continuing series spotlighting local pioneers Colleen shares “Chocolate Story: From Bean to Skin” describing her relationship with cocoa, navigating business and some childhood nostalgia.
Growing up in Runnymede, Tobago, I had the good fortune to help my grandparents pick the cocoa pods of the trees and stack them in a corner ready for harvesting. It was a joy to cut open those pods and eat the meat off the beans. Eating too much (which was often), led to serious tummy aches but it was worth it. The best fun was in dancing that cocoa below the house and then moving it all to the cocoa house. That cocoa house became my hideaway and still stands today. In those days your mornings started with a mug of cocoa tea with homemade bread and fried jacks. Yep, I still indulge my taste buds with my favourite breakfast.
When did you start the company and what was your motivation to do so?
RODCO HOME ESSENTIALS was conceptualized in 1999 and registered in December 2005. My grandparents were entrepreneurs and it was my goal to follow in their footsteps.
Tell us about your [personal] discovery of cocoa. When did you first realize it would be beneficial for your products?
Growing up in Tobago, cocoa was part of my birthright as my grandparents owned land where they grew and sold cocoa, and many other fruits vegetables. The cocoa was prepared and some of it was sold to the Cocoa Board and some was used for making cocoa tea.The discovery of using cocoa in RODCO’s products and its benefits happened during research for the highest quality raw materials to produce the best handcrafted skin care products. Fast forward to 2012 when my Company RODCO Home Essentials was invited to participate in Caribbean Fine Cocoa Forum at The Hyatt Regency. We were able to showcase our developing Chocolate Line.
Tell us about the benefits of using cocoa on your skin.
Scientific studies have shown that cocoa can have wonderful skin benefits when eaten or used topically. Cocoa is rich in vitamins, minerals like zinc, iron and manganese along with anti-aging properties.
Cocoa is an excellent moisturizer for your skin. The high levels of antioxidants protect and repair the skin from damage and premature aging. Its anti-inflammatory properties help to soothe redness and blemishes while improving the skin’s complexion and rejuvenation.
We have since refined the line based on our customers feedback and now include face masks along with our soaps, body polish, body butters and lip balms. We have started our chocolate foot are products in the first of a complete Chocolate Spa Line.
How do you ensure that your products maintain all-natural ingredients? Do you make a point to work with organic certified products?
Amongst other ingredients, RODCO works with certified organic cocoa from Ubergreen Organics. This ensures that all the natural cocoa properties are maintained in the production of our Skincare Line.
How important is the history of Cocoa in Trinidad to you, did it affect any of your decisions?
The history of Cocoa in Trinidad and Tobago is important as it charts the growth of a local product that is essential in all our products. We pay homage to the cocoa in the use of its generous bean as it provides us with butter, powder, shell and chocolate for our formulations.
Trinidad and Tobago has the best Cocoa in the world and our skin thanks us for it. HAIL TO THE BEAN!!!
What is the feedback from your customers?
Our customers enjoy using our products and look forward to getting their purchases. Many have spoken about the difference they see in their skin and some of their dark spots have been minimized. Our mature clients rave about the softness and health of their skin.
Where can customers find your products?
Our products are available at the following locations:
- The Shops at Normandie Hotel
- The Kuttage Artisan Boutique at The Radisson
- Kari’s Kraft at Piarco International Airport
- MediTime Pharmacy, St Augustine
- Chase Pharmacy, Chase Village
- RODCO HOME ESSENTIALS Store, Maloney Shopping Mall
How has the COVID-19 Pandemic affected your business?
COVID-19 brought about a serious drop in our finances. However, we have been utilizing the time to experiment with new products to complement our existing products and reformulate some products to add more cocoa in Soaps, Body Butters, Lotions and Healing Balms.
What’s on the horizon for RODCO?
We are working on building the brand and bringing more awareness to the products and the benefits of cocoa to maintain healthy skin.
Find out more about all things RODCO at facebook.com/rodcohomeessentials