To celebrate Black History Month, we're speaking to black-owned business founders to get an idea of their journey. This week we're starting with Naiga, the Founder of Naiga Naturals, a beauty brand dedicated to using ingredients that truly benefit our hair and skin. Here's what Naiga had to say...
1. What inspired you to build your business?
Making cosmetics had become a hobby of mine while I was studying at university. I noticed a lot of the products in stores didn't work for my natural hair and my sensitive skin. Even the products that claimed to be natural on the label were actually causing acne on my skin and hair breakage.
I came across documentaries about the afro cosmetics industry and became aware of the dangerous effects of skin bleaching and hair relaxers, which made it clear that few products do not list all their ingredients - some of which may have negative health effects. Therefore, it's difficult for customers to know exactly what they are applying to their hair or skin.
So I decided to create a brand of natural products with ingredients that truly benefit the customer's skin and hair.
I also made natural creams for my family and friends to use and received so much positive feedback on how their hair was more manageable, growing and lustrous, as well as improvements in their skin. They would always come back for more products and were willing to pay. This is when I realised, I could turn my hobby into a business. I decided to create a brand of natural products with ingredients that truly benefit the customer's skin and hair.
2. What achievement are you most proud of?
My proudest moments are being able to stock my products in Osbon Pharmacy Stratford and Lewisham and also being featured in Glam Africa Online Magazine. As a small business, I am grateful to all the people that appreciate and support my hard work, every purchase and review I receive is always exciting.
3. What hurdles have you had to overcome?
As a young entrepreneur, it was challenging to launch my business whilst studying full time at university. I had to learn a lot about how to manage my time and finances in order to keep the business running. I also realised that people would often undermine me for being young – they have their own preconceived ideas that you have no clue what you are doing and they expect your products to be of poor quality. However, I do strongly believe in my brand, and I have had so much more positive feedback than criticism, so it only pushes me to achieve higher.
4. How do you keep yourself motivated?
Running a business can be really overwhelming at times, so it is very important that I take breaks or get involved in other fun activities when needed so I do not get burnt out. I have just completed a four year degree course in Fashion Design, which has always been a passion of mine since I was a child. I also love photography and visiting art museums. In my spare time, I like travelling to different countries, reading and music.
I do also like to listen to other entrepreneurial success stories to help keep me inspired and keep my mind in the right state of focus.
5. Are there any business founders that inspire you? If so, who are they?
Madam CJ Walker - the first female self-made millionaire who made her fortune from her homemade hair products.
6. Where would you like your business to be in the next few years?
My future plan is to expand my product range and to own a large factory whereby I can create jobs in my local community. Currently, my main customer base is in the UK, with some customers in USA, Canada and Uganda. My goal is to market my products in many other countries and also have my own hair salon.
I am also interested in growing my own ingredients from scratch and extracting natural oils and butters from these plants. I hope to start a large scale organic farm in Uganda, where I can grow different plants and manufacture new plant-based cosmetics.
7. How does the hair and beauty industry need to evolve for more talent to break through?
I think it would be good to see more black women running the afro cosmetics industry - from growing raw materials to manufacturing and retail, as I believe we know what works best for our skin and hair. At the moment I don’t believe there are enough black-owned cosmetics in our high street stores.
8. What advice do you have for any aspiring black business founders?
I would advise aspiring black business founders to choose businesses in what they are passionate about and not get into any business just for the money. Secondly, I would advise them to do in-depth research regarding taxes, financial management, advertising, and marketing. I would advise aspiring founders to seek mentoring if possible and to avoid trial and error.
9. What does Black History Month mean to you?
To me, Black History Month is a celebration of our rich history and culture. It is a time to honour the outstanding contributions of Black people to our world, which we are not always accredited for. It is also a time to remember the suffering and tribulations during slavery and yet still managed to birth so many successful authors, inventors, entrepreneurs, activists and many more. Despite all that we have gone through as a community, we stayed strong and focused, and have continued to overcome and progress.