Michelle Ntalami is a beautiful and vibrant Entrepreneur, who is changing how women care for their natural hair. She is also a Brand Expert, a Creative,a Brand Strategist and a designer. She speaks to us about her ventures.
Tell us about your business?
Marini Naturals is Kenya’s First Natural Haircare Line. The product line caters to all women of natural and afro-textured hair. It is also excellent for transitioners, texturized and relaxed-haired ladies.
As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Marini Naturals was conceptualized and actualized through sheer need; the lack of quality, local products in the market to cater for the woman who wear’s her hair naturally! Over a period of two years, determined to bring my dream to fruition, I put together the best research teams, laboratories, formulators, hair stylists, chemical engineers and cosmetic scientists to get working on Kenya’s first quality haircare line.
Today, we sell across leading beauty and cosmetic stores around the country, as well as in top salons. The company is close to a year old, we shall be celebrating our first year anniversary in a month’s time!
How do / did you raise funds for your business?
I’ve got two businesses, Marini Naturals and a branding agency called Brandvine Group. Marini Naturals has been heavily funded by Brandvine Group and still continues to be. I have also received immense support from my Mother and big brother who have always stepped in whenever I’ve needed a helping hand.
What do you think is the most important thing a start-up needs to be a success?
Focus, focus, focus. Remember why you began in the first place. Don’t look at the first few thousand shillings you make and start planning to buy a yatch. Take it right back to the factory, back to research, back to your branding, and back to your business! Most entrepreneur fall for the illusion that they are making good money as soon as they launch a business and start to see some revenues coming in. Remember your business needs you so much at this crucial time. Its like a little baby who is learning to crawl and walk, and every now and then it shall fall no matter how many stable steps its making. Until the point your little baby is not a baby anymore, and can take off confidently from its nest, nurture her ever so diligently.
What do you know now that you wish you knew before you started your business?
That my social life will literally go down the drain and my free time will all be used up by my business. I did not think it would be this crazy! But I have come to accept and love the process and enjoy the journey. There was also a time in my life I had so much free time and wondered when I would ever be busy in my career, well…this is it and I am grateful to God.
What advice would you give a young woman who wants to venture into business?
- Stop being afraid! Take the plunge and start!
- Be thick-skinned, ignore the nay-sayers and use their words to fuel your spirit
- Be passionate about your product, service or brand, but do not be emotional about it. There is a difference, and as women we sometimes cannot tell the difference. The former means, love what you do and do what you love. The latter means, detach yourself from taking everything personal and in the same way, communicating back to your customers in a personal way. A brand is a brand, let it remain that way. I have learnt to detach myself as Michelle from Marini Naturals, but rest assured I love what I do like nothing else!
- Keep a small and tight support system who will understand your struggle and the space you are in.
- Pray to God to guide you through this challenging but exciting journey, just as you would if you were marrying the love of your life.