A Masterclass in Being Your Own Brand from Lienne Shonhiwa, Founder of Leading Haircare Company Manetain Organics…

Now how many entrepreneurs can claim having customers lined up before actually putting any product out as their business startup success story? Definitely not us. But we do know one brilliant trailblazer who can:- Lienne Shonhiwa, one of the biggest names in our hair care industry today, and founder of Manetain Organics, a celebrated haircare company that manufactures quality organic hair products using ingredients sourced in and around Zimbabwe. Naturally, we had to sit down with her to get some insights and nuggets on how to do it all; acing entrepreneurship, managing the often elusive work-life balance and leveraging the power in being your own brand.

The ideation process is the cornerstone for anyone wanting to create an innovative startup. But with so many fresh ideas, it can be hard to figure out which one to zero-in and focus on. How did you know when you had the right idea?

My story is not the typical start up story to be honest, I actually started off with customers before I even had products. I started a haircare blog back in 2015 and the idea behind it was just to share information, tips and tricks on how to better take care of hair. I also decided to document and share my personal hair journey. From that I built a very solid and loyal following. One of the things I actually used to do was share my own DIY hair remedies; yes people loved them and appreciated them but some people just didn’t want the hustle of looking for the ingredients then processing them, so I had so many people asking me to just bottle my DIY recipes and sell to them. The overwhelming requests, my own experience with hair loss and not being able to find the right products for my hair locally at a reasonable price is what finally got to formulate my first product and well, here we are today.

 

A business that never grows is slowly dying out. Manetain Organics has A experienced exponential growth since it’s conception, opening it’s very own retail outlet plus stocking in a major local supermarket nationwide. How did you plan for your current level of success? How do you intend on maintaining it?

  I would like to think the growth has been steady. Of course like any business you have a 1 year/5years plan but I am not a huge planner, I set targets and when I set my eyes on a target I start working towards it immediately and intentionally.  Most of the decisions I make are actually customer driven or requested. I opened a retail store because our customers wanted the shopping experience, an actual space they can come into, get advice and shop. The delivery model was just not enough anymore, and at a certain point the retail shop wasn’t enough anymore too. Some of our customers were in far away locations and just couldn’t make it to our shop so we had to think of a way of becoming more accessible to the market hence getting into the retail supermarket space. Getting into supermarkets didn’t happen overnight though, it’s something we intentionally worked towards for 3 years. Our business has always been customer oriented, 80% of our new customers are through referrals. I believe as long as we continue to make our customers happy we will maintain success.

 

What’s your personal formula for balancing work and life?

 Is there such a thing? (Laughs) I do what I can when I can. As a mom, wife and businesswoman I have to multitask constantly. I make sure all my work gets done during the day so that my evenings are free for my family. I also have a very present and supportive partner so when I am needed somewhere or need to take care of business he helps. The trick is to know your limitations and when to ask for or employ extra hands.

What are your Top 3 mobile apps that make your work more effective?

Preview for IG,Whatsapp,My calendar

While there is no magic formula for being a successful entrepreneur, those who do succeed tend to have mastered a common set of skills. How would you rank the 5 key skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

 1.Consistency

2.Tenacity

3.Flexibility

4.Continued learning

5.Effective communication

And who is the one entrepreneur who has been your greatest example and inspiration? 

I would say Myliek, the founder of Curlbox. She is not just someone in my industry (who I hope to work with one day) but she is an amazing businesswoman and also a mom who shares so many gems on business and motherhood.

To wind down, what popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with and why?

 “Keeping a laser eye on your competitors.” While I believe there is a certain amount of knowledge you need on your competitors, keeping a close tab on every thing they do stops you from being your own brand, instead of creating products and content based on your customers you begin to create things in response or in competition with others brands. Don’t lose customers trying to prove you are better than the next brand.

 

By: Tapiwa Mhlanga

 

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