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.
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.
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.
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.
Preview for IG,Whatsapp,My calendar
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.
“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