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Opportunity Issue 102

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Opportunity magazine is a niche business-to-business publication that explores various investment opportunities within Southern Africa’s economic sectors. The publication is endorsed by the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI).

MADE IN SOUTH AFRICA

MADE IN SOUTH AFRICA Turning trauma into products that solve problems It is time for women to take control, says Ethnogenics founder Gail Mabalane, “to know better so we can do better”. Armed with lessons in entrepreneurship from her mother, Gail tackled obstacles head-on to establish a successful hair-care business. How did you come to be a hair entrepreneur? Three years ago, I experienced the trauma of hair loss. I knew the moment it happened that it was something that I needed to be open about. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support, but what took me totally by surprise was the flood of women crying out for help, answers and support. What seemed to be a personal, individual experience turned out to be a widespread struggle. I suddenly realised that this was bigger than me and I wanted to be part of the solution. I then embarked on this incredible journey of trying to find answers and solutions, not only for myself, but for all the women who were struggling, scared and hiding behind "back-up plans". Following my own hair-loss journey, I became very passionate about finding answers and being part of the solution. It is astonishing how many people struggle with hair loss and they simply don't know where to start. So they suffer in silence. I felt the desperate need to get involved. Ethnogenics founder, Gail Mabalane What are the distinguishing characteristics of your product? Ethnogenics is more than just a range of products. This brand was birthed from a personal experience with hair loss, so there is much more to it. How many lines do you have in the range? We currently have six products in the range. A cream shampoo, restoring conditioner, conditioning co-wash, hydrating moisturiser, stimulating scalp cream and our hair-growth vitamin supplement. All these products contain shea butter, biotin and much more to help stimulate the regrowth of hair, but also to nourish and protect. With Ethnogenics coming from the trauma that accompanied my hair loss it was important for me to create a platform where women (and men) can start having an open and honest dialogue about "the hair struggle". We wish to, through a combination of high-quality, vitamin-enriched products, coupled with knowledge, education and good hair practices, influence our consumers and women to start making smarter hair-care choices. With knowledge comes the power to make better choices and we want to be part of that movement. Please describe your business journey. Creating Ethnogenics has been a three-year journey. A journey that has taught me a lot about myself. Business is not for the faint of heart. Failed attempts in the R&D process and in securing funds are just some of the obstacles I have encountered. It has made me stronger and made me realise that whenever you build something outside of yourself, something that is designed not to benefit only yourself, things work out in the end. This does not mean that the struggles end, but they are certainly worth it. Do you have any entrepreneur heroes or people who inspired you? My mother is definitely someone who planted the seed at a very young age. She taught me that if you don't like something, you always have some ability to change or influence it. I remember my siblings and I complaining that there were not any good ice blocks around growing up (we used to call them “bombies” in Kimberley) so she encouraged us to start making and selling our own. We added a touch to it and our milk ice blocks always sold out! I also sold sweets in high school. My mother had to stop working early due to illness. To supplement her income, she started sewing and selling curtains. Perfectionist that she was, the tough business took its toll on her. We were all involved in measuring, ironing, folding, delivering, consulting and whatever was needed so I saw a lot. I saw her fail and get up so many times. I saw her fight to get paid. Fight to make ends meet. But through the fear, despondency and pressure, she never gave up. I underestimated what that developed in me, until I got older. It taught me to fight against the odds. If you just stay in the fight long enough you will see it through. What benefits will consumers of your products feel? Apart from feeling like they are part of a community of women who get to openly talk and ask questions about our hair, Ethnogenics delivers a wide range of lab-tested, innovative ethnic hair formulations. 32 | www.opportunityonline.co.za

MADE IN SOUTH AFRICA Our products are infused with biotin, shea butter, argan oil, extra-virgin avocado oil, protein, eucalyptus and many other natural ingredients, so they are developed to restore, moisturise, strengthen, condition and and stimulate the regrowth of hair. I wanted to formulate a product that would support women in their hair regrowth process. The products are not limited to only those who have experienced hair loss but are also great for those who just want to maintain a healthy scalp and hair. How green is your product? Our products are paraben-free, sulphate-free, vegan, cruelty-free and locally-sourced. There is certainly room for more growth in this department and we are actively searching to making it happen. How did you come to be selling in Clicks stores? I had knocked on several doors before trying to get into retail with a product I had launched about seven years ago. This time around, I happened to be lucky enough to land a meeting with one of the buyers for Clicks. I truly believe that when a business is tied to purpose, everything else falls into perfect place. I’m grateful that Clicks bought into my purpose and my genuine desire to empower women with knowledge. Sadly, a lot of the hair loss that many of women are experiencing is self-inflicted through bad hair-care practices. I know better now, and it is my duty to spread the word. I could not have thought of a better retailer to get this product and story to women than Clicks. Clicks represents the consumer we wish speak to, so I am beyond grateful to be walking this journey with a retailer that has been a part of my hair journey for so many years. Do you intend to expand your product line? Absolutely. I’m excited about new products that are already in R&D. We are continually learning new ways to support our consumers and introduce products that speak to their needs. Watch this space. What is your vision for the future? My greatest vision would be to empower women – my generation and the next – with the knowledge and tools on how to preserve Ethnogenics products are infused with several natural ingredients such as biotin, shea butter, argan oil and extra-virgin avocado oil and care for our hair. For too long, black women especially have outsourced our hair care to someone else, be it a stylist or just someone whom we believe knew better. The time has come for us to take control, to know better so we can do better. I wish to continue growing this platform where women have open and honest conversations about our hair. I look forward to the day where we don’t have to hide our painful experiences and struggles, but can boldly come forward and seek help, because through that we are equipped to pay it forward. www.opportunityonline.co.za | 33

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