When Dorinda Mawuenya Matey started the Facebook page, We Naturals Team, she had no idea it would turn into a business. She just wanted to share her natural hair journey with like minds. Now, We Naturals is among the growing number of hair care brands, and operates in three West African countries, Ghana, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire.
Natural hair is serious business in West Africa. Although many women opt for straightened hair, a growing number are choosing to leave their hair in its natural state. She Leads Africa contributor Naana Joa Braso caught up with Dorinda to find out more about We Naturals and running a hair care brand in West Africa.
WHAT IGNITED THE SPARK TO START WITH THE WE NATURALS TEAM?
When I started my natural hair journey in 2011, I was completely lost. I had no idea how to handle my hair and eventually relaxed it again. In 2013, I went back to natural hair. I realized it was much easier this time as I was reading a lot about my hair and experimenting with different hairstyles, products and regimen. On my first anniversary, I decided to start a Facebook page (We Naturals) to share all that I’m learning to help make the journey easier for others. It never started as a business; I was just sharing my passion. The business We Naturals came in after my followers on Facebook started asking about products. I saw an opportunity in there and started selling other brands until I started making my own products.
DID YOU GET THE PRODUCTS RIGHT ON THE FIRST TRY OR DID YOU HAVE TO DO MORE TRIAL AND ERRORS?
We often do a lot of trials until we are satisfied with the efficiency of the product, the consistency, scent, color, etc. We have a production team who make the products. They’re then sent to labeling and quality control before it moves to store.
We experiment on employees, friends and family. We sometimes also request for product testers from social media who also serve as our final testing point before the product is introduced.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY FORMAL EDUCATION PERTAINING TO YOUR CHOICE OF CAREER?
Yes I have a certificate in Natural Products Formulation from the USA. I had to learn how to make the products from a credible institution to be able to make quality products. I have experience in business and marketing, which come in handy.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
I love reading positive feedback from our customers. Fortunately about 90% of all the feedback we receive is positive and they come in very often. Every single time I receive a positive feedback, I smile. It makes me really happy because that is one more person we have provided a solution to, not just sold a product.
DESCRIBE A TYPICAL DAY AT WORK.
No two days are ever the same with me. It depends on what needs my attention the most, but generally I go over accounts with the sales team and allocate monies for various things that need to be taken care of. I then go into production, mainly supervising and sometime making products myself when necessary.
I handle our social media platforms personally so I am on and off social media throughout the day responding to questions, sharing contents and taking orders. I also check for orders on our website and respond to emails. I go to our store to check on stock and bulk orders going out, as well as inspecting products, especially labeling and responding to complaints and other issues.
WHAT DIFFICULTIES DID YOU FACE EXPANDING TO OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRIES? WHAT WAS SURPRISINGLY SIMPLE?
The major difficulty we faced, and are still facing in Nigeria, is the exchange rate. The Naira keeps falling, and we end up losing money through exchange. With the Francophone countries, I will say the language barrier has slowed our efforts but we are taking necessary steps to resolve these issues.
What was surprisingly easy was how quickly Nigerians accepted our products.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE COMPANY?
Our goal is to be the number one in Africa not just in product quality, market share and revenue but also in the impact we have on our customers and change caused in our communities.
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