Today, more and more consumers are making ethical and responsible decisions about the products they purchase, their sustainable footprint, and their community backstory. As a result, the marketplace for pure, organic and sustainable products, particularly in sectors such as beauty and skincare, is growing. Africa Grace Botanical Skincare, the brainchild of entrepreneur Charlotte Steenekamp, is a great example of a socially and environmentally responsible company and brand being created in Africa that is making a difference.
LoA had the pleasure of meeting Charlotte recently and learning more about this truly unique and groundbreaking company in the world of organic skincare.
What does your company do?
We are one of the few handmade, heirloom organic skincare makers in the world without ANY synthetic preservatives or ethanols. Our company structure and justice-economy principles are also revolutionary, but it's THIS beautiful fact we can claim that is the most groundbreaking for our range - we have found a way to make organic skincare by hand with NO man-made chemicals. This includes growing our own herbs naturally to developing formulations, packaging and promoting locally. Africa Grace is a complete social enterprise value chain from our ingredients, right through to our packaging and promotion.
"We are one of the few handmade, heirloom organic skincare makers in the world without ANY synthetic preservatives or ethanols."
What inspired you to start your company?
I registered Africa Grace as a company to take my heart for Africa, our natural resources and my vision for every person to have the CHOICE to use pure, organic skincare and healthcare. Africa Grace encapsulates many different aspects of my vision for my continent: nothing is impossible, change is possible and HOPE is thriving everywhere!
Why should anyone use your service or product?
There are many good reasons - firstly, you cannot get anything purer or more natural for your skin. Secondly, you look after the environment by using our products, which is crucial for our own survival. Thirdly, you support communities, emerging farmers and suppliers with triple-focus conscience - people, environment and heritage over profits. Fourthly, you get to help protect African heritage, identity and indigenous knowledge. Finally, your skin will never look better!
"Our company structure and justice-economy principles are also revolutionary, but it's THIS beautiful fact we can claim that is the most groundbreaking for our range - we have found a way to make organic skincare by hand with NO man-made chemicals."
Tell us a little about your team
We are small, lean and growing! A few of us are the passionate scientists behind the formulations and sourcing of ingredients; a few more are those who love our range and now promote it within our networks. Our motto is "love the skin you're in" and "you can't sell what you don't believe in." The rest of us are the design team, social media expert support, and wondrously supportive clients who've held on tight to us since we made our first little pot of balm.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
For me, becoming an entrepreneur and starting my business was not an intentional decision. I did not come from an entrepreneurial background, nor did I define myself as a lover of anything "risky", including adrenaline sports! I didn't wake up one morning and decide, “I am going to start a company. This sounds exciting.” I simply took more and more steps away from the formal economy, without realising it, because of what I believe. I was a diligent employee for 7 years and followed the traditional trajectory in studies, work and career planning. Then I left it all and took a personal development break. After travelling to Korea and teaching English for two years, I realised that I am a person driven by purpose and I couldn't find it in all the companies I'd worked in. Purpose resides in the heart. It took me some time to come back to the "aah" moment: I've always loved nature, people and healing. Seeing people sick has worried me since I was a little toddler. Seeing them recover has always given me the deepest joy. On my journey to find out what I needed to do, I spent 3 years in the NGO sector and worked with vulnerable children. It was here that it dawned on me that tending the land and working with sustainable health is one of the most powerful interventions we can use. I looked around, because I prefer comfort and structure, but I couldn't find any companies doing what I wanted to do. Every time I applied for a "formal sector" position, I felt sick to my stomach. I just couldn't go through with it. To sit in an office and be driven by another set of stakeholders. It was a tough period. I almost caved in to pressure MANY times... but something wouldn't let me go. I'd be driving, and seeing different things. Taking a roadtrip and everyone in the car is listening to music, chatting about "normal things," and I'm wondering why the farmer outside isn't using no-till agriculture! These were funny moments. I came to learn that I was not a better person: I just had a different vision for our world. There was a point that I came to, the signpost “It’s now or never.” So I took the step, filled with all sorts of dread, but knowing that courage is forged in the valleys of fear. After qualifying as a nutritional therapist, I first started my nutritional therapy practice, Better4Life, and then after 3 years of researching, product formulations and testing, I registered Africa Grace. And the story is being written!
"Africa Grace is a complete social enterprise value chain from our ingredients, right through to our packaging and promotion."
"Our motto is "love the skin you're in" and "you can't sell what you don't believe in.”
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
I really want to get Africa Grace out into the local market - this is what we are working on now. And then, going forward, to tell our story and join our voice to the pure, organic, botanical skincare revolution within Africa. We want to help share the truth and give men and women an informed choice in what we buy and use. Medium to long term, to improve our efficiency, production capability, income streams and profitability, we need a strong locally based value chain with regional outlets. This will require more trading and possible networks within current civil society and relevant government business empowerment initiatives within agriculture, business training and infrastructure development. Big picture thinking: I would like Africa Grace to change Africa for good. It’s a high ideal, and may sound hackneyed, but it’s the truest motivation of my heart.
"I would like Africa Grace to change Africa for good. It’s a high ideal, and may sound hackneyed, but it’s the truest motivation of my heart."
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
To get up in the morning and know that what I'm doing is what I BELIEVE IN. That I can take simple steps, no matter how big or small and they WILL add up to complete my journey.
Contact or follow Africa Grace Botanical Skincare
Why LoA loves it….
Africa has some of the most passionate, driven and game-changing women entrepreneurs in the world, all looking to not just build successful companies but to also make a difference to the lives of others. Charlotte Steenekamp is one of those women, with a real understanding of the power of a sustainable brand and an environmentally friendly value chain, and one that can benefit users, makers and growers alike. Africa needs more women entrepreneurs like Charlotte, women with a social enterprise approach to business and a passion for positively impacting on the continent and its people. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and CEO of Lionesses of Africa