There is a growing interest in skincare products that have a natural provenance with ingredients sourced from the African continent, and South African entrepreneur Ntshantsha Tafeni-Majombozi, is tapping into that interest with her brand Yivani Naturals.
LoA met with Yivani Naturals founder, Ntshantsha Tafeni-Majombozi, recently at the Global Women’s Summit in South Africa and found out much more about this wonderful natural skincare brand and what makes it so different.
What does your company do?
Yivani Naturals, a Black Women-Owned entity, was established in 2011 for the production of natural soothing and therapeutic skincare. Yivani’s concept is focused on the promotion of South African Indigenous Herbs and Essential Oils offering natural alternatives to health for a more holistic mind, body, and soul solution. The product range comprises of indigenous Pure Essential Oils, Soothing & Therapeutic Cosmetics, Massage Oils, and Spiritual / Esoteric Oils, all trading under the brand name Yivani Naturals.
"Yivani’s concept is focused on the promotion of South African Indigenous Herbs and Essential Oils offering natural alternatives to health for a more holistic mind, body, and soul solution."
What inspired you to start your company?
Yivani identified a gap in the market. We found that there is a huge need for educating or re-introducing people, especially the black communities, to the healing benefits of essential oils. We all grew up using herbs for healing minor ailments; however today, we want to educate and encourage people back to using these herbs, but in a different form. We also found that most people do not know that the same herbs they used are now also available in a convenient format – essential oils. At Yivani, we go back to our roots, re-introducing the indigenous wealth of our country. We focus on two very important herbs, ‘Umhlonyane’ and ‘Imphepo’, traditionally used in our culture for their spiritual and excellent medicinal benefits. These oils are also very beneficial to our skin. We want to contribute to the economic growth of our country by promoting South African indigenous oils to the world, bringing in foreign currency and creating more jobs.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Choose us for our wide variety of beautifully packaged, quality products, secure in the knowledge that we adhere to the strictest quality standards. By purchasing our products, you are supporting a proudly South African business, and one that plays an empowering role in the local economy. We distribute our products through individual sales agents, who mark up for resale, thereby facilitating a number of small business and income generating opportunities. We retail our products at our shops at 27 Boxes and Newtown Junction in Johannesburg, South Africa, and also supply a variety of formal outlets. Please visit our website www.yivani.co.za for a product catalogue and and up-to-date listing of our product suppliers.
"We found that there is a huge need for educating or re-introducing people, especially the black communities, to the healing benefits of essential oils."
Tell us a little about your team
The team is made up of individuals from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, it is 95 percent female. In 2016, we started an internship programme to train graduates fresh from school giving them skills to be employable once they leave the programme. We also have agents that buy our products, add markup and sell, this is another job creation vehicle.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
How it all started in 2004, was that I joined one of the big retail companies in South Africa - this was a huge change from being a Brand Manager in an FMCG environment where marketing is taken as gospel and going into an environment where marketing is not seen as important. From the onset in this position I knew I wasn’t going to last - I then started immediately to caucus an exit plan in my head. Needless to say that the discontentment was a blessing in disguise which pushed me out of my comfort zone. I didn’t know that the long hours and not so welcoming environment was preparing me to build resilience that I was going to need one day when running my own business.
In March 2007, I jumped ship and started my own consulting business. Within three days of my resignation I had managed to get a contract, this was before I even registered a company. This is a credit to a friend who had identified my project management skills and thought I would be an asset in her accounting firm. Within three years in business, therecession dropped a bombshell on us - it was so difficult for consultants as companies were busy laying off people and wouldn’t then bring in consultants. This again forced me to change direction. I had a dream that one day I would do what I had been doing successfully for big companies - starting my own brand and a range of products. I am very passionate about herbs and natural healing alternatives. Like any other black person, I grew up using herbs but diverted to conventional medicine at some stage. Whilst pursuing a career in Marketing, through research I found that I could still go back to using herbs but in another form. The same benefits I used to get from herbs, I could now get in an oil form. This got me rolling and doing more research on oils created from herbs that are popular amongst South African communities. Our concept for the business was then born, focusing on the use of South African indigenous oils as actives to soothe, heal and pamper our bodies and skin.
We started the business from our own pockets, and since then no other source of funding has been utilised. My business partner resigned leaving a huge gap to be filled as we complemented each other, and two minds are obviously greater than one. Some of the challenges were that, being a small to medium enterprise, it is always difficult to convince people that you know what you are doing - convincing people that your products are as good as those made by big companies. Building manufacturing capacity and getting funding for this was also a challenge. Breaking into the big retail store market in South Africa was also tough, as was the requirement to get my product tested for quality and efficacy, as these are very expensive tests. Then in 2010, I started searching for mentorships and incubations, mainly because as SMEs we work in silos, and the isolation to networking opportunities and sharing best practice with other entrepreneurs can make or break the life of an entrepreneur. That’s the main reason I started being involved in a lot of networking sessions. I now get strength from all the authentic people around me, starting with my family. And of course authenticity has to start with me, having my feet firmly on the ground - knowing who I am and what I want in my life gives me a sense of purpose. A famous quote from Madiba goes: “Things always look impossible until they are done”.
"We want to contribute to the economic growth of our country by promoting South African indigenous oils to the world, bringing in foreign currency and creating more jobs."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
Yivani’s business philosophy is based on the principles of growing with others as we grow. Built on the foundation of empowerment (lifting others as we rise), thus setting a trend that if you can dream it, you can do it!. We are committed to growing a successful South African black-owned business with an international footprint. We want to achieve our turnover targets through a huge increase in exports, together with an increase in our local footprint. We are creating a premium brand with luxurious products that will grace the shelves of big retail stores on the continent and abroad, and we hope to see these products on the shelves of prestigious retail giants such as Harrods stores one day.
"There is no instant gratification, you have to work hard in order to achieve lasting success in business"
- Ntshantsha Tafeni @YivaniNaturals
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Being in business requires tenacity and serious patience. There is no instant gratification, you have to work hard in order to achieve lasting success in business. Synergies, joint ventures and using existing business networks are all very beneficial. You have to be resilient and persistent. Believe in your capabilities. Believe in your dreams and have huge ambition and drive to succeed. You also have to be good at networking, be disciplined with yourself, and constantly educate and up-skill yourself on new trends in your industry sector. Again it really helps to persist in knocking on all doors.
Contact or follow Yivani Naturals
Why LoA loves it….
Being an entrepreneur requires tenacity, sheer will and determination to succeed, and Ntshantsha Tafeni-Majombozi has all of those traits in huge amounts. She has seen a gap in the market and is filling that gap by producing high quality products with a proudly South African back-story and ingredient sourcing journey. Not only that, she is helping to re-educate a country’s consumers, encouraging them to revisit the traditional ingredients they know but reimagined in a contemporary form. As more and more consumers are becoming concerned about the ingredients used in many of the products they enjoy, Ntshantsha may have the natural alternative they are looking for. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa