In Africa, the health and wellness industry is a growing business sector, but in Malawi there was a definite gap for a luxury wellness spa brand in the market. Belle Afrique, the entrepreneurial brainchild of Lee Chisale, is filling that gap with a world class brand and product offering.
LoA had the pleasure of meeting the inspirational Lee Chisale this month in Blantyre, Malawi at the Lioness Lean In Luncheon event where she was a guest speaker.
What does your company do?
Belle Afrique promotes healthy lifestyle and beauty treatments. We offer a range of health care treatments, from skin treatments, waxing, GP Consultations and Aesthetic treatments, massage therapy, to just name a few. In addition, we offer a series ofvocational qualifications in beauty and wellness, from Certificate level on Basic professionalism and front office duty; Diploma level including stress management and exercise, diet & nutrition, make-up application, waxing treatments and more.
Finally, an advanced Diploma which includes Spa treatments, setting up a business, marketing and promotion, consumer protection, as part of the training. It is important to note that our training programmes are not restricted to women, as people tend to look at the industry as a women dominated field. We also provide training in grooming, etiquette and manner to individuals, employees and corporate.
"Our ultimate goal is to be a leader in the wellness and beauty training sector in Malawi."
What inspired you to start your company?
Our ultimate goal is to be leader in the wellness and beauty training sector in Malawi but we had a big challenge initially as Malawi did not have a trained educator in beauty therapy and therefore a lack of properly trained therapists. As a result, I was certain we needed to add into our practice a school that would offer training to international standards, and at the same time be affordable. This training solution will offer great job opportunities, plus we will have more professional therapists, higher standard receptionists and more young ladies and gentlemen with self-confidence in themselves to enter the industry, thereby creating more professional beauty salons.
As we were moving ahead in the business we noticed that beauty salons also needed asupplier of good quality products in the country. We recognized that if we wanted to bring diversity into the market it was essential to supply what we knew was right for our clients and for the Malawian market as a whole. Therefore, we added another service to our business offering by supplying various quality beauty products.
At Belle Afrique we are passionate about good ethics and high standards as a lifestyle brand, and we aim to restore value in hard work and see more people taking pride in work well done, not only for themselves but also as a distinctive character that will lead to progress and better opportunities.
We want to see Belle Afrique be an example of good ethics and values and to pass those values on to other young people in our schools, as well as promoting new opportunities in the wellness industry knowing how over the past years the industry has become one of the fast growing industry in the world.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
We have built a strong brand through a high quality and innovative approach in the beauty industry in Malawi. Our team approach is unique and we are always on the look out for new products and healthcare treatments which correspond to our clients needs.
Our team trains in a spirit of excellence and is always ready to serve.
"Our team approach is unique and we are always on the look out for new products and healthcare treatments which correspond to our clients needs. Our team trains in a spirit of excellence and is always ready to serve."
Tell us a little about your team
I am the CEO and the educator in the practice. We motivate all our staff members to be part and parcel of the business by helping them to take responsibility and equipping them to be pro-active in decision-making in their field of expertise. Our approach is to allow our staff to be able to train the new staff in the spa. Giving them the responsibility to coach others makes them feel valuable and empowered. We have an external auditor, as well as a team that works on our branding and promotion. We have a team of expatriates who come from time to time and bring in more specialized treatments as there is a great need.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I lived in France, Belgium, Congo Brazzaville and lastly moved to Zimbabwe. My first language is French. I felt that I could bring a different dynamism with the traveling and the exposure I had, combined with my passion. I decided to empower myself first by leaning to speak English in Zimbabwe then I did some courses in international cuisine, then cosmetology and finally interior design in South Africa. In 2007, I saw tremendous opportunities in Malawi. My journey started in the food industry, and I remember asking myself that question: Lee what do you have to start with? My answer was I have my will power to start and a determination. My first entrepreneurial venture, “Champions Take Away” was born out of taking an opportunity within my reach. Not with money borrowed but with the wiling attitude that anything is done correctly and with genuine motives it could be a great venture. Cooking from home, and with a small amount of savings, no family and no friends around, plus with two small children to take care of coming from Congo Brazzaville which was in a state of war in 1997, I was traumatized and it was challenging. But I took on this entrepreneurial challenge, then the business grew into a full restaurant “LA MANNA”. Only later did I decide to open a small beauty salon.
Although cooking was a passion of mine, due to the fact that I had small children and not having close relatives around to help me and my husband was working abroad, considering the demanding hours of the restaurant it was becoming too taxing on my family life. I had to be the driver, the cook, the business women, the mother, the accountant, everything at once. I had to make a choice between the food industry and the beauty industry. I then decided to pursue the beauty industry as it offered better working hours and I had a training and a passion for it.
"We motivate all our staff members to be part and parcel of the business by helping them taking responsibility and equipping them to be pro-active in decision-making in their field of expertise."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
Our ultimate goal is to be leader in the wellness and beauty training sector in Malawi. I we would like see Belle Afrique as a franchise and we have developed a unique model which is working and suitable to the environment and market needs.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
What gives me the most satisfaction is when we receive multiple testimonies coming from our clients, sending us kind messages on how they have regained confidence by getting the correct advice in products and treatments and realistic expectations. They tell us how their training in grooming has brought them so much self-confidence. I also love seeing students in our school being able to manage their own business or finding jobs in various institutions.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
I believe we are all unique and gifted and can be successful entrepreneurs in our own right. It is important not to lose focus, regardless of the trials you will encounter on your journeys. Use your gift of your uniqueness, invest in it, nourish it, create a win–win environment where your team and your clients are your top priority. Keep your word when you promise something, be authentic, give rewards to your team for a job well done. Learn to say no. Deliver with excellence. Have discipline in your day to day business. Be alert, have a vision, never compromise on quality. Have self awareness, invest in others, know your limits, be an expert in your niche, have a culture of service to others. Remember to pause, re-evaluate, and re-invest in your business. Ultimately, follow your dream with courage and determination.
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Why LoA loves it….
There is always something inspirational about meeting women entrepreneurs who are genuinely passionate about what they do in their own business, but are also focused on passing on their experience and expertise to others to ensure a new generation is similarly empowered. Lee Chisale is not only a highly successful entrepreneur in her own specialist field of expertise, but also a real inspiration for other young people looking to follow in her footsteps. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa