If passion drives profit as the saying goes, then Carmen Miral, founder of Mozambican natural hair and beauty brand, Black Khakhela, is destined for business success, as she has passion in vast quantities.
LoA chatted to Carmen Miral this month in Maputo, Mozambique to find out more about this passion driven business.
What does your company do?
We create products for hair and skin that have some heritage, like Mafura oil and coconut oil. We have revitalized the use of these powerful natural oils that our ancestors from South Mozambique have used traditionally and cosmetically as long as we have known. From the North of Mozambique we bring beauty routines that use Mussiro powder and castor oil. Have you heard about Lilhelho? It is a plant that we have traditionally used to wash our hair. It has been used to clean and condition the hair since those times when there was no shampoo available on the market, and it is 100% organic and super-efficient. We brought this ingredient back, and we use this shampoo (2 in 1) on our clients’ hair. Our company empowers people to embrace their natural beauty by giving them role models and information on the products they can use on their hair, all locally manufactured, together with great skin and great care routines.
We are trying to make sure that people understand that is possible to embrace their beauty with local and natural products.
"Our company empowers people to embrace their natural beauty by giving them role models and information on the products they can use on their hair, all locally manufactured, together with great skin and great care routines."
What inspired you to start your company?
I started my natural hair journey after my hair fell out as a result of depression - I lost my son. And back in those days (2012), it was difficult to find natural and local products that were cheap and good. So I started playing with my hair, investigating about how I could maintain my beauty routine and hair care with no chemicals. This was a challenge affecting both men and women. So I started explaining how I found some natural formulas, and how to use them. At the same time, I found out that there was a lot of discrimination and bulling behind black people and their natural hair. And it was a social matter too...it still is actually. So I opened a web page that was basically an inspiration page with monthly interviews featuring powerful role models. The web page was a place to find some freedom and awareness, for people that were discriminated against and bullied in society, encouraging them to open up and find a way to create solutions to these societal challenges. My inspiration was seeing the way we treated each other when it comes to embracing our own natural beauty. And then I started bringing local oils, providing other beauty tips, and creating more and more formulas for hair and skin, and selling them. I started taking care of other people’s hair, empowering them and doing workshops on the importance of embracing their identity and using it to make positive change in their lives.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
At Black Khakhela, I am not only selling a product, I am selling identity and heritage. And the bonus comes in the fact that my products are 100% organic and eco-friendly. I use recycled bottles from the local market to package my products.
"At Black Khakhela, we are trying to make sure that people understand that is possible to embrace their beauty with local and natural products."
Tell us a little about your team
At Black Khakhela, we are a team of two people. Myself, Carmen Miral, founder, social activist, researcher, hair consultant and the brain behind the business. I also have an Executive Assistant who acts as my social media manager and phone assistant.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I become an orphan in my adolescence, but my father gave me more than I knew to embrace this journey. He was a general (military commander) during the time of war here in Mozambique, but he always had powerful conversations about how my life needed to be lived. I remember him telling me when I was about to get married at age 19 that he was not coming to my wedding because he did not agree with it. And I asked him why as in my mind I saw marriage as a goal. He said: “You were born to be free, and yet you are choosing to be in jail.” He continued to say, “Freedom is not something that you can have without your education.” He didn't come to my wedding, and I got divorced three years later to finish my first university degree. Now I understand what he meant!
By that time I was the most intelligent girl in my classroom and I did get married before I got to university. It was a mistake, but I had my father’s skills to say, "Stop, I do not want to be here anymore (talking about my husband), I do not want have kids, (and I did not until my second marriage), I want to go for my dream (finish my education and travel). My father taught me how to see and understand when something is wrong, and most importantly, how to make it right for me. My mother’s family were basically teachers, and my grandmother was my second mother - this entrepreneur concept wasn't approved of by her, she wanted me in a secure job and she cried a lot when I was going from job to job. At the time I didn't understand why I gave up so many jobs. However, my father and my grandmother represent two different sides of my journey. No one in my family is an entrepreneur, I am the first. I am fighting every day to keep going. I am so happy with my challenges and rewards, I wake up every day smiling, and I never attend a client with a bored face, because I believe in myself. I was born to make an impact in the world.
"At Black Khakhela, I am not only selling a product, I am selling identity and heritage."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
Having a complete hair and skin care line with a local voice, with products that care for Mozambican and African identity.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Always look back at the same time as looking to the present, and use those images to compare and make sure there is an evolution between those years.
Contact or follow Black Khakhela
Why LoA loves it….
If the economy in Mozambique is to grow and thrive, it needs to have great home-grown businesses that are creating world-class products using local raw materials, and with the potential for sales in domestic and possibly regional markets. Carmen Miral is one entrepreneur who sees this bigger picture, and is creating a brand and a business that has the potential to grow, tapping into a global trend for natural hair and skincare. This is definitely a brand to watch over the coming months. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa