Marini Naturals is a proudly Kenyan natural haircare brand, designed to celebrate women’s natural kinks and curls. Founded by entrepreneur Michelle Ntalami, the vision for the brand is to create a range of haircare products that take their inspiration and ingredients from nature, but which help beauty conscious women to really showcase their beautiful and naturally curly hair.
LoA found out more about this fast moving company from its founder Michelle Ntalami this month.
What does your company do?
Marini Naturals is Kenya’s first haircare product line designed for women of natural and afro-textured hair. Marini was made by the African woman, for the African woman. Our product range includes a Sulfate-free Shampoo (Kenya & East Africa's first), Detangling Leave-In Conditioner, Curling Butter, Curling Gel, Moisturizing Spritz, and a Potent Hair Growth Oil. In only 10 months, Marini Naturals has grown to be one of the most preferred brands for natural hair across Kenya.
"Marini Naturals is Kenya's First Haircare product line designed for women of natural and afro-textured hair."
What inspired you to start your company?
My name is Michelle Ntalami, I’m the founder of Marini Naturals, which is Kenya’s first haircare line for women of Natural and Afro-textured hair. Three years ago, I decided to cut my hair and wear it natural. They say when a woman cuts her hair it means that there is something big going on in her life. At the time, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer and he was going through treatment. In a bid to walk the journey with him, I cut my hair. I also re-evaluated a lot of my life choices in terms of keeping healthy, my diet and exercise. However, at the time there were no locally available products to cater for the African woman’s natural hair. So I began mixing different home-made remedies in my bathroom, and the results were great! I shared my concoctions with family, friends and several hair stylists, and they loved it. I thought to myself that I could do this as a viable business. The hardest part was getting the start-up capital for this, but I knew the most important “capital” I needed was the passion and fire in my belly. I believed in myself, and the doors slowly opened after several “No’s” from lots of lending institutions and banks. With a few savings and my mother’s help, we found a way. I did the research extensively; I got qualified formulators, laboratories and scientists on board to help me realise the dream. Three years later, here we are as Marini Naturals; Kenya’s First Quality Haircare line for all women of Natural Hair. We’ve grown to be a full-time team of 8, selling our products in leading Health and Beauty Stores across Kenya, East Africa and soon Continental-wide.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
This is Kenya's first quality natural haircare line, designed by the African woman, for the African woman or for our unique, kinky-curly God-given hair. Most international products for natural hair don't work on pure, kinky African hair, but ours do! Our products are 100% safe for both kids and adults, with no harmful chemicals and ingredients. We are proudly local, quality yet very affordable.
"Most international products for natural hair don't work on pure, kinky African hair, but ours do! Our products are 100% safe for both kids and adults, with no harmful chemicals and ingredients. We are proudly local, quality yet very affordable."
Tell us a little about your team
My team is currently comprised of 11 people. We've got 3 core departments, each headed by a Department Executive. These are Accounting and Finance, Logistics and Operations, and Sales & Marketing. All the above are headed by the Management, comprising of myself as the CEO & Founder, and my partner Niyati Patel as the General Manager. My team is young, vibrant and confident. I love working with them as their minds are fresh, they've got great ideas and they are always ready to learn. We have fun at work and we like to take them out on their birthdays! We all love that as it gets them out of their official zone and we get to learn, share and bond on a more social and personal level.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I have been an entrepreneur for now 6 years. I left my job at a leading advertising agency 6 years ago. It was an amazing fulfilling job and I loved the experience! However, I felt that it was time for a change. Being great at design and branding, I began my own Creative Branding Agency called Branding Group. I joined forces with my partner to date, Niyati Patel. The experience was good but very challenging. In the beginning, there was a time where we couldn't afford the rent and we only had Kshs 10,000\- between us to take us through the month. But my parents were very supportive, and they chipped in where they could to get us on our own two feet. Slowly the company grew and we were finally able to stay afloat. Marini then happened to me along the way, as I began to look for products to cater to my natural hair once I chopped it off. The idea was born; to have a natural haircare line that would cater to all women who were natural, like me. I called it "Marini Naturals" as it is a Swahili word for "Naturally Beautiful" or "Naturally Charming," just like a natural-haired woman, and just like our products! 3 years on into Marini Naturals, here we are - selling country-wide and across Africa, and here I am sharing my beautiful journey on Lionesses Of Africa! :)
"In only 10 months, Marini Naturals has grown to be one of the most preferred brands for Natural Hair across Kenya."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
I would like Marini Naturals to be the No.1 haircare line for all women of natural hair across Africa. I want to see Marini on the shelves of leading beauty stores and supermarkets across Africa, and in the bathrooms of all "Naturalistas" on the continents. I want African ladies to "think Marini" when someone says "Natural Haircare Products!" There's a word we use that's slowly becoming a verb; #marinified. It means, to use Marini products to make your curly hair look so good! Therefore, I want all African naturalistas to be #Marinified. :)
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
The fact that I am the Captain of this Ship, and I can take it beyond borders. I get to wake up everyday and do something I love, like inspire my team, work with my best friend, come up with new creative ideas, grow the company, move into new markets - the list is endless! The sky is the limit.
"3 years on into Marini Naturals, here we are - selling country-wide and across Africa, and here I am sharing my beautiful journey on Lionesses of Africa! "
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Do not second guess your capabilities. Believe in yourself and do not listen to background noise. Fear of the unknown is never from you, but those around you. Filter the noise, brush the dirt off your shoulders, and move on.
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Why LoA loves it….
At LoA we are constantly inspired by those women entrepreneurs in Africa who are motivated by the need to find solutions to key challenges, and who work with real passion. For Kenya’s natural haircare entrepreneur Michelle Ntalami, her drive came from the desire to live a healthier, more natural life and to create truly natural haircare products that would not only meet her needs, but those of other conscious consumers just like her. Today she is building a strong natural haircare brand with a great backstory and huge local market appeal. Marini Naturals is a proudly African brand to watch out for as it continues to grow over the coming months and years. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa