SIKI MGABADELI: In this week’s SME feature Tumisang Ndlovu speaks to Mummy Mthembu-Fawkes about her newly launched natural hair and body products, Earthy, and she starts off by asking her to take us through her product line.
MUMMY MTHEMBU-FAWKES: Earthy is a pretty new brand, only six months old – five months old actually – and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, something that I tried doing before. It’s a trial-and-error type of project, and now I’ve finally gotten to the right formula.
It’s a business that I started purely out of frustration from my side. I always struggled growing my hair and as a result I decided it’s about time that I did something about it, and do natural haircare because chemically-treated hair never worked for me. So that’s where the idea came about. Although the business is only five months old, I would say it’s a four-year project. It has taken me about four years to master the actual product and get the formula correct finally. So it is something that I’ve been working on for quite a few years and I think I’ve now finally gotten the right formula.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: How is it going so far, how is it being received?
MUMMY MTHEMBU-FAWKES: I’m actually quite surprised. When I tell people that Earthy is five months old, they look at me and say “you can’t be serious”. It feels as though it’s a company that’s been around for about four years. …I think it’s something that a lot of especially ethnic women have been hungry for for years, and now it’s finally here.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: You have a very healthy presence on social media. How has that worked for you?
MUMMY MTHEMBU-FAWKES: It has worked amazingly for me. It’s been such a great platform for my business because I don’t just sell a product, I also educate. So I find that social media has helped me with that. I’m able to touch so many other people. Especially as a small business you need to have exposure. …
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Let’s talk funding now. Which route did you go?
MUMMY MTHEMBU-FAWKES: I’m completely self-funded at the moment. I’m very quick, I want things done quickly, I know what my vision is. I know where I want to go with this business and I don’t want to be tied down right now to red tape. And I find the red tape in the five months that I’ve had, my business has already gone international, which is something that wouldn’t have happened if I was still relying on other people who don’t necessarily understand my concept. It’s a very difficult concept. It hasn’t been completely received – and not everybody understands the medium.
When you come with this idea and you say look, I’m trying to get ethnic women to embrace their natural hair and they [say] like, well, everyone in the world would have done that by now, Mummy – why are you doing it? I find that having to explain myself just doesn’t work. I’m a mover and a shaker and I need to get things done. I think for me I will start thinking about funding later when maybe my concept has been proven and people can just get on board with me because, in this space, it’s been difficult for me to try and still get people on board.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Have there been any other challenges in this journey?
MUMMY MTHEMBU-FAWKES: Every day in my business is a challenge, from not having enough support. I come from a heavy corporate background, where I used to have a team reporting to me and I used to have these massive budgets, and if there was a problem I would just scream at marketing and [ay] like, “Marketing, why didn’t you do A, B and C?” Those things were so much easier. And then what I found is that with my business you struggle a bit more, you’re the call-centre agent, you’re the salesperson, you’re the marketing person, you are in procurement, you’re the one that’s handling the finances – and those come with their own challenges. As much as I consider myself a savvy person in business, you don’t know it all, you cannot know it all. And I think that’s where most of the challenges come from.
And of course finance – that is a huge challenge and exposure. …
TUMISANG NDLOVU: That was natural hair enthusiast and entrepreneur, Mummy Mthembu-Fawkes, the owner of the brand, Earthy.
For the full interview click here.