TUMISANG NDLOVU: In this week’s SME Corner with Moneyweb we speak to the founder of Samson’s Oil, Mzimkhulu Nyaba. Welcome.
MZIMKHULU NYABA: Thank you for having me.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Tell us about the business – what exactly do you do? I find this very fascinating, Samson’s Oil.
MZIMKHULU NYABA: We basically help guys who want to take distinct care of their beards to achieve that. We make handcrafted beard-care products to support the bearded lifestyle. We’ve got beard oil, we’ve got water and beard combs, we also have a beard shampoo.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Oh, wow!
MZIMKHULU NYABA: We’re also looking at adding a few other products, which will complete our full male-grooming kit.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Why go this route? Is it because you were growing your own beard?
MZIMKHULU NYABA: Yes, that’s actually exactly how it started. I found that when I started growing out my beard it was actually difficult to access products that would help me to take care of my beard. So the first few weeks was a breeze. But then it starts getting itchy, it grows longer, you need to comb it and I didn’t have anything in the way of those types of products to make my beard look better. So I started it basically as a hobby. I mixed my own brew at home, made a couple of bottles. They flew off the shelf and we grew from strength to strength.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Let’s talk about mixing your own brew — what goes into it?
MZIMKHULU NYABA: Beard oil is basically a blend of carrier oils and essential oils. Carrier oils transport the nutrients and the vitamins that are in the essential oils into the hair and skin. A lot of people think a beard is all about hair, but it also has to do with the condition of your skin, your general well-being as a person. If you don’t exercise your beard doesn’t grow nicely…
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Really? [Laughing]
MZIMKHULU NYABA: …and if you don’t eat properly your beard doesn’t grow nicely. Beard oil is a blend of essential and carrier oils, so we have oils that moisturise the beard, we have oils that make the beard grow longer, we’ve got a hair-growth castor oil as part of our ingredients, and we’ve got grapeseed oil and sweet almond oil to replace the moisture that you take away every morning when you wash your face.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: It’s a lot of self-care and also it’s become a lifestyle. Tapping into this market, have you found it to be easy ground to charter into?
MZIMKHULU NYABA: No, not at all. I feel as though before we came to this age of beards a lot of men were conditioned by society to keep their face and cheeks looking smooth. But over the past couple of years I think men broke free from that type of conditioning. Starting out hasn’t been easy, but we’ve grown to become a lot more popular over time because of our presence on social media and because we are also vendors at a number of market activations like the LoCrate Market, and this gives us an opportunity to meet with real people and our real clients – and we basically feed off the feedback that they give us in order to develop the brand further.
How has the market responded to Samson’s Oil?
TUMISANG NDLOVU: What kind of feedback have you received and how has the public responded to the products?
MZIMKHULU NYABA: Well, the one thing I know for sure is that beard grooming is still a fairly new phenomenon. Not everyone knows about this, so we find that most of the time it’s more about educating people first about what the product does and why it would add value into their lives if they do purchase it. And then we can move forward to driving the sales. A lot of people don’t know about it, but a lot of people are aware of it – and some of them are actually keen on buying it because they experienced the same thing that I experienced when I started growing out my beard. It’s very difficult to find these types of products; you have to go out to specific male-grooming lounges, and most of the products are imported and that gets translated into the price, so the question of affordability comes into it.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Is it affordable?
MZIMKHULU NYABA: My products are affordable.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: What’s behind the name, because Samson is quite biblical?
MZIMKHULU NYABA: Yes, we felt that choosing the name Samson’s Oil for the brand would make people identify with it easier. If we say “Samson” then you think of the Bible, you think of a strong male figure with strong hair and a rich beard, which is what the brand is really about. We want to inspire everyone out there to create and own a positive image of themselves.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: You mentioned social media earlier. How do you find that a helpful tool for a small business doing marketing – for close to nothing?
MZIMKHULU NYABA: It’s been very useful for me because I think it’s a cheap form of advertising and a lot of our clients meet us through social media platforms. So the more we make our presence felt on social media, the more interaction and feedback we get from people. So for a startup business it is a very useful tool because advertising tends to get very expensive. Social media has made it easy for us, plus it makes the world a smaller place.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: It definitely does. Challenges that you’ve faced in this journey – talk to us about the challenges you have encountered.
MZIMKHULU NYABA: The first one was getting the business up and running. Getting the money to fund it was a bit of a task, but once we started it got easier and it’s definitely worth it.
Another challenge that we have is what I mentioned earlier – that people don’t really know that such products exist, and we need to constantly make them see the need for and the value of the product before they even start engaging with us as customers.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Is getting into shops something that you are interested in, or is the market setup still where you want to dominate first, before you get into a retailer, for instance?
MZIMKHULU NYABA: We haven’t actually looked at getting into working relationships with major retailers. Part of this is because we think our brand is still very young and we need to grow it first. I feel as though if we are going to put it into major retailers then it’s going to drown when it’s put up against the major brands. So for now we are just maintaining the exclusivity and selling it directly to our consumers. We have, however, tried to branch out and have a shop, but that venture didn’t work out. I think it was more about the location and not necessarily about the fact that people aren’t into the product. We are looking at establishing a full-on male-grooming lounge. So that’s how we want to venture into having a shop and a place where you can walk in and purchase the products, as opposed to collecting or having the product delivered to you.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: That sounds like a wonderful idea. As a parting shot, where do people find you and the product?
MZIMKHULU NYABA: We sell directly, so if you send us a direct message on any one of our social media platforms, be it Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, we are very responsive and we will assist you.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Thank you so much for your time.
MZIMKHULU NYABA: Thank you.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: That was the founder of Samson’s Oil, Mzimkhulu Nyaba, in this week’s SME Corner for Moneyweb.