CityPress - - Business - CHIMWEMWE MWANZA busi­ness@city­press.co.za

Hair is big busi­ness and a smart start-up, San Hair, is tak­ing its cut of the black hair busi­ness in South Africa. Nom­pumelelo Madubedube (26) is the sole share­holder of San Trad­ing (Pty) Ltd – a 100% black-, fe­male- and youthowned com­pany – which owns a hu­man hair man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in Midrand.

South Africa has an ever-in­creas­ing de­mand for hair care prod­ucts, sig­nif­i­cantly in weaves and other hair prod­ucts made from nat­u­ral hu­man hair. The most sought-af­ter of these are usu­ally im­ported from Asia and South Amer­ica.

“With­out a doubt, black con­sumers are driv­ing this growth,” says en­tre­pre­neur Madubedube, whose com­pany now pro­duces a range of au­then­tic 100% hu­man hair weaves, wigs and hair ac­ces­sories at her fac­tory.

Madubedube says a big driver of the growth is con­sumers having ac­cess to so­cial-me­dia plat­forms such as In­sta­gram and Face­book, which means they can get the lat­est trends and styles from fash­ion­istas around the globe. Then they want to mimic that style at home.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, multi­na­tional com­pa­nies such as John­son & John­son, Unilever and L’Oréal are firmly en­trenched in this mar­ket. So, de­spite the growth in de­mand, com­pe­ti­tion for mar­ket dom­i­nance is stiff.

How­ever, de­spite multi­na­tional heavy­weights squeez­ing mar­gins and cre­at­ing un­nat­u­ral bar­ri­ers for as­pir­ing en­trepreneurs, Madubedube quit her salaried job to fol­low her busi­ness dream.

“The lo­cal mar­ket is home to a young and in­creas­ingly ur­banised and work­ing pop­u­la­tion. In ad­di­tion, the emer­gence of a black mid­dle class that has suf­fi­cient dis­pos­able in­come is en­cour­ag­ing to those look­ing for a break in this in­dus­try,” says Madubedube.

As a lover of weaves, she was con­cerned with the qual­ity of the prod­ucts that she had been buy­ing in lo­cal shops. This is why she started im­port­ing weave prod­ucts from In­dia.

“Dur­ing one of my trips to In­dia, where I had gone to visit a sup­plier in 2014, I came across the sale of bulk un­pro­cessed hair. This is what prompted me to con­duct re­search into the pro­duc­tion of weaves. It was then that the idea of man­u­fac­tur­ing un­pro­cessed hair in South Africa to min­imise im­port costs was con­cep­tu­alised.”

She compiled a busi­ness plan and sub­mit­ted it to the In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (IDC) for pro­cess­ing. Af­ter the IDC ap­proved her re­quest for fund­ing, Madubedube quit her ac­count­ing job to fo­cus solely on her busi­ness. It’s been three years since she launched San Hair and prospects are look­ing good.

“Get­ting into busi­ness was a risk be­cause I had to quit my job. As a young per­son, it was hard to start a busi­ness in man­u­fac­tur­ing. The per­cep­tion out there is that young peo­ple are not ma­ture enough to start and run a busi­ness. Some lenders or other fund­ing in­sti­tu­tions pre­fer to pro­vide fund­ing sup­port to ex­ist­ing busi­ness as op­posed to risk­ing their cap­i­tal by fund­ing an in­ex­pe­ri­enced young per­son,” she says.

While se­cur­ing fund­ing can be a frus­trat­ing time for an en­tre­pre­neur, Madubedube urges other as­pir­ing en­trepreneurs to be pa­tient and pedan­tic about get­ting their strat­egy right.

“It took about a year for the IDC to ap­prove and dis­burse the money re­quired to kick-start our op­er­a­tions. Al­though the IDC kept me abreast of the gaps that I needed to close in or­der to se­cure fund­ing, it was a frus­trat­ing pe­riod.

“Once the ap­pli­ca­tion was ap­proved, I used the money to se­cure the ma­chin­ery re­quired to start the busi­ness, but, most im­por­tantly, the IDC also al­lo­cated a men­tor to help me through the ini­tial teething phase.”

The busi­ness cur­rently has six full-time em­ploy­ees, but that fig­ure could soon swell to dou­ble dig­its – es­pe­cially as the busi­ness is regis­ter­ing a con­sis­tent 30% month-on-month growth.

“The irony about the hair care in­dus­try is that the Chi­nese and In­di­ans, among oth­ers, have mas­tered the art of pro­duc­ing prod­ucts that they don’t even use. I’ve yet to see an In­dian or Chi­nese per­son who wears a weave.

“The fact that we at San Hair not only use these prod­ucts, but pro­duce them too, gives us a com­pet­i­tive edge and in­sight into how we can best grow our prod­uct range.”

As part of its growth plans, the com­pany plans to branch into the pro­duc­tion of syn­thetic hair, ac­ces­sories and cos­met­ics that she hopes will be dis­trib­uted in re­tail stores.

“The beauty about our prod­ucts is that they aren’t sea­sonal. Ev­ery woman, re­gard­less of race or in­come group, wants to look good ev­ery day and we want to be the pre­ferred sup­plier of qual­ity hair prod­ucts that en­hance beauty.”


A GROWTH IN­DUS­TRY Nom­pumelelo Madubedube’s busi­ness is grow­ing faster than her se­lec­tion of weaves


Naomi Mt­shali, who is re­spon­si­ble for pre-in­vest­ment mon­i­tor­ing

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