‘I’ve learnt to be in the now’ Kalahari founder Carina Franck
Kalahari skincare founder Carina Franck talks to Stephanie van der Plank about staying true to herself, respecting heritage, and nding her passion
Carina Franck, 49, has been in the beauty industry for over 17 years. She bought Nimue Skin Technology in 2001 and, as CEO, helped establish the brand internationally. She then sold the business to a corporate company in 2007. Three years later, she founded the natural beauty range Kalahari, of which she is CEO. The collection encompasses an exclusive selection of skin, body and lifestyle products, made using naturally harvested botanical ingredients. She lives in Woodmead with her husband and their young daughter, Donna.
When I was a young girl, growing up on a farm in the Kalahari, my feet in the red sand, I’d spend hours just drinking in the beauty of the vast landscape and blue skies surrounding me. I never once dreamt that one day I’d take a piece of these natural wonders with me to faraway lands like Norway.
My parents farmed livestock, and my mom was the best cook for miles – coming home to the smell of fresh bread was so comforting. Our farm had vineyards at the front of it and rolling desert dunes at the back. I often explored those dunes, learning plant and animal names from the Khoisan people. I still love nothing more than sitting around a glorious campfire with a glass of red wine in hand, looking up at hundreds of thousands of stars. It’s my happy place.
I went from being a farm girl to working in the world of skincare, studying beauty and wellness, and growing Nimue Skin Technology. I learnt so much about the industry and women’s beauty needs, and also helped cement the Nimue brand internationally, which was an invaluable experience. When the company was sold to a corporate organisation, I felt like it was time for me to strike out on my own. After Nimue, going back to my roots felt like the most natural thing for me to do. I’d grown up having the secrets of the Kalahari unlocked for me, from watching my gran use devil’s claw – a powerful anti-inflammatory – to heal my brother’s scrapes, to having Patat, my friend from a local Khoisan family, show me the healing powers of the tsamma melon, a kind of wild watermelon.
I knew so much about the rejuvenating, restoring and healing properties of Kalahari plants, and I wanted to share that with the world. Sometimes, it’s like all the pieces of a puzzle come together. Everything I knew about the Kalahari’s magic, coupled with my experience in skincare, forged my new path forward.
I returned to my family’s farm near Upington and, once again, spent time immersing myself in all the Kalahari had to oer. Soon I was bursting with ideas for a natural skincare range containing wholesome yet powerful ingredients. My first two o erings were the Buchu Kisses lip treatment – one of our top sellers – and the Facial Cleanser made with rooibos tea and kigelia Africana extracts. I felt like I’d come full circle, returning to the desert to tap into my true passion – harnessing nature’s power to nourish our bodies.
Launching Kalahari on my own in 2010, without the backing of a big corporate, was tough but rewarding. Fortunately, I had built strong friendships with people in the industry, who really helped me get the Kalahari name out there. We grew quickly in the local market, with South African women loving our at-home products and in-salon treatments. And, because the range is locally produced, it doesn’t have hefty import duties slapped on it. It’s a world-class, award-winning, price-perfect skincare collection.
I still feel thrilled when I hear how a client’s skin has been transformed after a series of our treatments.
‘I’ve always known the secrets of the Kalahari Desert’
Just like the French, I’m all about naturally healthy, radiant skin. Instead of burying problems like pigmentation and adult acne under layers of makeup, try beauty therapies that leave your skin feeling supple and fresh. You’ll find yourself using less and less makeup if you do. Most days, I just wear mascara and a bit of tinted moisturiser.
The best item in our range is what I call fabulous ferulic. Ferulic acid is found in many plants as well as in the seeds of apples and oranges. It’s used as an antioxidant. We recently launched a product called Ferulic CEB+ Serum, and it’s my go-to for a flawless complexion.
Kalahari has done incredibly well abroad – especially in countries like Finland, Denmark and Sweden. They adore the true brand story of a girl growing up in a magical desert. We’ve recently started exporting to America and New Zealand, too.
I spend 40% of my time in SA – the rest, I’m abroad. Growing your own brand in other countries can be gruelling work; at times, I’ll do nine presentations in 10 days across three countries. Before such a long trip, I try to sneak o to the bush to gather my strength. I’ve been known to arrive for a skincare workshop in Paris with soot under my nails from last night’s campfire! Mine is a life of extremes, but I appreciate each experience more because of the contrast.
My travel hacks? I use my sticky luggage tag as a lint-remover so my black pants look neat and tidy. And I never travel without a small steamer.
I learnt early on that I couldn’t manage everything on my own.
I started a new brand >>
and had a child at about the same time – in my forties! I’ve embraced the art of delegation and I make sacrifices – I’m not always there to bath Donna – but I’ve also learnt how to live in the now. Having fantastic sta at work, and my husband and sister helping at home, means I can focus entirely on the task at hand, whether it’s perfecting a product recipe or building a puzzle with Donna.
The secret to a happy relationship is being able to give – your time, your support, your understanding – and knowing you’ll get the same from your partner. After a long day of meetings, when all I want to do is flop down on the couch and watch Netflix, I’ll pour two glasses of wine and catch up with my husband instead. We also do co ee at 7am before Donna wakes up. You learn to speed date with the person you’re married to.
Whether you’re at the top of your game or just starting out, you need to stay true to yourself. For me, that means focusing on honesty, integrity and giving back. It’s my foundation in business and in life. A percentage of the profits from each item sold goes to community projects like building a school or aiding a food programme. It’s essential to feel you’re part of something good.
My mom taught me to think positively. As a farmer, she saw everything from drought to the loss of livestock, but her enthusiasm rarely waned. She chose to focus on the wonderful things around her, such as new life and camaraderie. She passed away when I was 18, but she shaped who I am today.
I’m planning a proper 50th birthday blowout with my friend from Finland, who also turns 50 next year. We want to take a luxury train from St Petersburg to Beijing and celebrate in old-school glamour. We’ll get dressed up in our best evening wear for nights of card-playing and vodka-drinking as we pass through the snow-covered Siberian landscape. Very Murder on the Orient Express!
Donna loves to mimic me when she comes to the o ce. She’ll arrive and immediately call a ‘board meeting’ with whomever she can find, then she collects some papers and stands on a chair so that everyone can see her. She’s in charge! It’s equally cheeky and adorable.
She and I do a lot of exploring together. Whether it’s going on o -road trips through Namibia or simply walking with her through our garden in the morning. I try to teach Donna as much as possible, so she’s helped harvest the tsammas and she points out new bulbinella plants in the yard. She’s even bathed in a metal tub with me in the middle of the Kalahari desert. I truly treasure those moments.
‘I feel like I’m part of something really good’
Kalahari brand ambassador Patat helps Carina discover desert secrets
Carina often escapes to the bush with fouryear-old Donna
The arid landscape has a lot to o er