Keep reading to learn more about the Kenyan originated Marini Naturals brand!
My name is Michelle Ntalami, I am 32 years old and I am from Kenya; the land of good coffee, marathon runners and beautiful wildlife!
How long have you been natural? What made you go natural?
I have been natural for now 3 years; however in between chopping it off to switch up my look.
3 years ago, my Dad became very ill. This was quite shocking for me as he has always been the most health and diet-conscious man I have ever known. He ate right and never touched alcohol, cigarettes, etc. Still, because of his diet had to change drastically. This made me rethink a lot of things in my own life, and I decided to live a more natural and healthier lifestyle. Anything that was unnatural to me, I did my best to get rid of it. This also included chemicals on my skin and hair, and off to the barber I went.
Tell us about your business.
Marini began 3 years ago, just about the same time I had decided to live more naturally and did the “Big Chop.” However at the time, there were no products that catered to the natural-haired woman; they were all found abroad. I would pull out my credit card and go on a hair shopping frenzy in Amazon. After sometime, I realized this wasn’t feasible as in a month, I was spending upwards of $1000 on products just for my hair! So in the quest to find products that work for my hair, I began doing trial mixes at home using natural ingredients. Strangely, they worked really well for my hair! I gave some samples to friends to try and they loved them! The only thing though, is they didn’t last for too long and they would go bad easily due to their organic nature. So I thought to myself, I could do this as a real viable business as there were so many other women like me who were struggling with their natural hair. I knew the market was ready, and it was about time we had our own haircare line designed by the African woman, for the African woman. 3 years later, here we are today as the Kenya’s first haircare line for all women of natural and afro-textured hair. Our products are a massive hit in Kenya and East Africa. We now plan to move to the rest of Africa as all other naturals deserve to get marinified too! ☺
Where do you find inspiration?
All my inspiration is found from Africa. The name “Marini” is Swahili for “naturally beautiful” i.e. without enhancements. I wanted the name to sound very African so the brand can resonate to all women in the beautiful continent. Our bottles are deep brown, just like our skin tone, and the tops are black to represent the natural color of our hair. 80% of all ingredients are found right here in our home, Africa.
What is your favorite product in the collection?
Haha..I honestly love all of them! But if I was to absolutely choose, I would go with Curling Gel for my natural curls and the Curling butter for defined curls. Also the Potent Hair Growth Oil has given me massive growth too! (I know those are 3 but I love them all)
How have you grown a large dedicated audience in such a short time?
Our brand has grown organically and virally through social media and genuine customer reviews and testimonials. Naturalistas have spread the word without us even asking them to because they see results! Teaching people as opposed to only selling has also built a lot of trust! For example, we are currently running a Natural Hair Educational Campaign on our YouTube Channel called “Get Marinified” (i.e. get Educated) where we are teaching women about natural hair and how to use our products via captivating video tutorials. We’ve also worked with a lot of local bloggers who are big Marini fans and have shared about this on their blogs and social media pages so that built a lot of credibility. International Bloggers like Klassy Kinks have also helped us a lot! When she came down to Kenya and we met, I knew I totally wanted her opinion on the products. And when she shared the YouTube review and pics of the bomb curls on Instagram, a good number of customers reached out to us like; “Yeah so whatever Klassy Kinks has on her hair, I want that!” Lol!
What are some of the challenges of being an African based haircare company?
The main challenge is the perception that African products are not as good as the international counterparts. However that was more in the beginning than now. I have since come to realize that for Africans, so long as your product is quality and you prove to them that you’ve got something good going on, they will buy! It’s a good feeling to see our Curling Gels and Butters on shelves alongside brands like As I Am, Cantu and Shea Moisture.
What is one piece of advice you have for minority entrepreneurs who want to start their own businesses?
You’ve got to have passion for this business! It shouldn’t be all about money. Over one year into the business, I have not yet even broken even! But that’s okay because I know Marini is changing lives in some way and we shall get there. Also, believe in yourself. Remember you are your biggest cheerleader. Don’t doubt yourself, the only dumb idea is the one you didn’t do.
Where can we find more of you?