Sasha Ricketts and Natasha Dunn are two women from the UK who have created a natural hair brand called I Love Afro. The London-based pair discuss what it is like running their own business & their thoughts on the business of natural hair, which is on the up and up.
1) Why did you start I Love Afro and how did you spot a gap in the market?
We started our business in 2008 as we found it difficult sourcing afro hair products from the UK and buying from the US didn’t prove cost effective. Our initial thoughts were to import US products and sell them in the UK, but once we realised there was a gap in the British market for natural hair products we thought why not make our own!
2) How did you go about branding ‘I Love Afro’ with aspects such as
packaging and logos?
The branding was created very organically. Firstly we decided on the name ‘I love Afro’ as we thought it was unique, fun and described the ethos of our company well, once were happy with the basics the logo followed. Everything from our logo to slogans and package design was created by us. We tried to inject a little of our personality into the branding while keeping it clean and professional. We soon realised we were onto a winner when we started received compliments.
3) How are the products made?
We are a cottage company so all products are homemade, we weigh, mix, and package everything ourselves.
4) How many staff do you have and what are their responsibilities?
We are starting out small so at the moment it’s the two of us, but we work well together and manage to achieve everything we set out to. Our roles are pretty flexible, as well as being Directors of the company; mixtress, administrator, cleaner as well as a string of other tasks are in our role descriptions.
6) How much start up capital did you invest to get the business up and
Becoming a fully function business was a gradual process. We invested little by little to start with until ‘I Love Afro’ was able to support itself. Businesses such as ours don’t need to have a huge investment to get going. If you have a strong business idea and manage your finances and time well then a little can go a long way.
7) What are your business goals for ILA?
There are lots of things in the pipeline for I Love Afro such as a new haircare range and working on becoming a 1 stop shop for all your hair needs. We are busying designing workshops and holding consultations to answer the many questions naturals have on how to maintain and look after their hair.
Our dream is to open our own factory in the UK distributing nationally and internationally. We aim to be a house hold name – a brand that people know, trust and continue to look to for advice and inspiration on their hair journeys.
Who are your business role models and why?
Oprah Winfrey as she is a great black female role model who has built her own brand against all odds. Richard Branson, a great British inspiration who shows you anything you want is attainable if you have business acumen, determination and drive.
9) What are your thoughts on the booming natural hair care industry?
It’s great! So many women are starting to embrace naturalism and take interest in the ingredients they put on their hair and skin, so as fellow naturals it’s inspirational. As a business owner it’s a great opportunity, this is an amazing time to be involved as it can really opened doors for a lot of Black Businesses who can help to grow the economy.
10) What markets do you want to break ILA into? Is Africa & Brazil on
Right now we are focusing on the British market as this is where our heart is. Other countries such as the US and Brazil have already made their mark on the Black hair industry so we want to establish ourselves in the UK where there is a demand for home-grown businesses. In the future we plan to expand into other countries Africa would definitely be on the top of our list.
11) What are the most popular products for ILA bought by customers?
The whole range was created to work well together so the Complete Essentials Packs fly off the shelves. The Shampoo and Conditioner Combo are also top sellers.
12) If you could run one other business, what would it be and why? (Mine would be Coca-Cola so I could know the secret recipe!)
For us it would have to be Virgin – It’s British, powerful and started off small and became global… We hope that this will be said about us in years to come.
13) What is the hardest thing about having a business?
Time! Many businesses start off as a gradual process which means you have to continue supporting yourself. We both work fulltime and Tasha is a new mum so trying to juggle everything can often be difficult. But we always say “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” so even though it can be a challenge we are determined to make I Love Afro the best it can be.
14) What is the most rewarding thing about the business.
There are many things that are satisfying about owning a business. However, customers who take the time to write thank you emails for products that you have made really make you feel like it is all worthwhile and your hard work isn’t in vain. Returning customers are also a good indication to any business that you are on the right track.
My thoughts: I think I Love Afro has a great brand name actually and I think the girls will be successful and their hair is like wow! Lots of natural hair companies do not have good names but I Love Afro seems to get straight to the point, which is really cool and it encapsulates what natural hair is about, which is wicked. What did you think of the interview?
Here are how their products look: