Marini Naturals……”From the get-go, I wanted the name to mean “gorgeous” or “naturally beautiful,” just like women are intended to be! I also wanted something very African-sounding and easy on the tongue and mind.So I Googled how many other ways to say “beautiful” or “charming” in any African language. I didn’t mind the language, so long as it was African. And right there was the name “Marini” which is Swahili for the same. I instantly fell in love with it.”
“Marini Naturals”, that is how it began. Over the past few years, there’s been a strong wave of natural hair fanatics in the country.Especially in Nairobi where trend is a key thing to staying up to date.
For business minded women like Michelle, this was an opportunity to provide affordable hair products to the ladies to ensure that their natural hair journey is a uniques story on its own.Having the market own this product was quite a challenge.Leave alone that, getting the cosmetic scientists to believe in her was tasking.Deep within her, she had a dream….producing Kenya’s first 100% natural hair oils.
Her passion for natural hair products was faced with a lot of criticism. Most of the people, that is scientists she approached advised her to produce for synthetic hair since this was a well established market.”But I had a set focus and vision in mind, and to me it was producing 100% natural products with no compromise on quality. However, a few formulators and one factory believed and shared in my vision, and the rest followed.”
“We worked together to make Marini Naturals a reality. Soon after our first batch hit the markets and flew off the shelves, most of the ones who had convinced me otherwise expressed interest in working with us.”
How do you strike a balance between running your branding company, Brandvine Group, and Marini Naturals simultaneously?
I have got a team of 10 employees who work on both Marini Naturals and Brandvine Group.Brandvine is mainly run by my partner Niyati Patel, with her team of 8 who manage it very efficiently. I do not want to spread myself too thin, therefore my focus now is more on Marini Naturals.
Your team of 10 is within the same age range as you. Was this a deliberate decision on your part, and if so, what are the pros and cons of working with people within your age bracket?
Yes, it was. I wanted a young, vibrant and energetic team. I knew there was going to be a lot of running around, fieldwork and logistical work.
Therefore I needed employees with that same kind of energy and vibrancy to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, so to speak. I led by example in the first few months. Today, they are the ones on the ground making things happen.
If you had the ear of your president, what would be your advice to him about financing start-ups?
Great question. I would tell him to have a serious sit-down with banks to encourage them to believe in young entrepreneurs.Entrepreneurs have a fire and a passion like no one else does because they have their entire future ahead of them and the determination to make it is ten-fold. I’d tell him to them to help us realize our business ideas, rather than shut the doors on our face at the mention of supporting our start-ups.
What’s the biggest hurdle currently facing Marini Naturals?
We have all these plans to expand our product range but capital stifles us. Additionally, meeting the demand both from Kenya and off-shore markets is quite challenging.As much as we have systems in place to alert us on re-order levels. The fact that sales have picked up pretty well always makes it a balance of how fast we can manufacture before the next Curling Gel runs out.
What does the future hold for Marini Naturals?
The future looks bright! We just got featured on CNN, and after the show a lot of Africans reached out to us to find out how they can get our products. We have solid plans to slowly expand to the rest of Africa.Also, we’re considering exciting new products from Marini Naturals. We believe men, kids and even our dreadlocked brothers and sisters need to be taken care of too! There has been a lot of demand from these markets and we are working on something fantastic for them.We hope for this brand to slowly and steadily be one of Africa’s premier beauty products for natural hair and skin.
Michelle Ntalami is a role model to so many Kenyan women. She’s a living accolade of Turning Passion into Action. There was so much negative feedback at the beginning but she stood her ground, with a vision of providing lifelong solutions to Kenyan women.So many people would like to walk where she has, but until we realize its about commitment, patience and a desire to make a move, we can never walk that path.