There is always a plan B.”
Zodidi Gaseb is a social entrepreneur, natural hair enthusiast and the founder of African Naturals Production. She grew up in Swakopmund and completed her high school diploma at Westside High School. Zodidi went on to graduate and major in Fine Arts with a passion for theoretical studies and design, at the Walter Sisulu University in South Africa. She gained experience working in the creative industry as a designer and curator, and is currently working at the Namibia Business Innovation Institute at NUST, specifically under Events’ Management. She also enjoys working with entrepreneurs and thinkers who come up with various and exciting solutions.
Zodidi’s cabinet is full to the brim with achievements and awards:
- she has spoken at TEDx Windhoek and had her talk selected to celebrate TED’s 1 Billion viewing mark;
- she is an alumna of the Namibian United States Alumni Association (NUSAA), where she represented Namibia in the International Visitors Leadership Programme;
- she has won a Business Hall of Fame award;
- she was an invited speaker at the Global Media Forum in Germany on the topic of ‘Hair as a Cultural Intervention’.
- she presented her business journey as an entrepreneur at the Lionesses of Africa;
- she was selected as one of the 100 Brightest Young Minds of Africa in 2017;
- she founded the Natural Hair & Beauty Expo and continue to showcase local entrepreneurs and celebrate identity & culture.
African Naturals Production is a culmination of various passions – a passion for social issues, for natural hair, for empowering other young women, for bringing people together & for entrepreneurship – a passion that grew into a business catering to natural hair and skin. I love formulating new products and it’s something that comes to me naturally. We offer a full line of natural products such as shampoos, hair spritz, hair and skin butter, hair growth oil, conditioners and recently, beard oil and balm for the gentlemen. We also offer consultation services on hair regimen and workshops that cater to a holistic lifestyle. Best of all, our products are safe and made locally! I am quite fortunate to have an amazing team who make this possible. Lolita de Almeida (Formulation & Events) and Michelle Sibeso (Marketing & Finance) keep me on my toes with fantastic ideas.”
What inspired you to start this business?
“What inspired me was seeing the impact my actions and choices had on my children and those around me. Plus the lack of products for my type of hair. The huge gap in the market during that time provided a fantastic opportunity to create my own line. “
What do you enjoy most about being your own boss?
“What I enjoy most about having a business is watching it grow, the great reviews people give and watching [people] transform into confident versions of themselves. I’ve always dreamt of freedom, making my own choices and changing people’s lives. I didn’t know how I would do it, but self-sufficiency was always a goal for me.”
What sets your products/services apart from those in the same industry?
“My products are multifunctional, child-friendly and support various women cooperatives who in turn can provide a better life for their families. I truly am a believer in an organic system that can benefit everyone in the supply chain. I pour a bit of myself into every product, handmade and select the best ingredients that ensure results. I also think that my authenticity is a key component to engaging with my customers.”
What challenges have you encountered on your entrepreneurial journey and how did you overcome some of them?
“Challenges are a part of life and so too in business. I’ve had incidents where I didn’t have raw material because my suppliers were on strike. I’ve run out of containers as well and at times had to dive into my savings pocket. I’m very solution-oriented and always think outside the box, so I have managed thus far to always find a solution. What I also recommend is transparency and communication with clients; people appreciate that so much more.”
What is your business philosophy?
“My business philosophy is that there is always a plan B. Things may not work out and we make peace with it; understanding that what is meant for us will flow effortlessly, and it usually does. Ofcourse, having a working business strategy never hurt either so we regularly check in and make sure we’re on the right path.”
What advice would you give to someone trying to break into this industry?
My advice for someone wanting to start a cosmetics business is to do research – tons of it! It never stops as the industry changes. It is also imperative to have all your stories in order, to write your ideas & formulations down and to invest in a mentor. My mentor has literally shifted certain aspects of my business and held me accountable.”
How important is networking as a growth component of any startup?
“I recently presented a talk on the importance of networking and I strongly believe in it. Networking is a brilliant tool for connecting, sourcing, engaging and soliciting advice – not only in your business but in terms of marketing, strategy and business growth.”
What role does your startup play in 1) contributing to society and 2) in nurturing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Namibia?
“As a Namibian-owned and -run company, with products specially formulated with Namibians in mind, we pride ourselves in working with young Namibian women, collaborating with other entrepreneurs and by using locally sourced oils in our products, thus contributing to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
What recommendations would you make towards the improvement of the operations of startups?
“If I could recommend support for startups in Namibia, I would definitely suggest i) fully-equipped testing labs that are accessible, ii) keeping up with trends in terms of business plan writing and iii) for various organizations and parastatals to work together to implement policies for intellectual property and entrepreneurship.”
Startups in Namibia, and all over the world, are facing an unprecedented crisis in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic; how has your startup adjusted to the situation and/or assisted in disseminating information, combating the spread of the virus, etc.?
We have had to adjust to the pandemic and as formulators, shift our focus from simply providing cosmetics to also producing sanitizers and hand washes, as per the World Health Organisation’s regulations, thus expanding our product range.
Echoing her business philosophy,
“What is meant for us will flow effortlessly, and it usually does.”
Cell: +26481 260 0424
Facebook: African Naturals Namibia
Instagram & Twitter: @africannaturals_namibia